My experience watching King No-One last month was nothing short of extraordinary. The show was important to me for several reasons: my first “big-person” event since the pandemic, my first gig review, and getting to see a band I’d loved for years perform live.
Here’s the first thing you need to know about me and gigs: inexperienced. When I saw that show started at seven you can be assured, I was there at seven.
I was very unprepared for the three supporting bands and the nearly 3 hours I would have to wait before the headliners hit the stage. So there I was, hungry and embarrassed by my rookie blunder.
After haggling with the security guards, I was allowed 30 minutes to go get some food and return to the venue. I was sitting outside of the Sainsbury’s on the corner of Oxford Road and Whitworth Street West, people watching and inhaling a cold sausage roll. As I made my way back to the venue, lost in my thoughts, I collided with a curly-haired blonde figure holding a bouquet of roses.
I was shocked to see the face in front of me belonged to none other than Zach Lout, the lead singer of King No-one, the very band I was there to see. I composed myself and blurted out that I was actually a big fan but also there to review the show. He was charming, polite and above all just genuinely nice.
“Our fans here are more of a cult, their vibe is like […] they’re our own underground cult […] that’s why I’m so excited to play here in Manchester tonight”, he told me.
Sensing he probably had better things to do before performing onstage than making small talk with me, I thanked him for his comments and off he went. I too returned to the venue, suddenly in totally different spirits.
The supporting acts were three edgy and energetic bands, Bayboards, Novacub and Hi Sienna. I was particularly impressed with Novacub, whose personality charmed the crowd and received the loudest support from the audience.
The bands did make the time go by more quickly, and I was still spirited from my run-in with Zach, but finally it was time for the main event. They opened with the grungy classic ‘Obsolete’, which immediately had the crowd singing along like one impassioned mob.
This strong opener was followed by a handful of some of their newer songs, including ‘Toxic Love’, ‘Lemonade’ and a personal favourite of mine, ‘Bad Porno’. During the latter, Zach produced some familiar looking roses which he proceeded to hurl into the screaming crowd.
The songs shifted to some of their older, original hits such as the angsty pop of ‘Systematic’, the romantic slow-ballad ‘Two Islands’, and the catchy ‘Alcatraz’. Despite having listened to all their songs before, watching them perform really made me realise the range the band have in their music, and yet they are able to maintain such a distinctive sound.
Whether it’s because of Zach’s unique vocals or the craft of the melodies themselves, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both. But whatever they’re doing, it’s right. The performance was heartfelt and intimate.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the performance though, was how overwhelmingly obvious it was that this was a group of young people who absolutely love what they do. They seemed authentically humbled by the fervent crowd and grateful to be on stage. The love and passion the crowd were throwing at the performers, they were giving right back. The set closed with one of their most iconic pieces, ‘Antichrist’. On stage, Zach told the crowd: “This next one means the most to us, it’s for anyone who has ever felt misplaced by the structure society has placed […] this song doesn’t belong to us, it’s your song.”
I was lucky enough to speak to the band again after the show and asked them what they had missed most about not being able to tour. They disclosed that they are an unrepresented band, meaning they organise and manage themselves entirely.
There are of course pros to this, but a big con is that they struggle more than mainstream bands to get gig space or media attention. Despite being such a seemingly high-profile band, King No-One can often be found busking in the street! To me, this both reinforces their humble nature, but also shows that for a band who doesn’t get as many opportunities as others, they have done an amazing job of maintaining a platform with a devoted fanbase.
“Performing brings people together from every corner of the world”, said Joe Martin, the band’s guitarist.
“Everyone is totally equal in that one moment, and everyone has something in common”, chimes in drummer James Basile.
And that’s really what King No-One are all about: equality in society, and in experience.
As I rode the bus home, I was buzzing. My somewhat odyssey of a night culminated in gaining a deeper insight into a band I loved and appreciating them and their music in a new light. And after all, why else do we love music so much if not to feel something from it.