Down at the Halle St Peters on Saturday, a deconsecrated church, afternoon mass was being held. Sermons with guitars and gospels with pedals. A congregation of spiritual brothers-in-arms in attendance and a selection of Manchester’s most heavenly bands. Colourhorizon is happy to produce the parish newsletter to report how a sunny days indoors offered enlightenment.
The first artist we saw was Hana (Hannah Nicholson), resplendent in pink. Putting the dream back in dreampop, backed by sporadic Vini Reilly-ish guitar, tender keys and even more sporadic drums, this is more of a showcase for ornate vocals. Most impressive is when she lets the high notes float and you know you’re watching a magnificent singer. One song was called ‘Jasmine’ which seems a perfect title for songs as delicate as this.
The Maitlands follow in the grand tradition of Mancunian pop that stretches back to the Buzzcocks and beyond. They’re bright, witty and fizzy. Playing an essentially best-of set list that showcased their recent Salford Democracy EP they rattled through their time with energy in abundance. It is easy to be won over by the simple charms of The Maitlands; their songs are uncomplicated and highlight the sheer thrill of a guitar riff, some smart words and enervating drumming. Moreover, frontman Carl always gets people laughing in-between the songs. Here he was musing about the heights of the previous band from the length of the mic cable and asking the thermostat to be turned down to 18 degrees. Due to some sound issues he was experimenting with two microphones, which won’t help the Mark E Smith comparisons, but in truth he’s closer to Alternative TV’s Mark Perry. The band later reported sound issues from stage but from the audience side is sounded sharp and crisp, with plenty of space for all the instruments. The cheeky cowbell number ‘A Few Choice Words’ continues to be a highlight. It’s pretty impossible to dislike The Maitlands.
The Creature Comfort are full-bodied, full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the kind of two guitar attack that is best associated with the pirate swagger of Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers but when frontman Ben takes to the stage the comparisons always veer towards Iggy Pop. Ben is a whirling maniac on stage; flailing and falling, crooning and careering, shrieking and shaking. He loves leaving the stage and at one point sits with down to sing to some children, thus influencing the next generation of stars. His band are tighter than two coats of paints and they ripped through a headshot of songs like controlled explosions. Creature Comfort need to be seen to be believed. Consider yourself cleansed on the altar of rock ‘n’ roll.
Headlining the afternoon mass were the mighty Hey Bulldog. I’ve seen the Hendrix fuelled Psych-Blues boogie outfit a few times now but here they were transcendent. A power trio for the new age, they tore through a breathtakingly fluid set, with sky-high guitar offset by a magnificently supple rhythm section. Playing a bigger room clearly suits Hey Bulldog well, with space for those dynamite riffs to ring. The highlight of the set was probably ‘Under My Spell’ in which guitar slinger Rob blasts a riff that is the equivalent of an 8 year olds’ drawing of a fire spewing drag racer. With a set that seemed to pass by in seconds, the crowd was left stunned and begging for more.
You are all absolved. Another cucumber sandwich, vicar?