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jacobbroughtonglerup
2nd March 2024

A beginner’s guide to Manchester’s local music scene

Manchester’s local music scene has never been short of exciting acts, and this is none more evident than right now, with acts such as Fruit, Die Kai Die, Tigers and Flies, and Evie Eve
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A beginner’s guide to Manchester’s local music scene
Ailish O’Leary @ The Mancunion

At times, the discussions surrounding Manchester’s music scene of ‘back in the day’ seem almost never-ending. Having stretched across several decades, and plenty of pioneering indie bands of all flavours, Manchester’s musical heritage is frankly a Holy Scripture at this point, with murals of The Stone Roses’ frontman Ian Brown stalking a student’s every move. The deification of Joy Division and Factory Records (not to mention, the soulless Disorder bar in the Northern Quarter), the folklore of Morrissey and The Smiths, the manic anecdotes of the Happy Mondays, and of course the stalking spectre of Mark E. Smith and The Fall

All of these acts were and are still hugely influential, without even mentioning the ecosystem of bands they all belonged to.

Because of this well-documented musical history, Manchester lays claim to good music venues of every size. Spaces for artists to perform are abundant in the city, from Withington’s own 50-cap student hub, Fuel, all the way to the grand Albert Hall. Unlike many British cities, there is a venue perfectly sized for every step of an artist’s journey, from intimate gigs to arena shows. Many of these venues have survived long into infamy, cementing themselves as mainstays of Northern music, and seemingly few have come under attack.

Many, however, seem to think that Manchester’s musical output dried up some time ago – possibly when Sean Ryder got sober, or when Mark E. Smith was put in a wheelchair. This stagnant diagnosis that Manchester is a city of the musical past is not only lazy, but downright wrong.

Fruit

If it’s a live band you seek, then look no further than Fruit. Comprising a classic two guitar, bass, and drums line-up, the ferocious noise this group can draw from just four instruments is what makes them special. A crushingly heavy band in the extreme, at each of the gigs I have seen them play a story is told. What said story is about, I’m never truly sure, but there is both chaos and narrative drama tying together each of their Slint-inspired dirges. One thing they have mastered at such a young age is the ability to craft music that evokes something – a feeling, or even fear. Depends on your tastes, I suppose.

Fronted by Josh Withers’s ramblings about all things from snooker’s Alex Higgins to Fall-esque tirades, the rest of the group fall in ramshackle line to add an almost orchestral wall of guitars behind him. The rhythm section is as tight as can be – unsurprising from a band who have been gigging several times a month for the last year or two.

Already with a gig at South London’s infamous alternative hub The Windmill under their belt, Fruit are well on their way up, but they are dedicated members of the Manchester scene, so fear not.

You can find their music here.

@ Fruit

Tigers and Flies

If we are to believe that post-punk – crank-wave, post-Brexit, or whatever you wish to call it – has had its moment in the spotlight in alternative music, then the next sound should be something akin to Tigers and Flies. An eclectic group comprising of just the one guitar, drums, bass, and an electrifying horn section, Tigers and Flies defy the need for simplicity in alternative music. Behind each tune, there is urgency springing off of each bassline and snare hit, but the chords and melodies have something more in common with more traditional song-writing techniques.

One thing I personally adore about this band too is their use of a horn section. As much as I love the sound of a saxophone in a post-punk LP, it is – to some extent – a bit overplayed and often, just there for the sake of variety. The horns present in ‘Night Time Mood’ or ‘Bat and Ball’ – both tunes off of the group’s first LP Among Everything Else – are not only refreshing, but essential. They evoke the rhythmic bite of a Northern Soul track, but with the late-70s frantic drive of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Searching for the Young Soul Rebels.

Having headlined last year’s Gigs and Bands Society freshers’ week event at Manchester Academy, the band already command a certain presence amongst the student music community, however, I feel their trajectory is only on the up. They are certainly a group to look out for.

If you’re interested in hearing this brilliant sound, click here.

@ Tigers and Flies

Die Kai Die

A band comprised of drummers, without anyone on the drums. What’s not to love? Add to that, a skittish mix of shoegaze, hyperpop, and general punkish sentiment, Die Kai Die are sprinting into new territory, whether you like it or not.

As a live presence, Die Kai Die have already flown the nest in one sense, having played The Windmill – the performance of which can be found on the venue’s resident cult photographer Lou Smith’s socials. They still have however one foot in the local scene, having played Manchester University’s Alive! Festival. This frankly goes without saying, but the group are a crushing live presence, as tight as any band you will find.

Their only single available to stream, ‘Swiss Army Knife’, is an aural assault; a combination of delicately finger-picked guitars and plucked synths, strong-armed by an industrial drum-machine kick and snare pattern. Soaring vocals and raw emotion, convulsing drums and modulating synths. A brilliant first single all round, to pair with their intense live presence.

This beautiful cacophony can be found here.

@ Die Kai Die

Evie Eve

It is easy to assume that a local scene solely comprises bands of white men of a certain age. This is nowhere near true for Manchester’s scene; an expansive collection of artists of all genres and types.

Emerging seamlessly out of the fascination with the terribly named POV: Indie and the stratospheric popularity of artists such as Phoebe Bridgers and Boygenius, we have (as The Mancunion described) ‘Manchester’s self-proclaimed ‘babygenius’’: Yasmin Coe, Evie Eve, and Dee Rae.

While both Coe and Dee Rae are of no less acclaim – both providing their own brilliant twist on the genre, with lush production and brilliantly complex songwriting – Evie Eve’s music follows a folksier route. In place of affected guitars, you’ve woodwinds and acoustic pianos taking their place. It’s a timeless style of both production and arrangement that lays her songwriting bare, which for some artists would expose them to some extent. With Evie Eve, however, her voice soars over stunning melodies and ultimately, the song shines through.

Now joined by a six-piece band (including both trumpet and violin), her poetic lyrics are allowed the space they need to breathe – to be carried by a full, live sound. To have such a refined song-writing craft at this level of music is unusual to say the least, and she deserves all of the recognition for the talent clearly on display.

Evie Eve’s music can be found here.

Sour Grapes Records

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that no, Sour Grapes Records are not a band, they are in fact a record label. Who would have thought? What they are, however, is a little more than merely a publisher of small bands’ music.

Serving both as a record label and promoter, Sour Grapes are a treasure-trove for alternative music lovers, being home to bands such as Waxhead and Gold Cup, as well as reissuing and publishing music from acts such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They’ve a keen eye for both talent and peculiar, yet captivating album artwork as well. They are a hipster’s paradise, and well worth looking into.

In Manchester, we are a little spoilt for choice with small promoters doing excellent work to promote and put on fantastic gigs with local acts. Killjoy Productions, Molehill Productions, Akoustic Anarkhy, Sweet Face Magazine… The list goes on, and any self-respecting music-lover in the city should follow at least a few.

Sour Grapes excels in this capacity, having hosted spellbinding gigs everywhere from Oxford Road’s Big Hands to the infamous Salfordian dance venue The White Hotel.

For any music fan in Manchester keen to see what the city has to offer outside of the realm of established artists passing through, Sour Grapes is a window into a thriving scene. If you want to discover more about the work Sour Grapes do, their website can be found here.

Jacob Broughton-Glerup

Jacob Broughton-Glerup

Jacob Broughton-Glerup is a music journalist and avid music fan from Sheffield interested in all things lyrical and odd.

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