Words and Photos by Ged Camera
For those people who get frustrated when they hear about a superb event that took place nearby but they missed it, you’d best prepare to feel frustrated. To avoid it next year, buy an early bird ticket for Sounds From The Other City 2017.
Spread across so many venues that it’s almost impossible to visit them all, it’s a wealth of entertainment in its various forms. Everything from music to humour to visuals to the savoury was on tap. You’re fuelled by the constant nagging that something better may be happening next door, as you try to catch as much as possible.
Audience participation is a key SFTOC ingredient and it’s difficult not to get involved at a Queer’d Science gig, especially when the livewire vocalist Vendela jumps from the stage during their opening musical onslaught. That move, typical of all their gigs, signals the start of frenzied pogo-ing. When this level of moshing with the masses takes place amongst a crowd shoe-horned into the Crescent, sweat, tears and spilt pints naturally ensues – along with broad smiles and plentiful enjoyment.
Over the 12 years since its first incarnation in 2005, the organising team has guarded against complacency by actively seeking out likeminded individuals to draw up a programme of events that attract appreciative audiences to Salford. It’s continually updated and developed alongside the backdrop of regeneration in the area. Redundant venues, such as the former Peel Park pub, may have been converted into occupied office space, but there are still plenty of opportunities amongst the back streets for the visionaries at SFTOC to exercise their creativity.
Bygone years have seen all manner of makeshift venues. One memorable instance saw the booking office at Salford Central station acting as an auditorium for a grand piano. This year, two warehouse units were commandeered for music and arts, with the nascent SFTOC TV broadcasting back to Islington Mill sets from acts such as the poppy infusion of Martha and the pummelling rhythms of Barberos.
The Angel Centre transforms itself every year, and provided a demonstration of the confluence between Salfordian and day visitors as would-be listeners who wanted to witness the pummelling rhythms of Clenstch ended up in the GP surgery.
Whilst music is the beating heart of the event, it’s definitely not limited to that artistic bandwidth. Over at Bexley Square the Sham Bodie group hosted an array of comedic talent, as welcoming as they were humorous.
One of this year’s quirks was a projector located in one corner of a room, with a wall’s worth of empty canvas opposite. I’ve never seen so many people reverting to their childlike nature to create shapes and illuminations with such joy.
Another place with the welcome experience of being somewhere that should not work on paper but does in practice was the Womb Room inside the New Oxford pub. Decorated by various members of the Womb collective, the ceiling was completely obscured by balloons which were later tied around the wrists of gig goers as they paraded the Chapel Street route. Womb DJs clad in tinsel (perhaps Bacofoil) cloaks dispensed masks, music and mirth throughout the day, providing the ideal stop-off point to sample real ales and gain refreshments.
Packed venues were another feature of this year’s celebrations, as if every spare nook and cranny in this part of Salford could act as a performance area. There were straw bales set up on the site of a demolished building for the Midi School performance area, where Mica Sinclair delivered a raw and powerful solo set and DJ Shotto dropped some drum and bass. Spoken word artists also held court at the Deli Lama.
As in previous years, elaborate, handcrafted costumes and disguises were on display, in particular for the himHallows event that took place around midnight. That time doesn’t signify the closure of proceedings, but more an entry to the next phase, involving late night / early morning indulgences. So there is no requirement to turn up at 3pm in order to feel that you may be missing out on something, because its nigh on impossible to catch everything. Instead, the smorgasbord of delights means that the spread of entertainment over 17 hours and across multiple venues means you’ll found many a nugget or treasure to take home and smile about.
The super early bird tickets for SFTOC17 have already gone, and there’s a very good reason for that.
SFTOC 2016 took place on bank holiday Sunday 1 May. Next year’s SFTOC takes place on Sunday 30 April, 2017.