8 May 2015

Return To Rock Manchester @ Gullivers, NQ 04/05/2015

All images featured in this post were taken by Rachael Yielder. Find her on Facebook here.

After a slow start we were in and waiting for the first act to come on. I always love coming to this venue, Gullivers in Northern Quarter, Manchester, it is a really quaint and authentic space to watch and perform in. It's really picturesque and resembles an old dance hall, a perfect fitting for the talent which was to occupy the space on this occasion. 

Rachael Yielder Photography
Up first was Miranda Amess. The night came as a series of firsts for this talented southerner as Miranda later told me it was actually her first gig, and I was shocked, you would never have known if she hadn't had said so. I've written for Miranda previously and I loved her sound. Check out the article here. I even came across a new track of hers the day before this event via Twitter and I had loved that too and I was rather disapointed when it wasn't included into her set list for Return To Rock Manchester. The chatter of her on-lookers comes to a sudden silence as Amess graces the room with her powerful yet easy-to-listen to vocals. As the room fills, Miranda introduces that she'll be doing a cocktail of both covers and originals. My friend who doesn't normally go to gigs turns to me and says 'I love her voice'. Foot tapping whilst she plays her original material,'Look What They're' and 'Unsure' as her two opening songs, it is obvious her songs actually mean something. Miranda Amess is one hundred percent passionate, beautifully skilled and affecting. Following another Amess original 'Awake' of the same Folk-Pop style, I was so delighted when she announced she would be playing 'Other Side Of The World' by KT Tunstall as I used to be a huge fan of hers back in the day, and there is absolutely no denying she sounded extremely similar. Miranda somehow has the talent to play delicately yet powerfully all at once with her devised material, as 'Awake' ended.
Rachael Yielder Photography
Once Miranda's next original song of her set 'Song For Mara' began I recognised it straight away from my previous review, but I hope you can take my word for it that seeing it and hearing it performed live makes it all the more emotional that I actually chocked up a little. Finishing with the up-beat KT Tunstall cover, who Miranda had announced during her set was her biggest influence to become a singer-songwriter, 'Black Horse And A Cherry Tree' which had the crowd swaying and singing along in amazing spirits.

Check out Miranda Amess on Soundcloud here.

Rachael Yielder Photography
Izzie Walsh was the next act to take to the stage with her cowboy boots and country hat, and opens with an original 'This City' and followed with a cover of Dolly Parton's - Jolene. I'm briefed with 'You haven't seen Izzie yet have you? She's amazing.' Her sound has the authority to take you to the midst of New Orleans, and out of central Manchester. It's amazing that such a vocal can come out of such a fresh faced young lady. The audience are thumping their feet and it would seem they can't help but nod and stomp in time with her up-beat melodies. Izzie has the ability to fill a half full room with her fierceness and authentic performance. Walsh even bravely covered Shakira's 'Whenever, Wherever' and making it entirely her own, and I can tell you there's been many drunken bad attempts at the same song by myself in Club D'Raven during my time in student halls. It would be difficult to deny it's not a song that can be covered well, yet Izzie truly nailed it! Her petite sweetness surprises you with her amazing talent. Her mix between tones of vocals along with her sassy and empowering feminine vibes work brilliantly well to create a fabulous stage presence and performance.
Rachael Yielder Photography
Izzie's introductions between tracks seemed to portray a complete contrast to when she's singing and suddenly Izzie seemed humble and shy which was surprising considering her possession of such a talent. This, however was not the case once the singer-songwriter bursts into song and strummed on her acoustic guitar. Up to now, I was loving the female line up in what is traditionally a masculine area. Liberating, forceful, and passionately aggressive. Beautifully juxtaposed. Izzie gained herself two fans in myself and my friend at Gullivers, NQ that night for sure!
Rachael Yielder Photography
Up next all the way from sunny Donny (Doncaster) were special guests to the line up, Ginger Tom. A two-some male act disrupting the all-girl vibes Return To Rock had offered us so far, but they were of course more than welcome to do so. They slotted together on stage brilliantly by one another's side, with the left handed and right handed guitars positioned like a perfect reflection. Dan Washbourn and Tom Prendergast were beautifully in chorus and their set list was much more up-beat in comparison to the delicate opening acts before them. The pair harmonised brilliantly together and it was obvious the two listened to one another very consciously. Plugging themselves at every opportunity they could in between tracks, it was apparent the lads were used to these gigs and knew exactly what they were doing. A cocky 'Cool' is voiced as they go onto a Ginger Tom original '7 Years'. The two chaps look as though they're very happy to be there. It's strange to see an act of two men, yet it's a pleasant change which I, and the crowd very much enjoyed. I always love acts that aren't traditionally a 5 piece indie number (although I love those too) but Ginger Tom were a refreshing change. My only criticism that I hate to write is that they're not embracing their own accent whilst singing and instead sounded Americanised. The duo were so similar to the vocals of Plain white T's and my year 9 favourites, Secondhand Serenade. The two did put on an exceptional performance but a good South Yorkshire accent would have made them seem even better.
Rachael Yielder Photography
I just like British bands, and especially Northern British artists at that to actually sound British. It makes it more seem more genuine and I just wanted hear that lovely Donny accent lads. Ginger Tom would be a band to listen to on your walk to and from work, to chill out to and put you in an equally as sedative vibe. As Dan introduced their next track 'Never Be Enough' his sidekick, Tom was tuning his guitar as he introduced it was their final song 
'Touching that, anyone crying?' Dan joked to fill the slight interval. Overall, their performance gave the impression that the pair are going to be heart-breakers to their female fans as they compliment one another's expression graciously.
Rachael Yielder Photography
The fourth act of the evening returned us to that girl-power thing we had going on earlier with Megan Dixon Hood and her band. Megan offered the audience a diverse change to the acoustic acts that we had been introduced to so far. As she opened her set with 'The Storm' and 'The Thief' I began to feel as though the material they had produced belonged on some amazing film soundtrack. Of course that is intended to be received in the best possible way, as the likes of Ellie Goulding  features on multiple major pictures nowadays and I'm her number one fan. I couldn't help but feel as though their material should have featured on each of the Twilight film series, and that's definitely a compliment as I love Twilight, too. Backed with her band, Megan Dixon Hood truly dominated the room with her atmospheric chimes and haunting harmonies.  There are not many artists already out there which I could compare the female-fronted act to either. Sometimes they were nostalgic to Paramore yet only very slightly. My friend mentioned that they reminded her of Florence And The Machine, with Megan's leading bass drum and gloriously rare lyrics guiding them through the performance. 
Rachael Yielder Photography
The drummer is extremely talented and his symbols sounded almost oriental and undeniably theatrical. Megan Dixon Hood and her band were extremely drawing and fascinating to watch. Moving onto 'A Year From Now' and 'Early Morning Riser' their substance was intensely passionate with an ingredient of darkness. Each member appeared to be as individuals rather than as a group to look at, yet the four came together to assemble a great showcase of music. Ending with 'Turn The Page', 'Siren' and 'With Time', Megan was a delightful change of scenery to have a keyboard at the front-line of the stage rather than an acoustic guitar. See gentlemen, we are better than making sandwiches and the artists performing on this occasion blew that out of the water. Both a graceful and knowledgeable performance, the band have successfully created a series of songs which can captivate an audience.
Check out Megan Dixon Hood on Soundcloud here.

Rachael Yielder Photography
Lastly, but of course not least, Fluidity take to stage as the final act of the evening and finally make the shy audience utilise the empty space next to the stage. A northern Ordinary Boys, front man Owen Andrews guides the three lads through their opening track 'Take Me Home'. Fluidity provided a vast change to the four acts we had already watched and who had each peacefully opened the night. Loud and energetic, my beer-fueled night meant I was now stood right next to the speakers and it suddenly feels like my local Cleethorpes gig-going stage in secondary school. Each of the members were gallivanting around the stage as they moved onto 'So I'll Say' and 'Tears' which were a real crowd starter. Sounding much heavier than any of the material we had heard up to this point, you couldn't tell that they were marking the end of the event. Fluidity were as full of life as the first few acts, performing the jazzier sounding original 'I Don't Mind' and it is evident they had taken a pro plus at some point in the evening (or copious amounts of beer). 'Could've Been More' and 'Don't Laugh' were of a higher pitch yet remaniscent of The Kooks and even Blink 182 if they were British-born. The quaint environment is hardly enough for such an incredible sound as all three guitarists contribute to the vocals.The lead guitarist, Joe Wood, was producing some astounding notes. The bassist, Sass Lafferty, is at this point, on his knees in plead of playing to his full potential which seems to shine through. It is always a pleasure to be asked to write for Fluidity.
Rachael Yielder Photography
Their next one has an almost fantastical introduction,
 'Don't Laugh' which is a Fluidity favourite of mine and always gets stuck in my head. Fluidity had me singing along to this track as per usual. It's just like no other and it truly sticks with you. The lead guitarist was so energetic his guitar strap broke and the speaker in front of him was now his life saviour to keep him holding the guitar up-right, until the inner rock-star within him found a much cooler prop in Luke Weshington's bass drum. To close the night the band covered Fall Out Boy's 'Sugar, We're Going Down' which had the whole room energised and singing along. Ending their set with, "Thank-you Wembley" from Joe, as he threw his guitar strap into the grasp of the crowd. Cool guys, eh?
Check out Fluidity on Soundcloud here.

Read about Fluidity and a previous Return to Rock here.

Just Write About It
- Raven Twigg
Just Write About It.

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