Foreword: I can still remember the first time that I visited Manchester Arena. I was 14 years old and I was about to watch Taylor Swift, as she toured her second album. I was a kid. I was excited. The tickets were a birthday present from my parents and I’d nearly cried when I opened them.
I remember catching my breath, as I stepped into the arena for the very first time; it was even bigger than I’d imagined. There were children of all ages there that night, many of them with mums and dads, who’d selflessly given up their midweek evening to let their child have the best night of their lives. And as a 14 year old Taylor Swift super fan, it was the best night of my life. Tears began to fall from my eyes the moment she stepped out under the spotlight. I’d idolised her for a few years before and there she was, just a few feet away from me. The atmosphere was electric and it felt like the outside world no longer existed.
When the news of Monday’s attack hit the headlines, my heart broke in two. Manchester, the musical capital of the country, a friendly vibrant cultural place filled with wonderful people and wonderful places, was in despair – as was the rest of the world. Innocent, defenceless people – kids just enjoying music – ripped from the world in one act of terror. I was transported back to that moment, as a 14 year old, in that very same arena. All of the build up, the train journey up, the taxi ride from the station to the arena, deliberating over which shirt to buy from the merch stand, the concert itself, the fact that me and my mum had stood in that very same spot, waiting for my dad to collect us. I put myself in the shoes of those kids and my blood ran cold.
I was in Manchester on the Saturday before the attack, watching three talented bands perform outstanding sets to a sold out crowd. I watched a few hundred kids lose themselves in the music, as they soaked up the atmosphere that filled the Gorilla. Below is a review of that night.
I’ve been at a loss for the last few days, trying to find the right words to say and this is the best I can do: Music is my life. It’s my job. It’s one of the first things I knew of, as a young child. Music is for everyone. It’s there when we’re happy, when we’re sad, when we’re in love and when we wish we were. What these people – these monsters – who committed this attack and others like them, what they want is for us to be scared. To not want to leave our homes, or live our lives or find happiness in the world. They want us to never go to a gig again. To that, I say no thanks. Of course I’m scared, we all are right now. But I’m not giving up this life, this blog, I’m not going to stop listening to music and I sure as hell aren’t going to stop going to gigs.
My thoughts go out to all those affected by the events of Monday night; to the families, friends, teachers, arena staff, the music community and to the people of Manchester.
Walking around the streets of Manchester on Saturday night, was like walking through a maze of music and culture. In one half of the city, Stoke-based alternative punkers Release were about to take to the stage of the Deaf Institute, in support of an evening hosted by Scruff Of The Neck Records, featuring Sly Antics and Matter of Mind. A few streets away, in a night also hosted by Scruff Of The Neck Records, Plastic House, Cassia and Clay were preparing themselves for a sold out show at Gorilla…
Plastic House were up first, a four piece alternative band from Stockport – “4 best mates making music”. They grabbed the attention of everyone in the room that night, as they performed tracks including previous single ‘City Don’t Sleep’ and ‘Friends’ House’, a new song “all about chilling with your friends basically… having a smoke…”. Frontman Oliver Podmore’s passion was evident, his powerful vocals filling the venue giving everyone something to think about. Rounding their set off with ‘Hold On’, Plastic House looked out over their audience, beaming with pride. If anyone had entered Gorilla not knowing who Plastic House were, they almost certainly would leave with the name on their lips and the music in their ears.
After a lengthy drive from Brighton to Manchester (and a very late night the night before), Cassia took to the stage as part of their fourteen date tour of the UK. Their tropical calypso-pop sound stuck to the audience like glue, with everyone unable to resist their contagious feel-good melodies and rhythms. Songs from their set such as ‘Moana’, ‘Paradise Beach’ and current single ‘Weekender’ were huge crowd favourites, as the whole room bobbed along. Simply put, Cassia are really hard to dislike. The Macclesfield trio have a sound that is uniquely theirs, creating music that is equally as hard to ignore. Watching their reaction to the excitable reception of ‘100 Times Over’, their popular closing number, was as entertaining to watch as their set itself. With the crowd singing along and their enjoyment visible on each of their faces, Cassia left the stage like kings of the world; triumphant, grateful and on a high.
Headlining the evening were Leeds based four-piece Clay. Complete with an on-stage illuminated sign and a stadium sized electronic sound, Clay played a supercharged set to their sold out young audience. The band were hugely popular with the crowd, as they performed ‘Why?’, ‘6AM’ and current single ‘Saint’ with confidence. Standing on the stage, Clay looked out into the sweaty sea of excitable teenagers dancing and singing before them. It was as though everyone in the room (including the band) had been deprived of music – like caged animals released into the wild. As Clay stepped up their set, the crowd separated to open up a pit just a few feet away from the band. It was an unbelievable sight to see and one that Clay would surely remember for a very long time.
A little after 10pm, fans poured out of the Gorilla and onto the streets of Manchester, the carefree chaotic atmosphere clinging to everyone who’d attended. Clay, Cassia and Plastic House would hold a piece of this evening close to their hearts forever; the audience were unstoppable, the music was incredible and the professionalism and reputation of Scruff Of The Neck Records was in fine shape. Live music had succeeded. Long may it do so.
For more information on Scruff Of The Neck visit: scruffoftheneck.com