Artistic expression has never been an issue for the ‘Dirty Hit’ record label with their wide variety of successful artists, from festival bill toppers to young, fresh talent. It really does seem at that this moment they truly have a lot to offer within an ever changing and evolving music industry.
The British independent label was founded in December 2009 by Brian Smith and the late, former England footballer Ugo Ehiogu. The company has manager Jamie Oborne at the helm and continues to power forward with the growth of indie giants such as Wolf Alice and Manchester’s very own, The 1975.
It was exciting to hear then, that the company would be touring a showcase of their newer talents across the UK at various venues including the cavernous Gorilla, located just across the road from the legendary 02 Ritz venue.
I arrived a little earlier to meet with the artists before the show to discuss the tour, their current music, and a little bit about their plans for the upcoming year.
I initially spoke to Beatrice Kristi Laus, better known as Beabadoobee, about her experiences on tour and performing for the very first time in Manchester. She explained that she was really looking forward to an energetic room having performed at a pretty raucous show just two nights before at Glasgow’s King Tuts Wa Wa Hut. The show had apparently been a great success with two new tracks previewed to a very excitable crowd.
The second you hear Beabadoobee’s distinctively guitar-laden sound, however, its clear that her success comes from her ability to capture a crowd. From the second she entered the stage space and launched into her set she appeared to give everything she had with her brand of effortlessly cool indie-rock. What makes this all the more impressive was the discovery that she had started playing the guitar only two years previous to the release of her first singles.
Her performance as the final act of the night portrayed quite the well honed, quality rock sound. In technical terms, Bea really has mastered a great sound and in such a short space of time at that. Nothing but credit for her determination and her persistence as a performer.
The third act also had collaborations of his own to discuss and had quite a different take on the experiences of touring. After supporting The 1975 on tour, the aesthetically driven, No Rome, had his own particular style of music that he was keen to talk about. Akin to his predecessor at the label, he felt that his music was falling into a pattern of ‘eras’ in which he saw himself evolve the more he performed in different environments.
“So much has changed since I started performing.” He explained, “I am 24 and I think I am finally starting to see a kind of electronica style now but it comes from the way I dress too, definitely.”
For Rome, it appears that the quality of his aesthetic output is vital, if not the most important element of his performance. He fears the loss of a “tangible” nature in music, explaining that he has recently got really interested in vinyl, taking inspiration from interesting cover artwork and design.
This need to feel a connection to the material qualities of music creation likely stems from the central role that social media and online streaming has played in the realisation of these artists and their growing fan bases in recent years. The ability to sell records has fallen away and reaching fans across new and rather exciting online platforms has become the norm.
When the show finally came around later that day, it became clear that the crowd had a firm favourite, even though their enthusiasm for the all the artists hardly faltered throughout.
The night began with Oscar Lang and his lively band who ripped up the stage and really made the most of their time on stage. There were no crossover moments with Bea but he did reference her as they launched with ferocious energy into the track ‘Speed Dial’ which the crowd lapped up with growing enthusiasm.
There was a fair amount of anticipation surrounding the No Rome set but when he finally appeared on stage there was little change from anything seen in his previous performances. This along with a heavy reliance on pre-set sound and pedals gave the show a distinctly bland, shoegaze style that seemed out of place with the otherwise lively gig. It was a shame considering his potential after working on the creatively interactive track ‘narcissist’ and it seems that without the addition of Matty the track falls quite flat.
Rome had explained before the gig that he intends to work on new music for the 2020 festival season but progress had been slower due to perfecting and producing the sound himself. Perhaps the new year will see new direction to match an emergence of new material.
The showcase offers a promising window into the future of Dirty Hit which is driven by a need to appeal to a hunger for live performance. A collective aesthetic brings the bands together under a genre blend of post grunge, dream pop to rock styles and sounds.