Off The Record Festival 2016: A Review

In case you’ve missed our posts about it, Off the Record is the latest event to hit Manchester’s Northern Quarter. A combination of conferences and gigs from up-and-coming artists, Off the Record was organised by the teams behind Kendal Calling/Bluedot and Liverpool Sound City. They put together a carefully constructed list of music moguls who provided an intrinsic insight into the music industry – as well as showcasing new talent.

For a first attempt, Off The Record knocked it out of the park. The day was well organised, the guests were good and pretty much every act that was selected for the night event were bang on. A few of the talks felt quite dumbed down but they would have proved useful to those who were new to the industry. Highlights included a talk about making the most of technological tools and also a conversation that took place with Jeremy and Jonathan of Everything Everything.

After a few brief drinks at Dive, it was on to the main event, the music (myself and Daisy Summerfield went off on our separate paths for these).

North-East quartet Eat Fast had the honours of kicking off my night with their fuzz-infused intimate Aatma set.  Latest single ‘Public Display of Affection’, a Wavves x Nai Harvest mash-up, saw the band at its rawest; the man waving a can of Strongbow above his head next to me was certainly loving it. ‘Byker Drone’, from debut EP Fenham Dread(Lock), screamed dynamic scuzz with its wailing guitars and heavy bass. Eat Fast are only in their infancy – but if their live set is anything to go by, they’re undoubtedly one to watch.

Considering that he was the first act of the evening at the Night and Day, XamVolo managed to draw in a decent sized crowd. His unique style of Jazz kept the audience intrigued throughout his set, which was helped by his cool as f*ck look, and voice.

The first visit to Soup Kitchen happened because of an act that we’ve written about a couple of times in the past. Saltwater Sun had great energy and some right catchy songs, but an earlier than advertised set meant that there wasn’t many there until near the end. An act that I’d definitely like to see again. Check out their latest EP Flawed.

Caro were the selection of Radio 1 mogul, Huw Stephens, and experienced a one in/one out crowd over at The Castle. Considering that these are early days for the three piece, it certainly doesn’t show. A tight, entertaining and energetic performance that had me thinking that I’d certainly just witnessed something a bit special. Expect to see these guys a bigger venue near you soon, starting with a support slot of Gengahr later this month.

Strong Asian Mothers over at Soup Kitchen the grooviest and tightest band I’ve seen in recent months. For only three members, the hip-hop alt-pop London trio sounded huge, particularly in the Glass Animals inspired numbers ‘Stay Down’ and ‘The More That I’, from May’s debut Lynx Africa. Vocalist and synth player Amer Chadha-Patel treated us to a view of his long johns halfway through the set – “my trousers keep falling down, it’s not very sexy” – but it was their lo-fi twist upon En Vogue’s ‘Don’t Let Go’ that really won me, and the rest of Soup Kitchen, over.

It was back again to Aatma to catch TVAM, the grunge-infused solo project of Wigan’s Joe Oxley. TVAM has been an act that I’ve been eager to catch since the release of  electronic ‘Porshe Majeure’ back in 2015; hearing it live, alongside crowd-favourite ‘No Explanations’ far exceeded expectations. If the retro television onstage wasn’t quirky enough, then the fluorescent psychedelic imagery being broadcast that Oxley creates himself certainly was; upcoming release ‘Total Immersion’ was accompanied by a compilation of Soviet space missions that was sort of like watching the final act of Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. Avant-garde? Definitely. And I loved every minute.

Last up was Willie J Healey at The Castle, way over exceeded his 30-minute slot with his Mac DeMarco vibe – not that I’m complaining. Reigning from Oxford and supporting the likes of Beach Baby, Healey has been making a name for himself as of late – and it’s clear to see why. Live, his voice is powerful yet smooth, heartfelt yet blunt; “my pipe dreams are fading, cause I’m so lazy” he sings to the room, his voice in ‘Pipedreams’ echoing off the high wooden ceiling of The Castle. As ‘Subterraneans’ brings his set to a mellow and fantastic end, I’m reminded again why Off the Record is truly so brilliant; it allows young artists such as these to be thrust into the radar of a multitude of audiences.