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4th October 2016

Live: Sundara Karma

Sundara Karma are more than teenage icons – their fizzy pop is a perfect escape from the encroaching Mancunian autumn, writes Meg Roberts

Manchester Ritz, September 22nd


There’s nothing like a glitter-dipped crowd all velvet trousers and short fringes with an average age of 16 at the Ritz to make you feel old. In my advancing years, yes all 21 of them, I felt as though I’d been put in a tumblr-shaped time machine and transported back to a Swim Deep gig in the height of B-town 2012. Fast forward four years and it seems the sun-drenched dream pop of the Birmingham variety –  Jaws, Peace, Dumb, Dive, Wide Eyed and Laced – we’re looking at you, hasn’t lost its appeal with the plaid-shirted, septum pierced teenagers of Manchester.  If Peace and Tame Impala were to reproduce it’d probably sound something like Reading’s Sundara Karma, an altogether more brown, rice and open toe sandals to your typical indie pop/rock bread and butter.

You’ve got to give it to the indie cindy Manchester lot, they don’t do things by halves and I felt almost out of place without a crop top. I didn’t have a Sundara-Karma sunshine glittered on nor was I dancing as if at a hyped-up house night rather than your typical stand-at-the-back-and-nod-if-your-cool vibe. I’d obviously not had enough blue smarties or lemonade. Hyperactive wasn’t the word.

Aesthetics aside, yes Oscar Lulu looks a lot like a blonde Harrison Koisser along with the young, fan-girling crowd that these types of bands often attract, sometimes wrongly pigeonholing the likes of Sundara Karma as quintessentially indie boyband. SK are more than that.

A shirtless Lulu opened their biggest headline show to date with Indigo Puff, their oldest and arguably, most well known and best loved single. Hypnotic drums alongside Lulu’s earthy vocals made for something ethereal as the packed out Ritz chanted ‘you’re the one, you’re the one, you’re the one.’ Not bad for a band who haven’t even released an LP yet.

My age soon became apparently when their soulful rendition of Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much seemed lost on the teenyboppers. I wondered whether they were just struggling for enough material but I enjoyed the change of pace nonetheless—and who doesn’t love a good boogie to a thousand kisses from you? Evidently the 15-18 cohort, sigh.

Songs like Vivienne tell us why Sundara Karma and the type of music that they’re making matters, especially in a world which has largely commodified human relationships offering watered down, cut, copy and paste love if you have a smartphone and internet access, which you probably do. It’s almost a ‘look at the crap we’re calling love these days’ social critique as he talks of the obsession and raw vulnerability of I’d-die-for-you love. I felt swept up in the dreamlike atmosphere, as the synth-y sounds of ‘wild eyes, skinny jeans’ juxtaposed with the electricity of the crowd.

Speaking of Vivienne, Lulu said: ‘It’s a love song sure, but more to do with the escapism that love can offer than love itself. The world is pretty fucked, not that this is a revelation, nor am I saying anything new. I’m just singing about a type of love that blocks out all the noise.’

Like much of Sundara Karma’s material, it all comes down to escape and the need to sometimes turn down life’s background noise—and if their sunshine infused melodies can make my summer last a bit longer as we move into a decided Mancunian autumn, that’s all the escape I need.

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