SONDER Festival Report - Saturday
SONDER is a new festival for Manchester and a lot of effort has gone into making this inaugural series of events, varied and enjoyable. Manchester Rocks reports on a selection of Saturdays acts from across the Northern Quarter.
Photos and Words: Anthony Firmin
Following a heavy night of drinking at a school reunion, the best thing is to ease yourself into SONDER Festival by attending the all afternoon Comedy At The Castle MC’d by Lukas Kirkby and was, personally, just what I needed especially with the variety on offer. Improv group Comedy Sportz presented their not so family friendly routine Bang Bang with some clever audience participation with phrases like ‘shagging Delilah’ and ‘christening Charlie’ being shouted out making me wonder who on earth is here, a thought confirmed when the troupe asked for a one syllable word and got ‘pickles’.
Mark Grimshaw with his Trip Advisor routine and the aforementioned Lukas Kirkby singing …..York are both hilarious. I would highly recommend an afternoon of comedy to everyone especially when it is included in the price of a great festival.
The event is spread over multiple venues so I really need to clone myself to get the best out of the day. As that is not an option some serious pre-planning is required and the next stop is a quick visit across the road to a newish venue, Northern Live NQ where I manage to catch the end of Laura Farrow’s set and the start of Kate Antia’s, both of whom are great singer/songwriters.
A quick bite to eat and it is over to the southern end of the Northern Quarter to Aatma, previously known as Kraak, quite possibly the most difficult venue to find in the UK, where things are just getting going as another singer/songwriter Maisie Johnson is starting her set including some interesting electric guitar loops. Honest was a particularly apt song to play, as it could be the theme tune for the festival and everything it stands for.
A two minute walk and I am at The Whiskey Jar and another singer/songwriter Charlotte Evans is playing her delicate songs and with the recent death of Leonard Cohen her rendition of Hallelujah is both poignant and sorrowful. Following Evans are The Haydn Funk Project, a band I had enjoyed so much at Rebellion a few weeks earlier with their mix of funk, rock, soul and rap which works surprisingly well together, especially in the song My Girl Likes Reggae.
Banjo, double bass and songs of Americana are adding to vast variety of the festival with the Izzie Walsh Band on stage sliding through their deep south influenced set, Walsh’s voice perfectly suited to these style of songs.
The final band at TWJ is another MR favourite, Mohawk Radio. Following a US tour along with a regrouping as a result of new bassist Connor joining, the band seem re-energised and with a renewed focus. Mia Page’s distinctive vocals still cut through and the band putting in a great performance with their commercial sounding rock; and with new songs being previewed that will be released next year the future is now brighter for them than ever before.
With six venues to choose from, it made sense to just shuttle between Aatma and The Whiskey Jar due to their close proximity and type of bands playing. Over at Aatma The Rogue Network are on stage with their underground blues and soul tunes. Triggered synth sounds and clever singing add a nice touch to their songs as well as having a groove that is foot tappingly good.
Three piece Ragweed have trawled all the way up from Brighton to play as part of a small tour they are currently undertaking, and they certainly made sure they ripped the place up with their alt/indie/punk/pop/rock sound; songs such as Infinity and Black Cappucino were top stuff.
From the get go with Taste Your Love, Voodoo Blood were set to rip a new one out of Aatma. Slick, skilful, powerful and in your face, these faves of MR have got to be on the verge of making it big. They played much from their Anabolic Blues EP but added new song, Soul Disposal which sounds great.
The final band at Aatma is Bolton based The Jade Assembly who brought in a few fans to support them. Although their Oasis style alt/indie rock isn’t usually my thing, their added heaviness made them stand out from the crowd of bands who play this style of music. It was already quite warm in the room but guitar playing vocalist John Foster must have been sweltering in his huge coat, but I digress, it was another solid performance which goes down well with the audience.
The final event for this evening was back at Northern Live NQ and an interesting way to close out Saturday at SONDER with Voices Beyond Gospel Collective and this is a performance not to be missed. With four beautiful voices, the harmonies and singing are just outstanding, the aim of their version of McFadden and Whitehead’s Ain’t No Stopping Us Now is to get everyone dancing and singing along and they are certainly succeeding in this, all the way through to the final song, Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered. It is so simple, so effective, so beautiful and fully appreciated by those privileged to witness this performance and a wonderful way to end the day.