WE REVIEW THE VIOLET CLUB GIG IN MANCHESTER, WHAT HAPPENED?
Your Humble Reviewer is getting fresh for the weekend (as somebody one sang in a galaxy far, far away) and it’s going to be a busy one, with a visit to Leeds tomorrow afternoon to see Treeboy and Arc’s album launch party at Jumbo Records, The Chameleons (at LAST I’ll be able to write ABOUT them instead of comparing bands TO them and you can see my review of that elsewhere on the site) at The Picturedrome in Holmfirth on Saturday and some promo photography work for yet another band in an old mill on Sunday.
Tonight, however, sees YHR and trusty sidekick Editor Girl barrelling down to that there Manchestoh and the delights of 33 Oldham Street for a three-hander comprising one band that I HAVE seen before and two that I haven’t, so always good to make some new acquaintances!
With members from both Manchester and Liverpool and formed in Liverpool in 2022, 5-piece Idyllic is fronted by Niall Doolan with Joe Keech (drums) Josh Peters (bass), and Ben Rogers and Megan Lee (guitars). With a sound based around rock n roll, Northern Soul, reggae and post punk, they’ve played over 50 gigs and have already recorded two singles, so clearly, they’re hanging around for nobody!
In addition to the singles, they’ve just recorded a new EP and the first single from it, “Everybody Wants to Know” will be out by the end of August. On top of appearing at the Shine on Festival in November, they’re going to be playing loads of support slots throughout the rest of the year, hopefully leading to their own headline gigs – we await developments with interest!
We pound up the stairs at the back of 33 Oldham Street, praying that Idyllic’s advertised 20:00 start has slipped to 20:15 (thankfully it has) and we’re just there in time to see Idyllic launch into a lively, rock-ey, blues-ey set with Niall sporting a splendid barnet that is almost a mullet, and yet at the same time isn’t – made me look, though! Upcoming single Everybody Wants to Know is Strokes-like in its delivery, reminding me of “Last Night” a little.
The nice thing about this set is that in addition to the songs being quite different from one another, genre-wiser, they’re also short and crisp with no filler, which means that they manage to sneak in more than their slot should strictly allow – twelve songs in thirty-six minutes is some going! Ben looks as cool as you like in leather jacket and shades whilst hard working Megan stays out of the front-row shenanigans, concentrating on working her Squier for all she’s worth.
As Pink Velvet Dreams draws to a close, we’re asked if we’d like to hear some rock & roll and when we reply in the affirmative Idyllic only too happy to oblige with some no-nonsense riffs, all underpinned with vigorous drums and bass (not THAT sort, though) courtesy of Joe and Josh, while Ben and Niall taking charge of front-line duties.
Meant in the nicest possible way, there’s something for everyone in this set and you can’t fail to smile at Idyllic’s infectious enthusiasm and up-beat delivery as they genre hop effortlessly between songs. Penrose kicks off with some psych-ey guitar effects and its simple drum pattern puts me in mind of Fontaines D.C. a little, but the ghost of a certain Mr Casablancas is never too far away. Narcissist slips nicely back into heads-down rock & roll with some frantically fine fretwork from Beatles tee-wearing Megan stage left.
The set concludes with thanks to our good selves and Violet Club before launching into the initially slower paced Bill Payley which gradually picks up speed and allows Megan to display her talents one last time. Ben still manages to look ice cool despite the fact that he must be burning up in that leather jacket by now, while, Niall grabs a tambourine from somewhere and bashes it happily. Meanwhile, stage right, Josh underpins the proceedings with some fine bass work and Joe’s drumming holds it all together at the back. You’d be forgiven for thinking that after a set of short numbers, this must SURELY be the obligatory long set closer with a matching guitar solo, but happily it’s not to be – another short but sweet burst of three-minute rock & roll and Idyllic are gone, packing up their kit and disappearing into the night to make way for Stone Mile.
If you like your music brisk, varied, energetic and, well, short, then check these guys out, As I collected the setlist, remarking “How am I going to review this set – there were so many different genres?” the response was on point – “Nicely, I hope!” – I hope I made a good job of it. Idyllic certainly did.
Idyllic played: Only the Weather Knows, Everybody Wants to Know, Sick & Tired, Pink Velvet Dreams, Rhythm Zero, Mr Roots Drinks Fruit Shoots, World Is Falling Down, All Alone, 405-Line, Penrose, Narcissist and Bill Payley
Formed in late 2021, and comprising Rae (lead vocals), Scott (lead guitar), Gordon (drums), Robbie (rhythm guitar) and Ryan (bass and backing vocals), Manchester/Warrington-based Stone Mile describe themselves as, “An indie pop band” and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. They’ve released 3 singles to date with the latest, “Sunset Kisses” having featured on both BBC Radio Introducing and BBC Radio Manchester. They currently have two more gigs coming up, NorthFest at The Anglers Arms in Failsworth on August 12th and Manchester Micro Music Fest at AATMA on 2nd September, and they’re heading back into the studio in October to record their next single – let’s see what they’ve got.
Set opener Circular Quay demonstrates Rae’s vocals nicely and she takes on the role of audience management very well, chatting to the crowd between songs, making sure we know that what’s on Spotify (Circular Quay IS) There are elements of Wolf Alice and Newdad, a smattering of Wet Leg, a dash of Mysterines and even a pinch of Sprints all swirling around nicely in the mix, plus some interesting guitar/pedal work from Scott and Robbie – I keep looking for the synth, but it definitely isn’t anywhere to be seen, so it MUST be them! “She Said” seemingly has a story behind it, that she’s clearly dying to share with us, but sadly we’re left in the dark as Rae stopped in her tracks by the rest of the band – one day, maybe.
Ryan’s backing vocals provide an excellent counterpoint to Rae’s, which grow more confident as the set progresses.
Whale is dreamier than its predecessors and features some elaborate drumming from Gordon whilst Scott howls mournfully in the background (his guitar, not Scott himself, obvs). Rae runs through her bandmates before introducing us to the rockier “Bitter” which instantly has me thinking of “Roy’s Tune” by Fontaines D.C. albeit a little faster. The crowd has started to build now and little by little, the gap between them and the stage starts to shrink – always a good sign. In a similar style to Idyllic, Stone Mile’s songs don’t drag on longer than they absolutely need to – they’re punchy and tight and very approachable.
Sunset Kisses is the current single and Rae asks is anyone is prepared to dance. It’s a dreamy number, with some Smiths-like guitarwork, and quite perfect for the summer evening outside – it has a video filmed in Castlefield to accompany it, too – take a look and give them a subscribe – you know you wanna!
Tonight’s set concludes with Fave Gurl and a final plea for audience participation from Rae, who, when she doesn’t elicit the required response, she plunges into the crowd to dance with several of us. The Primitives – THAT’S’s who this last one reminds me of..! Having ensured that we can sing the chorus, Rae hops off to find another dance partner or two whilst the braver of us try to sing along too – she’s finally won!
Give Stone Mile an ear. Or possibly two. Then go and see if you can find out who The Primitives are.
Stone Mile played: Circular Quay, MF, Untitled, She Said, Settle Down, Whale, Bitter, Sunset Kisses and Fave Gurl
The band I HAVE seen before are tonight’s headliners, Violet Club – we crossed paths at the After All Festival back in May where I probably spent just as much time rushing between the basement of the Peer Hat and first floor AATMA as we did actually watching any of the bands performing for more than ten minutes, so it’ll be nice to see at least one of them properly. Lead guitarist Harvey used to play in Manchester-based Global, who were sadly another of those bands who lost their way due to the effects of the pandemic.
Drummer Hamish used to be in a Fife-based band called DOVV until the call of uni and the North West drew him away – their loss, but our gain! Sam (vocals/rhythm) and Jay (bass) grew up together in Preston and used to play together in a band called Ludo Vico, best remembered for their “Bad Taste” single. Hamish (who kindly provided me with all this info) then joined the other three after a spell jamming with Harvey and thus, via a number of different permutations, introductions from friends and Harvey’s birthday party, the stars aligned and Violet Club were born. Wholesome stuff indeed!
In addition to an upcoming RGM gig at The Castle Hotel (supporting Mercy Kelly) on the 4th of August, Ossyfest on the 12th of August and Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds (supporting Northern System) on the 16th of August, Violet Club are currently working on a 3 track EP, and should you want to keep tabs on the progress of this, or any of their as yet unannounced September/October gigs, their socials are a fine place in which to do it. Oh, and for the avoidance of confusion, while you’re surfing t’net, there’s another Violet Club, an Irish one that has an album called “British Superweapons” – this isn’t them, although I’m sure they’re jolly nice, too.
And for those of you with an interest in such things, Violet Club was the name given to a British-developed nuclear weapon, abandoned when we started purchasing our nukes from those nice ol’ boys in that there US of A. Let’s hope that OUR Violet Club only manage to blow the bloody doors off tonight.
Take Me Away opens up tonight’s set with an almost Pistols feel, but there’s a lot more going on going on and I swear I can hear a guitar riff from “Born to be Wild” lurking in there somewhere and blends effortlessly into Stick, although I can only confirm this when in possession of a setlist and see that Limbo is the third song to be played, so no, we haven’t strayed unwittingly into the territory of the eight-minute song just yet.
We already have some ardent followers down the front joining in, which, to cite the Emperor Palpatine meme, pleases me greatly. Limbo continues the energetic performance concluding with Sam asking us how we’re all doing, then asking us again when he feels that the level of enthusiasm in the response is less than adequate. There’s a very real sense of danger as the opening riff to Jake Bugg’s “Lightning Bolt” ring outs, but which thankfully is, “Just a joke”. Phew.
Ronnie and Judy sees Sam grab an acoustic in a blues-ey number which bounds along energetically with Harvey stage left and Jay stage right supporting admirably and Hamish clattering away furiously at the rear. There’s some good-natured banter between crowd and band before Hamish is coerced by both into removing his top for the remainder of the set, which he does with good grace, whilst ruefully remarking, “No-one wanted to see that”. I’m sure that SOMEBODY did, though. Violet Club deliver an energetic, heads-down, let’s ‘ave ya set that scarcely stops to pause for breath, and the crowd are be ready to be ‘ad.
It’s four mates, just having a good time, playing to THEIR mates, and anyone else who cares to listen, and sometimes, that’s all you needs. Found The One puzzles me, initially. I KNOW I’ve heard it before, especially that guitar riff and the anthemic chorus, but I can’t for the life of me think where.. is it a cover? It’s certainly very catchy… then it occurs to me… I remember it from Violet Club’s set at After All, a few months ago, and that for me is another one of my litmus tests passed – namely when I remember an original song from a previous gig. This pleases me even MORE!
“Do any of you like reggae? A bit of ska, maybe?” comes the question and 54-46 Was My Number (a Toots and The Maytals cover, no less) delivers on both counts, showing yet another face of Violet Club as we joyfully say “Yeah” one, two, three and even four times – utterly joyful. “Beat Me” brings us back into the rock ‘n’ roll room with some serious guitar solo from Harvey whilst Hamish tries not to catch his bare flesh with his drumsticks – it would NOT end well.
Finally, we’re treated to a closing off in the form of The Arctic Monkeys’ “Still Take You Home” to round off the evening’s shenanigans. Sam apologises that he “Fcuked up a few times”, but we didn’t notice, and even if we did, we’re not going to worry about it too much.
So, there you have it, dear Reader – the nuclear device that is Violet Club did indeed blow the bloody doors off, but then they proceeded to take the rest of the room with it too. Jolly well done, chaps.
Violet Club played: Take Me Away (Fat Tom), Stick, Limbo, Fever, Ronnie & Judy, Year Zero, GCSE. Legion, Found the One, 54-46 Was My Number, Beat Me and Still Take You Home.