For anyone wondering if it’s still cider and sunglasses o’clock, September’s drizzle surely confirmed autumn is here with every budding raincloud. But for those of us in mourning for festival season, the Deaf Institute held a silver lining, where a third outing of two-floor band party Stay Fresh Fest was to begin. Championing local talent and emerging acts, the all-dater has gone from strength to strength over the past twelve months. For its third incarnation, headliners in the music hall are doom pop five-piece Easy Kill, supported by Koalas, Horsebeach, Wedding, and Rosey PM. Downstairs, we’re to be treated to Mold, Slowhandclap, Ill, and Drahla.
Singer-songwriter Rosey PM begins the day upstairs, fronting a soulful three-piece as she harps on about boys with witty effervescence. Harmonies melt across the stage in her catalogue of rousing lazy day tunes like Scuba Driver, alluding to folk-rock sisters, The Staves. There’s a touch of Belle and Sebastian about the whole thing, as Rosey trips over jazz-pop beats and flirts with young romance, all over some hypnotic bass lines
Downstairs, post-punk mentalists Mold create quite a different racket. Summoning spiky guitar stabs and the disjointed fury of alt-rockers Pavement, the trio summon a riotous set, punctured by jerky riffs and theatrics. Sporting deathly makeup, Mold sing over precision playing throughout. The crowd is assaulted further still when their bassist steps off the stage and climaxes the show with a howling finale.
Back upstairs, we catch Berlin-via-London Manchester five-piece Wedding, soaking the hall in dream pop, producing an melodic and atmospheric show. Theirs is a lofty, lo-fi ambience; 18 typifies the band’s subtle psychedelia, which melodically nods to bands like Beach House.
Fans of Mold are indulged again with next act, SlowHandClap. Citing Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr as their influences, the echoes of these grunge heroes are palpable in their noise rock extravaganza. Slowhandclap are deft in composed eruptions of raw energy, plating up a gristly hard buzz that grips the room.
In a similar vein is next act Horsebeach. The project of local artist, Ryan Kennedy’s Horsebeach delivers a nuanced pop performance that drifts leisurely throughout the set. The band is carried by this one man’s strong delivery, who offers the crowd a welcome escape through his gentle melodies. They’re followed by ILL, channeling a riot grrrl rage through a vicious performance. These DIY punk debutantes raise the alarm in a pummeling of raw rock songs that strike as the warning for an oncoming apocalypse.
Back upstairs at 8pm, Manchester synth pop duo Koalas deliver a clinical, textured sound, shattering the crowd with a cascade of shimmering synths and choreographed vocals. Probably our favourite act of the day (helped with the addition of a well-used Sequential Circuits Prophet) there’s a hint of Kate Bush in this electrifying performance, and equally the parallels between electro-pop idols Chvrches can’t be ignored. One to watch, for sure.
At the bar stage, Drahla keep the pace. Already tipped by 6music as one of the best new bands this year, the Leeds three-piece elicit excitement from the crowd as they churn out art-punk poetics and rock fuzz. Maybe our loudest act of the evening, it’s a shame vocals were often lost under a blanket of distortion.
We come to our final act of the night, “doom-pop” quartet Easy Kill, topping the bill with their new album ‘Melanscholar’. Supported with some very favourable press and plenty of 6music play themselves, they echo what we’ve enjoyed from the day’s acts, with soft and soaring vocals, tight drums, melodic guitar work and dreamy synths.
For £8, Stay Fresh is a steal. And for now, it’s our little secret. Tell your friends, and we’ll see you at the next one.
Photography by Cai Dixon. Stay Fresh Fest 3 took place at The Deaf Institute on 30th September 2017.
Fancy listening to some of the best artists performing across Manchester in the coming months? Listen below for our latest playlist previewing those in town for this month’s best shows!