Garden Centre, Porridge Radio & Unpaid Intern – Crown and Kettle, Manchester – 22/03/17

Tinsel and fairy lights grace the awkward stage of Crown and Kettle as Unpaid Intern kick things off – Manchester’s very own five-piece, college-rock affair. 2016 saw the release of debut EP Unrivalled Work Ethic – a particularly appropriate title given their abundance of energy tonight. ‘World Cup of Crisps’ and ‘Cryin On T’bus’ provide us with the frantic thrashing of drums and almost-spoken vocals that drip with deadpan. An emo number in the shape of ‘Kind Regards’ slows things down – a welcome reminder that chill and melodic is what Unpaid Intern do best. “This last song is about Jamie Vardy. It’s not really, but I’m shit at inter-song chat” frontman Thomas Patrick announces, before bursting into screams of “chat shit, get banged!” for their final number. It’s early days for Unpaid Intern – but it’ll be a more than interesting ride to see where they take it from here.

With frontwoman Dana Margolin confirming in our interview that Brighton quintet Porridge Radio would be a stripped-back trio for the night, it came as no surprise to hear acoustic renditions of tracks from 2016’s banger Rice, Pasta, And Other Fillers. Gentle synth notes support Margolin’s tender vocals in ‘Sorry’, her voice brimming with an emotion that I haven’t heard from a vocalist in a long while. Lead track ‘Eugh’ is the highlight of the set, building from soft guitar chords into Margolin suddenly screaming “don’t be a jerk!” to the crammed crowd.  Porridge Radio are the undisputed champions of carving tender lyrics and wrapping them up in an angst-ridden exterior; there’s Daughter vibes here for sure, but they’re took to a fresher, younger level. The rapturous applause as they exit stage shows that I’m not the only one banking on them being one of the next bands to fiercely break through.

Brighton’s Garden Centre are always a lo-fi pleasure to see; as the five-piece walk onstage embellished with yellow sunflower headdresses, it appears that tonight is no exception. Catchy second album Monster Energy has only been out a mere week, and Ex-King of Cats frontman Max Levy’s high-pitched vocals are most definitely an acquired taste – but judging by the racous crowd around me, nobody is displeased. Their set is littered with short poppy numbers and twee acoustic melodies, with lyrics quirkily twisting ordinary events into brilliant song material. Levy is more than happy to chat to us, interjecting the set with friendly quips now and then. ‘Urinal’ is “dedicated to the guy having a piss earlier”; 2016’s ‘Junk Beach’ is introduced with a smile – “I don’t write songs about the beach because I don’t have long flowing hair”. The stop-and-start bass of ‘Scrap Yard’, and the beautiful chord structure of ‘Supermoon’, are both memorable moments – but it’s clear that ‘Riding’, as happy and erratic as ever, steals the show. With a dull Manchester night brightened, once again, by some of Brighton’s finest offerings, keep your fingers crossed that this isn’t the last time Garden Centre and Porridge Radio team up to tour.

Catch Garden Centre and Porridge Radio at one of their remaining March tour dates:

24 – Leeds, The Fenton
25 – Sheffield, Picture House Social
26 – Oxford, The Library
28 – London, The Beehive

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