Saturday 15th October 2011
9.02 a.m. And so it begins, with the ringing of a phone alarm followed by toast, imitation Weetabix, and cups of tea. A look out the window suggests that earlier predictions of another citywide heatwave may not have been too far wide of the mark. Perfect weather for a stroll to Manchester Art Gallery, to catch the first part of Sounds Like A Gallery.
10.34 a.m. We arrive early, as it turns out; Black Jack Barnet won’t be starting until 12. Fortunately, that gives us the chance to enjoy the gallery’s fantastic permanent collection. The problem with living in a city for any number of years – and knowing that your immediate future lies within its boundaries – is that it’s easy to become complacent about the likes of the Manchester Art Gallery. A “we should drop in some time” mentality takes over, whereby you intend to visit but never get around to it. We’re delighted to have been prompted to do so, and make a note to come visit the Ford Madox Brown exhibition as soon as our pockets are a little heavier. We’d fully recommend you pay the place a visit, too.
12.36 p.m. Black Jack Barnet (pictured above, alongside William Etty’s The Sirens and Ulysses) turns out to be great: playing to a broad audience of kids and older folk, he uses “poetic license” to tell the stories behind six of the gallery’s most bold and impressive paintings. From song to song he shifts style dramatically, so that one moment he’s delivering gospel folk that calls to mind Seasick Steve, and the next he’s mining Jam On Bread twee indie territory, touring the first floor and picking up new followers at every stop. He mostly plays it for laughs and gets them, with the children in attendance every bit as delighted as the adults.
1.12 p.m. We recharge our batteries with a plate of fish and chips in a Norther Quarter caff, with a soundtrack of “Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa” and “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” Next stop, the Manchester Craft and Design Centre…
1.45 p.m. …another place it is easy to forget about, but which deserves plenty more attention than it receives. Partly because the building is beautiful – with a high glass ceiling that lets the light stream into the artisan-filled shopping piazza bellow – and partly because it houses a handful of the city’s most talented artists and craftivists.
2.15 p.m. Within the venue, a makeshift stage has been set up to play host to a couple of hours of world music. First up is Jali Njonkoling Kuyateh, who you might have seen playing his African harp around Piccadilly Gardens. It really is a remarkable instrument; it doesn’t look like much, but the beautiful sound it emits is somewhere between a harp and guitar, and Jail’s voice sounds melodious and delightfully archaic at the same time.
2.41 p.m. The live performances are interspersed with sets from DJ Mayeve and a performance from San’at Mahmudova. We spend a pleasant hour exploring the centre and snacking on chocolate cake at the popular onsite cafe…
3.12 p.m. …after which we spend some time browsing the small jewellery boutiques. We’re interrupted by the first notes of singer/songwriter Luciano Gerber’s 20 minute set. The sounds of rich, nostalgic Brazillian folk reverberate around the bright airy space, which really does lend itself to live music.
3.40 p.m. EthniCITY concludes with an emotionally charged Flamenco set from Calaita (above), that combines powerful lyrics with Catalonian melodies, and underpinned by staccato percussion. It’s always nice to have your eyes opened to different cultures.
4:30 p.m. We retire to the nearby Cord for a couple of pints and reflect on what we’ve seen so far, then eventually head over to the Deaf Institute, grabbing a bite to eat along the way.
7.56 p.m. As we arrive at the Deaf Institute, we’re handed envelopes that contain 3D glasses. A nice touch that helps create the feeling that we’re going to see something special.
8.47 p.m. Support band Gladeyes quickly ensure that said feeling is justified. Indie rock that has its toes more in the rock ‘n’ roll pool than the indie pool, they absolutely command the stage, and deliver a killer performance that the audience clearly love. We hurry to pick up a free copy of their CD, the existence of which they mention between practically every song.
9.34 p.m. As Denis Jones and his musical companion take to the stage, the crowd roar their appreciation. As he begins his set, the sound from the bass and amps are so strong we can literally “feel” the waves of music being created on stage.
The songs are built up in layers; Jones pushes chords and melodies from his guitar through various electrical gizmos creating various effects. Samplers distort his vocals and add an electronic/techno feel to music that started out with distinctly country influences.
And the distorting glasses, which allow the wearer to view the world in a distinctly glitzy haze, seem appropriate now that he’s in full swing. The visuals displayed behind him show sound scapes in primary colours, and against this background Jones casts a dramatic silhouette.
11.12 p.m. The sounds of Denis Jones are still reverberating around our head as we walk home, trying to put the effect into words. We decide that his music lies somewhere between folk, country, psych, and IDM, although the only word that does the set justice is “stunning.” We retire exhausted, but excited about what Sunday has in store for us.
Part two of a four part series in conjunction with All Points North, providing coverage of Manchester Weekender and other regional festivals.