When I think of summer, thoughts drift toward staring at the clock during the 9-5, casual strolls through Chorlton in Manchester and getting pissed up in fields at festivals. There’s also good memories of busy shows on balmy evenings at Gullivers in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. A clear indicator that summer is making a welcome return to Manchester came just over a week ago, thanks to a busy as hell math-rock show at the aforementioned NQ venue.
Moving past the now bustling restaurants and bars throughout the NQ, on arrival at Gullivers I found local trio Pfaff (P[retty] F[lippin] A[wesome] F[rickin] F[riends]) were already putting smiles on faces with their frantic blast of riff-heavy, angular math. It’s always a pleasure to see a full room, not only for the first band but also this early in the evening, testament to the STRONG line-up put on by local promoters 1988 Promotions. It was a pleasure too to see the trio seemingly just as appreciative as the crowd. Big shout to Pfaff, they’ve got proper POWER behind them, at times resulting in some serious gurn faces from your man on guitar. Their storming yet short lived set ended up on a frantic closer, the title of which has something to do with spaghetti (which sadly escapes me) and was a flourish of enjoyable experimental sound.
Pfaff put out their debut EP back in September of last year, recorded live in one day by John Simm (of Cleft fame) up in Salford, and it’s full of quirks, odd time signatures and everything else a growing math-rock fanatic needs – Get a load of that below!
I’ve had an eye on A-Tota-So ever since their formation out the back of Alright The Captain’s hiatus last year. Featuring Marty and Jamie of the on-hiatus ATC and Chris of Cheap Jazz, this new three-headed venture looks to have gotten rid of the majority of the quirks that came with ATC, instead opting to just rock the meatiest of riffs and inventive, tight drumming.
They open up their anticipated set with delightfully uplifting, swirling guitar tones before blasting pure STRENGTH RIFFS! The rest of their engrossing set featured some fucking cool stretches and dancey moments, your writer finding himself unable to control his head from banging. The trio also provided a fair share of serious gnarly moments, occasionally dipping into some pure METAL stretches.
Debut single ‘Clever Liver’ was their last of the evening, showcasing the twiddly, swirling guitar sound before making way for an epic closing noise-fest.
Memory of Elephants had an unfortunate choppy start, with guitarist Toby Stewart suffering a seemingly blown amp. The first song that followed was knocked on the head in moments, hilariously stopped when Toby shouted for more guitar in his monitor to avoid any more embarrassment. Once everything was back in order, a huge wall of noise followed as the trio attempted to put to bed any further interruptions. The set flowed through with some proper fun, bouncy math parts and equally some utter doom breakdowns as Memory Of Elephants smashed out a few tunes to the forgiving audience. Guitarist Toby confessed a time or two the embarrassment due to the interruptions, but the crowd were 100% won over and more than welcoming of this Bristolian trio.
There was an unfortunate hiccup during the final track of their set as Toby had another near meltdown when his guitar mucked up, but the rhythm section of Ben Shuffler and Sam Simpson locked into some serious grooves, carrying the crowd into the closing marathon stretch and making the eventual return of their guitarist even more joyous and a tremendous finale!
Chiyoda Ku are a fucking cool band and stuck out like a sore thumb on this line-up – though not in a bad sense. The least traditional (if you can say that) math-y group of the evening, those not in the know were provided with jaw dropping scenes in Gullivers from the Southern trio, whilst those in the know were equally just as agog with this excruciatingly exciting band.
A strong as fuck rhythm section sits under the dark, jagged guitar lines and resulted in proper interesting listening, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. There was a lengthy section at one stage during the second song in which drummer Toby Green just played on his tod, killing it solo before bringing in the other two. There wasn’t much in the way of talking, with Chiyoda Ku just getting stuck in without any waffle or carry on, chucking out a proper tight set full of interesting tunes which delighted the crowd.
As if all that wasn’t enough, fun loving French math-rock quartet Totorro soon made their arrival on stage, complete with a giant cactus prop. Totorro returned to the UK fresh off the release of second album ‘Come To Mexico’ through Oxford label Big Scary Monsters. They’ve also just been announced to make a return to ArcTanGent Festival this year, following a festival making performance in the fields last August.
Tuesday night in Manchester, Totorro smashed it out of the gate, thundering along and dishing out heaps of super sweet, uplifting mathy jams. The crowd were beside themselves during all of this, all hopped up on the math-rock onslaught they’d experienced throughout the evening. The quartet are well known for their joyous blend of poppy math and their set was a joyous occasion for all – super happy and super tight!
Punters humorously shouted out GCSE level French at our friends on stage, to which they smiled and acknowledged. Unfortunately this did go slightly into murky territory, with a bunch of pissed up folk at the back shouting to the point of it going long past funny, but Totorro continued on, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the audience. It’s no surprise they packed out Gullivers and always do so well whenever they’re in Manchester, such is their warmth and likeability.
In tremendous news, three of the five bands on the bill have been announced for this year’s ArcTanGent Festival, so for those who missed out on this marvellous Mancunian math-rock affair, you’ll be able to catch some of these delights (and tons more) in a field this summer – Ticket information and all the rest can be found here!