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Sounds From The Other City is a festival that takes place in Salford every year to remind the world that, yes, there is a music scene outside of Manchester. Taking place over 11 stages on Bank Holiday Sunday, this year’s festival treated us to performances from the likes of Daedelus, DJ Q and Deptford Goth. Dummy took a visit to the festival and made a few stray observations.
- St. Philip’s Church. Both a grand, open hall and at the same time a shabby, rundown room that relies on community donations for repairs, St. Philip’s Church was host of the Now Wave stage and also one of the cooler venues of the day. There’s something odd about chugging Red Stripe whilst sat in the pews – it seems somehow blasphemous. Deptford Goth was one of the people to play here. The venue made a great environment for his set – the air was heavy with incense, a group of people sat cross-legged on the floor, but it was let down by the incessant chatter of the rest of the crowd, which didn’t really make it as arresting as it should’ve been.
- Weird venues. The church was probably one of the more conventional locations of the day. Sure, there were a few pubs that bands played in, but most of the action took place in cafés, community centres, and GP waiting rooms. Divorce played in The Angel Centre’s community café, which sadly didn’t lend itself to the body-rumbling volumes that you’d want from them. But abstract sound artist Tom Rose was definitely the most peculiar performance of the day – sat moodily in the corner of a room staring at a Macbook Pro, Rose played glitched industrial noises that sounded like an even more nightmarish version of the Eraserhead soundtrack. “I feel like I’m voyeuristically watching someone in their bedroom,” my companion whispered. The venue deemed most appropriate for this decaying ambience? A deli. A man was pouring Frenchy’s mustard all over his sandwich at one point during the set, which seemed inappropriate and hilarious.
- Salford. This might seem a weird and obvious point to make, but it’s worth stressing: Sounds From The Other City took place in Salford. Salford is not Manchester, even if you can walk there from Piccadilly Gardens in about 15 minutes. Salford doesn’t get much of a look-in from the national music press nowadays, but venues like Islington Mill, festivals like Sounds From The Other City, events within the FutureEverything summit, and groups like Sways Records, are slowly bringing more national attention to an arts scene that doesn’t get its dues.
- Vimto. When was the last time you had Vimto? Salford seemed oddly enamoured to the purple drank, whether passing a development called Vimto Gardens on Chapel Street or being handed free Vimto lollipops at the wristband exchange. It turns out that Salford was home to the original Vimto factory, and as sloppy metaphors go, it’s fitting that the forgotten city should be the home of the forgotten soft drink.
- Cash machines. Salford doesn’t have many. Finding myself low on money, a steward at Islington Mill pointed towards a Sainsbury’s that apparently housed the closest cash point, despite being ten minutes in the opposite direction of the festival. This resulted in turning up about 20 minutes after G R E A T W A V E S were scheduled to play at St. Phillip’s Church, which was actually a blessing in disguise, because it’s what led to the discovery of Ofei.
- Ofei. Perched on a stool up on the stage (the “chancel”, to regular churchgoers), Ofei had a cheap keyboard laid awkwardly across his knees, a laptop at his side and microphones on both his left and right. He didn’t introduce himself or say a word between songs, which seems to be just the way he likes it. His set consisted of a handful of solo keyboard songs and Ofei singing heartfelt verses on the left mic and autotuned choruses on the right. It was pretty odd, both very sincere and somewhat ironic, but it was fascinating – the sparse songs were written so traditionally well that calling it irony seems reductive. Listening back to his glossier recorded music is far less exciting than the live show.
- Bewildered locals. Whilst everybody encountered at Sounds From The Other City was lovely, a lot of the local contingent didn’t half look confused. The Old Pint Pot is a grubby pub split between an upper and lower level, with a beer garden that overlooks a river – but it’s actually a lot nicer than this description makes out. If one were to be at The Old Pint Pot at around 7pm, you’d have heard a drone band playing upstairs and Manchester bass lynchpins Swing Ting playing rude 140BPM bangers downstairs. The regular customers drinking pints and playing pool around the pub seemed pretty bemused by it all.
- Schedules. As long as live music has existed, gigs have never run according to the set times advertised. Even so, without a smartphone to check Twitter, it was hard to know what was going on. The venue looked empty when D/R/U/G/S were supposed to be on, whilst the guy mixing during DJ Q’s advertised slot was not DJ Q (his build and ethnicity were the big giveaways). As such, a lot of time was spent ambling around venues just trying to catch whatever was on, which was probably the best way for the festival to be enjoyed really. And if I hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong times, I wouldn’t have seen all the uncool bands that I did.
- Random appearances by uncool bands. A swing band dressed in tin foil played on the street outside the Angel Centre a little before Divorce’s set. Inside the Islington Mill, a huge drum band whose members looked like extras from Bloodrayne whipped up a storm before Daedelus took to the stage. Manchester SceneWipe hosted a room where bands jammed with other musicians over Skype, called Manchester SceneSkype. Admittedly, most of these odd happenings weren’t especially good, but it was nice to know they were there.
- Daedelus. Daedelus acted as the festival’s headliner in lieu of an actual headliner, and he definitely played a set that was befitting of this unofficial role. Taking to Islington Mill following the aforementioned drum band, Daedelus – wearing a Napoleonic jacket on his body and mutton chops on his face – mixed rapidly between multi-coloured bass tracks and bombastic trap. It was brash and fun, a reminder as to why this sort of big, dumb, ADD music can be absolutely ace if the crowd is up for it. Daedelus put on a great show with his hardware, too – one suspects he wasn’t doing all that much with it, but he certainly looked busy – and by the end of his set he was more sweat than man. It was good fun, and the afterparty followed, which a slightly less wimpy person may have attended.