A busy night beckoned in Yes Basement on Friday night for Yasmin Coe’s triumphant homecoming and with four bands to review, no time for my usual ramblings, so here we go:

Opening proceedings tonight are Harpans Kraft. I’ve seen these fellas, in whose tunes you can hear the influence of everything from Fat White Family to Parquet Courts and The Gang of Four, and who has been described as, “Manchester purveyors of Kitchen Sink Horror”, so this seems to be as good a place to start as anywhere. I first saw them back In September supporting The Blue Orchids at Night and Day Café (on whose fate we’re ALL anxiously waiting) where their set included current single Teflon Tez which followed on from the success of last year’s debut single Canal Side Running. The five piece see themselves tarred with many brushes, including the now almost ubiquitous Post Punk label, but this is nicely complemented by psychedelic, soul, and funk, CAN and NEU! with a touch of Afrobeat thrown in for good measure – something for all the family – how can you possibly go wrong?

The theme of family runs strong in the current single Teflon Tez who is ostensibly the model patriarch until toxic masculinity threatens to undo it all. Jack Wager (vocals), Joe Doughty (guitar+ synth) Garret Healy (guitar, not the same one as Joe’s obvs), Joe Royle (bass), and Louis Oddie (drums) are purveyors of songs with slightly off-kilter and challenging themes.

Like many bands, Harpans Kraft were just about to break through when their progress was cut short by Mr. Pandemic. Thankfully, the hiatus gave them the opportunity to focus and work on their music albeit (sadly untroubled by the opportunity to play it to anybody). These events were laid very firmly to rest with support slots to Document and DeafDeafDeaf at YES, Personal Trainer, Crush, Hotel Lux at Night and Day in 2022 concluding with a DJ set at Band on The Wall late last year.

They open the evening’s proceedings with a 7 set song featuring both singles and concluding with a new, synth-heavy track, as yet untitled. Jack is a natural frontman combining the swagger of Morrissey (before he went a bit silly) with the delivery anywhere between Jarvis Cocker’s laconic and Mark E. Smith’s deadpan. YES Basement is packed to the rafters (if that can be a thing) with fans familiar with their output and Jack’s delighted to announce a range of Teflon Tez merch available for the faithful after the show. Harpans Kraft are a group that need to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience and I’ll be tagging along like a hopefully not too bad smell to that particular party.

Harpans Kraft played: Smithers, Canalside Running, Heads, Piss ‘n’ Chips, Missing Persons, Teflon Tez and a new, as yet untitled song.

Next up, Manchester-based Pyncher. I first caught up with them at The Deaf Institute back in October 2022 supporting The Clockworks and continuing the theme of bands who were temporarily cut off at the knees by Covid, Sam (vocals), Harvey (guitar) Jack (drums) and  Brit (bass) got together in October 2020 just in time to not be able to play anywhere for nine months until their first gig. Their influences are many and varied, spanning spaghetti western and surf rock, The White Stripes, The Modern Lovers, Lou Reed and The Cramps. Hardly surprising they too find the “Post Punk” tag a little restricting.

Favourites of both Manchester’s Northern Quarter venues, and those further afield, such as Wigan’s Bouleverd and Leeds’ Hyde Park Book Club, and that there London in the shape of The Troubador, playing alongside such luminaries as Nara, Goa Express and Scum band, Pyncher were finally rewarded with a headline gig at The Castle Hotel back In September. They’ve delivered a succession of sometimes moody, sometimes playful singles that now grace our Spotifieds including the intriguingly titled Frogs and Tomatoes and Steely Dan, both featured in tonight’s offering.

Pyncher launch enthusiastically into another 7 song set combining elements of The Doors, The Fall through to Nick Cave and Bambara, but in a way that doesn’t actually sound like ANY of them too much. Sam’s delivery is intense, staring out into the audience who, once engaged, can’t look away. You just don’t know what’s coming next in Ennio Morricone’s nightmare (band name of the day, anybody?) Another set of fine folk who deserve a follow if they rock up in your neighbourhood.

Pyncher played: Take The Pain Away, Tired Eyes, Steely Dan, Sick of the Weather, Hippo Boy, Frogs & Tomatoes and Space Rocket Simulator. They will also headline Night and Day Café on the 30th of January (assuming it’s still with us by then, of course)

Third up, London-based Oliver Marson. A multi-instrumentalist who both writes and records his own music, both in his own right and in collaboration with others, and described as, “Blending the 60s, 70s and 80s to create a baroque sound” (some achievement, to be sure), his latest offering comes in the shape of Andalucian Girl (second of tonight’s 10 song set), a tale of  unrequested and unrequited love and a protagonist who lacks the ability to recognize either. Backed by Dakota Manser-Clarke on bass/synth, Luca Siegel on guitar and Jake Hopkins on drums, Mr Marson channels so many influences (and all of them good), it’s really hard to know where to start. Combining the tongue in cheek humour of the Divine Comedy with the seediness of Soft Cell at their darkest and most desperate and the song crafting skills of ABC’s Martin Fry at his brightest, throw Nick Cave and Scott Walker into the mix (he’s even covered Tom Waits FGS), this is an artist who wants to tell you a story by taking you right into the world that his characters inhabit, whether you want to go there or not.

Once you’ve caught on to the fact that there are stories to be heard here, he makes you want to listen. No, actually LISTEN – lyrics as well as tuneage. You think you know where he’s going, right up until you realise that you don’t. Plus, he makes you feel like he’s lived these stories, which adds to their authenticity. Happy to stare out either audience members AND camera lenses with equal intensity, you need to make sure you’re absolutely certain you want to be within touching distance of the charismatic Mr Marson as he points, poses and prances across the stage, drawing the crowd in like some latter day Pied Piper. You really don’t want to take your eyes off him for a second in case you miss something. Much to the crowd’s delight, he deigns to remove his shirt for set closer, “Cocaine Romance” with the caveat that he has man boobs, moobs or not, by now he has the crowd eating out of his hand, the sign of a true showman, and the set concludes to a thunderous round of applause.

With an album due out this year, I shall be keeping a close eye on Mr Marson’s progress (and not in a Soft Cell  way, either, thank you very much)

Oliver Marson played: Madeleine, Andalusian Girl, Past Life, Blue Dreams, Manipulator, Richest Man In the World, Love Coma, Tokyo, Time for Love and Cocaine Romance.

Finally, to tonight’s headline act, singer/songwriter Yasmin Coe is yet another from far flung shores (well, Hull, to be precise) who has decided to make her home in my fair city (yes, dear reader, I am a Manc – what gave it away?) With her band comprising Nat Johnson on lead guitar and Evie Eve on rhythm guitar stage left, Joe Fowler on bass on the right and Will Metcalfe hidden away on drums at the back, she has already built up an admiring following, recording a couple of sessions for BBC Introducing and selling out venues along the way.

She launches into Doubt, which is as delicious a slice of indie pop as you’ll hear, combining elements of The Sundays’ and The Cocteau Twins’ dreamy backgrounds with Suzanne Vega’s vocals (don’t blame me for 80s references, they’re all I have!), Yasmin looks out at the crowd as though she can’t quite believe her luck in playing the by now rammed YES Basement, but as the set (which she introduces as, “45 minutes of somewhat upbeat sad girl songs”) progresses, you quickly see that she deserves every bit of the wave of popularity on which she’s currently riding. The gig, which has been sold out for weeks is definitely Manchester’s hot ticket tonight.

The songs deal with real issues such as “Expected as Much” which is as Yasmin described, “When you know exactly what someone is like, but you still get involved with them because you think that they’ll change for YOU, but they never do.” Dear reader, we’ve all been there.

Yasmin announces that it’s been twelve months since her first gig in Manchester which she says was awful (doubtful) and at which the songs just weren’t very good (also doubtful). Her admission that she’s still just as nervous tonight as she was then draws a roar of approval from the crowd, which would do well if they could manage to stop chatting and laughing for 45 minutes and give this band the appreciation and attention they deserve. Cries of “Shhh!” from various quarters do little to quell the chatter, which is as infuriating as it is rude. Why pay good money to see an act, then disrespect them by not listening, and spoil it for the people who DO want to listen into the bargain? Rant over, but the problem isn’t going away any time soon, sadly.

Perhaps tonight’s most plaintive plea comes from the artist herself when she directs the crowd to the merch stand with , “I love merch and I need the money”. Posters and Coasters – that’s a song title in itself! Artists need our support to thrive – let’s make sure we help them out where we can, good people.

As the set progresses, you get the real sense of a very close group of real friends, rather than merely a group of musicians backing a singer. Evie Eve delivers some dreamy vocals on the as yet untitled “New Sad One”, to the crowd’s evident approval. “Red Jasper” covers the vital subject of keeping women safe in the music industry. There’s a sense of the inevitable as “We’ve got two songs left” is announced. Yasmin has a list of people to thank alongside her setlist on the floor, but its’s so sincere, that it’s hard to be impatient. Biggest thanks go to her bandmates for “bringing her songs to life” and to Cal Moores, the man who put tonight’s show together. She even finds time to plug Pyncher’s upcoming Night And Day gig – artists’ support for each other becomes more important by the day.

The set concludes with the punchy “No Hope” which to your reviewer’s old ears combines the vocals of The Primitives with the guitar and drums jauntiness of  early The Wedding Present, followed by a new song which Yasmin introduces in a faltering voice as she feels the love of both her bandmates and the crowd being reflected right back at her.

Please take time out to see this talented lady and her equally talented group of musicians. You really won’t be sorry. Dream pop at it’s finest, delivered with style and panache. Just Coe see them and follow me for more atrocious puns.

Yasmin Coe played: Doubt, Half Reassured, Expected as Much, Preoccupied, “New Sad One”, Red Jasper, Almost Close, When You Can’t Have Her, No Hope and “New Banger”.