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Air Cav @ Manchester Roadhouse Review for Audioscribbler

Was delighted the other week when after putting up a review of Air Cav's single Alliance I received an email from the violinist of the band thanking me for the kind words! Well after that I had no choice but to go down and see them play at the Roadhouse last Friday...I meant to introduce myself but it was pleasingly busy and me being a shy, retiring type an all sadly lacked the confidence to do such a thing..big regrets! Never mind though because they put on a quite wonderful live show; to read just how wonderful simply read below:


Air Cav: Roadhouse, Manchester


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Simon Jay Catling

The alternative music scene in Manchester often gives the impression of being a bit of a proverbial sleeping giant. Whilst in recent years music from Sheffield and Leeds has been making headlines, Manchester has been allowed to drift into the background- always acknowledged as being there, but never really focused on. With one or two exceptions, Nine Black Alps spring to mind, many of their bands seem in a similar mindset. Polytechnic and The Nightjars play at the same venue as tonight’s gig on Thursday; both were big tips for a breakthrough as far back as 2005 and both seemingly have made little headway. Yet, as goes the question with all sleeping giants, are they really struggling to breakthrough or are they merely biding their time? This is a question that goes through my mind upon watching another Mancunian band, Air Cav, who are celebrating their first record deal tonight.

The four-piece have been making waves around this city for around two years now, without anyone outside the North West really taking much notice. However, tonight proves they clearly know what they’re doing; you can tell it from the fact that the Roadhouse is over three quarters full, and you can tell it from the fact that Air Cav’s set tonight is tight, concise and most importantly loaded with great songs. Anticipation in the crowd is high so that even fellow up and coming act Lead Balloons are offered only the most cursory of applause during their solid support slot. Air Cav stumble onto the stage, clearly having been celebrating hard throughout the support, and almost shyly launch into set opener A Call To Arms; and in those opening few guitar lines the band instantly change from reluctant, withdrawn individuals into a confident, collective, dominant force. A Call To Arms has been knocking about since they began but it is testament to its enduring nature that the band still use it to open their set; its cacophony of guitar and violin hints at a sense of melancholy underneath the soaring spirit of the song, which is driven with simple yet effective drumming. Branches, taken from their recent single, follows next with a definite nod towards the Arcade Fire in it’s wailing, full frontal introduction before settling into something fluent and hazy thanks to Sophie Parkes violin.

What makes Air Cav such a joy to watch is the enjoyment they have of being on stage; how it transforms them and radiates out to those watching them. When future single Embers malfunctions, the band merely laugh and happily advertise their current releases, before striking back up again. Meanwhile, telling glances throughout the set show that, yes they’re performing exactly how they want to and yes, they really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Where they really excel however is in providing what seems initially like a wall of sound, before allowing themselves to carefully pick out and remove bricks from within the wall; this gives them a range as poised and beautiful as it is powerful and full on.

Perhaps the best example of this comes in the form of current single Alliance, which jumps and bounces along with a frantic energy before being let out of its shackles and allowed to drift and meander around the venue, before being dragged back and fitted together again for a rousing finish. Furthermore, they do so in such a way as to fit all of their ideas and sprawling expanses into less than five minutes at a time, giving each of their songs a very anthemic feel. This is surely due to two years of hard toil around their native Manchester instead of swapping the practise room for lengthy tours in toilet-venues. The only sad thing is that a curfew puts a 45 minute restriction on a set which many would loved to have gone on much longer, and as final anthem So Others May Live there’s a genuine disappointment that the night has to come to an end.

So tonight is certainly evidence that Manchester is still alive and well and doing just fine thank you very much. The aforementioned Polytechnic and The Nightjars both released excellent albums last year, as did Nine Black Alps. This year the likes of Fear Of Music, The Ting Tings and Twisted Wheel are all expected to release debut offerings; and of course there are the dubious talents of The Courteneers. However, on tonight’s performance Air Cav may just be the best of the bunch, and one hopes that they can build on the strong fan base they now have in their hometown and start to reach out nationwide.


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