Jabez Clegg and Krobar, Manchester, January 30th 2009
A festival? In winter? It's a crazy idea, but if anyone can make it work, then Friends Of Mine and Blowout are up to the task. Following on from the success of last year's inaugural event, Friends Of Manchester is back, and with all the action taking place indoors there's no need to pack your tent or wellies. However, squeezing seventy bands onto six stages in two venues over fourteen hours will undoubtedly lead to scheduling chaos for both the organisers and the fans, so allow me to suggest a timetable of highlights to help you plan the hectic day ahead.
1. Run Toto Run
Pioneers of the tweelectro genre which mixes synthesisers with acoustic instruments, fairytale fixated oddballs and Motel ROTY 2009 heroes Run Toto Run are like almost nothing you've ever seen or heard before. Unless, of course, you've seen or heard The Postal Service, with whom they have many wonderful elements in common. Expect to hear recent single Catch My Breath alongside previously unheard songs from their forthcoming first album, and their acclaimed cover of Passion Pit's Sleepyhead. And, if you're exceptionally lucky, there will be costumes, confetti, and other such treats to celebrate the start of what seems certain to be their breakthrough year.
Kro Bar (downstairs), 21.30
2. Chew Lips
Proving that Friends Of Manchester is so much more than a local festival for local bands and fans, London trio Chew Lips are making the 200 mile journey north to play. By the time they arrive their debut long player Unicorn will have hit the shelves, its brilliantly synthesised sound serving to show that superhumanly perfect electropop will continue to dominate the airwaves in the new decade. Factor in the livewire onstage misdemeanours of vocalist Tigs, and the scene is set for the most energetic, danceable and euphoric performance of the day.
Jabez Clegg (main stage), 00.30 Sunday
3. Bicycle Thieves
As a native of Liverpool, I should know as well as anyone never to trust a Scouser. You turn your back for a moment and before you can say “Chris Boardman” they've pedalled away with your two wheeled mode of transport. Thankfully, the only thing NME and Radio 1 approved Merseyside quintet Bicycle Thieves are likely to steal next Saturday is the spotlight. Their epic and uplifting post-punk is the latest moment on a timeline which stretches from Joy Division to Interpol and onwards. And, hailing from a city which should have let go of its past musical glories long ago, it's pleasing to hear these newcomers reinvent their influences with such drama and grace.
Jabez Clegg (second stage), 23.30
4. The DiscoKidz
The DiscoKidz is an unlikely collaboration between Ali Karim, a former member of epic guitar heroes Fear Of Music, and a UK born, South African raised songwriter known only as J. Together. They fit neatly into the Xenomania and Wonky Pop scenes which gave us Alphabeat, Frankmuzik, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool and Mini Viva. This slicker-than-your-average duo bring an unlikely R'n'B vibe to a lineup dominated by six-string indie, and the younger members of the Friends Of Manchester audience will adore them. So too will the rest of us, even if we're too ashamed to admit it.
Kro Bar (downstairs), 16.30
words: Benjamin Thomas
Friends of Manchester Festival tickets are available from the FOM website and Ticketline.