From sunny California to gloomy Manchester, alternative rock band Queen Kwong celebrate the final show of their ‘Love Me To Death’ tour at Manchester’s Night and Day Café, a venue perfectly suited for them. The bar is hot, despite the crowd being sparse, and muted lighting emphasises the spotlights on-stage. The decor of the cafe creates the most fitting atmosphere: tiki party meets scrapyard – the most bizarre combination but still fascinating to look at, much like Queen Kwong herself. The band was founded by Ms Carré Callaway, who was originally scouted by none other than Nine Inch Nails frontman, Trent Razor, when she was 17. Since then, the band have released two albums, and have even found themselves featured on the BBC’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ with their cover of ‘Baby Did a Bad Thing’. After being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis earlier this year, I had no doubt that Callaway would be putting her everything into the final show.
Before the Queen herself graced the stage, garage-rock band The Tinfoils helped to warm up the crowd. What originally appeared to be three angry teenagers, swearing for the sake of it, soon turned out to be a bouncy three-piece with a very talented lead guitarist and a sound similar to early Arctic Monkeys. Although I do feel sympathy for their poor instruments, who really take a battering, songs like ‘Jobsworth’ and ‘I’m not angry I’m disappointed’ really make you smile. And much like our beloved Mr Turner, a northern accent shone through, making the music all-the-more fun.
The second support was a little more peculiar, but more of an artist I would have expected to perform alongside Queen Kwong. two-piece ‘rocktronica’ outfit Leather Party take to the stage with a red spotlight, creating a dark and brooding atmosphere that suits them so well. Combining two genres of music I never thought could fit, the band send vibrations through the floorboards as they instruct the sound engineer to “turn everything up”. A heavy electronic drum beat persists through their entire set as they do not pause at any moment, apart from stating their name. The crowd was not huge, but everyone in it will remember a performance like that.
Not long after, the Queen arrived. Ahead of the game, lead singer Carré Callaway utters: “can we play?” and the music immediately cuts out. As they begin to play, the audience become immersed in the music, wondering how on earth it’s possible to still be able to sway to rock music. Smoke gushes from behind the scenes, creating a ghost-like presence to the stage and Callaway’s vocal-range is more than impressive, manipulating her voice for additional percussion. Her intelligence shines as she constantly wanders about the stage to find new sounds with her microphone, in an ambition to make this show original and different from the one before.
Deep and dark emotions travel through her lyrics whilst the musicians stomp to the rhythm, bodies moving as though possessed by the music. Crawling forward onto the speakers, with her hair draped over her face, Carré resembles an image from a horror film as she screams “my mind is a curse”. Unfortunately the gig did not go on much longer; Queen Kwong performed for less than 40 minutes. However, despite only playing for a short time, I left with a feeling of satisfaction. The audience make their exit through the dimly-lit doors of Night & Day Café with the new-found knowledge: this is rock.
Queen Kwong performed at the Night & Day Café on Tuesday 31st July 2018. Words and photos by Sophie Cunningham.