A note from Birthday Cake For Breakfast President Andy:
I could sum up A Carefully Planned Festival #5 in three words ‘A perfect weekend.’ To be honest, that’s pretty much all I’ve been able to manage the past month, due to being busier than Super Hans, knitting like an electric Nan.
I’ve had hardly any time to myself, evidenced by the fact that I was only able to catch about three bands on the Saturday leg, before branching off mid-way through Mothers to fall asleep in the audience of Doug Stanhope at The Lowry…
I managed to yet again miss JOHN, but I did catch Repo-Man. I missed Groves but I was able to catch Cleft. Sunday was a different story though, with incredible stuff from the likes of Kagoule, Vasa, Bellow Below, A Sudden Burst Of Colour, Piles Of Clothes, Cult Party and Crushed Beaks, to name a few.
But with a memory like a sieve, the intricate details from these sets are close to disappearing (save for the bloke in Cult Party playing a saw…) It’s for that reason that I’ve given my associate and good friend Guy Crawford free rein on this one.
I got to know Guy properly on the mammoth journey to ArcTanGent Festival a few months back. We bonded over a love of Bullseye, the drumming of Mick Fleetwood and getting from A to B. I puked down the side of his motor three times on the drive home, but that’s neither here nor there… Guy was on hand all through Saturday, and he’s written up a few words on some of the delights he experienced first hand. Take it away, Guy…
A Carefully Planned Festival has become one of the highlights in Manchester’s calendar, providing a bumper two days of alternative music since 2011. Set across eight venues this year, researching the line-up made for some exciting finds, and sadly, some inevitable clashes. Such was the calibre of talent from around the UK and beyond, I was never going to catch everything on my wish-list, so some careful planning was due on my part to make the most of this impressive, independent festival.
It’s 7am, Saturday. I wake with the realisation that ACPF#5 is upon us. I need more sleep; 3 hours more would be nice, but that’s not going to happen now. So I get up and make some final tweaks to my clashfinder, drink too much coffee, run a few errands, kill some more time, then head for the Northern Quarter.
First up are The Salsa Boys. It’s only 1pm and Soup Kitchen has a nice little crowd gathering. There’s a number of A4 sheets of paper making up a giant print out of a Native American Indian. We find out the significance later. Singer Ian Breen introduces the band and announces that they don’t have many songs so “I’ll kill some time now,” or words to that effect. The crowd are amused by Breen’s tongue-in-cheek banter and the band kicks the party off. We’re immediately thrown into a nostalgic mix of catchy, indie-pop songs. There’s a feel of early 90s American indie bands like Weezer, and the crowd are receptively foot-tapping along. All the while, the band’s exchanges with each other suggest it’s as fun to play as it is to watch. “That’s the chief” Breen explains between songs. “He’s our spiritual guide,” acknowledging the printout in front of the stage. He goes on to sing songs about ‘great dads’ and ‘hairy bikers embracing at a Clutch concert’ and everyone is gleeful and nicely warmed up by the end of their set. A great start to the day and a fun performance from four chaps enjoying their music.
Next we head for a quick bite to eat, then over to Mint Lounge. There’s a real buzz around the Northern Quarter, with ACPF goers weaving between the usual Saturday shoppers. Next up is Alpha Male Tea Party and we are greeted with 100 or more people already inside the venue. It’s still only 2:30pm, but everyone is keen as mustard. Having opened ArcTanGent Festival back in August, AMTP are proving a great band for starting the party. But as they explode into their set, it’s clear they wouldn’t be out of place headlining. Their tight grooves have the whole crowd simultaneously head-bobbing, and their stage presence matches their musicianship. AMTP are more than a ‘math-rock’ band, as they are often labelled. They are dynamic with massive riffs, but aren’t afraid to let melody flow throughout their interesting arrangements. “Do you like our uniforms?” asks bassist Ben, “We’ve gone civvy!” They are sporting T-shirts as opposed to their usual black shirts or white boiler suits. Working through their best known tracks, they surprise the crowd by announcing a new one. It’s called “No one Had The Heart To Tell Him He Was On Fire” and it doesn’t disappoint! It starts with a huge mid-tempo groove, and the PA is almost shaking the place down. It moves off in interesting directions and is a positive insight into things to come from the Liverpool three-piece. Ending with the apocalyptic ‘Athlete’s Face‘, the crowd are left happy, grinning and positively loosened up for the day’s festivities.
Back to Soup Kitchen for Lake of Snakes; a band I stumbled across by accident in the past and was hugely impressed by. Made up of drums, bass and saxophone at the time, there’s now a singer, who strolls around ominously in front of the stage. It’s dark and groovy, solid and atmospheric rock music with its own idiosyncratic sound. The rhythm section is tight and the PA sounds fantastic. Dancing on top of the rhythm section is the reverb-drenched saxophone which wails majestically in an improvised manner, putting me in mind of Radiohead’s ‘The National Anthem‘. Add to the mix the Nick Cave-esque spoken word vocals and it really is something ravishing. People have a knowing look of recognition in their eyes; something fresh and exciting is brewing here. They have a demo out on Tombed Visions Records and have played a handful of gigs – you can really see a big future developing. Highly recommended.
We return to Mint Lounge for Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura. Comprising drums, bass and 4 guitarists, you sense something great is going to happen as each guitarist line-checks. The venue is sparse, but starts to fill as the band take to the stage; there is a clear air of expectation. The band don’t waste any time in locking into a psychedelic rock frenzy. The drums and bass are locked solidly throughout, allowing the guitarists to add layers of hypnotic, delayed guitars, laced with 60s influence. It’s a performance that hypnotises and delights the audience. Some may argue that there’s not enough variation in the 30 minute jam, but this mesmerizing wall of sound endears most of the onlooking crowd, and it certainly does it for me.
Over to Night & Day and the place is heaving. There’s a sea of people between the door stretching down the narrow venue to the stage. Up next are Cleft; one of Manchester’s hardest working bands. The congregation feels like a celebration of their endeavours over the last few years since their inception. They have been feeding our ears with their self-branded ‘Turbo-Prog’ for a good few years now, and tonight showcases a decent amount of new material amongst older tracks. The new material is as interesting as ever, with tight riffs and time changes aplenty, weaving in and out of more intricate and experimental sections. Guitarist Dan Beesley’s love of guitar effects is clearly on show as he baffles the crowd with inventive sounds. Drummer John Simm is equally as unorthodox in his inimitable style. It’s not just the intelligence of the playing that captivates the audience, it’s the humour that’s thrown in and the comedic exchanges between the two that makes the performance as fun as it is impressive. For fans of Rage Against The Machine, Meshuggah and more experimental guitar bands, Cleft really hit the spot.
Mothers have been drafted in last minute, and how thankful we are. Soup Kitchen is busy again and the atmosphere is buzzing. The band take to the stage and kick off their unique brand of grunge-pop. The dynamic between the three-piece is what grabs my attention; thunderous drums, a nice blend of chuggy, down-tuned guitar riffs and catchy melodic vocals. It has to be said that the sound in the venue is immense, really complementary to the band’s performance, and throughout the day, each of the venues have sounded superb. The crowd are really warmed up by this point in the day and there’s a great sense of enjoyment radiating from the punters and the band alike. Formerly known as Aeroplane Flies High, Mothers really impress and are currently in the studio…let’s hope they can get this energetic wall of sound down to tape.
Axes take to the stage at Night & Day next. They are about to embark on a European tour with Alpha Male Tea Party and Cleft immediately after their set, so one could be forgiven for expecting a band of a similar ilk, but Axes are a lot poppier. Interesting time changes and experimental sounds create colourful, instrumental songs that generally have you foot-tapping and grinning along. There are louder moments, but there is a melodic thread running throughout their set that makes them a fun band to watch. The crowd in Night and Day is massive again, busier than I’ve seen in a long time. Carefully Planned has really brought this part of Manchester to life and Axes are embracing the party.
Kiran Leonard has been turning heads in Manchester for the last few years and has popped up on some national festival bills more recently, and rightly so. Tonight, this beguiling character delivers inventive indie-folk-prog-pop songs with great poise and presence to match. He holds the attention of the Mint Lounge crowd through a set of cleverly written songs, wearing his heart on his sleeve. His band provides a wonderful foundation for him to confidently unleash an assured and mature performance from a musician still in the early stages of his career. It’s hard to describe Leonard’s sound, and indie-folk-prog-pop is a jocular attempt at trying to define it. Go and have a listen; the recordings are as enchanting as the performance.
Festival organiser Matthew Boycott-Garnett has noted Speak Galactic as the act he’s most excited about seeing at this year’s ACPF. Based on the quality of acts throughout Saturday, it would seem like heading to the newly opened Texture would be the right move. The venue feels a lot more like a warehouse party, and its bare-brick interior creates a nice setting for the Brighton experimental pop outfit. The band unleash vivid songs, tastefully blending guitar and vocal effects, with elements of electronica complemented by live drums. This experimental wall of sound maintains a pop sensibility weaving in and out of its compelling layers and the party is in full swing. I can’t help but think of Animal Collective, but think the band deserve to be commended not compared. A great end to a magnificent showcase of independent, forward thinking music.