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SFTOC 2017: Review From The Other City

30 April
Various Venues

You might as well expect to be told that you have just missed something spectacular at this exercise in self-indulgence, for it is nigh on impossible to get around to every venue in time for all the ‘must-sees’ without having you own personal jetpack. The upside of this event is that you will also be able to reply with your own list of ‘did you see?’ SFTOC doesn’t just bring bands to a couple of selected venues. It’s an attempt to use people’s creativity to brighten up an area that is undergoing a significant amount of regeneration amongst the dereliction. From cafes to churches to outdoor tents, even using a medical centre, they are colourful, cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable occasions.

Goat Girl

Goat Girl were tipped in all the local press and websites before the gig, and seemed to be name dropped by most people attending. Judging by the looks on the four women who took to the stage, they seemed to be a bit bemused by all the fuss, as though they would rather be elsewhere writing a song, so just having a drink. There seemed to be a bit of ‘Well, entertain us then’ atmosphere amongst the crowd, which seldom helps the situation, especially when a band has been around for a short time and is still trying to find their musical heart, as well as being away from their Peckham home, where they will have been supported along the way. Still using pseudonyms to protect their sanity, Lottie Cream acted as their main vocalist, also playing guitars. Her subdued voice was sometimes barely audible over the raw, pulsing sounds. The music industry can be brutal, but at least let them have some time to develop before exposing them to the blinding light of publicity.


HMLTD have no such inhibitions when they’re in the limelight of the stage. The more witnesses there are, the more extravagant they will be. They seem to love dressing up, whether a white leather jacket with frills, as worn by one guitarist, to the Freddie Mercury-inspired performance by front man Henry Spychalski, a name as dramatic and unlikely as it is to be real. Each song felt like an amalgam of three different songs, with style changes aplenty, producing a restless, turbo-charged demonstration of how to catch and hold people’s attention. And it was still only 4pm.

Living Body

After the storm, a contrasting change of pace was found over at St Philip’s Church, in the form of Living Body. Sometimes a four-piece, the explained a scaled-down duo performance at SFTOC as a combination of broken bones, staying in bed or work. Pick any two from three. Churches are designed the host and amplify music and if the artist understands this fact, then they can exploit it to the full. Jeff Smith (formerly, Juffage) stands alongside Katie Harkin (aka Sky Larkin) in front of the alter, and their harmonies filled the venue with an array of delicate sounds, laced with Smith’s acerbic view on life, relaying lyrics like, “Cash is king / Then you’re gone”.

It wasn’t just bands generating pleasure. There was a permanent queue outside the Old Pint Pot to get a picture with one of 13 totems dotted across the site. This one blew out bubbles. Some people are easily pleased and thanks for that. Then, when the illuminated gloves came out, it was like Christmas had come early for some of the rather adult kids.

The fact it is a functioning church with a no alcohol restriction didn’t stop the pressurised fizz of a tinnie being opened resounding at regular intervals during the performance by Ex-Easter Island Head, with Laura Cannell and the BBC Philharmonic Ensemble at Salford Cathedral. Again, the unit exploited the venue’s acoustics to their fullest, generating fragile sound with combinations of violin and guitar strings either crossed with a bow or tapped with drum sticks.

Patty Hearst

Patty Hearst are an up-and-coming band from Manchester who quickly fill the Egerton Arms. Although that isn’t too difficult and it’s mainly with people who’ve seen them before, there was also a selection of local Salfordians listening on and wondering what all the fuss was about. The band channelled their youthful energy into a robust run of fiery, snappy anthems that have enough hooks to please the listeners.

Indeed another successful event, for the 13th year running, makes it hard to believe that it almost folded a few years back. Soon the planning will begin for next year, so feel free to indulge.

All photos by Ged Camera.

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