Words & Images by Ged Camera
On a night when Gullivers had sold out its gig days before and the nearby Night & Day venue was preparing for an Independent Venue Week event, the smaller feeder-venues in Manchester thrived.
Meanwhile, over at the Castle, an almost-full room was hosting a Big Muff Promotions event, the Big Muff Fuzzfest. But don’t confuse them with the Muff Festival that has been running for over 35 years in Donegal, Ireland.
From the lack of clothes worn by the two members of Duke Mercury, it would be hard to guess that it is sleeting outside on Oldham Street. Connor Dowd (vocals and drums) and Liam Vaughn (vocals) quickly warmed both themselves and the audience up with some nicely raw, meaty rock sounds.
They’re followed by Duds, who fill the stage with players delivering a series of short, snappy numbers and adopt duelling vocalists to switch emphasis through the set.
Changing the musical direction nicely, The Twisted Dolls throw in a strong, confident set of vocals. The next time that Luke Thornton (vocals and guitar) and Grace Chilcott (drums) appear live, they will be supplemented by a new bassist, but that doesn’t mean there’s something lacking from their dark, surf rock-tinged output. They open with Grace tickling the drums as a lead-in for a Dick Dale styled number, with Luke’s voice remaining calm in a detached, remote manner. Their lean, taut delivery is an ideal counterpoint for the next act.
The first clue, the striped pyjama bottoms, should have been a giveaway as to the outgoing nature of this band. The second clue involved trying to understand why their mic stand was positioned way off the stage and out into the crowd. That type of layout normally only happens where there are about six people in the band. While Mouses only consists of two musicians, but they do have the dynamic energy of six.
Their first number’s opening chords see the singer and guitarist become a whirling dervish fuelled, perhaps, by years of living in the small Teesside town of Billingham. This band, or rather Steven Bardgett, need space – lots of it.
Their aim is to destroy or self-destruct, in fantastic style. Armed with glasses of water (even the musical world is not immune from austerity measures), the duo are deceptive in their appearance. The Sex Pistols had at least four in their line-up to unleash their anger, whilst Mouses have Bardgett and fellow noisenik Nathan Duff.
Visually, Bardgett is all over the place, in a positive way, whilst Duff has the eagerness of a man who, if he could, would invent a more mobile drum kit to carry around the stage and join in with Steve’s shenanigans. Somewhere amongst the maelstrom you can pick out a line or two ‘borrowed’ from well-known megastars: “Thunder only happens when it’s raining / Players only love you when they’re playing.”
They are one of those bands for when you want to let your hair down, enjoy the spectacle, appreciate the energy and leave with a smile on your face.
Big Muff Promotions‘ Fuzzfest took place at the Castle Hotel on Saturday 30th January, 2016.