Carefully Planned have been organising an eclectic range of live music events around Manchester since 2008. This past weekend they held their fifth annual festival featuring around 150 acts across eight venues based in the city’s famous Northern Quarter. City festivals like this are ideal for anyone who loves discovering new music, and with all the venues conveniently located within minutes of each other it makes it very easy to hop between gigs. One of the most impressive things about the weekend was the level of enthusiasm there was for musicians that many had never heard of before, or that they had only recently discovered in a fit of pre-festival listening.
Gullivers was the first port of call to visit the wristband exchange situated in the backroom. It also happened to be where the opening act of the weekend took place. Jess Bryant kicked things off with a hauntingly beautiful solo-set in the womb-like windowless upstairs room with its deep red walls and curry coloured curtains. After some vegetable stew at Night & Day Cafe it was back to Gullivers for the compositionally excellent instrumental folk trio Effra. Soup Kitchen was then next up for Embers. The anthemic post-rock band was tipped for big things a few years ago but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.. It didn’t quite work out for them here either, only managing four songs because of some technical difficulties.
Texture then offered up the high-point of the weekend with three excellent back-to-back performances. The instrument hopping trio Haiku Salut were up first with their delightful mix of traditional folk and modern electronica. Speak Galactic then took things to another level, producing an exhilarating set featuring a blend of ambient soundscapes, manipulated Animal Collective-like vocals and powerful drumming, all wrapped up in a psychedelic blanket. Chuman topped things off with easily the most fun set of the weekend. Their dry, witty lyrics and funk-driven guitar-pop accompanied by a drum machine had the crowd dancing and laughing.
Bastardgeist, whose name alone provoked curiosity, was scheduled to play Cord. But due to an earlier schedule change that most were unaware of he was nowhere to be seen. Instead a silver cape sporting Lord Adonis hammering away on synth keyboards was all that they found, much to their disappointment. AK/DK at Texture offered no such confusion though, with two drummers energetically thumping away over synths and driving bass being the perfect way to end an excellent opening day of music.
Mint Lounge with its barely visible red-lit basement room and bar from The Shining was the first port of call on day two. Trembling Bells did a decent enough job of waking the audience up, before the colourful lo-fi garage rock of TVAM at Gullivers got the day moving along nicely. Jurassic Pop at Night & Day Cafe offered up some fun rockers inspired solely by the first two Jurassic Park films (“because the third one’s crap”). The hard to find venue Aatma (even with a map) also saw some honest jazzy-pop from Limbs.
After a spot of Sunday lunch at Soup Kitchen it was back to Gullivers for A Sudden Burst of Colour, in what was one of the most well attended performances of the weekend. There’s certainly no shortage of post-rock bands out there, but the Scottish quartet have managed to put their own spin on the genre. The folky-rock of Richard Lomax & The Tonite at The Castle was one of the stuffiest gigs of the weekend, while the Sigur Ros meets Bon Iver hybrid sound of Eyre Lew also drew a decent crowd. at Gullivers This was followed by some rather pleasant finger-picking by instrumental acoustic guitarist Toby Hay at Cord.
Teenage surf-rock trio The Orielles played a quite infectious set at Texture, with their blend of sweet female vocals alongside fuzzy garage guitar serving as a great Sunday evening energy boost. Playing the closing set at Mint Lounge were “aggro-beat” trio Blood Sport, whose jagged rhythms and incessant grooves were perhaps a little bit too much for some of the more tired members of the audience. Some of those who managed to keep going until the end though found themselves treated to a fantastically fun headline set from odd-poppers The Chap at Soup Kitchen to bring a wonderful weekend of music to close.