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IST IST LIVE AT THE TRADES CLUB…WHAT HAPPENED?

Friday evening sees your humble reviewer thundering over t’moors for amazingly what will be a first visit to the famous Trades Club. Sadly, tonight will be famous for another first too, but for all the wrong reasons – more of that later, though. 

A prior commitment meant that unforgivably, I only caught the last couple of songs from Halifax-based support EEVAH, but I’m pleased to report that they’d be someone to whom I’d give a subsequent listen. And then another one. Embrace guitarist Richard McNamara and Nicole Hope Smith on vocals have recently released latest single “I Never Wanted To Be Alone” (which was picked up by Radio 1 – yaay!) and in addition to most recently doing the rounds supporting Miami Horror at Manchester’s Night and Fever at The Welly in Hull, in July they hit the heady heights of opening for Duran Duran at Halifax’s Piece Hall. 2023 will see them playing Liverpool Sound City, so clearly great things beckon. Think The XX, think Robyn (and I’m sure I heard HAIM lurking in there somewhere too…) – Give your earholes a treat and check them out. 

Although others might be tempted to cite some of IST IST’s more obvious musical influences, it’s fair to say that, particularly off the back of this year’s achievements, Adam Houghton on vocals and guitar, Andy Keating on Bass, Mat Peters on guitar and keyboards and Joel Kay on drums are perfectly capable on standing on their own eight feet when it comes to delivering thunderous anthems to a tightly packed and expectant audience. This show makes it my fifth time of seeing them, from the compact environments of Sheffield’s Record Junkee and Manchester’s 33 Oldham Street to Manchester Academy and the Octagon in Bolton as part of this year’s Right To Roam Festival. Whilst I wasn’t there (rude!), they’ve also packed out such venues as Gorilla and the Deaf Institute and their march to greatness will culminate in their scheduled takeover of The Ritz in Manchester next March, a success that is fully deserved. 

From humble beginnings in 2014, IST IST could deliver masterclass in “Doing it yourself” – without the luxuries of management or a record label, in addition to multiple self-released EPS and live albums, they’ve also released two “Proper” albums with 2020’s “Architecture” and 2021’s “The Art of Lying”. Although these form the  basis of tonight’s set, it’s liberally peppered with new songs from March 2023’s eagerly awaited 3rd album “Protagonists”. 

The crowd hushes as a keyboard drone awakens and floats into the rafters of this fine establishment, then to a roar of approval from the loyal fans, most of whom one suspects have followed them from Manchester to Yorkshire, the band take to the stage as the drone evolves info “Stamp You Out”, the first track to be officially released from Protagonists. Usual set opener “Wolves” is postponed until the ill-fated encore as IST IST make a statement that they’re already looking forward to next March, rather than looking back and relying back on past victories. The set roars on with “Jennifer’s Lips”, “Watching You, Watching Me” and “All Downhill” as Adam delivers in his trademark deadpan but powerful style and Andy takes on his usual role of crowd liaison, feigning surprise that the audience might be aware of the impending third album and asking if we don’t mind if they play a few songs from it. As if. 

As they roll effortlessly into “Fat Cats Drown In Milk” before a startling light set that piles the pressure onto your author’s already overloaded senses, in addition to the now familiar sea of phones held aloft in the crowd to capture the moment, the Trades bristles with professional video equipment as the gig is recorded for some future project. This is IST IST’s last gig of 2022 and they intend to go out with a bang. 

New song, “Something has To Give” gives way to mournful standard “A New Love Song” (at which point, you can’t HELP but make THAT Joyful comparison – sorry, it must be my age) and crowd favourite “Emily” (which will be reworked for “Protagonists”) which sees it joyfully sung back by the now delirious crowd, who whilst being kept happy with old favourites are now beginning to realise that next year’s opus, already described by those in the know as IST IST’s most powerful work to date, is something that will be accepted into the fold with the same love and affection as its two predecessors. However, it still doesn’t stop them from chanting the hook line to “Emily” long after the song has come to an end. 

The set continues apace with old favourites “The Waves”, “Black”, “Heads On Spikes”, fooled by newcomers  “Mary In The Black And White Room” and “Fools Paradise” before dipping back in time for “It Stops Where It Starts”, concluding with new songs “Nothing More Nothing Less” and “Trapdoors”. 

Adam, Andy, Mat and Joel leave the stage triumphantly with the sense of a job well done and there is an anxious wait before the familiar strains of “Wolves” cut through the darkness, but as they launch into set closer “Extreme Greed”, a couple of (well, words fail me to come up with a suitable noun) let’s say “Individuals” let the whole side down for everyone by deciding that the small but happy mosh at the front is the perfect place in which to settle some difference or other. Whatever it is, this is absolutely NOT the place for it. 

Pushing and shoving, including people being pushed into the stage at risk of injury to both gig goers and damage to equipment suddenly erupts into a fistfight, with punches landing in all directions. You have to wonder whether the protagonists are really fans of the band at all, or if it’s just down to over exuberance of the alcoholic variety. Either way, I feel glad to be looking on from a safe distance. 



The band eventually catch sight of this and with a shout of “Chill the fu*k out”, the set grinds to a halt, with Andy berating the two individuals, who, much to the disgust of the rest of the crowd who can see what’s coming, refuse to stop fighting. Repeated requests to calm down go unheeded and sadly for the rest of us who have enjoyed the night, Andy’s threat that if the fighting doesn’t stop, then they’ll leave the stage goes unheeded. Even Joel is out from behind his kit and is front and centre in solidarity with his bandmates looking on in dismay and adding his voice to the pleas for peace, but it’s to no avail – the guys are true to their word and head off into the darkness, leaving the two to face the wrath of the rest of the audience. Thankful that the events didn’t occur much earlier in the set, the crowd starts to filter outside into the darkness – the merch stand remains sadly unloved as everyone files past, subdued. We all just want to go home now. 

IST IST’s socials this morning reflected their abject disappointment that their year had had to end in such a downbeat fashion. To quote their post, “Music and attending live events should never be tribal and we’re all there for the same reason. Please respect each other and please respect us. We work too hard to have our shows ruined like that”. 

However, what we CAN take away is that, despite losing the last 2 percent of the gig, the remaining 98% showed us yet again why we love IST IST, for the honesty, their musicianship, for their camaraderie, for their love of both what they do AND their  (real) fans, and finally for their ability to deliver music that stirs the soul and leaves you wanting more. 

Protagonists is released on the 31st of March and ISI IST will perform at The Ritz, Manchester on the same night. 

Friends, Mancunians, music lovers – lend them your ears and get them on your Christmas IST (I know, sorry…) 

Setlist

Stamp You Out 

Jennifer’s Lips 

Watching You Watching Me 

All Downhill 

Fat Cats Drown in Milk 

Middle Distance 

Something Has To Give 

A New Love Song 

Emily 

The Waves 

Black 

Heads on Spikes 

Mary in the Black and White Room 

Fool’s Paradise 

It Stops Where It Starts 

Nothing More Nothing Less 

Trapdoors 

Encore:

Wolves 

Extreme Greed