On an icy December day, I found myself splitting my evening across two of Manchester’s finest venues – the O2 Ritz and Gorilla – to explore Manchester’s newest festival, Year’s End. Full of indie favourites such as Bloxx, Vistas, Cassia, and Spector, the night really had something for everyone.
The combination of Ritz, its basement and Gorilla all being utilised, felt like a more compact version of our beloved Neighbourhood Festival. The atmosphere felt electric, though crowds did seem a little sparse on the ground. Security was swift, ticketing was easily operated and the whole affair felt well-organised and slick – especially impressive given the newness of the festival.
The highlight of the night came in the form of Ritz headliners Spector. Opening with classic ‘Fine Not Fine’, once more I found myself overwhelmed by the quality and power of lead singer Fred Macpherson’s voice. The crowd was particularly raucous, delving into pits at a moment’s opportunity. The tales of fragility and heartbreak are always resonant, and particularly powerful in a time when music can so often be shallow and lacking in depth. With lyrical brilliance shining right from the first song with lines like “If you’re the company you keep I’m holding on to you” and “I still lie to people, you still speak in allegories”, it’s hard not to wonder why the band aren’t more well known.
To a backing of heavy guitar riffs, the band worked up the crowd into a frenzy. Another particular highlight came in the form of ‘Untitled in D’, a personal favourite. Once more Spector’s lyrical excellence combined with the guitar and delightfully intrinsic beats. When “you’re not like the other guys” powers through the mic, it’s impossible not to feel not only deeply emotionally invested in the story being woven by the songwriting but also seized by the intensity and excellence of the riffs played.
The crowd was also treated to songs off the recent Reloaded EP, such as new track ‘Even When You Pass My Way’. Once more featuring lyrical brilliance and drops to die for, the line “you’re one of the good bad guys but you left me with a bad goodbye” brings to everyone’s mind that one person. In their usual fantastic way, Spector delivered a performance that felt intimate and room-filling all at once.
The jovial stage presence of Macpherson was captivating as he riled up the crowd and stood right at the edge of the stage. Something about him seemed almost as though it could take off as he leaned towards the audience for ballad ‘Never Fade Away’. One that tugged at my own heartstrings, I found myself hanging on to every word. As I found myself on the receiving end of his gaze, I relished in the opportunity for a dance and, it must be admitted, a cry. I’ve been lucky enough to see Spector once before, and I can confirm that they just get better. As they ended on favourite ‘All The Sad Young Men’ and I delved back into the pit, I was acutely aware that Spector are a band everyone ought to see.
An excellent end to Year’s End Festival and Semester 1, make sure to keep an eye out for next year’s line-up and catch Spector on tour. It certainly was a night of the year.