With That Knife appeared slightly miffed that they were onstage tonight. Often, this bewilderment comes across as rather cute but their humble personas only served as an awkward juxtaposition to their intent and aggressive sound. Unfortunately the lack of stage presence and an almost self-aware shyness took the venom out of what could have been a blistering set.
Despite one or two infectious hooks and an adept bassist in Scott, WTK failed to stir anything other than a mild interest. There is definitely scope for the band to progress but as it stands, certain other existing outfits (namely Foals) have the bar raised too high for WTK to compete. Once their live shows replicate the intensity and schizophrenia of their recordings, With That Knife should grow into the musical juggernaut that they are capable of becoming.
Much like WTK, Driver Drive Faster lacked a fundamental component in their live shows – presence and conviction in deliverance. Bumbling through a set of passable twee-tinged indie folk, Dylan and co only ever seemed to reach second gear. On the plus side, DDF did have some catchy licks and Dylan’s vocals at times were nothing short of stunning, but as a complete package, the band ironically seemed to lack the drive needed to thrust their talent onto impartial listeners. The set itself was somewhat jarred with extensive guitar tune-ups and not being able to cover up these momentary technical glitches with banter allowed the crowd to become rapidly disinterested. On this performance, Driver Drive Faster were pretty forgettable but songs such as ‘It’s All Over (It’s Everywhere)’ might just tickle enough fancies to keep them in the Manchester lime light for a little longer.
Sporting retro outfits and a youthful, mischievous onstage ethos, Dutch Uncles swept tonight’s growing Deaf Institute crowd up with their jubilance. Oozing charisma, front man Peter displayed an enviable vocal range, delivered with a magnetic innocence, all the while backed up by a punchy and intent rhythm section and intricate guitar parts. Every song was interesting too, with songs such as ‘Face In’ displaying adventurous time signatures and a capacity to transform convoluted musical structures into accessible pop dance-alongs. Bossing the small space they were afforded at the Deaf Institute, Dutch Uncles converted the stage into a playground, confident enough to dance like jitterbugs and rightly so. Leagues ahead of many other bands in a similar field to themselves, Dutch Uncles are surely heading for bigger stages.
Even as Kong set up, they appear manic and slightly on edge creating a nervous tension amongst the awaiting audience. After literally throwing their gear into place, the Mancunian three-piece arise on the stage, wearing their disconcerting plastic masks and chewed up red garments. Guitarist and singer, Magpie faces the crowd and raises his fists, seemingly preparing everyone for a severe onslaught of musical butchery. Onslaught is perhaps a little too timid a word to describe the subsequent half hour. Barbaric ferocity might suit better. Absolutely out of their mind and totally unaware/disinterested of creating offence, Kong proceed to scare the living shit out of every onlooker, not only through the genuine insanity but the sheer musical brilliance, screeching out of a shivering PA. It was telling story, looking round and seeing a mesmerised audience, eyes dry through not wanting blink and miss anything. Perhaps the best gigging drummer in Manchester at present, Mark Heron (Krem) leads the Kong tank into battle. His wingmen, Magpie and Lulu hand out some incredulous sounds, seemingly not in time or even part of the same song but somehow coinciding perfectly with one another, creating a mind-boggling composition. It’s horrific – horrifyingly good musically, horrifyingly absurd mentally, horrifyingly innovative as a concept. Definitely one of the best live acts of 2009 and surely the best band to play this year’s In The City.
Hot Club De Paris were always going to struggle following Kong, and their set was certainly tame in comparison. What was irritating though, was the fact that they still assumed that, as headliners, they automatically gained the respect and kudos of an audience. This impertinence was not lost however on the Deaf Institute crowd, which soon shrank into an intimate gathering. All the witty banter associated with the Liverpudlian charm escalated into annoying chats between bands members Alasdair, Paul and Matthew. Musically, the songs merged into a snippet of inoffensive indie-passed-of-as-punk pap that has been peddled for a few years too long. It was good three years ago in a packed out Zanzibar, but today, the music barometer is in the hands of listeners who are clearly hungry for a new breed of musician. Hot Club were not poor – they never have been. But their disillusion tonight was slightly embarrassing on an evening where genuine talent, inventiveness and blind belief in one’s own music shone through, leaving Hot Club De Paris to figure out their own contextual mess.