The North’s leading conference and new music event, Off the Record 2017 returned to Manchester’s Northern Quarter to bring us a full day fresh music and pivotal debate. Featuring conferences ranging from addressing the gender imbalance of the music industry to discussing how venues can help support deaf and disabled audience members, prominent industry experts were there to teach attendees about some of the industry’s most vital issues. After the afternoon talks, we scoured the venues throughout the night to bring you Off The Record’s top three most promising acts:
With a set bursting with post-punk vibes, it’s safe to say that Hull’s Lumer open Off The Record with a resounding bang. A broken microphone threatens to drag down gritty opener ‘Futile’ – but there’s no worries from the quartet, whose fevered passion carries the track along to its thundering climax.
The jarring notes of ‘Gruel’ see synth player Thom Foster strip off his Yowl top off to headbang like mad; singer/bassist Alex Evans follows suit, writhing about both off and onstage like he’s in the midst of an exorcism. Getting down on the floor to scream into the crowd’s faces during the whirring synth melodies of latest single ‘Homicide’, Evans’ raw vocals bring an experimental edge to a phenomenally strong performance.
QUEEN ZEE & THE SASSTONES
With the psych riffs of King Gizzard and the energy of Black Lips, Liverpool’s Queen Zee & The Sasstones are a killer garage force to be reckoned with. “This song’s about my disappointing sex life – and if you don’t fucking dance to it, I’ll take it personally” laughs frontwoman Zee, before breaking into the fiery ‘Porno’ that whips the crammed Soup Kitchen crowd into an absolute frenzy. The energy in the room in incomparable, with Zee requesting everyone to do their most embarrassing dance as The Sasstones slam through heavy punk hits off September’s spellbinding Eat My Sass EP.
Before the group exist stage, Zee has one final statement. “In the 2016 Orlando massacre, 50 people didn’t come home – purely because of how they identified. Fuck transphobia! Fuck homophobia! Punk is not dead!” The hushed silence in the room breaks into insane screams and rapturous applause as Zee pays homage to Manchester’s “great fucking queer scene”. Blurring the lines between sexuality, gender and identity, Queen Zee & The Sasstones are an act pivotal to the current music scene – and are changing the industry gig by gig. And how can you not love a group who end their set with a mental cover of Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’?
“It’s gonna get motherfucking loud” shouts FEHM vocalist Paul Riddle, before the Leeds quintet smash the last few minutes that remain of their shortened set thanks to technical difficulties. A band building both their reputation and popularity by the second, it’s a strict one-in, one-out policy for The Castle as staff try to control the desperate crowd outside.
With latest single ‘Human Age’ channeling their post-punk influences, it becomes immediately apparent that the five-piece are undeniably talented. Commanding and powerful, Amy Fishlock’s basslines carry the band through brooding tracks that shine with melancholy. A striking figure baring resemblance to Bowie’s Thin White Duke era, Riddle’s vocals are flawless – haunting at times, deadpan at others. FEHM are a Leeds powerhouse, there’s no doubt about that – and it’s going to be no surprise when they blast into the mainstream in 2018.