Shoko, Zim Zum, Xup and Lucy Nyland at The Peer Hat: LIve Review
Words and photos: Anthony Firmin
Most of the time Manchester is a great city, but sometimes, they screw up big time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of climate change protests, but todays event backfired spectacularly. Closing Stevenson Square is magnanimous thing to do in order to create a “Clean Air Zone” but the consequence was creating massive gridlock around the Northern Quarter resulting in higher levels of pollution. And the air didn’t seem any cleaner in the square either.
Why is that relevant? Well, The Peer Hat is just off the aforementioned Stevenson Square and is one of Manchester’s smallest venues, a complete contrast to the venues and audiences of the last two gigs I’ve been to, and the styles of music are so different, and it is all women, all solo... and that’s a good thing!
Disney ruining fairytales is a backdrop for the slow and delicate songs of Lucy Nyland as she carefully plucks her classical guitar. Her songs are of a deeply personal nature, heartfelt, as we are treated to her view of mortality after a friend died of breast cancer, a subject far too close to home for me and feel along with Lucy as she sings “someday I’ll return to the earth”. I am absorbed.
Being a friend of an artist gives you a different perspective of the build-up to a rare show by Ms Xup. Known simply as Xup, the sweaty rehearsals in heels to self doubts were all played out online. With a room full of smoke after the dry ice machine does some overtime Xup takes the stage.
Although she rocks out with Man In Black to start, the overall sound is distinctly post-punk, very Siouxsie Sioux, as Xup brandishes her treasured Mustang bass and taps her pedals furiously to the likes of Bigger Man and Broken Doll. The sound is bigger, warmer and fuller than on her recordings, everything has come alive and with nerves gone Xup is really enjoying herself! Big Mans Shoes is a tad dark and the set finale Witch Trial is reminiscent Joy Division as she sings “fuck your witch trial, you didn’t seek, you didn’t find”. Loved it.
The Japanese rock and music scene is bulging at the seams and whilst much of what we are exposed to en masse is of the ilk of BabyMetal, there is also a more underground art-rock movement. Mono, who toured here recently, are, admittedly, more post-rock, but tonight we are witnessing the more experimental side with Shoko.
Otherwise known as Shoko Yoshida, who is described as an ‘acid folk singer/songwriter’, she specialises in loops and repetition via her guitar, voice and pad – it is ambient and alternative in equal measures. It is certainly interesting and demands attention as she builds up vocal loops to express herself.
Due to things running late, the headliner, Shoko, was moved forward on the bill, effectively swapping with the final act, ZIM ZUM. With a table laid out covered in pedals, mini synths, more pedals, dials, a small mixer and a bell, we start to get some weird sounds. There is an order of sorts after a couple of minutes as this challenging music dives deep into the consciousness.
Sadly the crowd has thinned out somewhat and I have to leave too as the last train beckons, but this interesting performance has captured my imagination and has my mind swirling leaving me wanting to see this artist again.