Manchester is a city that is steeped in musical history; it's birthed a plethora of bands and even it's own somewhat debatable genre of music. It's no surprise then, that occasionally you get a gig when the line-up of bands is of such a calibre that it's impossible not to attend. Tonight, at the Ruby Lounge, is one such night. Headlining the bill are Cleethorpes-born, Manchester-bred Orphan Boy who have just completed their second album, a follow up to YEAR Shop Local entitled Passion, Pain and Loyalty. Supporting them are Midlands based The Antics, and local Manc bands Frazer King and Velocets.
First to tonight's stage are Life's A Beech regulars Velocets. Hailing from Stockport, the band play a kind of post-indie that occasionally finds itself bordering on shoegaze although never quite straying . Opening with their first single 'Sophie' is a safe bet to appease a crowd that's still on the thin side, something we can attribute to the 7:45 start time. They change it up with the inclusion of a song so new it's yet to be named, while fan-favourites such as the rip-roaring 'Tell It To Your Kids' and the candid 'Naked' fit in to the set-list like the future classics they are. Velocets are one of the most exciting bands making the rounds at the minute; a breath of fresh air in an scene that's seen it all before. If you haven't checked them out already, you should definitely do so this year.
Second on the bill were The Antics, who blend classic rock style guitar licks with Happy Monday's type vocals in a fusion of sleaze, sex and the obligatory colloquial accent. Playing to a venue that has begun to fill up, the band serves to warm the crowd up nicely as the anticipation begins to mount. The band round their set off with 'Party's Over' but for the crowd, it's really only just beginning.
The third band to take to the stage are Manchester's Frazer King, a quirky and eclectic six piece. By this point the venue is pretty much at max capacity, again they serve as a more than fitting appetizer to tonight's main course. Crowd and band alike by now have sunk their fair share of ciders, and as the band glide effortlessly through the likes of 'Rocking the Cradle' and 'Eunoch Growl', it's clear that the bar has been set particularly high for Orphan Boy.
Finally, as the anticipation in the venue almost reaches breaking point, tonight's headliners hit the stage, opening with the first song from their forthcoming album 'Letter for Annie' in which huge sounding verses are mixed with candid lyrics amidst distinctively crunchy feedback. The crowd reaction to Orphan Boy is as expected for a band back on the road after a three month break and is aided by the size of the venue that only adds to the atmosphere which is palpable. A mixture of old and new songs punctuate Orphan Boy's set, with the likes of older tracks such as 'Middle Class Roots' fitting in neatly next to newer, more recent affairs such as 'Harbour Lights' and 'Popsong'. It's been almost five years since the release of Orphan Boy's début album, but the older songs still sound just as fresh and pack just as much of a punch as the newer tracks which, in turn, exhibits a maturity in their song writing, progressing from 'council rock' to the newly established 'lad art'. The fact that these guys can just coin genres is a testament to their sense of humour, obviously you're not going to find a section in your local record store devoted to 'post-post-punk' but it's a name that fits their music, and it exhibits a distinct sense of light-hearted cheekiness to the band which sets them apart from a their contemporaries.
It's clear tonight that those in the crowd have witnessed three bands which are definitely on the up and up, and headliners, Orphan Boy, who have been missing in action until really quite recently. That said though, it's good to have them back on the scene, and what a way they've gone about it, cementing their name in to the hearts and minds of Manchester's music fans, all the while laying the next stones on the path way to nationwide recognition. Keep on going lads, it's definitely going to pay off.