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MAPS Festival Review at Audioscribbler


How's My Pop?/The Ending Of.../The City Joy Cons/Little Engines/El Condorez: Maps Festival, Joe's Bar, Manchester


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Simon Jay Catling

To say that Manchester has an abundance of live music going on this weekend would be akin to suggesting one of their football clubs was a bit happy with the result on Wednesday. With Eurocultured taking place down Oxford Road, and the Warehouse Project back for a “final” farewell this weekend, it seems an odd choice for the city’s bohemian trendy Northern Quarter to throw a festival. However, that they have and with 20 venues taking in the likes of the Ruby Lounge, Night & Day, Roadhouse and more, it makes sure that it more than holds its own against the competition. Tonight however I’m in Joe’s Bar; not the most obvious place for a live music venue, there’s a hotel upstairs and the bar itself is filled with a mixture of daily commuters, tracksuit clad scallies and bizarre old ladies in leather jackets.

This doesn’t seem to phase El Condorez in the slightest. The three piece have clearly played together for a long time; the bassist’s sandpapered facial hair shows the odd fleck of grey and the lead singer’s shredded jeans and white vest top look a little silly on him. Their music however, which is relentlessly cheesy 70’s rock n’ roll, is delivered with an emphatic energy. It’s all there: the poses, the drum rolls, the sprawling riffs, the sexually ambiguous use of guitars. To say that El Condorez belong in a different era is no understatement, especially with the other fresh faced acts on tonight’s bill forming most of the crowd here; yet their live show is undoubtedly tight and entertaining and does its job very nicely. In contrast, Little Engines look like they won’t be doing a job at all tonight; the three piece, with a combined age of about fifteen (probably) turn up completely wasted and minus amps and cymbals.

A quick whip round conjures up the required equipment, yet the drummer sets up the hi-hat with the speed of a sloth on vacation, staring hard at the borrowed cymbal as though willing it to arrange itself. Somewhat irritatingly though, when Little Engines finally do get round to their set they turn out to be rather good. Sure the bassist looks like he’s in another world and the drummer appears to be toppling off his stool every other song but when you possess the type of afro influenced pop songs as Engines do it’s easy to get away with. Added to this is that their singer, who surely could be Kele Okerele’s younger brother, possesses the kind of Alex Turner-esque voice that could quite easily attract the attention of “the people”, whoever they might be. There’s a very real sense of Manchester that oozes out of these young gentlemen, not the swaggering cocksure attitude of the Gallagher brothers, but something that’s undoubtedly ingrained in the youngsters from the whole spectrum of the city’s musical heritage.

If Little Engines look like they’d merely taken time out from getting stoned in the park to turn up tonight, the same can’t be said of The City Joy Cons. Daft name maybe, but the five piece possess three synths, two guitars and more pedals than a Coronation Street sewing factory and set about using them to good effect. Hailing from Essex, the Cons rip their way through a bristling 25 minute set that throws the synth into the middle of two frantic guitars and watches to see whether it can fight its way out again. The lead singer’s voice comes across a bit lightweight at times for sure, but overall The City Joy Cons have the look of a very polished looking outfit. Tight musicianship seems all the rage tonight in fact as follow up act The Ending Of play a longer than anticipated set that starts off a touch heavy on the angst ridden side, but rallies to whip up a stirring emotional climax of noise around a lead singer who possesses charisma in abundance. My easy-guide-to-journalism book tells me to place his voice somewhere between Gerard Way and Robert Smith so that’s where he shall go, and rightly deserved too; this three piece managed to create a sound worthy of band’s possessing twice their number and they proceed to thunder to the end of their set.

Headliners How’s My Pop? (pictured) have been lurking about the venue all evening, hiding in the shadows all pale and ghoulish. Eyeing them up, it seems unsure what to make of them; the task of following a couple of high octane acts seems like it might be enough to send them off into the land of nod. To be fair though they’ve only been here all night because everyone else is using their bass amp and that was a tribulation in itself. Turns out we needn’t have worried anyway as the Lancashire foursome provide a powerful and full blooded sound that allows subtlety and melodic sound to seep in without compromising any of its dynamism.

A Hammond organ turns everything all Cold War Kids but the lead singer/guitarist simply refuses to let the music to lull into anything remotely resembling constant; scattering the keyboards and percussion with short, sharp solos and wrapping his excellent playing around a sound that in a strange juxtaposed way feels as much as though it belongs to the past as much as it portrays a gateway into the future. Lyrically they’re excellent; laments about “the red stain on the English flag” rub shoulders comfortably with more typical lovelorn efforts. The small but appreciative crowd will them on and as the final chords crash down on a forty minute set that takes in summery pop, 60’s rock’n’roll, country-ish tendencies and a whole lot more in between, it’s clear that How’s My Pop? have successfully managed to steal the show. And coming on top of what was a pleasantly surprising bill that’s no mean feat.

El Condurez

Little Engines

The City Cons

The Ending Of

Hows My Pop?


Hows My Pop? - Laura Laura

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