Manchester was so beautiful. The sun was out and the Saturday crowds were out an totally oblivious to the amount of bands gracing the underground that had travelled across the land for A Carefully Planned Festival, the second one ever to dawn on this land. There weren’t many bands that we actually knew already so what we had in store for us was a total new musical explosion on an atomic scale. With plenty of bands to choose from over the weekend we went with the tried and tested method of picking names that sounded cool.
Our first venture was up in Gullivers with Napoleon III. The opener is a totally heartwarming and embracing guitar and vocal affair, with the next track changing the mood and launching into electronica with atmospheric vocals, leading into the next track which has an upbeat and optimistic feel. There’s just one man and his range of instrument; vocals, guitar, laptop and a few keyboard numbers. Constantly switching and launching samples then bringing out the falsetto vocals and calming guitar bring out what I imagine Bon Iver would sound like if he travelled to the future. The laptop acts up quite a bit towards the end of the set which is a shame, but Napoleon III keeps up and still has a smile on his face. (3/5)
Kraak Gallery is on this alley that’s on an alley like some kind of paradoxical moment of grimey cityscapes. Still, located upstairs are the sweet timbres of Sutree, combining a 12 string acoustic guitar and a violin that compliment each other greater than a lumberjack and his axe. What really brings out Sutree is the violin, adding another dynamic to the mix. Both players are great but make so much more sense playing together. It’s more intriguing than the bog standard singer songwriter get up but it’s not intriguing enough to keep our attention for too long. (3/5)
Butcher The Bar could lead to so many implications genre wise but all of our ideas flopped around us like fish on dry land. We have a singer songwriter on the far right of the stage area and a trumpet and trombonist on the far left. The brass section should add something a bit more unique but doesn’t manage it, feeling a bit weak not necessarily needed. (2.5/5)
Rubicava were late over at The Castle, so we did wait for a bit. And a bit longer. Then, we realised we were wasting time so headed across the road (literally) to check out Alpha Male Tea Party. At this point I’d like to thank Rubicava for being late otherwise we may never have stumbled upon Alpha Male Tea Party. Imagine And So I Watch You From Afar borrowing some riffs from Reuben and I think we’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. Despite the guitar being too quiet at first the crowd absolutely lap it up. There’s bounds of energy from the guitarist and bassist who face each other in some wild west face off. If there’s not a meaty riff being slapped across your face you’ll be given a groove to give your head some much needed nodding exercise. One of our favourite bands of the weekend, seriously. (4/5)
I think Jesus would be proud of the name but I can’t say for certain what he would think of Jesus Knievel’s set. Feeling like a bit of a Dad band who got together to get away from their 9 to 5 jobs and tedious small talk with their wives they play really basic music. Simple drum beats, some kind of funky guitars and of course, men that are middle aged and above enjoy their solos whenever they can. Maybe I’m missing something, but then I notice that three quarters of the crowd aren’t even paying attention, most of them sitting down. This isn’t my cup of tea at all, but then again I don’t like tea. (1.5/5)
Our first trip into Soup Kitchen smells fantastic (they do actually sell soup you see) and we head downstairs to 3 young gentlemen on stage. They’re Arcs & Trauma and are pretty ruddy good. It’s a simple start to the set that climaxes further and further until they unleash all over the crowd with this super tight but unbelievably atmospheric delicacy. It’s a very tight and polished performance and everything sits so well in regards to everything else. I didn’t make many notes at the time because I was so drawn into their set which I think says a lot. Another delightful surprise. (3.5/5)
Ace Busy Striptease start their set by shouting their name. I can’t imagine Cher doing it but it definitely works here as they parade off their indie rock songs reminiscent of Blood Red Shoes being an 80s pop band and singing anecdotes from a teenager’s diary. Oh, and shouting at spontaneous intervals. The vocals constantly switch around between the band and the female vocals are delicate but a little too quiet and it takes her a while to sing directly into the microphone rather than from the side, staring into the direction of the Jimi Hendrix poster on the wall. (3/5)
From what we could tell, Sex Hands’ hands weren’t any more or less sexy than our own. The vocal harmonies were superb and the only ones we had heard so far but the rest of the music seemed to lack any emotional depth or substance that surely should pour out of the music if you’re playing your songs to a 40+ crowd at 2022NQ. The robotic and stationary feel doesn’t interest our eyes at all, sadly. (2/5)
More female fronted fun as this indie band formula is given some keys to play with. Just Handshakes (We’re British) They’re playing a packed out Soup Kitchen but don’t bring any kind of energy at all! Just simply playing a song, talking, playing the next song and talking agian. On repeat for half an hour. Our lovely lead vocalist has a super soft and delicate voice but sounds much better when her male bandmates give her a helping hand. Aside from these moments, and the final song of the set, the dynamics stay very, well… flat. Nothing leaps out of its seat to show us where the party’s at. (2.5/5)
However, next up is the absolute powerhouse that is Brontide. The guitars are solely looped round, layering up like the tastiest cake ever, cooked in God’s very own kitchen in heaven. Bass and drums are introduced to the packed out Soup Kitchen basement and the audience is zoned in, locked and mesmerised. Heads are nodding with such ferocity as Brontide lap it up. Truly great musicianship and an absolute thrill to behold, songs blending into each other without any fail or lapse. This, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is how it’s done. (4.5/5)
Despite the headliner of Saturday already having played and given us a new perspective on life there’s still some music to be seen to. It’s back to Gullivers we go for the sweatiest it’s been all day and of course it’s not a surprise because &U&I take to the stage. The band suddenly launch into their set without any word of warning, commencing all grooves & dancing, shouts & harmonies to bellow from the math rock mammoth. And that very mammoth breaks the kick drum skin during the first two songs. Thom Peckett keeps the crowd entertained, improvising and looping his own vocals for a song. It’s not long until the drum skin is back in its rightful place to gain an absolute beating to within an inch of its material life. Dancing to irregular time signatures and changes is hard but the crowd give it their best shot, even to the new album songs that are showcased as we drown ourselves in their sound. A brilliant that’s clearly the calm before the storm until the album is released. (4/5)
You can read our review of Sunday at A Carefully Planned Festival here.
Words by Mikey Brown (@MikeyMiracle)