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Live / stage review

Fab Sunday Special

It’s a strange feeling to leave the early November afternoon daylight behind and descend the steps to the darkened environment that forms Fab Café, but the experience was worth it. The place was still festooned with ghostly decorations from the recent Halloween events, whilst those familiar with the venue will be glad to know that the Tardis and Dalek replicas are still present, along with a Thunderbird 4 model still gamely hanging from the ceiling. Thankfully some things haven’t changed, but this visit was all about new things.

Fab International Radio has been hosting a radio broadcast for several months now and my trip was to catch up on the fourth instalment, which featured new and upcoming talent. At these events, each group of performers will deliver around four songs from their repertoire, delivered in a stripped-down manner of their choosing. That’s followed by a brief interview to be replayed the following weekend, and it’s all held together by the presenter Joesy Lowesy.

Joel Gardner was flanked by two other musicians and the music easily filled the venue without deafening anyone. After an extensive European tour, the Celtic-infused collection of original compositions was as polished as you would expect, and executed well.

The sound setup is deliberately kept to a minimum, comprising of a few microphones plus a small mixing desk. This trims the time between bands to 10 or 15 minutes; time enough for musicians to unpack their instruments. No drum kits are allowed.

Drawing upon a wider area than just Manchester resulted in Scott Powell from Camens travelling up from Stoke-on-Trent. Thankfully, it was well worth the journey, with his seductive voice and armoury of tunes entertaining those present and, in a week’s time, those listening in.

Johnny Oz from The Moods

Johnny Oz from The Moods

Ged Camera

Two members of Puppet Theory dropped in, all smiles and tuneful songs. It may have been a low-key affair with only friends present, but the interplay between Chris Pickering and his guitar-wielding bandmate was as tight as a more formal gig. The timing, as one stopped sharply only for the other to pick up the song’s thread, was admirable, especially as it was early on a Sunday afternoon after an alcohol-fuelled Saturday night. It was the ideal environment for them to debut and try out new material in the form of ‘Katia’.

The welcome surprise was the solo performance by Johnny Oz, more commonly associated with Manchester-based Moods, a unit that can easily have ten people crowded onto a stage area, with a disparate array of instruments behind a nominal strike force of three rappers, of which Johnny is one. At Fab, it was just him, alone with a guitar. He warmed up with a subtle, deftly delivered version of the Massive Attack track ‘Teardrop’. Then, he was into reworkings of Moods tracks that allowed the lyrics to be emphasised whilst their dance beats had a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The idea is that it all takes place at 1pm, which generated choruses of, "1 pm, 1 pm!" from the onlookers throughout the day. It was fun and it’s all free.

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