Live Report: Sounds From The Other City 2024

A joyous day out championing new music...

From L.S. Lowry, John Cooper Clarke, Joy Division, the Lads Club… Salford has many significant names and iconography in the history of art and culture, which is why it seems entirely appropriate to look to the future of the arts and culture in Salford. 

Sounds From The Other City (SFTOC) is a multi-venue day festival located across the length of Chapel Street, the vein which connects Salford to the border of Manchester. It seeks to champion local promoters and local artists for an unforgettable bank holiday Sunday, diving into the underground. 

What sets SFTOC apart from almost every other festival around is a freewheeling approach to its programming that creates an authentically co-created event.  Each year the festival invites a selection of the grassroots independent scene of the region – live promoters, record labels, club nights, magazines, venues – hands them a venue and a budget and lets them go to town, with total free rein on what they programme.

This year’s lineup was stacked with wonderful new artists from Manchester, Salford and beyond. This unfortunately posed a challenge, dealing with lineup splits and time slots. Unfortunately it’s impossible to see everyone. 

The miracle of this bank holiday Sunday in Salford though, was that the weather was beautiful. For once, the Salford skies were clear blue – not grey – and the sun was beaming down Chapel Street. This led to an early afternoon wetting the whistle with a few tins in the park, making the most of this extremely rare freak Salford weather event, and then I collected my yellow wristband and began to explore the bustling area. Outside of Maxwell Hall, there was a lovely spot of grass taken up by food vendors, a bar, an outdoor seating area, and DJs. It was the perfect spot to get my bearings. 

I began my quest for live music visiting the Working Class Movement Library, just over the road from Maxwell Hall, for an astounding performance from the wonderful R.AGGS. The audience was eased into their set with some slow, ambient soundscapes, before increasing the tempo as the set continued. R.AGGS creative mission is to decolonise folk music, and it’s a mission I’ve found very interesting and have reflected on since. Folk music is predominantly white and imperialistic, and folk music from African or Asian countries is usually considered world music, which upon reflection completely trivialises important aspects of their cultures and traditions. I left the set educated, and will be keeping a close eye on R.AGGS mission, as well as their brilliant music. 

When leaving the Movement Library, we enjoyed ten minutes back in the sunshine and walked down to St. Phillip’s Church to catch a performance from Viji. Her alternative pop-punk sound is brilliant, and a particular favourite of mine is her track Sedative. However, as I walked into St. Phillip’s Church for the first time, my breath was taken away. Towering above the stage was a stained glass window with an artwork of St. Philip, and as the sun was setting, it shone through the glass into the church, evoking an almost religious experience. In awe at the saintly scene, I appropriately uttered the word “Christ”. 

Afterwards, we walked a couple of minutes to the Old Pint Pot, a lovely riverside pub with two floors. Me and my gang enjoyed a pint on one of the riverside balconies and listened to Nature Boi blast some heavy, yet simultaneously soulful bars from the inside of Pint Pot. We liked the venue so much we had to return later on. 

In the meantime though, we returned to the church for Nightbus, Their anthemic and mellow alternative sound that the band describes as “late night music” was perfect to close off the first part of the evening. Their latest track Average Boy is a beautiful listen, with spacious production and reverberating guitar lines behind the stunning vocals. Their set was very enjoyable, but the acoustics in St. Phillips Church unfortunately didn’t do their music justice. A lot of people talking too, and rather loudly, didn’t help either. What happened to gig etiquette? 

We then couldn’t help but return to the Old Pint Pot and watched Crimewave. His heavy industrial sound, and combining shoegaze with contemporary electronic music made an excellent set with impressive soundscapes for one man with decks and a guitar. He got the downstairs of Pint Pot turning almost feral, and the crowd, albeit a small one, absolutely loved it – myself included. 

Determined to find somewhere to party after Crimewave, we ventured into the night and returned to Maxwell Hall, where we caught the end of A Guy Called Gerald, the Manchester acid house legend and early member of 808 State. We grooved, watched wonderful DJ sets from Lil Minx and Jenna G, and then it was time for Obeka: Drums of Utopia. Obeka is a fantastically skilled drummer, and his Drums of Utopia project intersects African and Latin drum music and shines a light on its terrific sounds, with Obeka drumming at the centre. The set was electrifying, and at this point, the various tins of Seven Brothers I’d consumed throughout the day were beginning to catch up with me. 

In fairness, it came at the perfect time. Co-founder and resident of the Manchester late night party High Hoops was closing out the night at Maxwell Hall. Fastlove is a wonderful house and electronic DJ, and his B2B with Aiden Francis meant we could dance the night away. Complete with backup dancers on stage, the set was a spectacle and the perfect way to close out the festival in style. 3am meant Maxwell Hall, the final venue still open at the festival, had to close, and I stumbled back down Chapel Street back home, and reflected on a truly marvellous day. 

Not only was SFTOC a great day out, it’s also very important. In these troubling times, being an new and emerging artist is harder than ever. It’s become near impossible for these artists to make a decent living, so it’s vital we have festivals, venues and promoters willing to show how amazing the underground scenes can really be. These artists are special, and giving them your support, going to their shows, buying their merch… can be a lifeline for them. They can do what they love, while gifting us with phenomenal music to make our lives not only a hell of a lot more fun, but also better. 

Thank you, Sounds From The Other City – not only for a brilliant day out – but for supporting wonderful artists and creatives – and showing people how fantastic they really are. I can’t wait for next year!

Words: Kieran Macadie

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