No strangers to hosting Manchester’s best gigs, local promoters Now Wave and Strange Days team up annually to bring you Strange Waves – an amalgamation that summons one of the hottest line-ups of the year. With last year’s bill boasting King Gizzard, The Wytches and The Big Moon, 2017’s edition somehow managed to top it – throwing Parquet Courts, Beach Fossils, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Omni, Ultimate Painting, Dead Pretties, Tempesst, Nap Eyes, Laurel and Insecure Men all up on the two stages of the O2 Ritz.
Kicking off with 2014’s eponymous track, Ultimate Painting are every bit as beautiful live as you’d expect. ‘Out in the Cold’ and ‘(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues’ ensure that 2015’s Green Lanes is well-represented; flanked either side by founders/guitarists Jack Cooper and James Hoare, bassist Will Young brings some much-appreciated funky riffs to back soaring vocal harmonies and country-inspired guitar chords. It’d be easy to assume Ultimate Panting would be dull live – but by producing such an enormous and intriguing sound, that’s simply not the case.
Tempesst deliver the groovy lift everyone needs as the Aussie-born, London-bred outfit demand the Ritz’s basement is as crammed as it can be. Psychedelic lights swirl as ‘Broke Down Blues’ and ‘Too Slow’ bring dirty guitar riffs and a driving beat that’s impossible to not dance to. Andy Benjanin is the happiest drummer you’ll ever see live, sporting a huge grin alongside his unstoppable energy to keep the crowd at the peak of enthusiasm.
Bursting with confidence are Dead Pretties, London’s freshest punk trio and latest prodigy that have everyone talking. Love ‘Social Experiment’ on record? Then wait till you see it live; Oscar Browne’s bass riffs are catapulted to the next level, as Ben Firth’s frantic and thrashing drumming threatens to bring down the basement ceiling. Vocalist/guitarist Jacob Slater teams with energy, screaming and pointing to the crowd after every sick riff in latest tune ‘Confidence’ that’s won the three national attention. They’re a welcome break from the night’s hazy line-up – and it’s clear that after this performance, Dead Pretties are one of the greatest young live bands around.
“We’re from Melbourne, and it’s lovely to be in Manchester for the first time!” grins Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever singer-guitarist Fran Keaney. To say there’s a warm reception for the Aussie 5-piece would be underrating it slightly – the room is absolutely heaving with a crowd desperate to catch a rare glimpse of the band in Northern turf. ‘Wide Eyes’ has the prettiest chord structure of the night, emphasised by three onstage guitars to ensure the quintet aren’t short of noise; ‘Julie’s Place’ is a banger off March’s The French Press EP that calls for bopping heads and raucous applause. There’s no doubt that Manchester’s infatuated with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – let’s just hope they come back soon.
Beach Fossils are cool as fuck; there’s no question about it. High expectations permeate an audience who consider Somersault to be one of, if not the best album of 2017 – but there’s no need to worry. ‘This Year’ kicks us off with dreamy vocals and reverb-laden riffs; ‘Tangerine’ is a slice of hazy perfection that sees the crowd literally fall over themselves with anticipation. “Yes daddy!” Dustin Payseur smirks after every song, audience screams fueling his mellow persona as he confidently delivers clean vocals harmonies again and again. ‘Down the Line’ and ‘Saint Ivy’ are particularly tight, two clean tracks the showcase the quartet’s multi-instrumentalist talents and ability to play ridiculously well. Beach Fossils have both their nonchalant stage presence and lo-fi live sound nailed down – and it’s impossible to find fault with their performance.
It may be past midnight, but Parquet Courts aren’t tired. New York royalty and certified garage legends, the quartet thrust themselves into the universal spotlight with 2016’s Human Performance. Andrew Savage’s vocals are stupidly on-point, sounding as drawling and laid-back as ever, and there’s no shying away from that Doors-style synth, either, with guitarist Austin Brown ensuring that ‘Human Performance’ and ‘Berlin Got Blurry’ sound exactly as they do on recording . A circle pit forms to the plodding beat of ‘Captive of the Sun’, bassist Sean Yeaton’s constant head-bops further whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
‘Instant Disassembly’ sees Savage utilise his whammy bar to its full potential and deliver vocals that are utterly fautless – but it’s Light Up Gold’s ‘Borrowed Time’ that causes the biggest ruckus of the night, the audience shrieking along with every deadpan lyric. “We like to drink with Sean, ’cause Sean is our mate!” quips Brown as Yeaton downs his beer, spurring on the crowd to chant down from eight as the quartet thank the “local custom” that they picked up. “We love you Mancunions” grins Savage before wrapping it up with absolute belter ‘One Man No City’; judging by the sweaty faces all around, it’s clear that Manchester are in love with Parquet Courts, too.