It’s all systems go here, with the last-minute opportunity to see Illinois’ K.Flay with support from Los Angeles’ very own WEATHERS (all in caps, if you please) at new-ish venue Canvas in that there Manchester tonight. Thankfully a “Working from Home” day means I’m going to be able to get there on time and catch them both, so, with a swift log off from the day job and an equally swift change into the tog blacks to try to make me inconspicuous (nothing I can do about my baldy head though, sadly), it’s time for The Humble Reviewer to head down to Oxford Street with a prayer that I won’t be fined for drifting into the bus lanes!
With roots going right back to 2011, WEATHERS describe themselves as an “Alternative Rock band”, consisting of Cameron Boyer (vocals), Cameron Olsen (guitar) and Brennan Bates (bass) with powerhouse Christian Champion on drumming duty tonight, 2015 saw them release their first two singles, with their debut album “Kids in the Night” arriving the following year. 2020 and 2021 saw the release of the “Our Little Secret” and “Our Other Little Secret” EPs, with 2021 delivering the “Pillows and Therapy” album. Bringing us right up to date, May 2023 saw the release of third album, “Are We Having Fun?”
Their work covers themes of relationships, (and cheating in particular on current single “ALL CAPS”), mental health, depression, feeling overwhelmed and struggling with your own self-worth and have previously stated that they, “Want you to walk away feeling like you were heard, and it’s okay to not be okay”. They’ve also stated that, “No one wants to be in the dark for too long. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
When you’re on the floor crying, you’re not the only one.” This all sounds like fine stuff to me. They consider WEATHER as much a family and community as just a band, and it’s easy to see why their fans love them as much as they do. I’m already intrigued at the idea that, “WEATHERS cycle through vibes at the speed of life” and am keen to see how they channel the influences of My Chemical Romance and The Killers (and, as it turns out to my old ears, Green Day, Blink-182 and Sum 41 too) on a drizzly Manchester evening.
Kicking off their energy-driven set with “Are We Having Fun?”’s “She Hates Me”, with its theme of looking after yourself: “She hates me, she couldn’t change my mind, ’cause this time, I’m working on myself, not for someone else” – there is much whoopage and punching of the air in response to Cameron (Boyer)’s cry of, “Manchester, how ya doin tonight – we’re a band called WEATHERS – let’s fcukin’ party!”
There is equal enthusiasm for Cameron’s query of, “How many of you actually know who the fcuk we are?”, with an invitation to any of us that DO, to come up on stage, but judging by the response, there might possibly not be enough room. The alternative invitation is for us to join in with every single lyric of “Happy Pills” instead, with its rousing chorus of “I take my pills and I’m happy all the time – I love my girl but she ain’t worth the price!” and we happily oblige.
It’s obvious that WAY more folk in here are familiar with WEATHERS than Cameron might have suspected and it’s not hard to see and hear why – he’s a fine frontman and engages with his fans at every available opportunity, so when he asks us to all jump together, it’s hard not to, even for those with knees as old as mine.
There’s scarcely time to take a breath as drummer Christian delivers a ferocious solo before launching into a rousing cover of My Chemical Romance’s “Famous Last Words”. With some fine solo fretwork from Cameron (Olsen) stage left and powerful, insistent bass from Brennan Bates on bass stage right. “One Of a Kind” (the second tonight from “Are We Having Fun?”) goes out to, “Anyone suffering with depression or anxiety”, much to the approval of the crowd.
“I think that somewhere out there, there’s a happy version of me, it’s somewhere out there, there’s an invitation for me” clearly resonates with many tonight. “Holy fcuk Manchester – we love you guys!”, observes Cameron, and it’s clear that the feeling is reciprocated as we join in with the chorus of, Where Do I Sign?” Tonight’s compact set is packed with energy, sincerity and themes close to the hearts of tonight’s audience, “Help me lose my mind, my mind, my mind – just sing a lullaby, sleep tight, goodnight!”. More people know the words than Cameron might have imagined.
The theme of being cheated on is covered as Cameron asks if this has happened to any of US. He states to those who raised their hands that he’s sorry as it , “Fcuking sucks”, and those of us who didn’t are asked to “Support your friends” – a nice sentiment – we all need supporting when it happens. There is much raising of middle fingers and cries of “FCUK YOU” as they launch into “ALL CAPS”.
“I love who we were last week – you see his name and forget about me, and one ring and you don’t call back – ask me where I’m at, so I wrote back in all caps”. We’ve all been there, so maybe there’s a brief catharsis to be had tonight. The set closes out with “I’m Not OK” and “Pillows and Therapy’s “C’est La Vie” leaving us all happy and a just a little exhausted. It’s OK to have fun, but it’s also OK NOT to be OK, it would seem. WEATHERS have been the first good reason that I’m glad I joined the fun unexpectedly tonight – let’s see how K.Flay gets on in Round 2.
To her legions of young (and sometimes not so young..!) fans, Illinois-born Kristine Meredith Flaherty needs no introduction from me. She’s currently touring her fifth studio third album, “MONO” whose title is more apt than you might imagine, given that after a momentous adventure climbing Kilimanjaro back in 2022, she woke up with complete and permanent hearing loss in her right ear. It forced her to re-evaluate her love of music whilst adjusting to changes in her hearing, equilibrium and balance. It’s a tribute to her ability to overcome this that, as a new fan and unaware of this story prior to attending the gig, I’d never have known.
With instrumental sections tying together the 15 songs on MONO (the follow up to 2022’s “Inside Voices/Outside Voices”), a tinnitus motif appears throughout the album (and occasionally tonight, if you listen hard enough) as a subtle nod to how Kristine now experiences the world around her, that is, accompanied by a continuous ringing. This might have finished lesser musicians off, but for K.Flay, it’s had quite the opposite effect, motivating her to deliver an album that journeys through the emotional stages of loss and transformation in a unique and very personal way.
Grammy-nominated K.Flay, guitarist Alex Foote and drummer Caitlin Kalafus take to the sold-out stage to an almighty roar of approval from a tightly packed crowd before telling the story underpinning MONO as succinctly as possible through the lyrics of “Are You Serious” – “Woke up on a Saturday, deaf in my right ear, I was dizzy and disoriented, vertigo severe. All the doctors said the cause was just some mystery unknown, then they charged me thirteen thousand and the fcukers sent me home” You sense the anger, pain and frustration coming through the words – for this to happen to ANYONE would be bad enough, but for it to happen to a musician, well, it doesn’t really bear thinking about.
The staccato introduction to the chorus picks up pace with each line: “I can’t wake up from this dream, this madness my reality, I clench my fist and grind my teeth, as something breaks inside of me”, like before, with a scream of, “Manchester, are you READY? – ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?” The crowd know all the lyrics and it’s clear from the outset that this set is going to be a celebration of triumph over adversity.
Drummer Caitlin pounds away furiously stage left, making the photographers in the crowd happy as we can actually SEE her), whilst guitarist Alex stage right makes enough clever noise with a variety of pedals, to almost convince you that there are more musicians on the stage than there actually are. It’s going to be a good night.
Next up is another track from MONO, in the form of “Raw Raw” – everyone knows the words to THIS one too, so it’s fair to assume that MONO has been gracing many playlists since its release. It’s a much darker and sinister affair (“Raw, raw
Oh, I feel exposed, chainsaw buzzing at my throat, pressure building up inside my chest, you pulled the stitches out again”), that allows Caitlin and Alex to demonstrate their abilities to the full whilst K.Flay pounds the stage furiously, flailing around like a dervish. “Manchester, how are you feeling tonight – let’s have a wonderful, wonderful night!”
I think that might just happen. “Giver” from 2017’s “Every Where is Some Where” is very much a tale of both self-discovery and self-affirmation – “I’m learning to live, I’m trying to be better, I’m learning to give, but I don’t know if I’m a giver”, which clearly resonates with the crowd who again echo every word back vigorously. K.Flay’s request to “Manchester, make some noise right now” is responded to in exactly the manner you’d expect.
“Black Wave”, also from “Every Where Is Some Where” is described as being, “About facing something immense and menacing and choosing not to cower, but to rise up”, and her delivery of the song bears this out – there is absolutely no scope for compromise: “Living under bad days, shaking in my own cage, what do I believe, stumbling down the street I swear to God you don’t wanna test me”.
She flips effortlessly between the use of a gorgeous-looking blue Fender Jaguar to standing exposed behind her mic, to storming purposefully up and down, spitting her thoughts out at the crowd who are hanging off her every word.
K.Flay then asks for a show of hands of how many people consider themselves to be weird, strange, different or left of centre and is happy with the 100% response – “The Mancunian spirit is alive and well”, she announces, to a cheer, before telling us that, “Whatever that weirdness is inside of you, you’ve got to protect and grow that shit, put it out in the sun and let it proliferate – it’s your superpower.”
This is JUST what tonight’s crowd want to hear, as “Weirdo” (a single from her 2021 EP, “Nothing Can Kill Us”) is dedicated to us all. “So, you think that I’m a freak show, and you’re afraid of what it means, ’cause if everybody’s different, maybe you’re a freak like me”. Awesome stuff, which then drifts into the up-tempo “This Baby Don’t Cry”, which is a cry to arms to being yourself and not caring about what others think – “It’s never easy to be different inside, but when you don’t give a fcuk, it’s just like riding a bike!” – absolutely spot on.
TGIF from 2022’s “Inside Voices/Outside Voices” (which features Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine fame in its album form, but not here tonight, sadly) is next – “Middle fingers up ’til the reaper shows up, yeah” has exactly the effect that you’d expect – there are a LOT of angry people in here tonight, whether this anger is directed at ”Your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your family, your job, you government, your religion”, as she lists them one by one to cheers.
The pace slows a little for MONO’s “Watch Me” and picks up for “In America”, which pulls NO punches at ALL: “So you wanna be violent, take an AK to the theatre, careful when you hear sirens, ’cause the cops are also murderers” Nobody is safe, nothing is sacred and quite right too – “No one does it quite like us in America” – the irony is palpable and continues, backed up with an almost unhealthy quantity of cynicism and fear into “The President Has a Sex Tape”
After pausing to make sure that we all know, where the merch is, and remind us of MONO’s existence, although the latter seems pretty unnecessary, to be fair, K.Flay pauses to tell us a story about having had a crush on someone, having written a song about it, and having sent it to her.
Fortunately, the story ended well, and the recipient of the song is now her girlfriend – hooray! The moral of the story is that if you “Have shit in your heart, you should, tell other people – just put it out there.” There are many themes permeating tonight’s set – be yourself, don’t be afraid and don’t be “Shy”, which is our next song.
“I might be domesticated – but deep down inside, I’m an animal, baby”. On the strength of tonight’s performance, this is MOST believable, Dear Reader. The guitar riff of breakthrough hit “Blood in the Cut” is (at least to folk of a certain age i.e., me) is a little reminiscent of The Knacks “My Sharona”, but I’m pretty certain that reference would be lost on the majority, if not all of tonight’s clientele, as it merges seamlessly into a spot-on cover of RATM’s “Bulls on Parade” and back again.
We’re back to MONO again for “Hustler” and K.Flay asks that if we came to the gig with someone we like or someone we love, that we should put our arms around them, but I only have my camera for company (sniff!) so I have to hug that instead, and it doesn’t even hug me back fgs. It’s a song about heartbreak and early-stage healing, apparently – “You said you were faithful and I’m insecure, went through your phone anyway, and I saw the texts from her”.
The audience are mostly quiet for once – you can hear a pin drop as they hang off her every word -it’s both refreshing and respectful. The set proceeds through “Can’t Sleep” (“My mother told me that the world has got its plans, I wanna hold ‘em ’til they burn right through my hands”) with its haunting self-help samples echoing in the background, followed by “Zen” with its plea for inner peace, “Nothing Can Kill Us” with its heartfelt hankering after things that might have been: “I’m happy you exist, even if you sleep in a bed that’s not mine, God, how I wished I’d known it’d be the last time.”
An “Irish Goodbye” (again from “MONO”), describes a situation where you just need to be somewhere else, for everyone’s sake, particularly in the case of relationships where, for whatever reason, things just aren’t working out “Take one last look at me, before I go into the night, in the blink of an eye. Jump into the taxi, watch me drive straight out of your life – gave you the Irish goodbye”. Never stay where you’re not wanted or appreciated, or where you don’t want to be any more, Dear Readers – it’s really not worth it.
The set continues through “Make Me Fade”, another brace from MONO in the form of “Yes, I’m Serious”, and “Punisher before finishing up with tributes to her fellow musician leading into a triumphant “High Enough” which ends the night on a positive, if we could actually get any MORE positive: “But I don’t need drugs, ’cause I’m already high enough, you got me, you got me good, I’m already high enough, I only, I only, I only got eyes for you!”
The audience join in for one last triumphant accompaniment and before we know it, after seventy-five minutes covering every emotion possible, they’re off to Room 2 to man the merch stand.
K.Flay is without doubt a most talented individual whether it be singing, rapping, flailing, pounding out her heart on the guitar, or sharing a sensitive moment with her fans. With her small band tonight, she has delivered power, passion, sensitivity, determination, individuality, self-assuredness and raw emotion in equal quantities and it’s been a pleasure to see her perform. Her songs are brief, poignant, deeply personal and to the point, and each one seems to resonate somewhere deep within us all tonight. It’s nice to have been part of this special group of happy people, and it’s a memory I’ll treasure.
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