Words by Olivis Wedderburn
Massachusetts based DIY heroes Speedy Ortiz came to Manchester last night for the very first time, fresh off the back of their 2013 album “Major Arcana”. The four piece, headed by the enigmatic Sadie Dupois, were joined by Cardiff exports Joanna Gruesome, self proclaimed dissonant wimp music.
The pair play together on a 6 date tour across the UK, from Brighton to Glasgow, satiating the eardrums of their ever expanding cult following who flock to their fuzz pop soundings. Joanna Gruesome packed out The Deaf Institute by 8pm, to no surprise as they have clocked up a solid Mancunian fan base over the last couple of years, due to their sheer dedication to playing as many shows as they can. Their set was energetic, but goofy, relaying again why they may well be the least pretentious band in the scene at the moment, as every cock up was met by laughter and shouts of “we’re true professionals”. Frontwoman Alanna McCardle’s powerful voice and stage presence was a juxtaposition to her more quiet demeanour in-between songs, which if anything makes her more appealing, as they crashed through their debut album Weird Sister.
The rapport they have developed with their tour mates is clearly a good one, as we experience the live debut of “Wussy Void” due to the heckling prowess of Speedy Ortiz,and the closing performance of “Sugar Crush” was fierce, thrashy and somewhat magical. McCardle screamed and jumped off stage, into the smoking area, as bassist Max Warren took to the front row, whilst the remaining members thrashed out on the stage to the last few bars. What was magical though was where Alanna disappeared to, as she was not outside when the crowd broke 2 minutes earlier, and hadn’t seemed to come back through the door. Perhaps the fact they recorded “Weird Sister” in Brighton’s occultist haven, The Hell House, has given the band the power of the mystique.
Speedy Ortiz followed suite in the supernatural, playing songs off their tarot card named album, “Major Arcana”, dusted with a couple of tracks of their Sports EP and a few from their eagerly anticipated “Real Hair” release that dropped last week. They commended Manchester on it’s use of wallpaper, something that no matter how many times I see a band at the Deaf Institute, will always be commented on, before launching into Plough, and from then they played an intriguing set that balanced the melancholy of hit “No Below” with the Muffs like sounding “Cash Cab”.
Drummer Mike Falcone stated of the venue that he felt they should be playing Handel’s Messiah up there, so instead gave us their Freebird’s Messiah, with a debut of Oxygal from their most recent EP. The full nature of their set meant that, despite the calls for encores, there was no need to supply one, ending with personal favourite “Indoor Soccer”, an experimental track that clearly demonstrates the influences of their collaborators.
Speedy Ortiz’s work with Paul Q Kolderie (Pixies, Hole) and Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr.) interweaves their music in a way that gives them the slow burning power of the 90’s alt bands that preceded them. These two female headed bands may hail from different sides of the atlantic, but it is understandable as to why they’ve collaborated on this tour, as their sounds not only compliment each other well, but their energy is a true example of why the DIY scene is something to be excited about at the moment.