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:: Elbow :: The Longcut :: I Am Kloot :: The Permissive Society :: The KBC :: redcarsgofaster :: The Sunshine Underground :: Snowfight In The City Centre :: The Answering Machine :: Daggers (aka / formerly Bureau) :: Asinine :: Lucy And The Caterpillar :: Toolshed :: Graham Coxon :: Roland Shanks :: Badly Drawn ::
23 September 2006 / Platt Fields / Manchester
By James Hinchcliffe

Fine intentions aside (an attempt to raise money to build a park in Kosovo), the 1-day Cohesion Festival in Platt Fields boasts a great looking line-up. The scheduling of the event seems impeccable too; Manchester was never really a summer city, was it? A grainy early autumn day with an occasional, hopeful sun peeking through seems more fitting, yet today the weather Gods beg to differ in the nicest possible way - the sun relentlessly beats down on us and there's nary a cloud for the entire 9+ hours. This coupled with a fervently enthusiastic crowd and first-rate organisation (the beer tents struggle to cope but few seem to be grumbling) adds up to a benchmark festival - if anyone wants to try to top this next year, the music-loving townfolk should be in for a treat.

Proceedings get underway earliest on the FREEDM stage (curated by High Voltage) and we make a start with ASININE and their unassuming, entirely convincing soft guitar textures; a more playful Bitch Magnet, perhaps, with the languid in-no-hurry pace of Galaxie 500 and similar ability to illicit deft, quietly impressive patterns from their guitars. It's a fitting - and undeniably good - start. The very different THE PERMISSIVE SOCIETY have other ideas - they deem the "rock" pedal to be in need of some swift stepping on. They oblige and boast a singer equal parts Brett Anderson and Tim Booth, quite the captivating, livewire frontman. Whether sounding a bit like Duran Duran and combining this with a stadium rock bluster is still considered de rigeur in 2006 is open to debate - also slowie "The Reason" confirms they should really keep the tempo high - but it's an enjoyable enough watch and a nice contrast. BUREAU was a band name waiting to happen but they don't illicit the smoky film noir/French chanteuse-fixated feel I'd anticipated, rather a stylish and lean Devo/Franz Ferdinand hybrid paying heed to the season's vogue for ridiculous Hot Chip-esque glasses. The singer's valiant attempts to instill life into the crowd sadly fall on lazy early afternoon ears; a shame - their classy disco-aimed sound is clearly better suited to late evening but they still make a sizeable impact, and rightly so.

A quick amateurish dash to a friendly Rusholme chemist for some batteries for the digital camera out of the way and it's THE ANSWERING MACHINE next, who look like 2 stray Libertines and a librarian; indeed, they conjure up a fairly orthodox Libertines meets Pulp indie racket (satchel optional). With lyrics like "Oh Christina / I only came round so I could see ya" it's clear they're aiming for the same understated observational style of Jarvis Cocker - a tough task they can't pull off, but it's supremely accomplished indie rock presented with youthful energy in abundance and quite impossible not to warm to.

The first bite is with the eye and REDCARSGOFASTER is a great band name however you spin it. They can't possibly live up to it, can they? They can, you know. Right from the across-the-board demented stage-filling gyrations of their opening seconds they put a stranglehold on the audience with their razor-sharp driving atmospherics, like a band who've absorbed all the groundbreaking guitar acts of the last 20 years and reassembled them in a thrilling new shape. There's an ability to energise a tune late on, worthy of bands with several times their reputation and standing, which must surely secure a bright future. Surprise of the day, maybe even band of the day.

A chance walk to the FREEDM tent pays off in spades with a look at LUCY AND THE CATERPILLAR, which can only be described as a young lady and acoustic guitar in perfect harmony. Vocally she wears her Joni Mitchell influence squarely on her sleeve but there's an unusual sparse guitar plucking style to set her apart. Some annoyingly loud punters at the back of the tent seem to knock her off her stride only slightly. Happily the music wins out, comfortably. Oh and she's sweetly camera shy but you suspect that won't last if this brief, charming presentation gives any accurate indication of future exposure.

Back to the FREEDM stage and by the time SNOWFIGHT IN THE CITY CENTRE take the stage, sunburn is a more realistic proposition, the weather having held out spectacularly. Their euphoric pop sweep stands alone today; just like a Teenage Fanclub or a Grand Drive they're blessed with ridiculously good hooks in abundance. No band here today seems more perfectly suited to the occasion and they look very well placed to break through into the big league. On this form, it would be richly deserved.

Making my first sojourn of any real note to the main stage (I'd earlier briefly caught TOOL SHED play an eclectic but slightly coffee table sounding jazz-pop) I catch most of I AM KLOOT - a band I can largely take or leave but seeing them accompanied by a restrained trumpet and using drum brushes adds a refined, sophisticated and unexpected touch to some promising sounding new material. Which isn't to say their more standard indie rock doesn't hit the mark; it can and sensible crowd-favourite choices like "Proof" and "Life in a day" ensure a very solid, well-received effort. THE KBC on the so-far pretty faultless FREEDM stage sound a better prospect than some of Doves playing a few records - but maybe not. They whip up a tight enough punk-funk a la The Rapture but the singer's undistinguished voice is a problem when accompanied by tunes that need some charismatic moulding and their likeable but ultimately generic sound unfortunately marks them down as also-rans at this stage in the game, matching Adidas T-shirts in different colours or not.

For some reason I'm moved to check out GRAHAM COXON on the main stage, if only to confirm that he'll thrash energetically though his catalogue of competent but mediocre fizzy punk-lite radio hits. He does exactly that for 2 songs so no real need to hang around - ROLAND SHANKS are on the FREEDM stage with their eclectic rock sound. It's good to hear nice sprightly effects join the mix from leftfield and the bass does its best to drive the whole thing along....but to nowhere especially interesting. Altogether too clinical.

ELBOW on the main stage are a big draw, of course, for the simple reason that very solid LPs like last year's "Leaders Of The Free World" fall short of the ludicrous heights set by the first two and it's clear that on their game there's few orthodox indie bands to get near them. They look relaxed and enthusiastic (Guy climbs into the crowd at one point) and do at least select the best (or at least, most festival-suited) cuts from that recent LP - an uplifting "Station Approach" to kick things off and "Forget Myself" as surefire rabble-rouser, both to fine effect. It's a nice reminder they're still around and a beautiful "Newborn" (could it ever be otherwise?) rounds things off in sublime style. It wasn't quite loud enough to these ears, though, even right down the front. It seems the FREEDM stage might have come off best in the morning speaker raffle, and more power to them.

They also bagged the touted THE SUNSHINE UNDERGROUND but their enthusiastic crowd reaction remains a mystery. Theirs is a vibrant guitar funk and they certainly whip up a colourful noise but they are ultimately all things and nothing; flying off in too many directions at once and none with any real conviction or class. Hype not justified.

The crowd clamour for odd good oldie from BADLY DRAWN BOY vs. THE LONGCUT at this moment in time isn't really a contest, so yet again it's over to the FREEDM stage. Quickly they're off the mark with their jagged, fractious, none-so-Mancunian sounding (you can practically picture the crumbling factories and litter-strewn streets) guttural experimental rock music, still sounding every bit like The Human League kidnapped by Fugazi. Like Fugazi they have a propensity to throw a brilliant instrumental into the mix and that is the case here with "Holy Funk", appearing early on in their impressive set and sending the crowd bananas. Either side of this, Stuart's agitated yelps sound less distant than on record but it's hard to make out the words. Still, The Longcut were never about the vocals and the set is driven by Lee's savage guitar chops and Jon's precision bass chords, Stuart dashing to the drum kit on occasion like an excited child given first crack at the sweet jar. You suspect in the long run they might be too post-rock for the indie crowd and vice versa but right now they're fearsome and present their excellent, long-awaited debut LP with some gusto and flair. A romp through album highlight "A Quiet Life" is a fitting end to a very fine day and further justification for those that shunned the less impressive main stage.

A triumphant day showcasing the best local talent (and several from beyond) with every credit due to the promoters; all of which only leaves us to check the obligatory festival stats:

Most popular band T-shirt: Flaming Lips.

Football/frisbee count: 2/1 (disappointing)

Ratio of men:women in queue for gents toilets: 3:1.

Splendid diversion out of the way, let's get back to that perennially cluttered post-summer gig calendar....

pics by James Hinchcliffe

A big thanks to sponsors Freedm for MM's access to the event : is a creative community where young creatives can exchange ideas and network amongst like minded folk. The site has been live since the beginning of September and already has near 1000 members ranging from musicians to film makers, photographers and fashion designers. More info on the link below


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