A Carefully Planned Festival (ACPF) provides a slew of fringe acts with a Northern Quarter-wide platform. For two days, the offbeats rule the roost in N4
A Carefully Planned Festival (ACPF) rocked up to Tib Street, Oldham Street, Spear Street and Lever Street and brought with it a serious groove. It is a quietly confident festival that filled Manchester with alternative talent.
If you’re a fan of “birds on a lake, wild blackberries, dawn” or any of The Beatles, The Smiths, Weezer, and Yann Tiersen, you’ll find a band to jam to, according to the programme.
Genres such as “swingin’ ‘n’ clangin’ pop declamation,” “numerous flailing limbs,” and “schizophrenic pop soup + sweet mangoes on the side” are also scattered over the nine Northern Quarter venues—a rainbow of sounds to explore.
“We fit ALL the genres in one song.”
Stacey, the bassist from Axes, crouches down on stage and explains to me that Axes are a band with no rules. Their songs are complex: At one point each guitarist is moving with a different rhythm. However, the mixture of on-point timings and styles is satisfying and draws in all of a busy Night and Day Café.
“We’re leaving now to go on tour with two other bands from ACPF,” Stacey told me, sweat running off her nose after the gig. And ten minutes later Axes leave.
All weekend people with instruments are darting in and out of buildings and it’s exciting—no banners, flyers or shouting about ACPF—but a distinct, unusual buzz lingers in the air.
“SPACE DICK” is being shouted repetitively at the crowd in the back room of The Castle. ILL are musically venting about sexual harassment at work (when you work in outer space). Fiona, Harri, Whitney and Sadie make politically and socially charged points with every single song. Their message is loud, clear and well received by the crowd: inequality is rife and disgusting. Aside from politics, Fiona told me post-show that “we all need to leave our own creative mark on the world.”
ILL cleverly leave theirs by transforming the tiny Castle stage into a sarcastic mini-protest against inequality. I left thinking “If only I had arrived in time to hear them play ‘Cock in my Pocket’ and ‘Breast’”.
The Hyena Kill destroy eardrums in Mint Lounge. The drumming is passionate and exact and the guitar is angry. The closer to the stage the crowd are, the more intense the head banging becomes.
Shields are a five-piece band from Newcastle who tease movement out of a slower Sunday night crowd. They are like a heavier version of Alt-J. Their drummer and percussionist/guitarist are smiling like a pair of Cheshire cats as they play.
ACPF is a decidedly ‘alternative’ festival, as in the opposite of populist; not much room for emerging styles of hip hop, R’n’B, rap or more mainstream types of pop. According to ACPF, “there is something for everyone,” so it would be apt and refreshing to see an entire spectrum of music represented over the weekend. Maybe something that isn’t guitar music?
My friend, the drum machine.
The ACPF layout is compact, so no problems with losing heat and dryness walking between gigs. Downstairs in Soup Kitchen it is cold, but the music isn’t.
During Hannah Lou Clark‘s gig, the bar is an old blank canvas with cool blush backlighting.
Hannah Lou’s drum machine is called Lucy Brown—after her good friend—and on stage are only Hannah, Lucy Brown, and an electric acoustic guitar.
Hannah’s clear, assured voice is everyone’s focus during the gig; her lyrics talk of both idealistic romance and reality. The guitar complements with scratchy growling riffs and Lucy Brown obediently adds a subtle layer of electronica. She is more than just a hat stand, that girl (she is a drum machine).
Overheard at ACFP:
“Where are the big tinnies of Grolsch?”
“My dad is in five bands and I’m nine years old and I’m really proud of him.”
“I want to quit work! My managers are twats. I just want to sing instead.”
People of all ages and backgrounds are here to enjoy this weekend of new music. Sam, a friend of mine, waved me over as I left Cord Bar on Saturday night. He is not at ACPF and does not know it is on. “There is definitely something different going on in town tonight,” he said. Definitely.