The Castle Hotel’s cramped backroom saw two exciting acts on the night of Saturday 18th November. Manchester’s own Yasmin Coe opened the night to rapturous reception, and the London-based singer/songwriter Freya Beer continued to raise hell well into the later hours. Her sequinned set was a provocative, eye-shadowed glimpse into a rising mainstay of contemporary alternative music.
For a singer/songwriter whose rallying cry is the bleak assertion of “I have no hope,” Yasmin Coe certainly knows how to put on an uplifting show. Coe has become somewhat indie royalty in Manchester’s independent circuit, and for good reason: no other artist can balance a glitzy glam-rock disposition with that of honest humility so effortlessly.
In the cramped backroom of The Castle Hotel, Coe’s Cocteau Twins-esque set glittered with the smiley radiance that she’s made a name for. The songs dramatically lilted, swinging from the crashing lows of ‘Doubt’ to the jubilant heights of sing-along single ‘No Hope’ – bitter-sweet songwriting at its finest. The single has yet to wane in its catchiness even after a year of being her only release, and remains a spine-tingling testament to what a student artist can achieve.
Joined by last-minute replacement bassist Joe Royle, this subtle reunion didn’t go unnoticed by those who attended Coe’s Cal Moores-curated headline January show at YES. Whilst perhaps missing the confidence of regular bassist Joe Fowler, the charm of the Harpans Kraft substitute was not lost on those who fondly remember moshing on the beer-stained floors of YES basement. Credit must be given to Royle, who stepped in last minute to provide Coe’s band with a throbbing low-end.
Coe continued to bridge the gap between angst-ridden, leftist youngsters and balding, but likely equally leftist, BBC6 music dads. The icing on the cake of Coe’s set was her assurance that an EP is indeed on its way. Through her masterful single ‘No Hope’, and her persistent work ethic on and off the stage, Coe has already garnered a significant following. However, with the release of an EP hopefully of the same calibre as ‘No Hope’, Coe might just rule Manchester’s current indie scene.
Freya Beer had a tough act to follow. Many of the audience members left the room when Manchester’s rising indie pop star had departed. Whilst Coe admittedly stole the show – after all, Manchester’s Northern Quarter is very much her stomping ground – the London singer/songwriter performed an effervescent set of indie rock ’n’ roll, full of grit and physicality, and undoubtedly left the venue with a handful of new devotees.
Part PJ Harvey, part Yeah Yeah Yeahs, part Lorde, Beer crafted a live sound equal parts 2000s indie sleaze as millennial-confession pop. The guitars chugged along with a vague nod to the late Spider-From-Mars man Mick Ronson, amidst a thunderous drum sound that remained arrestingly confrontational and satisfyingly simple like The Clash’s Topper Headon. Looking vaguely like if Breaking Bad’s Jane Margolis fronted an indie group, Beer’s on-stage presence was striking: here was a performer whose gaze was just as disarming as her soundscapes.
Beer’s new single ‘Fantasy’ was displayed with sensual vigour. The singer/songwriter’s cherry-coloured Fender Jazzmaster guitar swung from her shoulders as she whispered daydreamy provocations over proto-punk bar-chords. ‘Galore’, a goth-rock ballad somewhere between The Cure and The Damned, brooded with the frustration of unconsummated passions. Beer’s sound, oscillating from the alienating to the radio-friendly, hinted at a singer/songwriter who will undoubtedly be able to rally enamoured audiences from various demographics.
Freya Beer’s headline show was an overwhelming assertion of the feminine presence in contemporary alternative music. From London to Manchester, voices like Beer’s and Coe’s are determined to be heard.