Designer Magazine presents Shepherds Pi / Carlis Star / The Sidelines / Sandbox
Night & Day Manchester - 28.11.06

If the music industry is a boys club then Manchester must be the epitome of this laddish culture with only Gillian from New Order registering so much as a blip on the radar for the female of the species on any of the major bands from this city over the past 30 years. Designer Magazine set out to change that with a bill that the most women on stage since the Polyphonic Spreelast appeared in Manchester.

With Karima Francis providing a much more interesting take on the singer songwriter genre that Liam Frost or Stephen Fretwell and The Tigerpicks showing the Whip and Performance how electro-pop is really done, its tonight's openers Sandbox that stake claim to the best female fronted indie band we've seen since Echobelly and Sleeper were last round these parts and frankly wipe the floor with the much overrated and fawned upon Long Blondes. Much of what makes Sandbox great is down to frontwoman Lennie who has a striking charisma and vocals that sore above the chiming melodies of recent new addition Greg on guitars. "Piccadilly And I" is one of those classic songs about living in the city and escaping the small town life and really should be played out loud on daytime radio to let office workers feel 3 minutes of escapism. "Thin Ice" is all clattering drums and chugging guitar and sounds like Blondie fronting The Smiths. Each song follows with potential hit after hit. After a couple of years setting things up 2007 will be the year that Sandbox break through

The Sidelines are one of the bands that prove that Manchester doesn't necessarily end with Chorlton. Already building up a reputation in South Manchester where they play weekly gigs to growing audience this Manchester City Centre gig shows just how far they've come from a few months ago. Sure they may have obvious reference points such as The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys and Razorlight but so have a dozen bands such as The Holloways or Milburn and it hasn't stopped them having praise heaped upon them. What sets the Sidelines apart is the piano motifs that underpin the likes of "Our Life In Dreams" which gives each song a sprightly youthful energy. It cant be long before this band grow into a great band and develop their own sound

There's the several reasons why Carlis Star are great and one of them is that they kept fans waiting for 6 years for their first ever gig tonight. It's a period where they'd amassed about 200 songs but Brian Wilson like they didn't dare let themselves out of the studio until they'd perfected every single song. The other reason is that they don't sound like any band out of Manchester, hell they don't even sound like any band out of Britain. Ask them to list their influences and they'll list off the Beach Boys, Weezer, the Pixies and Elliot Smith - a combination of the great artists of the past 40 odd years bundled into one package. With just a small warm up show to friends, this marks the official debut gig, but you wouldn't be able to tell. Moogs fire off, distorted guitars crunch and the 3 part harmonies swell with each and every song. For those that haven't heard the songs before it must be disconcerting because Carlis Star are far from conventional making a wall of sound that often resembles white noise rather than Phil Spector's glossy sheen. F**king amazing!

Shepherds Pi last played for Designer Magazine back on the In The City Preview show before going on to play a Break In The City Event during the main weekend in October. As we sat in the soundcheck it was clear something had changed in the band and whereas in the past they'd resembled their influences such as the Libertines filtered through the humour of Rupert Hill and Sam Stockman, they now were finding out the direction they wanted to take with loud distorted guitars having an affinity with Nine Blacks Alps rather the council pop scene. By the time they hit the stage and delivered what was to date the best song of the career it was clear that they are quickly outgrowing the associations with lead singer Rupert Hill's dayjob. "Bombs" in an undisputed hit, but more importantly so are most of the so are the rest of the songs in the set.

With Xmas looming this was the last Designer Magazine gig of 2006 and what a way to end

Alex McCann

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