Tuesday morning brought about a sombre air to Manchester, a stifling closeness born of the events of Monday night – everything felt a little too sharp, a little too real: the city was in mourning. But Manchester is a hardy place, one of life, joy and creativity, and in the wake of such a tragedy, burst forth a warmth of community – the streets may have seemed harsh and grey, but the people of Manchester had an open softness about them, offering those meaningful consolatory smiles as I walked through the city. There was an uncertainty as to whether events around the city would be taking place, but true to the spirit of Manchester, we weren’t going to let the heart of life that defines our home be extinguished.
An unspoken solidarity among the crowd arriving at Gorilla quelled any anxieties about the night, with the intimacy of the venue amplifying a sense of unity amongst the concert goers (who appeared to be arriving to a national cropped trousers convention – myself included). A fantastic support from Egyptian Hip Hop’s former singer, Aldous RH, set the mood to “dimmed lights, red bulb” with his seductive blend of contemporary funk and R’n’B. His Jacksonesque vocals soared over warped psychedelia, with the all subtly of a heart-shaped bed – a sound evoking sleazy 70’s slow-jams viewed in the reflection of a funhouse mirror.
Revelling in the languid, seedy air of Aldous RH, HOMESHAKE took to the stage to the soundtrack of certain DVD store backrooms, before diving straight into a set of R’n’B infused jangle pop. HOMESHAKE – being the solo endeavour of Mac Demarco’s ex-guitarist, Peter Sagar – will always draw comparisons to their more high profile contemporary: there’s a definite sense of familiarity in the hazy mirage of shimmering guitar grooves that opened their set. But rather than resting on the laurels of association, Sagar has elevated and transformed his sound into something more sensual, building up a sheen of warm synth and slow pulsing rhythms. The interplay between R’n’B gloss, an impeccably tight rhythm section and a lo-fi slacker aesthetic transcends the sound whence it came – channelling it into a set awash with dreamy summer vibes.
That slacker aesthetic carried over into their onstage presence. Whereas most bands would suffer from such a relaxed demeanour, it only served to accentuate the cool detachment aroused by the leisurely groove of Sagar’s band. “The last song was about a telephone, and this one is too” served to be the extent of Sagar’s soft-spoken interludes, and bathed in the rose lights of Gorilla, his gentle understated vocals painted a woozy picture of Vancouver cool.
As they launched into the last three tracks, I looked around to see a crowd in entranced with a blissful glowing energy – I saw all these people smiling and dancing and knew that this was Manchester. This warm sense of belonging and community persisting in the face of such adversity, dispelling the fears and anxieties of the day for just a moment of joy and music. This was the spirit of the city, and I knew that we’d make it through such tough times. Stay strong our kid.