Grey Lantern stumbled into promoting sometime in the first half of the decade and since then have been fortunate enough to have hosted headlining and debut Manchester shows for the likes of Hookworms, Luke Abbott, Richard Dawson, Follakzoid and more.
Celebrating their sixth visit to Sounds From The Other City in seven years, they’ve previously collaborated on stages with The Quietus, Faux Discx, Wotgodforgot and Drowned In Sound – by this point, they’re practically SFTOC royalty. Do not miss.
Since joining the Sounds From The Other City roster way back in the distant days of 2011, Grey Lantern have blessed festival attendees with an annual party that’s earned the promotions team the reputation of being certified Manc royalty. We chatted to founder Simon Jay Catling about what got him started down the promoting route, his favourite SFTOC memoirs – and what part of this year’s festival he’s most buzzing for:
Hi! Please introduce the Grey Lantern team:
You’re talking to them! At one point Grey Lantern was a multi-person operation, but since 2012 it’s just been me putting shows on mostly in Manchester and Salford, with the occasional foray across the Pennines to Leeds for those occasions when I really have money burning a hole in my pocket.
What made you delve into the world of gig promoting?
I was more invited into it really – the first shows I was ever involved in were at the Bay Horse alongside some friends who were keen to start doing live shows and asked me to help out. Naively enthused by Radiohead’s In Rainbows campaign, we operated under a pay-what-you-want system which, while financially crippling, made for some really fun events in the Thomas Street pub’s basement.
I’d come out of Uni and gone into music journalism at the time, but got the live promoting bug pretty heavily at this point, and wanted to continue down that path out of some vague but strong desire to do more to help the acts I was writing about. I took a short internship at what turned out to be the last In The City Festival soon after and from there things have kind of just…kept going! I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some very lovely people, some brilliant musicians and in some fabulous spaces.
It’s your sixth time in seven years working alongside Sounds From The Other City. What are some of your fondest festival memories?
My favourite performance is probably one from before I was promoting, seeing Chrome Hoof at Islington Mill in 2010 which was just a mesmerising blur of colour and rhythm and encapsulated Sounds From The Other City perfectly, stumbling across someone who at the time I knew nothing about being blown away by them.
Out of the the line-up’s I’ve been involved in there’ve been almost too many to mention – the chaotic first year upstairs at the Black Lion where I had even less idea of what we were doing than I do now, and Kompakt techno duo Walls had to balance their gear on bar stools and we ended up running over an hour late; Japanese trio zZz’s spiky, abrasive post-punk at the Pint Pot 2014; the 2015 Angel Centre takeover with Faux Discx Records which remains my outright favourite year despite some stiff competition; Snapped Ankles converting a couple of hundred people who knew nowt about them last year at Caustic Coastal and Flamingods subsequently packing out the warehouse with a storming headlining performance after them. Every year has thrown up something special that’s made the whole thing worthwhile.
This year’s SFTOC looks to be the biggest yet – thanks to you hosing the likes of Lorenzo Senni and Not Waving. What part of the festival are you most looking forward to?
It’s rare you get to see much outside of your own stage so it’s hard to say anything beyond our line-up! Lorenzo Senni and Not Waving are the big hitters of course but Happy Meals, Xam Duo and Virginia Wing are all firm Grey Lantern favourites and it’ll be great to welcome them back. I am really excited for Kayla Painter coming up from Bristol; she mixes vocal elements and found sounds/samples with oddly structured beats to create really atmospheric work. Then She The Throne deal in dark and foreboding electronica.
Given my day job as live booker for Soup Kitchen it’s going to feel like a home away from home at Hot Bed Press on the weekend, with our clubs promoter John bringing his Cong Burn crew down to DJ in the courtyard outside and one of our resident DJs Rob Parkinson curating the upstairs as the Bound Art Book Fair – should be a lot of fun!
How would you describe Salford’s music scene – and what makes the city special to you?
I don’t know if it’s really fair for me to comment given I live down in south Manchester, but whenever I am up that way it definitely has a different vibe to it than Manchester – the area is changing hugely of course but still has a feeling of the hidden away, a place to explore and to have the freedom to do things away from the spotlight.
I’ve had great shows at both Eagle Inn and The White Hotel recently and with folks like Market working hard to put the Old Pint Pot on the regional map musically and exciting rumblings about forthcoming events at St Philip’s Church it seems likes there’s a real network of venues developing in Salford!
One of the key things to Sounds’ enduring success, I think, is its ability to adapt to the changing environment around Chapel Street – and although walking around there feels very different than it did even a couple of years ago, it still seems like a really fertile place musically, most importantly with new faces coming through with their own ideas and enthusiasm.