22nd April 2015
Review by Toria Morgan
Photography by Jas Stephenson
A warm evening in central Manchester, Oxford Road is rife with students coming and going. I see some of them ordering a late dinner and others ordering their first vodka of the night, all taking place in the same bar I’m waiting in, just over the road from the Manchester Academy. A long line of likely looking characters form a queue, the vast majority sporting ‘The Birthday Massacre’ t-shirts, so already I know these Canadian rockers have quite a following here in Manchester.
The gig took place in Academy 2, a small intimate venue that filled up extremely quickly. First act of the night was The Dead Betas; an electro-punk band from Devon. The band is made up of Tobias Monsters, Aidan Sugarboi, Martron, Kazraine Maars and Bong Smell according to research. I was pleasantly surprised! The only way I can describe them is if you can imagine a long lost lovechild of Rob Zombie and The Sex Pistols, then there you have it. Punk rock met the synthesiser when this band got together and it never, ever looked back. Their sound was completely different from anything I’d heard before but strangely enough, it really worked. Like chilli and chocolate. Shouldn’t work, but does.
Though they seemed to be less well known than The Birthday Massacre, they definitely held the crowd’s attention. I even recall a guy in skimpy clothes and a Shrek mask strutting his stuff on the stage. The mask and a tight, tight skirt earned him the nickname: ‘Stupid Sexy Shrek’ in my notes. A lovingly tweaked version of ‘Stupid Sexy Flanders’ from The Simpsons, since his back side is burned into my memory. I was amused to watch him fight with a boob tube top; trying to keep it up, having to adjust it constantly. As every girl knows, the struggle is real guys.
Those who weren’t too stunned to look away bobbed their heads along with this brand new sound and all in all, I was quite impressed with the way they played. It was as though I already knew their songs, their vocals were familiar, like I had heard them before even though I hadn’t. Typical British punk verses electro. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly who they sounded like but they were easy to listen to. Very reminiscent of the punk era but revamped somewhat. I felt like they filled a niche I never knew needed filling and my mind was broadened for the experience. There is definitely a market out there for these guys and they can count me as an appreciator of their sound.
Soon they left the stage, people headed off to the bar or left to smoke a cigarette before returning to the next act which were Australian band: The Red Paintings. This band comprised of lead vocalist and songwriter Trash McSweeney, seemingly the driving force behind this particular road show. According to research it also includes Alix Kol on violin and vocals, Mitch McLennan on bass guitar, Andy Davis on drums and Emma Baker on cello. I would give these guys 10/10 for originality. They fall into the genre of Orchestral Art Rock which I personally never knew existed, but after seeing them live I am oh so glad it does.
I am a big fan of violin music and was very excited when I saw a super cool kimono clad, violin playing girl take to the stage. Her playing was excellent and her chiming in with vocals worked so well I thought it deserved a mention. Violins and rock music works for these guys. The stage was theatrical in set up, complete with huge props making up their set. Not that they needed any of the stage gimmicks to be enjoyable, but I did appreciate it and thought it set them apart from the rest. Visually engaging as well as audibly engaging.
The lead singer, Trash McSweeney seemed a bit ‘too cool for school.’ He seemed so effortlessly laid back, the way he rebelliously handled his guitar and spoke into the microphone with the Aussie accent. We all know being Australian makes a person automatically cooler than pretty much everyone. He was obviously a person meant for the stage, his performance was somewhat organic and natural.
One aspect of their performance I loved was that they asked for a painter to come up on stage and paint a ‘canvas’ while they performed. I thought this idea was so cool and original, and as an artist myself, I had to resist the overwhelming urge to muscle my way to the front and demand to be picked. Instead I remained in control and stayed in the audience, resigned to watching the lucky individual get to paint on stage.
Their appearance and theme for this particular show was Japanese inspired. I liked their energy and the songs they played. They sounded different from the usual with the added instruments like the violin, it really made them stand out to me. Going to gigs like this constantly throws up new music, the sounds of which I’ve never heard before. These are the kind of bands that make me realise that what has made it in the mainstream charts can be astonishingly dull in comparison to what is going on with real creative music like this. Trash’s voice could easily slot into the tracks of the new rock sound you hear the youth of today listening to, his sound is well suited to today’s culture but I appreciate the rebellious take on the genre they have as a band. They definitely thought outside the box and I was thoroughly entertained.
They engaged well with the crowd, they even livened up the atmosphere and I saw plenty of movement down at the front with people enjoying themselves. Moshing to a band you have only just heard is a sure sign that they did well. Their performance drew to a close with a high energy number and I was sad to see the back of them.
During this interval the crowd didn’t disappear to smoke, the bar was not packed. Instead the people stayed put. Everyone who had been hovering around the bar at the back moved in to find a space closer to the front. The crowd squashed in and previous gaps in the audience were immediately filled. I sensed the anticipation and excitement in the air.
Finally The Birthday Massacre made their appearance. The Toronto based band is made up of vocalist Chibi, Falcore on guitar, Rainbow also on guitar, Owen on synthesizer, Nate Manor on bass guitar and Rhim on drums. As soon as they took to the stage the crowd responded enthusiastically, cheering them loudly, Manchester gave them a great reception. They too engaged well with the crowd and despite the gothic exterior, which I loved, they came across as quite a friendly bunch!
The lead singer, Chibi was actually adorable. She had a great voice and spoke well to the crowd, thanking them regularly and generally showing her gratitude. I really found her a likable character and her reaction to her fans was genuine. She seemed friendly and approachable. Their sound was a dark synth, gothic rock. It worked really well with their over all look. I thought their appearance was just the right amount of gothic verses romantic.
They played some new songs first, which were well received by the audience. This let me know that they are still extremely current in their industry and their fans obviously keep up to date with their music. But it was when they played more of their old stuff that the venue came to life. Two songs caught my attention: ‘Video Kid’ and ‘Pins And Needles.’ To this actual moment in time, I still have the song ‘Pins And Needles’ stuck in my head, even though I hadn’t heard that particular track before the night of the concert. It was so catchy and the crowd sang along with great enthusiasm.
I did notice the lyrics of a lot of their songs were quite deep and clever, also fitting well with the music. Like perhaps whichever one of them penned lyrics had a keen mind for rhyming and appropriate wording. Lyrics are always something I try and take note of, meaningful words can attract me to a song sometimes even more than a catchy tune can. But these guys seemed to have both. So often bands lack lyrically but play great music and manage to get away with shoddy repetitive lyrics. The Birthday Massacre thankfully aren’t one of these bands, and I could actually tell what she was saying during the songs, her words were clear and not lost to noise at all.
Right until the end of their set they maintained high energy levels and the audience’s love of this headlining band was more than apparent. I liked the level of mutual adoration between band and audience. They absolutely rocked Academy 2, bringing the small venue to life and playing without any noticeable flaws in the stifling heat conditions. I totally recommend giving them a listen, as with The Red Paintings if you want something a little different, and The Dead Betas if you want a new spin on punk. On the whole, a great gig!