Hidden from Manchester’s rainy streets, the fashion-conscious cognoscenti gather inside AllSaints for an invite-only event to celebrate the Autumn/Winter collection launch. Nestled within the women’s section – an unusual setting for at least fifty percent of those here – we’re treated to a free party that could rival those in The Great Gatsby. Free drinks are flowing and we’ve got music from Domino label hotshot Eugene McGuinness, plus a DJ set from Charlatans legend, Tim Burgess, to accompany them.
Inside this sumptuous outlet the crowd are privy to a performance so intimate that you can see the whites of Eugene’s eyes. He glares back at us intensely while aptly singing about “going for the jugular” in ‘Harlequinade’. The disco-synth beat of which provides a beseeching call to tonight’s makeshift dance-floor. With such a forceful stare we’re almost afraid to meet his gaze incase we’re not dancing hard enough. It’s clear he’s got huge passion for the material and those watching can’t help but feel involved in that.
A foppish gent, the Londoner is adorned in attire from the store, with his trademark ‘50s quiff topping things off. There’s nothing “emperor’s clothes” about his performance either. The seven song set is an abridged version of recent album ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’. It’s a journey peppered with ineluctable indie hooks and retro references.
An ex-Miles Kane session musician, there’s an overall mod revival feel to his material, with inclinations to earlier eras too. ‘Sugarplum’ is a modern take on big-band swing, with a four-four beat and an anthemic chorus at its core, tonight being sung by the rest of the band too for added emphasis. Huge hitter ‘Lion’ revolves around a country-twang riff over which Eugene’s natural exuberant stage confidence comes to the fore. Leaning one arm on the mic stand, he effortlessly fills the room with energy as this fast-paced indie-pop slice accrues attention. The Duane Eddy ‘Peter Gunn’ emulating riff of ‘Shotgun’ proves to be the pinnacle of proceedings. Its sauntering bass loop exudes cool – a perfect track for a Wild West shoot-out as the sun goes down. Here, as the dandified congregation nod their heads and go eye to eye with Eugene McGuinness we could be in some modern equivalent. He doesn’t blink, unflinchingly pulling the trigger on another explosive moment with a nonchalant attitude.
He hangs around in the women’s section like the rest of us after the performance comes to a close, meeting fans and having his picture taken. Meanwhile iconic Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess takes over on the decks, spinning a selection of notable classics and more esoteric gems for discernable ears. His mixing is impaired by fans eager to meet the Britpop legend mid-spin, and he obliges, revelling in the good-natured atmosphere created by the luxurious setting of the store. As last orders sound at the free bar there’s an audible groan. People are enjoying themselves too much. The clinking of glasses and inebriated chatter is music to our ears after Tim finishes with a final tune.
Check out the AllSaints Basement Sessions for further sessions and interviews.
Words by Simon Butcher
Photo by Rebecca-Jane Callaby
With thanks to Red Stag and Rekorderlig – http://www.facebook.com/RedStagUK