Oceansize were the real deal, a fully fledged Manchester institution. Sadly missed, their records still directly inspire the young post-rock bands of today.
The news that frontman Mike Vennart would be releasing a solo record after a few years away was met with jubilation by rock fans old and new. Having finally released The Demon Joke - featuring 3/5 of the old band - his album tour rolled around to the wonderful Deaf Institute in Manchester.
Anyone involved in the Manchester scene for the past few years will be well aware of Cleft (listen to the band below). The instrumental two-piece were incubated by the Manchester DIY community, and they have since burst onto the wider UK scene with their bonkers, ADHD-riffage.
The summer spent at festivals and road-miles put in on tour have only sharpened their sound further, and the new songs played tonight are slightly more groove orientated than their earlier, scatter gun-kitchen-sink aesthetic.
Guitarist Dan grows further into his role as front-man too, happily chatting on stage and throwing scowls, grins and even the odd Wilko-Johnson style lurch at the crowd.
Knifeworld are another act who know how to cram it in, their twisting mini-epics bringing to mind the UK prog of Mercury Rev and Cardiacs - who band leader Kavus Torabi has been heavily involved with in the past.
The stage was filled by all manner of instruments with keyboards, backing singers, bassoons and baritone saxophones all crammed onto the tiny stage.
Initially the sound struggled under the weight of instrumentation, with the vocals suffering and guitar getting lost in the cacophony, but a few songs in and things started to make a little more sense.
Kavus used all of his experience to pull you into the songs, with wide-eyed drop kicks and star jumps punctuating the twists and turns in the songs. Whilst certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, the Deaf Institute crowd appreciated the high-minded wonkiness.
Vennart took to the stage to a rapturous reception, with many in the audience having waited years to see these guys back on stage together. Launching into the first two tracks from The Demon Joke, Mike Vennart, Gambler and Steve Durose looked like they’d never been away.
The new songs sounded huge and punchy, tailor-made for live performance. New drummer Denzel and Gambler provided the weight, whilst Duroses guitar-work and remarkable falsetto provided the space, allowing Vennart himself to punch through with twisted little riffs and pitch perfect rock vocals.
The set was scattered with old Oceansize numbers. Mike had made it clear earlier on twitter that these shouldn’t be considered covers, they had written them after all.
Although the old songs were much adored by the crowd, they actually served to demonstrate how much more punchy and tight his songwriting has become.
The home crowd reception coupled with anecdotes about Salford life created the intimate, happy atmosphere of a homecoming party. Mike’s on stage rock mannerisms - at one point kissing his guns, at another nearly taking out a cameraman with leg kicks - came over as celebratory rather than showy, proving how comfortable and adept a frontman he is.
The single ‘Operate’ went down a storm, with the crowd singing along to every defiant word, but the other album tracks from the new record were equally well received. Retaliate in particular sounded fantastic, one of the tracks that only really makes sense live.
The inevitable encore involved an absolute Oceansize classic ‘Only Twin’, followed by a cover of a Cardiacs tune, well documented to be Mike’s favourite band. We left the gig thrilled, if anything more excited about the new material, rather than simply hankering for the old.