There are only 13 days to go until Sounds, so there’s no better time to get to know our Artistic Directors this year. In the first of 5 takeovers of our Instagram, we’ve handed the keys over top Stina Puotinen – half of the team that created SoundsTown at SFTOC 2018. You can get involved and follow the updates on both feed & story at https://www.instagram.com/sftoc/ – give us a follow, won’t you?
We’re up to an AMBER ALERT on SFTOC tickets, with fewer than 25% left on Skiddle. We’ve got a super strict capacity this year, so once they’re gone, they’re gone: get yours here – https://www.skiddle.com/festivals/sounds-from-the-other-city/
🔊SOUNDSTOWN at The SFTOC Village Green
Roll up, roll up – SoundsTown is back… in town. That’s right, our Annual Village Fete returns – this time with 100% more AstroTurf. All your favourites will be there, bigger and better than ever with crazy competitions, games, prizes and surprises on the Village green all afternoon. Plus, we’re also bringing back the “Onion Ring of Fire Chili Dog” eating competition – with veggie and vegan options, and possibly pickles. HAWT DAWG.
CREATED BY Stina Puotinen
One half of the Sounds from the Other City art direction team that brought you SoundsTown in 2018, Stina Puotinen will be carrying the hot dog baton on into 2019, with a series of inspired roving performances and a “village green” full of fun and frolics. When she’s not wielding a hot dog, Stina is an artist, educator and occasional curator all the way from New York City whose work explores questions of communication and relationships, the (mis)interpretation of objects, actions of spontaneous collaboration and the creation of social space through sculpture, installation and sometimes performance… So that’s what you do with an MFA in Collaborative Practice!
One of the things that has kept Sounds from the Other City fresh over the years has been the unique way that the festival has been programmed: by getting the best promoters from Manchester and beyond to select the acts, there has been a constant regeneration at SFTOC. This has meant that we’ve managed to nab many exciting bands at the start of their careers and created some truly memorable occasions – the time that future Mercury award winners Alt-J and Sampha both shared a stage at The Old Pint Pot being one particularly prime example.
Given this is our 15th anniversary and the unique format of this Quindecennial celebration, we’ve allowed ourselves the small extravagance of booking two acts ourselves to play SFTOC. We’ve picked bands that reflect two of the many sides of the festival – both anarchic and danceable, various shades of light and dark. With only two weeks left until the festival (yep – it is two weeks today: get your tickets here, quick: https://www.skiddle.com/festivals/sounds-from-the-other-city/), we thought we’d take a look at them both.
First up, we’re pleased to welcome See Thru Hands to Sounds. Formed from the ashes of Silverclub, Sirconical and The Pipettes, See Thru Hands channel the angularity of Prince, the left leaning spirit of Talking Heads, the pop suss of Hot Chip and the funk elements of A Certain Ratio to create utter dance floor delirium. They’ve drawn praise from Bootsy Collins (“Radiophonic border line Funk that makes a mutha smile”), been picked out by Everything Everything as a tip for future, and had Manchester Evening News write: “we guarantee you, will surely have the whole city raving in unison come the end of the year.”
You can see them playing live for our friends at Band on the Wall below, while we’ve also got a little bonus interview where they talk about the origins of their band name at the bottom of this piece. We can wait to have them at Sounds, and we’re sure you’re going to love them just as much as we do.
Our second pick are returning heroes, having played the festival first back in 2013. We’re proud to ILL back at Sounds, where they’re sure to add to their SFTOC legacy in emphatic style. Celebrated by Loud & Quiet for creating liberation through disobedient noise, ILL is a genre-evading band which believes in the power of delinquency. Boasting a repertoire of precarious pop songs and frequent improvised departures, ILL revel in the right to be weird whilst exploring the borders between the funny and the sinister, and the mundane and the surreal. The Quietus’ review of their spectacular album We Are Ill sums them up particularly well: “We Are ILL takes their SCUM-punk manifesto and pushes it to the next level as their songs blast out of the speakers in a ruckus of boots, glitter, maladjusted face-paint and vicious pop noise… ILL are a band of happy nihilists and pisstakers, but still the anger on We Are ILL is personal, political and heartfelt.”
A quintessential SFTOC band for our Quindecennial, we couldn’t think of anyone more apt as a house pick for this special edition of the festival.
Aside from our picks, the SFTOC line-up this year is magnificent – you can see it in full here, listen and subscribe to our Spotify playlist here, or watch our exclusive clip with See Thru Hands below
The best day of the year is just around the corner – yes, we’re only 15 days away from Sounds from the Other City 2019! For our 15th year, we’re having a Quindecennial party at Regent’s Trading Estate which will take in the best of every Sounds to date and condense it into a super concentrated one-off festival: we can’t wait to welcome you. Before we start looking forward over the course of our 15 day countdown though, we thought it best to take a look back as to how we got to where we are today with a quick recap of every SFTOC to date. Whether you’ve been to every one, or have only popped along only once or twice, every has their own favourite Sounds memories – something we’re sure our Quindecennial will make many, many more of.
Tickets are almost completely gone for Sounds from the Other City 2019 – the last few are available through Skiddle. Once they’re gone, they’re gone – we’ve a strict, super limited capacity this year: don’t miss out https://www.skiddle.com/festivals/sounds-from-the-other-city/
You know how it is when you have what you think is a really great idea and then as it gets closer to the realisation of that idea you begin to doubt the wisdom of the idea until it gets to the point that you wish that you never had the idea in the first place. Well that is indeed how Sounds from the Other City was born.
2005 is also a tale of getting very lucky as well, with about 4 tickets sold in advance of the day, the sun decided to shine on Bank Holiday Sunday May 1st, like it never had before and a load of people, (who may have been at a loss as to what to do that day) crossed over the River Irwell to check out what became a truly wonderful day out.
Notable acts: Former Bullies, The KBC, Gideon Conn, Jack Cooper
This year saw Blowout on fine form with The Whip providing one of the genuine highlights of the day and a surprise late night set from the long and sadly missed Stazi. Cherry Ghost provided a more mellow surge of interest at the Kings Arms. The infamous Club Brenda party from Islington Mill made its way to the Rovers Return with the predictable carnage ensuing, while next door at the Black Lion the hype pipe blazed all day with appearances from the hotly tipped KBC, Dead Disco and the early Delphic incarnation, Snowfight in the City Centre.
A crazy year leading up to the festival with all hell breaking loose around the Ting Tings at Islington Mill, making it ever so strange to see them make their ‘public’ debut on the most miniscule of stages at the Rovers Return.
Notable acts: The Ting Tings, The Answering Machine, Maple State, Liz Green, The Beep Seals
Phew, as vintages go, this one couldn’t really have got off to a worse start with the Egerton Arms announcing that they would not be playing ball with us on the morning of the event. Bring on the Dancing Horses, in their debut year, proved themselves to be made of sterner stuff and pulled off a remarkable recovery by helping ship camp across the road to Central Salford Train Station and the rest is, as they say, history.. we may never get to see a voice as otherwordly as Seaming To‘s transcend a train station again.
Notable acts: Magic Arm, Vinny Peculiar, Beach Fuzz, Gentle Friendly, Trembling Bells, The Wave Machines, Lonelady
SFTOC’s last addition to the cultural canon of the noughties. At last there was some sunshine, some truly remarkable music and performance and a really wonderful atmosphere created by each and every single person there. We had an absolute blast in 09
Notable acts: Marina & The Diamonds, Peggy Sue, Sweet Baboo, James Ferraro (The Skaters), Mazes, Sophie’s Pigeon
We moved things westside, bringing Islington Mill into the mix as a daytime venue for the first year, along with the glorious St Philip’s Church. This year the obligatory rain was instead replaced by a brisk wind from Siberia but it didn’t dampen the spirits a tiny little jot. And lest we forget the appearance of the now legendary ‘Telephone Showbox’, where lucky punters won a ticket to a one off telephone performance from a host of characterful musicians from around the world, perhaps typified best by Andrew WK‘s words of wisdom washed down with a Guinness and Orange. A really special moment.
Notable acts: Dutch Uncles, Fujiya & Miyagi, Egyptian Hip Hop, Chrome Hoof, Bo Ningen, Divorce, Frank Sidebottom
Now Wave joined the party for the first time and they seemed firmly intent on upstaging all others with a line-up that managed to combine two future Mercury Award winners – Sampha, and a band that was soon to be renamed Alt-J, Films. As the evening wore on into the night, perhaps the highlight of the day was the sight of Zsa Zsa Noir seemingly float raving on a table amidst the sweatiest of sets from D/R.U/G/S. Across the sights their many more weird and wonderful moments Swedish popstrelles, Those Dancing Days, squeezing onto the stage in the upstairs room of the Pint Pot, moments after hair and make-up call in the Landlady’s flat, a spoken word set from Aidan Moffat at the Angel Centre and the enchanting addition of Sonny Smith’s ‘100 Records’ exhibition at the Islington Mill gallery.
This year saw us stretch from the top to bottom of Chapel St, with an almost east/west war going as Faktion put on a moody day of menace at Sacred Trinity Church with Ekoplekz and Vindicatrix, whilst Grey Lantern debuted with a packed room at the Black Lion that was rounded out by a blissful set from Walls. Meanwhile up the top end Now Wave’s and off with their heads made the room sweat with a wildly eclectic day at Islington Mill that kicked off Electrelane’s Verity Susman and ended of with Maria Minerva whilst over at the Old Pint Pot, Mind on Fire took it late into the night with beautiful sets from Shigeto and Lapalux – perphaps the only time those two artists will ever play together in the upstairs room of a pub.
Things ran late, some things broke and didnt run at all, but all the while the sun shone, the faces smiled and everything went wonderfully wild. 2013 was our biggest turn out to date with the event selling its full capacity out by early evening. There were awesome performances all over the venues from the likes of Deptford Goth, Stealing Sheep, Daedelus, Gramme and Queer’d Science, more and more impromtu appearances up and down the street from Marching Bands to Steel Drum ensembles, not to even mention the intergalactic interventions taking place in Volkov Commanders ‘Transformation Tent’ and the most unwholesome afterparty ever with Manchester Scenewipe’s Chat Roulette Disco
As we hit a decade of running SFTOC, we pulled together an event that pushed us to pastures new and managed to become the most fitting celebration of 10 years of party that we could have ever imagined. We set up an outdoor stage for the first time on Bexley Square and invited music/film Collective Video Jam along to set up shop, in hindsight a ridiculous move as translucent tents weren’t envisaged for cinematic experience, but we figured it out in the end. We invited The Volkov Commanders to join us as art directors and and they set about staging ‘The Summoning’, a seance with a difference that unfurled the characters of SFTOC posters past and unleashed them onto the streets of Salford
Notable acts: Lee Gamble, Karen Gwyer, Golden Teacher, Pins, Shield Patterns, Sly and the Family Drone
This year laid witness to some of our most adventurous programming to date, Ex-Easter Island Head and an ensemble from BBC Philharmonic (as captured in our header image), together they created and performed a brand new composition in a shop shell at the soon to be completed Vimto Gardens, whilst Sara Lowes led 9 other musicians in 40 minute monster composition on the historic site of the Battle of Bexley Square. The whole thing was tied together and torn apart by the Costumologists and Faux Queens rabid, pinata fuelled “Micro Cosmic Delirium‘, perhaps nowhere better illustrated than their truly uplifting collaboration with Barberos at the Old Pint Pot.
Notable acts: Jane Weaver, LA Priest, Pinkshinyultrablast, Black Josh, Sauna Youth
As ever, venues such as churches, art galleries, breweries and old mills were as much a part of the experience as the music and art. Yet all was not quite as it seemed, as a strange and spectacular occult theme manifested itself in visual artist himHallows‘ stage and set designs across the festival site. Impromptu performances and costumes appeared throughout the day, culminating in a haunted ‘Sea Captain’s Ball’ at midnight. Elsewhere, festival goers witnessed the birth of SFTOC.TV across the globe and tuned into online radio giants NTS who joined us for a one-off Sunday broadcast. There was loads of sumptuous street food and an ale-extravaganza in a new space at Regent Trading Estate, by leading craft beer experts, Port Street and Cloudwater Brewing Co.
Notable acts: The Big Moon, Seize The Chair, Layfullstop, Hooton Tennis Club, The Parrots, Her’s, Martha, Queer’d Science
In the shadows of cranes on every corner, we witnessed a truly widescreen selection of performances from rising Manchester star IAMDDB‘s slick soul to HMLTD‘s glam stomp through to Flamingods cosmic clangs. Wildness erupted at the Kings Arms as The White Hotel wordsmith Austin Collings unfurled his demented and fragmented piece of musical theatre 2000AD, IMPA.TV marked out our venues with beautifully crafted Totem Poles on the outside and drippingly delicious visuals on the inside and BBC Philharmonic and Ex-Easter Island Head invited along Laura Cannell to lead a breathtaking finale of their collaboration over the last 3 festivals. Meanwhile, IMPA TV turned artistic directors, turning festival goers into cult members with Sound of the New Dawn – culminating in a march down Chapel Street.
It was the biggest, hottest and – according to 81% of our audience (yes, we even did an evaluation!) – ‘best’ festival yet. On an unusually tropical Bank Holiday Sunday our Artistic Directors Stina Puotinen & David Bailey welcomed us into the weird and wonderful world of SoundsTown in a festival theme that encapsulated the true Sounds spirit: including a chaotic dog show, disco seances, a school of painting and decorating and a hot dog eating competition, not to mention 152 acts across 30 stages and afterparty venues.
Notable acts: Anna Burch, Chrystal, Goat Girl, Laura Misch, Lorenzo Senni, Pip Blom, Spectrum, Virginia Wing/Xam Duo
We asked our writer Aisling Donohoe to speak to Sounds directors Mark & Riv about their history with the festival, this year’s special edition, and what the future holds
Bookended by not one, but two bank holidays, May is the month where Summer well and try begins. And if you’re Mancunian, and in any way a part of our vibrant underground community, chances are you’ve welcomed the warmer months at least once with Sounds From the Other City (SFTOC).
A genuine DIY success story, and a community festival in its truest form, every year SFTOC brings Manchester and its oft-overlooked ‘other city’ of Salford together to create something downright magical – a meeting of our most creative minds, bodies and spirit’s that champions local promoters and celebrates the off-kilter beauty of this unique urban landscape.
A firm favourite since 2004, this year sees SFTOC celebrate their 15th anniversary in distinctively idiosyncratic fashion – with a one-off Quindecennial event that condenses everything you love about Sounds into one super-concentrated party. Packing all the chaotic beauty of previous editions into one site, SFTOC will take over Regent Trading Estate on May 5th for an extra-special day of music, art and discovery – ahead of that, I sat down with directors Mark and Riv to talk over a decade and a half of Sounds memories, and what the future holds.
Let’s start by going back to the very beginning – Mark, what inspired you to start SFTOC?
Myself and my brother Morry had set up a little record label based at Islington Mill, and through that met lots of interesting people, and started putting on small events, which led to the club and events space being created at the Mill. Those earlier, ramshackle parties stood out as something really quite different, and we began to recognise the potential of the area – so close to everything, but seemingly a million miles away.
At the time, there were four pubs on the corner of Chapel Street – the Salford Arms, the Kings Arms, Copperheads and the Albert Vaults – we thought it would be fun to do a day event based around that hub. And because we weren’t programmers ourselves, we invited promoters who were doing interesting things in the city to come and do a stage each… It didn’t quite work but we knew there was something in the idea, so we tried it again the next year, and it just started to grow organically into a festival over time.
I guess you could say from day one Sounds chose its own format, and still continues to do so. It’s the nature of the beast – it guides us and tells us what to do.
So this year, we know things are going to be a little bit different from the usual sprawl of venues along Chapel Street, with the festival instead being concentrated into the warehouses at Regent Trading Estate – can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to shake things up?
Riv – The festivals’ always seemed to develop in chapters, taking us in different directions. But over the past three years, it’s grown rapidly – last year it grew by 110%, not just the audience, but the amount of people getting involved with programming and activities – and because we’re so passionate about what we do, we have a tendency to say ‘yes’ to great ideas! It’s caused a kind of snowball effect, whereby each year we’ve ended up doing a bigger version than what we did last time, but the team has stayed pretty much the same size and this is taking its toll.
So this year we’ve decided to do Sounds a little differently, to give ourselves time to reassess what the festival is, what we want it to be… where it will go next – but without hitting pause on the party! Essentially, the plan is to take stock, but keep the momentum going – and at the same time, we hope this condensed version allows people to maximise their experience. The impact that has on the audience experience will inform how we move forward, too.
Mark – As the area grows there’s also the potential to have the Regents Trading Estate as a permanent base, so it was a good opportunity to boil all those disparate elements that make up Sounds down to one site, while we find a more sustainable way to keep saying ‘yes’ as much as we can.
Riv, you came on-board in 2010, and you’ve also had your hand in a bunch of other Manchester-based festivals. In your opinion, what about SFTOC makes it so different and so special?
The fact it doesn’t have a plan or an idea about itself as such – it is what it is, crossing over so many genres, involving so many different people… There’s something in the energy of that many people coming together to make something that creates a particular type of magic. We specialise in atmosphere, that’s what sets it apart.
Mark – It’s not a passive audience – it’s an open offer to get involved, to engage… do whatever you want and make it your own. The audience brings so much that they might be not even aware of – their energy makes it what it is.
What impact do you think the new developments and changes to the Chapel Street area have had on the festivals growth in the last decade and a half?
Riv – A big positive is that there are more people in the area supporting and encouraging us – the community has grown, there are so many cafes, restaurants and studios popping up, there are just a lot more people moving into the area, and a sense that things are happening. Just having more people walking up and down Chapel Street and seeing our flyers and posters has helped us grow.
On top of that, we’ve developed important ties with the council, and a lot of developers who are really passionate and proactive about solidifying Salford as a place of making, a cultural hub where ideas grow. We’ve always been very well supported in that sense – but at the same time, whilst the increased footfall and buzz has helped us grow, it means there’s less physical space for us to do that.
Mark – For the first ten years there was always talk of re-development and growth, wheels in motion – but its only recently it’s actually started happening – and in the past 18 months, that’s gone into overdrive. So really, time will tell how much of an impact it will have going forward.
Going forward will the festival continue to have such a broad focus, or do you think with growth you’ll naturally have to start streamlining your vision?
Riv – There are certain elements that will always be there – and keeping that key value of community at the core is crucial. Those elements of magic, fun, the unexpected and discovery – all of our decisions revolve around maintaining that.
We know our values, our ethos – we work with promoters, collaborations are encouraged, it’s DIY, it has a core, a community… that’s it in a nutshell. So it’s the format we’re looking at – we want to prise open the box and see what else it can hold. We’re allowing ourselves to go off-piste and come up with as many ideas as possible.
Mark – It might get even bigger – we might start collaborating on a larger scale, but we need a format that allows for that. People believe we do what we do for good reasons. And that trust is something we never want to jeopardise.
On that note… As you’ve been working towards this different format have you had time yet to start thinking about what the future looks like?
Mark – I actually don’t know – that’s the honest answer! But I like the idea that Sounds has the ability to respond to change, it could be anything – that’s what’s always been exciting. You never know, and that’s the joy of it.
One of the exciting things about having the space to think longer-term, is the chance to revisit old ideas that still have legs, and think about approaching them differently – we have permission from our audience to do things differently, and I’m not sure if we’ve been using it!
You’ve had 15 years of making fantastic memories with SFTOC – I imagine it’s a bit like a wedding day in the sense that you put in so much work before, that often the event itself is a bit of a whirlwind. But what memories – good, bad or otherwise – have stuck with you?
Riv – I remember Mark having an interview with Hazel Sheffield from the Independent at 3am, in the middle of the dance floor, at an afterparty – which kind of epitomises the madness and chaos of Sounds. It was a turning point for me – she understood the festival and what we do, and I think that was when we and the audience started to understand it properly too – and we got a five star review!
Mark – Most memories are behind the scenes ones – so in this format, it’s a bonus that we might actually get to see some music! The shows in St. Philips Church have always been very special – in fact we once found someone tattooing someone else in one of the vestibules – it’s those culture clashes that create the best memories.
Riv – It’s facilitating a blend of experiences for the festival-goers that makes it all worth it – this will be my tenth festival and I’ve probably seen a total one hour of music in that time, but every year, after we’ve got the afterparties going, the core team gathers at our production office at the Mill, and we get to sit in silence in the dark, crying a little bit inside while listening to the thump of the club going, and people having an amazing time.
Lastly – what are you both looking forward to the most for the 2019 edition – any particular performance, or just embracing the vibes and getting to do it all over again?
Mark – I’m looking forward to feeling it from the front-end instead of the back-end, be a reveller for a change!
Riv – Personally I can’t wait to people watch, see how they approach the day, without the blinkers of constant firefighting and problem solving! Maybe take advantage of Magic Rock Beers’ 3 for £10 deal, and just find a space to sit and watch how people interact with the incidental performers… really just follow the crowd and discover the festival as an audience member.
I’m also really excited for all the previous art directors’ return and to see how their ideas and practices have expanded since their first edition at the festival. Having them all in one spot is going to be absolutely amazing! I also can’t wait for the arrival of LAL as they do an immersive ‘installation’ in the Festival toilets, and that’s without even mentioning some of the bands performing; Black Midi, Gabe Guernsey, The Orielles, Trikilatops, Menage a Trois and Speakman Sound will all be highlights and classic SFTOC moments.
You can see the full Sounds from the Other City 2019 line-up here: https://www.soundsfromtheothercity.com/the-sftoc-quindecennial-line-up/
SFTOC Quindecennial has almost sold out – get your ticket exclusively through Skiddle here: https://www.skiddle.com/festivals/sounds-from-the-other-city/
We’re still on the look-out for SFTOC Volunteers – get involved here: https://www.soundsfromtheothercity.com/2019/03/28/volunteer-at-sounds-from-the-other-city-quindecennial-sftoc-2019/
We are now looking for our amazing volunteer team to help deliver the extra special edition of Sounds from the Other City. Whether you’ve been involved before, or have never volunteered before, we need your help on our Quindecennial year. You’ll work in a dynamic environment, as a core part of our event, and gain experience across live events management, music, arts and promotion. Our roles include:
All our volunteers are highly valued and act as the all-important faces and behind the scenes gurus of our festival.
In return for your time, we ensure that all volunteers receive fantastic experience and support, and – of course – have a ton of fun. If you’d like to get involved, sign up below – the best day of the year couldn’t happen without you!