Another trip into Manchester (and on a school night too – shocking!) but this time to a previously frequented (odd Morris, The Battery Farm) haunt of mine, Gullivers on Oldham Street. I’d been keen to see Scattered Ashes (yet another excellent band from the seemingly endless Dublin production line that never seems to disappoint) since their London and Manchester dates were announced at the back end of last year, so there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity. So, armed with camera, your humble reviewer scuttled up the stairs to a flat above a shop (well, OK, it was a room above a pub, but Pulp didn’t write a song about that) so see what the craic was all about. Not really sure if I’m entitled to use the term craic yet, even with a surname like Rooney, but let’s see how we get on.

The trouble with Gullivers (the only one, as it’s a fine location in all other respects) is because there’s no bar upstairs, you have to come downstairs to take on liquid refreshment, which means you don’t always know when the bands are starting. Thankfully I managed to take the stairs two at a time (panting like a beached walrus) in time to see the start of first act of the night, Luc Goddard.

Luc Garrett

Moving from Armagh in Northern Ireland to Manchester in 2019 (he’s a Blue too, so that balances Sprints out nicely, at least), he’s another who has made his home in our fair city. A man of many talents, including film composer and producer as well as singer songwriter and pianist, Luc Garrett’s tracks like to explore relationships, heartbreak, life lessons, friendships and realisations. However, the one thing that hits you when you start to listen is their honesty – there’s an unmistakable sincerity emanating from behind that keyboard that you really can’t afford to ignore. Having previously graced such venues as Band on the Wall and Rebellion, sometimes performing solo and sometimes (as tonight) with fellow musicians Antony Grieg on drums, Rob Heaven on bass and Adam Preece and Dan Jennings on guitar, there’s an ill-disguised affection between Luc and his bandmates as they deliver a brief but emotional 5 song set.

Normally when photographing bands and artistes, the danger is that you concentrate so much on the pictures, that you come to the end of the set and think, “How did I miss the music?”, so I now try to make a point of putting the camera away in order to properly listen to at least the second half of any set, and tonight, I’m rather glad I did. Luc cites many influences including Matt Corby, Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Bon Iver, Hozier and Jeff Buckley amongst others and whilst you can certainly hear many influences in his songs, he’s very much his own man when it comes to song writing. Melancholy Weather in particular catches my ear – you really need to stop and listen – it’s the sort of song you want to take home to your other half, if you’re lucky enough to have one.  The songs are beautifully arranged, and lovingly delivered, and as they launch into the final song of the night, “Imagination”, you find yourself getting ready for the plaintive cry of “One More Song!”, although you know that on a tight, three band schedule like tonight’s, you’re not going to get one. A quick heartfelt thank you to the audience and his “Amazing band” and he disappears into the night.

Hunt this man down and make sure you’re prepared to listen, rather than chatter (unlike a sizeable proportion of the crowd at The Murder Capital at The Albert Hall the following night, but that’s a story for another day, dear reader) and you’ll very likely come away with a smile on your face.

Luc Garrett played: On My Mind, Wasted Moments, Hold On, Melancholy Weather and Imagination.

DB Jones

Google is not my friend as I attempt to research DB Jones, who describe themselves as, “An indie rock band from Lincoln”. That’s a heck of a long way to travel on a Wednesday, so I prepare to give them my ears and my lens, having ascertained that not only are they not a Watford-based chemist, nor are they an author of mystery of crime novels (well, I suppose they COULD be either in their day jobs, but it’s pretty unlikely).  Hitting the world in 2018 with debut single “Hello Love”, following that up with “Tell Me” and supported by BBC Introducing and featuring in the BBC Music Introducing Mixtape, they cite their influences as anything from Catfish and The Bottlemen, Arctic Monkeys, Blossoms, Vistas and the Snuts.

Comprising David Jones on vocals and guitar, Michael Jones on lead guitar, Owen Stevens (sporting possibly the coolest cardigan I’ve EVER seen) on bass and Emmerson Bembridge on drums, DB Jones deliver a no-nonsense set of high energy songs and remind me a little of Inhaler and early U2, whilst channelling The Strokes and The Kings of Leon – there’s something in there for everybody. Should you take the time to listen to their recorded output or track them down on YouTube, you discover that they possess the useful skill of being able to translate the energy of their live performances into their recorded work and there’s certainly no shortage of energy tonight as they deliver their seven songs with barely a pause for breath between.

Before announcing “Villain” which is going to be out in a few weeks, they beg for the audience to move closer to the stage – they clearly thrive on audience interaction and participation. Too Bad Baby and set closer On The Edge reinforce the Inhaler connection a little more, at least to my tired old ears.  Give them an ear and/or an eye if you get the chance – they’ll deliver on your ticket money for sure.

DB Jones played: Chasing the Feeling, Stay, Lost You To The Weekend, Creature, Villain, Too Bad Baby and On The Edge

Scattered Ashes

And so, to tonight’s headline act. The torrent of talent flowing from across the water is staggering right now – it doesn’t seem five minutes since I was watching Meryl Streek at Todmorden, M(h)aol and Sprints at Yes and the night after, I’m due to take in the mighty Murder Capital down the road at The Albert Hall, followed by Inhaler in Liverpool on Saturday. I don’t quite know what’s going on, but there’s a LOT of noise coming from the Island of Ireland right now and Scattered Ashes are at the front of the attack. The second night of a VERY short UK tour (they were in London last night), this is their first time in Manchester and, like DB Jones, I hope my hometown will appreciate their travels.

Their website describes them as, “An abrasive Dublin four piece” and whilst you can hear their influences in the form of Joy Division (always a good reason to venture from the sofa on a Wednesday), Bauhaus, Editors and Interpol, they’re very much their own men, ploughing a slightly darker furrow than a lot of their post-punk contemporaries. Arriving in November 2020 with debut single “Love is not an Option”, which features in tonight’s set, they’re already firm favourites with Steve Lamacq and KEXP and 2021 saw them supporting Sprints and THUMPER.

Rob Dalton (rhythm guitar and vocals), Tom Dalton (bass and vocals), Ben Downes (lead guitar) and Cillian Sheil (drums) open proceedings with They Can’t Divide Us which combines metronomic JD-style drums with vocal and guitar styles very reminiscent of IST IST. Love Is Not An option has The Sisters of Mercy lurking somewhere in its gene pool and for some reason, I hear Michael Stipe in This New Will. You may have gathered by now that I’m losing my religion (sorry) to Scattered Ashes. A LOT. Sail West picks up the pace with a fearsome drumbeat reminiscent of “She’s Lost Control”. Rob echoes David Jones’ plea for the audience to come forward, but they still remain stubbornly in the darkness to the rear – in fairness, if you didn’t have a camera to hide behind, you’d be scared that the energy emanating from the stage would eat you alive where you stood if you lost concentration for a second. These fellas are back off to Dublin in the morning and they’re taking no prisoners tonight.

Forthcoming single Battles, out on March 1st is next, followed by more REM-influenced vocals on Homeowners and some very fancy fretwork from Ben and Tom. Feral, dealing with the horrors of addiction and dependency. It was recorded at Darklands studio in Dublin with Dan Doherty of Fontaines fame, so they’re mixing in some very exalted circles already. Rob thanks us warmly for venturing out to see them before Ben slips effortlessly in and out of U2/Chameleons mode. As a child of the 80s, I’m absolutely in my element, but it would be doing Scattered Ashes a great disservice to just keep throwing in 80s references without Stip(e)ulating (OK, just one more bad pun, maybe) that whilst you can hear many influences, there are very much their own band, drawing on a pool of musical talent and intelligent lyrical themes to deliver something pretty damn special.

Slow Motion drifts into set Closer (aha – see what I did there?) Take Another Piece which, explodes into something nicely akin to Coldplay’s Yellow, rather than the rapid-fire banger you might have expected to close the set, but it’s delivered with power and passion and some pleasing harmonies from Tom to boot. Whilst we’re sad because we know the night is coming to an end, we’re also happy to have witnessed something rather special tonight. Just time to nip to the merch stand to dig out an “XL” tee to give a bit of extra support. Surely an “L” will be big enough? “No”, laughed the Fat Reviewer, “You are wrong.”

Set yourself a REMinder the next time Scattered Ashes are in town and drag yourself out of the (Bau)house. Love may well Not Be An Option, but it will surely Tear You Apart if you miss these fellas.

Scattered Ashes played: They Can’t Divide Us, Love is not an Option, This New Will, Sail West, Battles, Homeowners, Feral, Slow Motion and Take Another Piece