(Pic - Detroit Social Club)
In The City - Manchester - October 2008

Its Happening. ITC is becoming a festival, its very essence championed by pioneering nit-wit Wilson, is becoming marginalised for capital gain. Maybe that’s a little strong, ‘a sign of the times’ you may say but everything that made ITC ‘special’ is beginning to fade. It’s not a Glastonbury style collapse, but what this year signifies more than any other is the lack of faith and financial clout labels are willing to provide their hopefuls with.

For example, in the past, access for non-delegates was restricted little, with those wishing to ‘Swan it with the A&R and Music Executives’ left to bask in this ridiculous pretence (if they so wished) without a challenge. This year, people can actually pay for this privilege, which to be viable requires a fee for events that would normally be free. Its not a massive change, but a sign of the future of ITC, maybe more chargeable events, which (it remains to be seen) could equate to less footfall through the doors, and therefore less exposure for the ‘new’ bands, and less of what we loved about ITC.

Further distraction from the new bands arrives in the form of the larger ‘established’ acts, which this year, more than any other, have moved in to capatalise on the buzz of ITC. Struggling daydreamers The Magic Numbers, flailing codgers Edwyn Collins and the Durritti Column and the worst offender of recent musical crimes The Fratelli’s all play as part of this festival at a hefty price (Durriti Column £20?), frankly its hardly enough to poke a stick at let alone wag a £20 at, but it all works against those showcasing. And that’s not what ITC is about, its not about these struggling bygones, its about newcomers grappling at the first rung of the ladder, its about the big-wigs gifting the talent, and as ITC quite rightly puts it “its about the music, stupid”.

The first official day Sunday, sees a couple of performances worthy of such industry gifts, the first The Detroit Social Club from… Newcastle we think, are infectiously brilliant. It’s a weighty sound, deep and brooding, made all the more grand through testing the limits of the PA, a sound that echoes the R&B of Elbow whilst delivering the laddy clout of Kings of Leon. Throat infections can’t keep a great front man down, and whilst singer Burn’s struggle is evident, his presence (or maybe the ear splitting levels) overrides all problems. Tracks like ‘Black and White’ have the railroad backbone of Brian Jonestown’s better moments, whilst ‘Forever Wonderland’ is Iggy spliced with the dirt and grime of the Black Angels. We need not look to Detroit, Newcastle (judging from the accent!) has it all, in abundance.

Sundays other guiding light are the insipidly young The Mandigans, a band to watch, a band with potential, and a band that will gather momentum in Manchester’s competitive and blossoming under 18 band scene. Unlike the feathered image of El Policia, the Mandigans pay less to their trappings and more to their content, there’s less bravado, less spectacle, less BRMC and more BBC (that’s Bombay bicycle club). In reality their not quite BBC but more McFly but they are able to maintain a palatable air whilst still delivering a popular punch.

Monday sees Roses Kings Castles otherwise known as Adam Ficek, otherwise known as that drummer from the bullshit band of pretend smack-head poets (Babyshambles) who is pleasantly endearing. Relaxed, quintessentially cockney, and effortlessly charming Adam proves that at least the backend of Babyshambles is talented. Tales of his dead horse, “horses for courses” provides a similarly contrived scene (as his dayjob) but it’s his self depreciating style that is warming, as opposed to the po-faced arrogance of Doherty.

People take note of Alan McGee, the Scottish midget (although frozen in 90’s indie) has a knack of attracting bands with a pedigree, and for those with marketable calibre (Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis, The Hives and more recently Glasvegas) there are also as many without (Cosmic Rough Riders anybody?). This puts McGee’s latest ‘greatest band’ The Grants in a sticky predicament, but either way a reference from wee McGee sure brings in bums. Tonight’s Grants performance is packed to the rafters with industry, and singer Chris comment on being a ‘cow in a cattle market’ is quite literal. They look scouse, but their layered noodling is romancing, at complete odds to recent scouse scene-stealers such as The Coral and The Zutons. “Nothing To loose” is affectingly lucid, whilst “I am the One” is unselfconsciously sentimental almost in an embarrassingly open way.  It is touching stuff, and although not immediately accessible The Grants may just hold the key to a bright future.

And so what of Manchester? As always the home turf is heavily represented including former bright hopes (Ten Bears – formerly Deadbeats), the serial offenders (Gideon Conn) and the critically underrated (Laymar) all spread thickly across the city. Its not the worlds new music scene showcased, as ITC tries to suggest, it is Manchester’s, its the slowly diminishing former creative epicentre of musical culture’s chance to flex its musical muscle in an attempt to claw back some ground. One night capable of such authority is Tuesdays BBC Introducing, which sees both Twisted Wheel and It’s a Buffalo take to the Deaf Institutes wiley stage. ‘Whacky’ name aside ‘It’s a Buffalo’ are sitting pretty, a deft label, a strong fan base, and escalating media attention could see these boys tackling large scale hyperbole within months, and deservedly so. After a wavering start, IAB finally wake up and start to deliver. New single ‘Marbles’ with its iterative guitar hook is the anthem for the summer we never had, all knobbly knees and handkerchief hats, clinically British, and chronically brilliant.

Maybe this was Wilson’s dream all along, to push ITC, Europe’s premier new music event, towards the more commercial, festival based stateside counterpart SXSW. To become more of a showcase for the media than the record industry. Whatever his ideal, its clear Manchester is becoming aware of its importance and is keen to capitalise on its assets.

Words:  Daniel Pratley
Photos:  Richard Sherwood



Roses Kings Castles / The Grants


The Mandigans / Detroit Social Club

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