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SFTOC 2019: Two Paths Through The Salford Festival

Like a star that has exploded and shed stardust, in this case across Salford’s Chapel Street corridor over 15 years, Sounds From The Other City took the decision to contract into a dense, pulsar-like object that still spews out light and life.


Like a star that has exploded and shed stardust, in this case across Salford’s Chapel Street corridor over 15 years, Sounds From The Other City took the decision to contract into a dense, pulsar-like object that still spews out light and life.

After so many years of taking up residence is shops, bars or even a telephone booth, this year’s event was firmly centred on an industrial estate just off Oldfield Road.

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At the time the wristband collections opened, the queue to get in was reaching back down the road, but refreshments were freely available. Well, if you liked tequila, tequila that was dispensed from a water pistol held by helpers dressed in police uniforms that were more likely to be worn at a hen party. Alternatively, the head-to-head hula hoop contest was in full swing.

When the event was strung out over a larger geographical area, one side-effect was that crowds were more dispersed, often with people on the streets pointing in opposite directions towards acts at either end of Chapel Street.

This year, it was easy enough to walk the 10 yards to the next unit between performances. It also meant that as one act finished, large queues formed at the toilets. Creatively, there was an ‘express’ karaoke-only toilet queue courtesy of the L.A.L. (Life At Large) team, consisting of artists Amy Pennington and Kevin Clarke. All that was required was a quick burst of, say, Britney Spears in order to access it. Some people just preferred to wait in line.

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Musically, the line-up was as diverse as in previous years. Players from the BBC Philharmonic paired their orchestral talents with Young Identity’s cohort of rappers, poets and street performers in an engaging opening session.

As the sun shone, and people took a break for piñata or to sit down and digest food from the range of vendors, they could watch Frank ’n’ Hank’s Maypole Dance event, which mostly involved laughing at a group of victims/participants bumping into each other whilst ignoring all attempts to get them moving in the correct direction; the perfect antithesis to Strictly Come Dancing.

For every, “Did you see so and so? They were great.” it was easy to counter with, “No, but Black Futures / Avalanche Party / etc. are going to be big.” Indeed after the visceral onslaught of some bands, there were shards of light relief: cue Grotbags.

The joy of occasions like this is stumbling across an unfamiliar band who become your new ones to watch out for. For me, this was Rose Mercie, a quartet with a French record label. All four harmonised in songs that have a lightness of touch and warmth that sticks in the memory.

Inevitably, the dense congregation took its toll on the facilities and as the beer outlets were drained, so personal draining meant a long wait.

As the daylight faded on this quindecennial event, DJs stepped in as the night-time sessions commenced. Dancers danced or were held high on shoulders. For some, the party was just starting.


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Billed ceremoniously as the Quindecennial, the 15th edition of the colourful collaboration between Salfordian and Mancunian promoters took the step of downscaling to self-contain its vibrant charms within the perimeters of the Regent Trading Estate, adjacent to longstanding festival hub Islington Mill. It’s been a long time since Chapel Street has been so serene on the first Bank Holiday Sunday of May.

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While this meant a limitation to the amount of frivolous creative tangents punctuating the story, there was still room for antics, including a megaphoned lawmaker bleating tongue-in-cheek orders while riding a shopping trolley amidst the now-familiar tapestry of fancily dressed punters.

Music-wise, the platter was as delectable and eclectic as ever. My particular pathway through the five stages saw a starting point at Unit 4, where Accü’s mellow synths and echoed mics eased into the afternoon. The tempo remained low through to Bristol-based Yama Warashi, whose ethio-jazz vibes evoked the diversity of Fever Ray, Electrelane and TuneYards, while conjuring imagery laden with the whimsy of a Michel Gondry soundtrack. All of this was juxtaposed against the industrial backdrop of Unit 2, which later saw local mellow-core trio Ménage à Trois similarly contrasting with the decor, this time as charismatic Berghainian vocalist stole the limelight with his show-stopping a cappella rendition of the much-covered ‘I Will Always Love You’.

Nestled in between was an altogether grungier affair in Unit 3, the largest of the arenas and host to large, hanging, psychedelically lit globes. The sci-fi tinge set the scene for Black Country New Road’s otherworldly onslaught on the aural sense, as sax and violin reigned over ladles of post-rock guitar distortion and the instinctive dread of a synthesised, X-Files-esque refrain on fast-forward.

Time for a break? The central parklet delivered.

Following more electronica in Unit 5, courtesy of Babii and Remover, the cacophonous curtain-closers in Units 2, 3 and 4 – Scalping, Black Midi and Cocaine Piss, respectively – were all an ear-splittingly contrasting volume to the earlier intro music. Black Midi’s stampeding, demonic cowboys held the most attention, but many had departed for the twin after-parties at the Old Pint Pot and YES, both of which promised a steadier flow of alcohol than SFTOC’s depleted stocks.

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It was a sign that an audience thirsty for creativity had fully gorged on the festival’s pulsating heart for another year. Onwards to the 16th edition in 2020.


Learn more

Sounds From The Other City took place on Sunday 5 May at Regent Trading Estate.

All photos by Ged Camera.

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