First up last night was Charlie Baines. I must admit, I’d never heard of him before and after seeing him soundcheck I really wasn’t sure what to expect. This is one guy with a lot of cables and technology. A laptop, various plugs, keyboards, effects pedals and headphones all helped Charlie Baines produce a large sound, with looped beatboxing, programmed beats and distorted vocals. While not particularly groundbreaking, I did find his set thoroughly enjoyable and he has a powerful voice behind all the technology. Kind of like what you’d expect Rufus Wainwright to sound like if he were Borg. Good stuff..I’ll see him again.
Most of you reading this in Manchester will probably be familiar with Air Cav. Their shoegaze inspired space-stomp anthems have been setting the gig scene in Manchester alight for a couple of years now. Before tonight, it had been a while since I’d last seen them play, and they have come a long way since their first gig at Zumeba (now known as Odder, for the young’uns among you) back in 2005 (or 2004? I forget…). With a few lineup changes and a bit of maturity and experience under their belt, Air Cav are demonstrating what it is to be one of the biggest driving forces in the Manchester indie circuit. Lazy comparisons to The Arcade Fire aside (I really, really didn’t want to mention that as their names comes up in every single review I’ve read), Air Cav really do produce a sound that defies their somewhat modest setup and stage presence. They have songs that really would translate very well indeed to the large stage if and when they get the chance.
And now for the headliner, Alaska in Winter. I was really, really looking forward to this. After listening to his music (a mad collection of beats, loops and acoustic guitars) I was excited to find out how this would be replicated live. The answer was, it wasn’t. Pretty much everything was prerecorded and he just hit play and sang along. Quirky projected videos and a silly hat didn’t make up for this. While the music was pleasant enough, it was not a live performance, it was karaoke. I was not alone in walking out of this mid-set. Very disappointing. What had the potential to be a wonderful live performance resulted in a lazy over-reliance on prerecorded electronica that plagues so many other similar artists and DJs.
Having said that, I do not wish this to be a harsh criticism of his music, which I thoroughly enjoy. It was just the delivery of it that I thought didn’t quite work.