PHOTO CREDITS: SHANNON LANDERS PHOTOGRAPHY
What’s the difference between a launch show and a launch party? The answer is simple – a launch party involves party food - and awaiting the young crowd as they poured into Manchester’s trendiest new nightspot, Jimmy’s, were plates of iced cookies enticingly placed at the edge of the merch table, lovingly hand-baked by the fair hands of FLAT WORLD THEORY’s culinary goddesses (i.e. their other halves).
I arrived in plenty of time - a whole thirty minutes before the first band were due to come on stage. However, as I descended the stairs to the basement, a duo were already set up and in full swing on the tiny stage, in the far corner of the neon-lit room.
It transpired that the act had been a very late addition to the lineup, which meant that the gig now consisted of the headliner, plus four support bands!
The calm, unassuming frontman was Manchester-based singer/songwriter SAM MORRIS, performing an acoustic set, accompanied by Cory Reilly-Sully, who was perched atop a Cajon drum. Sam’s tender vocals complemented the heartfelt melodies and acoustic style of his music, and the Cajon drum was something I’ve never seen in Manchester before, so it was quite thrilling to see one being played so well. The ample set included an unexpected acoustic cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’, which was very well received.
Sam Morris – Vocals / Guitar
Cory Reilly-Sully - Drums
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As the room started filling up, Stockport natives NOTHING PRETTY took the mood in a completely different direction. The quintet emitted a ‘90s indie-punk vibe – steely frontman Connor McGarry casually swigged a bottle of beer whilst swinging his microphone around by its cord. His gruff vocals, piercing gaze and aggressive demeanour really suited the heavier elements of the set, which included punk-edged covers of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ and ‘Fight For Your Right’ by the Beastie Boys.
A surprise came when drummer Rye Woods strolled to the front of the stage and took the mic. He then recited, by heart, a lengthy poem he had written in honour of his hometown, Stockport, immediately followed by another he’d written earlier in the day about being homeless at Christmas. He got a little stuck on a line about ‘the lie of Santa’ and the poem ended abruptly with “Oh fuck it”, but was still remarkably good. Both poems are certainly worthy of publication and the recital was one of the early highlights of the evening.
Nothing Pretty are:
Connor McGarry - Vocals / Keyboards
Rory Morris - Lead Guitar
Bradley Blackburn - Rhythm Guitar
Isaak Heggs - Bass
Rye Wood - Drums
THE SHADE were up next and caused me a bit of confusion…
Drummer Jason Hanley was first to arrive on the stage and played for a minute, solo. A smiley, unbuttoned musician then walked through the now sizable crowd and joined him, while shouting “Everybody SCREAM”! Not being familiar with this new local band, I naturally assumed that this was the frontman, but no, it was rhythm guitarist Jacob Templeman, who was then joined by two further bandmates, Liam McAuley and Horus Ghani.
Taking up the self-assured frontman mantle once more, Jacob shouted “Are you ready?! You will be!” and just as I thought he was about to start singing, yet another musician - the shirtless, open-waistcoated, tambourine-wielding vocalist Robbie Van Red - ran onto the stage and grabbed the mic. The band, now a five-piece (I counted), had boundless energy and a vitality that was contagious, causing everybody to break out in dance.
There were some really engaging moments when the guitarists and bassist came out into the crowd. Robbie, who bears a striking resemblance, in appearance and spirit, to Jim Morrison, tossed his tambourine to a girl in the audience, who happily joined in. Once Robbie had introduced his bandmates, we were treated to a little drum solo and Jacob, taking up the confident frontman mantle once more, declared “We wouldn’t be the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in history if we didn’t leave you with something tonight”, which introduced the last song, ‘Garden Of Eden’ (not a cover of the Guns ‘n’ Roses track).
It was a succinct but impressive showcase of modern rock, ending with most of the band partying with the audience like it was 1999. I was surprised to learn that THE SHADE had only been together for six months and that this was their first gig in three months. They’d spent the first three months gigging non-stop, and all that practice has evidently paid off, resulting in a very tight performance this evening. They gel well together and put on a good show, combining an infectious, upbeat attitude with a cheeky fun factor. They could have a very bright future with the right songs. If Robbie works on strengthening and fine-tuning his vocals, this band could be onto something.
The Shade are:
Robbie Van Red - Vocals
Liam McAuley – Lead Guitar
Jacob Templeman – Rhythm Guitar
Horus Ghani - Bass
Jason Hanley - Drums
The room had cleared – presumably, most people had gone in search of some much needed liquid refreshment (and maybe a cookie or two) after the previous act’s energetic set - but alt-rock four-piece, JANE DOE, who formed and played their first gig just under a year ago, was about to begin. As the room started filling up once more, the music drifted in long flurries of psychedelic instrumentals, interspersed with raucous, riff-heavy spells. The 8-song setlist included songs that dealt with mental health, as well as social and political issues.
Singer/guitarist Joe Moores and drummer James Day are both vegan, and Joe wrote their opening song '67,000' about the daily slaughter of animals for the fast food industry. 'WARS' was another emotive track, written about the plight of refugees. The long-haired bassist was very interesting to watch (he looked possessed but in a good way), using a slap bass technique during one of the songs. At the end of the set a circle pit erupted, started, I suspect, by members of THE SHADE, who were clearly still having the time of their lives! One of JANE DOE’s guitars ended up on the floor in the middle of the pit, which was a hairy moment, but it made it’s way back onto the stage unscratched, meaning that no animals, or instruments, were harmed during the performance.
Jane Doe are:
Joe Moores – Lyrics / Vocals / Rhythm Guitar
Andrew Wright- Lead Guitar
Ted Sager - Bass
James Day - Drums
The time had come – it was FLAT WORLD THEORY’s big night – the launch of their debut EP, A Brand New View. The Manchester alt-rock quartet, who are known for their grungy yet bouncy vibe, gave a dynamic performance, impressing the crowd with strong vocal harmonies and groovy melodies. ‘I Found A Way’ was a particularly uplifting, feel-good song and ‘Castle Road’, the first single released by the band, also went down well.
The group’s delivery was infused with an authentic ‘90s indie spirit, that naturally runs in the veins of many Manchester bands. Proceedings ground to a halt as a drum pad came apart, but was soon fixed by efficient drummer Rick Hilton, and the show continued, with the enthusiastic audience clapping their hands above their heads. Guitarist Russell Hampson took over singing duties at one point and it wasn’t long before FWT bore witness to their first-ever wild moshpit!
During the last song, Russell came out into the crowd and fans flooded the stage, dancing around the remaining band members as they played. The set ended to calls for “One more song!” and the band obliged with a full-throttle, original, as-yet-unreleased track, ‘Transmission’, which was a fantastic song to close on. Clearly, in his element, frontman James Haskell exited the stage and was engulfed by merry members of The Shade, as well as delighted fans. What a night it had been! I left with a party bag that had the band’s setlist where they'd written 'Down The Front' on it - they really had thought of everything - congratulations lads on a terrific launch!
Flat World Theory are:
James Haskell - Lead Vocals / Guitar
Russell Hampson - Guitar / Backing Vocals
Paul Mooney - Bass
Rick Hilton - Drums