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12th March 2024

International Women’s Day at Radio 6 Music Festival: Gossip headline CMAT and Afrodeutsche

Artists Gossip, CMAT, and Afrodeutsche were on the line-up at BBC 6 Music Festival for a musical celebration of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day at Radio 6 Music Festival: Gossip headline CMAT and Afrodeutsche
Credit: BBC Radio 6 Music

On March 8, two events took place. Globally, it was International Women’s Day, a celebration of the achievements of women around the world and a call for increased gender equality. In Manchester, it was night two of the BBC 6 Music Festival, returning for its second year in the city. The two combined in a lineup of female musicians, something which is much needed amidst the still male-dominated lineups of the summer festivals to come.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, BBC Radio 6 Music curated the Friday night of their three-day festival to promote female acts. O2 Victoria Warehouse was treated to a DJ set from Manchester-based artist, composer, and producer Afrodeutsche, as well as an eight-song gig from Irish sensation CMAT. The event was headlined by Gossip, an American Indie-rock band who returned to Manchester for their first UK gig in four years.

The night began with Afrodeutsche, who kicked things off shortly after doors opened. The set moved from singalong classics to bassier beats, and included remixes of tracks such as Robin S.‘s ‘Show Me Love’, Xpansions 95‘s ‘Move Your Body’, and ‘Blues For You’ by Logic. It’s worth noting that the night was being broadcast live on BBC 6 Music’s radio show, and it wasn’t hard to miss the large camera suspended over the audience filing into the venue. For a festival seeking to combine the gig experience with national broadcasting, it was a nice touch to host in Victoria Warehouse, located so near to Salford’s Media City.

Afrodeutsche’s opening set made the evening spent in the Warehouse feel more akin to a varied festival. The Six Music DJ played for an hour, during which the room filled from only a few groups of people to over half capacity. The venue looked as impressive as the music sounded, decorated with 6 Music paraphernalia and bright lights flashing along to the beats.

After Afrodeutsche had set the tone for the evening, next on the bill was CMAT. The Irish country-pop artist took to the stage with ‘California’, the first track from her sophomore album Crazymad, For Me. After an eventful past year, it felt as though you were watching an artist headlining, rather than someone second on the bill. CMAT commanded the stage with crisp vocals and playful dancing, playing a mix of songs from her two albums including ‘Whatever’s Inconvenient’, ‘Have Fun!’, and ‘No More Virgos’.

The highlight of the set came when she introduced John Grant to the stage, telling the audience that he was “her hero” and that “I’ve loved him since I was 14 years old.” The pair collaborated on Crazymad, For Me track ‘Where Are Your Kids Tonight?’, and to see the duet performed live for the first time was incredibly moving. Speaking to 6 Music’s Matt Everitt after performing with Grant, CMAT confirmed “We’ve actually never done it together, ever, not live, because we recorded everything separately in the studio. So that was literally the first time we sang it together.”

CMAT and John Grant - credit BBC Radio 6 Music
Credit: BBC Radio 6 Music

Following the emotional duet with John Grant, CMAT concluded her performance with ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’ and ‘Stay For Something’, two of her most popular singles. The singer led the crowd in line dancing during the former, telling them “Manchester I’m so impressed!” The moment was testament to a dynamic performer and a supportive crowd – there were hardly any phones in sight throughout the night.

The headline act was Gossip, fronted by singer Beth Ditto. The atmosphere in the room was expectant, as the band played their first show in the UK since before the pandemic. The joy in the venue was evident from the opening song ‘Love Long Distance’, a fitting start for a band returning to the UK after such a long break. The set continued with a varied selection from Gossip’s 24-year catalogue, including ‘Move in the Right Direction’ and ‘Heavy Cross’.

Ditto didn’t favour the hot pink dress she arrived on stage in for long, choosing to perform in her underwear after the opening song. The singer was fully tuned in to International Women’s Day celebrations, reminding the audience that “I’m not trying to be subversive, I’m trying to be comfortable.” As she commanded the stage barefoot, Ditto also repeatably dedicated songs to the LGBTQ+ community. While wholly ignoring the no-swearing-on-air rule from 6 Music, she managed to create a powerful, party atmosphere in Victoria Warehouse; even new album track ‘Crazy Again’, performed live for the first time, was well-received.

Gossip at BBC Six Music Festival
Credit: BBC Radio 6 Music

There was another surprise in store for the crowd, as Gossip were joined on stage by Alison Moyet for a cover of Yazoo‘s ‘Situation’. Ditto was visibly in awe of Moyet, as the pair traded lyrics of her 1982 collaboration with Vince Clarke. Ditto’s emotion felt raw and unabashed, and whilst the rest of the night was filled with other chaotic moments including her forgetting the lyrics to ‘Real Power’, Gossip’s return to the UK was certainly authentic.

The evening concluded with a final display of defiant energy when Gossip brought their set to a close with the anthem ‘Standing in the Way of Control’. As well as a mashup with Nirvana‘s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, the band were joined on stage by The Fuck Pigs, a queer rave collective from Manchester. Members held up signs with phrases such as “BLACK! BROWN! QUEER! HERE!” and “PROTECT TRANS YOUTH” in a show of queer power and defiance against bigotry. The moment finished off the evening fittingly, and reminded us that we still have a long way to go to achieve equality for all on International Women’s Day.

As BBC 6 Music returned to Manchester, it feels as though they’ve really got it right. The lineup included both fresh talent and established performers, and was a nod to International Women’s Day without feeling forced. Whilst certain festivals continue to produce lacklustre lineups, here’s hoping that promoters follow in the footsteps of 6 Music and book female talent all year round.

Annabel Benton

Annabel Benton

Co-Culture Managing Editor at The Mancunion // Twitter: @AnnabelBenton_

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