fair play fest


FAIR PLAY festival serves as a collaborative collection of musicians from Manchester and beyond,
offering a massive range of genres to suit any listener. I had the pleasure of attending on Saturday
and went to see an eclectic mix of bands- from heavy metal to opalescent soundscapes to mellow
break up tunes.

First up was the Umarells at The Castle Hotel, a five-piece friend group turned band. Their groovy
haircuts were only a small part of their overall charm, an embodiment of Northern Quarter alt. They played a collection of new and old tunes, which seeped into each other- a testament to the bands distinctive and repetitive sound throughout their songs.

Unfortunately, the band experienced some technical issues (a worst nightmare for such a short set), but recovered this by joking about song-naming difficulty- which led onto their unreleased song temporarily named “Mac and Cheese”.

The male and female harmonies were persistent, backed by a dream like accompaniment of rhythmic guitar. While it’s clear they are a new band and still refining their live set, the performance was humorous and engaging.

Next stop was KITTY at The Peer Hat, though we only caught the last half of her set the
unconventional accompaniment captured my attention. Backing the lead singers angelic voice,
which drew comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish, was a muted trombone, electric and bass
guitar and piano. I’ll admit, her songs were sad, like ‘question if you know what love is’ sad, but the
melodic trombone intervals created a sense of nostalgia that separated them from the over-
saturated sad-girl genre.

Her song “Fine” is on Spotify, and worth adding to your saddest playlist. On after KITTY was London based Blossom Calderone, who self-defines her music as “poetic sadness and happiness”. The set oozed warmth, with her vocals easily winning best female vocals of the day in my eyes. Her song “Special” had simplistic piano chord sequences embellished with technical vocals that accentuated her true vocal abilities, supported by a stunning string duo.

A mixture of key changes and walking bass lines hinted at a jazz influence, with lyrics that held a satirical fairytale view of modern love. Her final song “Beautiful”, dedicated to her future daughter, brought the room to tears as she gently tackled femininity standards of modern society in an emotional tribute. The next gig took us to Band on the Wall to watch The New Eves, a powerful girl-band whose outlandish performance demanded attention.

The music they produce I would categorise more as spoken word, backed with a collection of animalistic sounds and countless string, woodwind, and percussion accompaniment (including an accordion at one point as well). The set was a ritualistic fever dream of varying guitar techniques and chaotic storytelling, with bows and lace as their battle armour.

They are well worth a listen if you are looking to step out of your musical comfort zone. Ordbury Common was up next at Gulliver’s, the only light in the room a vintage television flashing, either side a synth pad. The mysterious duo used heavy voice synth and bass, obscure percussion
and electric bass guitar to create trippy soundscapes unlike anything I’d listened to before. This
genre they described as a “dream-like otherworld of fogged memory and refracted mythology”. It
definitely has a niche appeal, but its worth a try.

The last gig of the night was the highly anticipated Buzzards, Buzzards, Buzzards who delivered
exactly what they promised- scary metal. A controlled and powerful drummer whacked the drums
with no restraint, fronted by an eccentric singer who raised his hands to the sky as if he were a God.

Every song was a head banger, the bands style almost unrelenting in its forcefulness. “Chew” being a highlight of male Nirvana-like duo vocals and technical guitar riffs. Some of their songs had a more programmatic style, such as “Therapy”, which lulled the audience into a false sense of security
before the full force of the band was added at the chorus.

Despite their lacking charisma during sound check, likely due to their busy schedule jumping from country-to-country, it’s difficult to dislike the band due to the tightness and quality of their performance. Their new EP is brilliant as well, they are definitely a band to watch.