1. No offence to Water Rats, but this is better.

    Andy Hull hasn’t strung more than about two sentences together for most of the night - which is strange for such an eloquent man - but tonight, on the biggest UK show Manchester Orchestra have ever played, he doesn’t really need to. Standing in front of a large sign that simply reads COPE, the name of their fourth record, they’re choosing to let songs from it and their three previous albums do the talking. Reworking many of their bigger songs to give an all together new feeling to the assembled crowd at Shepherd’s Bush Empire they power through a huge set of riffs and emotionally driven slower pieces alike as if they’re old classics. To many who’ve bought tickets to the event, these songs are and they reconvene and chant back everything in a religious fashion. 

    It’s these people who’ve been here for almost ten years, many of them since their debut Like A Virgin Losing A Child, bringing a few people along to their Mean Everything To Nothing tour and so on to this point in which the band are performing at their utter peak in venues a lot more of their deserving.

    Opening with the riff-centred “Pride” before taking up the tempo with “Shake It Out”, the band are obviously aware of the success Mean Everything To Nothing brought them. In fact, it’s not until their fifth track that they pay any real notice to the sign hanging above them. “Every Stone” and “The Ocean” come out in full effect before the haunting sound of “I Can Barely Breathe” fills Shepherd’s Bush. 

    Perhaps the reason that there’s not many words spoken tonight can be accredited to two things. One -  the lyrical content and anthemic nature of Hull’s songwriting; combined with the unique way those tracks are performed do much of the talking. This explains a lot, but its the words that are said that fill in the blanks. It’s all grateful thanks. There’s no explanations, no awkward pauses, just thanks. Quietly, whilst making quite the raucous along the way, Manchester Orchestra have become a band that can sell out (if on the door), one of London’s most iconic buildings.

    Opening their encore with Deer demonstrates this perfectly. “Dear everybody who has paid to see my band” sings Hull as 2000 fans roar back at him, “it’s still confusing, we’ll never understand”.

    For anyone that wasn’t already on the same page, it’s the penny drop moment; and in good time too with only two songs left. “Where Have You Been” delivers a sing along eight years in the making, before “The Only One” closes the night. COPE? They owned.

  2. Photo by Molly Penford

    At its best, punk brings you alive, even just for one night.

    Onsind are two cheeky queer lads from Durham who write poignant songs about being a fucking misfit who is angry at all the things you should be fucking angry about. Dissatisfactions was one of the best albums from last year that you didn’t know about until now. Songs like “Either He’s Dead Or My Watch Has Stopped” and “Mildred” are fiery acoustic tunes that tell familiar tales, yet important tales nonetheless. They dedicate the last song, “Heterosexuality Is A Construct” to all the gay, queer and trans folk in the audience and every word is screamed back like it’s all they need to hear. It might even just be.

    Bristolian duo Caves play pop punk ‘til they bleed, ‘til guitarist Lou has thrown his instrument to the ground because of how exhausting their set is. Their songs are crushing yet accessible, eager yet frustrated. “Rubino”, off last year’s Betterment, is the highlight, with winding guitar melodies and subtle key changes in the vocals that highlight the intricacies in their songwriting. And Caves’ songwriting is dedicated to having a damn good time, and blocking out everything around you. Just for one good night.

    Andrew Jackson Jihad, meanwhile, have been bringing the anxieties of being a 21st Century digital boy to the forefront for ten years now. Their albums, from 2007’s People That Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World to this year’s Christmas Island, all document bandleader Sean Bonnette’s confusion and alienation towards the world he finds himself in, using wide instrumentation to stretch what it really means to be a “folk punk” band. Tonight’s their first UK show in three years, but they don’t have anything to prove. Just listen to the songs. The songs that scream at the world and don’t even know if they want an answer. “Kokopelli Face Tattoo” shines brightest out of the new ones, while “People II: The Reckoning” gets a full-band treatment that really pulls Bonnette’s songwriting into new dimensions. “Hate, Rain On Me” feels like beating to death that drowning feeling in your head, and not even winning. They close with a gorgeous “Linda Rondstadt” and “Big Bird”, which sees Bonnette fling himself into the crowd for half of its six minutes, as the people he screams to/at for a living engulf him. Eat him up and spit him back out. For an hour Andrew Jackson Jihad are the most important band in the world. For an hour this is the most important night of your life. And theirs.

  3. Listen: Ben Howard Live from Maida Vale: Howard’s session from earlier this week is quite possibly the most stunning thing you’ll have heard in a while. Playing his new record in full here, here’s a gorgeous extract; “I Forget Where We Were”.