Words & Photos By Ged Camera.
On a night when lairy lads are shouting, “Take my number!” at disinterested ladies, more melodic sounds are being created in another part of central Manchester, and it’s nothing to do with lairy lads getting lucky. It’s an altogether quieter affair in the bowels of the Castle – there are fewer paper hats and more acts like Hannah Ashcroft and Caoilfhionn Rose. Mind you, there was a 6ft bloke dressed in a green and red elf uniform, but perhaps he was just having a rest between deliveries. That is unless he has dropped off the Chrimbo cracker of a music package put together by Jezebel Music.
Let’s get the essential details out of the way. Caoilfhionn (pronounced ‘Kee-lin’) has worked with the likes of Vini Reilly (The Durutti Column), so her musical CV is impeccable. But when she was spotted writing down some of the song structures for other band members before a note has been played, it could have been viewed as a bit disconcerting. The motto here is: Don’t always jump to the first conclusion.
Caoilfhionn exudes an air of confidence whilst sat behind her keyboards to one side of the cramped stage, and the band were quickly into their groove. Any drama is saved for her lyrics, allowing the delicate strumming of bass strings or caressing of drum skins to wash out from the stage.
Having a throat in need of regular doses of hot lemon and water wouldn’t help anyone’s confidence, but Caoilfhionn didn’t allowed it to hinder hers. But it was far from a one-woman show. Surrounded by a bassist (Josh Cavanagh Brierley), drummer (Dan Wiebe) and a lead guitarist (Rich Williams), the richly inviting sounds seem as warm as the regular sips to successfully keep any vocal nasties at bay.
Hannah Ashcroft offers a cool detachment that belies the emotional content of her lyrics. Playing to celebrate the release of her EP, The Quiet Kind, Ashcroft is similarly supported by a solid musical formation that includes a last-minute fiddle player.
“‘I should have listened to you’ is the refrain,” Ashcroft relays, when really it’s better to listen to her than me. Or you. A rockier, slightly harder edged effect was delivered by the band, whilst her softer vocals kept the tone firmly rooted in the folky storytelling end of the spectrum. Perhaps a Lana Del Rey with added warmth.
Caoilfhionn and her father will be starting a monthly band night in February, located at Levenshulme’s Klondyke Club. Based on the quality on display tonight, including slots from Jonny Woodhead and James Holt, it could be a fiver well spent.
Hannah Ashcroft’s EP Launch show took place at The Castle Hotel on Thursday 15 December, 2016.