Bethany Patience is a music journalist and musician rooted in both Derbyshire and Manchester, currently halfway through her Music Journalism Degree. She is the news editor for WiredNoise blog and has worked with Kerrang! magazine. While working with SFTOC this Spring, Bethany wrote about acts playing the festival. On April 30th, we sent her out to experience the day.
I arrive outside Islington Mill late afternoon, it’s a warm windy day in Salford. I feel festival-ready in my doc martens and glittery makeup. Looking around, I see others have the same idea and I feel very at home and ready to start socialising.
I head inside the mill and am immediately greeted by flashing disco lights and colourful silver tassels welcoming people inside. Impressive decorations, SFTOC have truly gone all out for today and it’s not gone un-noticed; groups of friends are already posing with their drinks in front of the tassels and entrance. Up the stairs, crowds gather and queue to get their SFTOC wristband and I take in the excited vibes everyone’s giving off. Looking out the window, there’s a sea of festival-goers clasping delicious looking slices of crispy, melty pizza (courtesy of Honest Crust) and clinking green cans of Magic Rock beer from The Engine House Bar – that was also offering whiskey and pickle shots if you fancied trying something new!
I wonder back outside and get some shots of the first Totem pole of the day. Dotted around Salford are amazing flashy Totem poles indicating a festival venue.
Shuffling through the crowds, I decide to check out what’s going on where. With every wristband, candyfloss-pink festival leaflets are handed out, listing all the acts performing, at what time, in what place. Listed too, is the amazing food on offer and where to get it. I narrow my eyes at the blue font and attempt to take in all the options presented to me. First stop, I heard over to Grey Lantern at Unit 2 and venture inside.
There’s a small bar to my right selling beers, soft drinks and a fruity selection of wines. Getting set up on the stage are Virginia Wing. The unit briskly swells with fans. Sam Pillay motions the crowd to step nearer. I hang back, trying to get a feel for the atmosphere inside the unit. Virginia Wing kick off and Alice Merida Richards strong, soul-lined voice powers through the venue, penetrating the outside area where groups are indulging in Diamond Dogs hand crafted hot dogs. Gorgeous vocal notes echo through electro beats as the crowd bobs in time and flashy lights glaze the ceiling and walls.
I wander off out of the unit, which suddenly seems to have filled vastly while I was engrossed in Virginia’s performance. Passing excitable teens and a few families, I decide to explore Salford a bit more and make my way down towards The White Hotel Presents 2000AD at the very popular The Kings Arms.
Almost bursting with people as more pour out into the street, I go inside and buy a drink to sip on while I watch Vaccumorph upstairs. Vendel & Nova take over the downstairs SWENDAB bar and fill it up with techno beats and funky jams. The downstairs crowd gets rowdier every time I pass, with more joining in dancing. It’s not a straight-forward average walk up the stairs as there seems to be a body hanging from the ceiling! Ok so it was a stuffed guy-fawlkes-esque body, but it still took me by surprise! People are posing for photo’s with said body, an obvious decoration from SFTOC that proves popular with the public. Despite The White Hotel venue being possibly the farthest from Islington Mill, it is still festively decorated and oozing with red-wristbanders.
It’s a tight squeeze as I find my place in crowd to watch Vaccumorph. The set has begun and the audience stands still, absorbing the funky vibes. Aggressive yet passionate, Vaccumorph’s lead member talks at the audience, displaying his bad-boy attitude but perhaps unintentionally coming across as somewhat annoyed. The crowd must like it though because smiles and some laughs erupt from the back, overpowering the few awkward glances I can see. Modern underground grime beats team with smooth and seductive saxophone sounds. The 1975 vibes initially come to mind until song number 2 plays. The lead member announces ‘’the next song doesn’t have a f**king name so.. this is…’’ and the band start playing as his words trail off. Nonsense rap and rambles are spluttered out into the mic as the singer melts into the sound.
Before I know it, the clock strikes 7:25pm and I take off down the road, drink in hand, on my way to the Salford Cathedral. My eyes meet with an undeniably beautiful building as I reach my
destination. I enter inside, and am immediately aware of how different the atmosphere is, compared to previous shows of the day. A vastly different equally enjoyable atmosphere drapes across the cathedral. I take a seat to the right of the stage and admire the interior design of the Cathedral. Ex-Easter Island Head & Laura Cannell with the BBC Philharmonica Ensemble take to the stage. Gentle flutes begin the showcase of angelic beauty drifting through the cold pillars and ageing stained-glass windows. Strings join in with gorgeous harmonies and the whole room is silent as night. You could hear a pin drop between notes. Second act commences and a riveting beat gets going. Some heads in the crowd start bobbing along. Sheer concentration is shared amongst the performers, perfecting every note they play and timing the whole ensemble just right. It’s a genuine delight to witness. I speak to some audience members after the performance, asking them their opinions. ‘’I love the juxtaposition between electric and acoustic music played in modern and traditional manners. It holds a rhythmic nature with almost hypnotic tones.’’
Slowly, the audience make their way to the door and onto the next venue of the night. I follow behind, deciding where my next stop should be.
I head to The Old Pint Pot for 8:45 to join in the Pleasure Temple Procession. So… I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I certainly did not expect what happens next. As soon as I reach the venue, my attention is drawn to a crowd of flashing white gloves. What? Have I missed the memo? I walk up to some groups and query them about the gloves. ‘’There’s a guy with a cool hat giving them out!’’ – the majority of the responses I received. I claim my own glove and await the ‘procession’ to begin. Before I know it, a blur of flaming white
gloves are travelling down the streets of Salford into the dark night, thumping, singing, clapping and cheering away. We follow a small group of men and women dressed in orange robes, banging drums and chanting. I feel like I’ve accidentally joined some type of cult. It’s fun as heck though so I happily march along waving my own twinkly glove in the air. Cars honk at us as they pass. The orange leaders stop us outside a chippy, the crowd cheers. They stand up on some steps and announce gibberish. A couple behind me discussed the possibility of our new leaders being drunk. Regardless, when the rant was over, the crowd went crazy with cheers and whooping and we set off to our next destination. Unit 2 & 5 – back at the mill! A tame rave takes place, light up gloves, music, laugher, food and dancing. it’s what SFTOC is all about. It was the best sight of the night.
I leave the mini rave to check out Vanishing Twin at unit 5. Exotic sounds and stomach-churning beats erupt, the crowd is piling in, cheering and dancing. Overpowering groove guitar riffs mix with faint flute melodies that flirt with the vocals. Vanishing Twin display a good stage presence with their sensual music.
Down the road I head back to The White Hotel and watch The Rebel – a band recommended to me earlier that day by some festival goers I got chatting to. Heavy and almost deafening bass fills The Kings Arms. The crowd has gotten so huge it spills over into the seating area outside the band-room. The Rebel give an amazing light show – and that’s exactly what this performance feels like – more of a show than a gig, or set. A roaring round of applause follows each song, these guys are clearly a hit with the crowd and they have seem to have a good connection with them. Chatting into the mic in-between songs, making a couple jokes here and there. I finish my drink as they finish their set and make a quick get-away as to avoid the rush of everyone moving out The Kings Arms.
I step out into the fresh air and absorb some true festival vibes as I witness friends stumbling in the street singing songs into the night, clasping at cups and cigarettes. A couple of glitzy glam festival girls sit outside a takeaway, heels next to them on the road, SFTOC pink leaflet in hand. They giggle over chips and take a few selfies. Laughter sounds from inside the venues as I walk up back through Salford, admiring each fancy totem pole I pass. Flashes from cameras reflect off buildings as groups take photos of their fun at the festival. The vegan food stalls are nearly all sold out, it looks a successful day for them. And their cakes did look mighty delicious. I saw quite a queue earlier at that cake stall, with happy buyers wondering off with a huge wedges of chocolate and fruit cake. Wish I’d got one now! Even as I walk back home after a busy day, I still hear drums and cheers and music roaring across the city. Another successful SFTOC, bring on 2018!
Thanks once again to Bethany – as well as Elli and all of our volunteers for their help in the run up to, during, and after the festival. Sounds from the Other City couldn’t exist without your enthusiasm, excitement, energy and time.