by Elliot Davies
14 bands playing across three stages for 10 hours in Manchester. Among them were local heroes, returning heroes, and antiheroes. We went to the 2015 Gigantic Indie All Dayer, and we had a right bloody good time.
For the past few days, I’ve been amusing myself by imagining how other publications might cover the Gigantic Indie All Dayer.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how Vice might go about doing it.
They’d probably send some guy called Clive, who’d have a picture taken of himself stood in the middle of the dance floor. All those around him would look as though they’re having the time of their lives, but Clive would look bored. His deportment would be of one who’s desperately trying to look above it all – that is, as above it all as it’s possible to look when you write snarky rants for a publication that was founded by a disgraced misogynist, and that makes Sugar Ape feel worthy of a Pulitzer.
Or perhaps they’d just wait 18 months, then write a review that reads eerily similar to ours.
The problem is, far too many publications still seem intent to draw battle lines when it comes to something as deeply personal yet beautifully universal as music. The idea that there’s music it’s OK to like and music it’s not OK to like is laughably dated. The floodgates are open; the influencers and tastemakers have been reduced to panhandling next to cardboard signs that read “will list for clicks”.
If you read the Musical Therapy section of the wonderful Echoes and Dust site, you’ll encounter story after story of people who use music – who need music – to help them achieve stability and direction. True, not everybody has such a dependent relationship, but it’s true that everybody, without exception, needs music. It just makes life better.
So why do so many people still insist upon judging a person’s cultural and societal worth by their taste in music? No matter what they’re into, their taste in music is indicative of nothing. Beyond, of course, the fact that this just so happens to be the music that does it for them.
Indeed, the best thing I’ve read about music in recent memory was found in an Echoes and Dust Musical Therapy piece as written by Suzy (Johnston) Syrett:
So, noisy/quiet/emotional/upbeat/miserable/rock/pop/classical/hip hop/country, WHATEVER you like to listen to – even if it’s silence – take the opportunity, when you’re well, to find something/ANYTHING that makes even the slightest positive impact on you because, as you listen, and maybe mouth the words or tap your foot, that music becomes a part of your physicality and your mental health. It becomes a reason to stick around – even just to listen until the song/piece of music ends. And THAT, crucially, can be the most IMPORTANT thing of all.
To read something like that and still sneer at the tastes of others? I don’t know how some people dare.
And that, friends, was the single best thing about the 2015 Gigantic Indie All Dayer. This was an event entirely populated by people who clearly don’t give a toss about such outmoded notions as “relevancy”, “cultural capital”, or, ironically, “indie cred”. Instead, this was a day for people who are committed to nothing more than having a great time whilst listening to the music they love.
This was a festival filled with friendly veteran goths, grebos, crusties, and people who almost certainly used to edit fanzines. When not taking in the fantastic lineup spread liberally across three of Manchester University Student Union’s stages, these were people who were content to chat amiably in the sun whilst drinking an excellent selection of real ales and traditional ciders.
The DJ in the beer tent played a fantastic mix of Morrissey, Dinosaur Jr, and The Pixies. Wonderstuff and Sultans of Ping t-shirts received appreciative nods.
It would have been nice to stay in that sun-soaked courtyard all day – especially given that said courtyard remained sun-soaked all day. But we, like everyone, were there to see some bands. And when it came to bands, there was much to see, all day.
The thing is, The Gigantic Indie All Dayer isn’t so much a celebration of indie music – whatever that might be – so much as it’s a celebration of lifers. The crowd is composed of lifers – those who will always be there for this music, as this music has always been there for them. And because these people will always be there for this music, the bands will always be happy to play this music for them.
It’s a relationship that those who are perpetually focused on the cutting edge – be it “the underground” or “the next big thing” – will never be able to appreciate. Until, of course, they find that a band who always did it for them are still touring…
The first lifers to take it to the stage were The Primitives, who broke the cardinal rule of showbusiness – never follow the raffle. But given that the organisers chose to kick off the whole event with the raffle, all bands were technically outlaws. Rock on!
The Primitives are, as they always have been, a tight jangly four-piece fronted by the magnetic Tracy Tracy. Like all the bands on the bill, they’ve been at this for decades. But like all the bands on the bill, this very much works in their favour: They have the unbeatable combination of tight musicianship and expert showmanship that you only ever see in bands that know exactly what they’re doing.
The songs from last year’s Spin-o-Rama sound just as timeless and appealing as anything from their older albums – and though the vast majority of the crowd are clearly waiting to hear a certain song, the reaction feels positive throughout. But that one song, when it does come, provides the first of many happifying singalong moments of the day. And why wouldn’t it? Crash is one of those songs that deserves a mention in any debate concerning “the perfect pop song”.
Then came Hurricane #1, who have bravely embarked upon a tour without their founding lead guitarist and songwriter. Andy Bell is currently gazing at his shoes with the reformed Ride, but the band he left behind is more than capable. Having survived a tough battle with cancer, affable singer Alex Lowe is visibly pleased as punch to take to the stage, and only a monster would deny him this chance to shine once more.
All eyes, though, are on guitarist Giancarlo Mariani, who certainly has some big shoes to fill. But any doubts that he’d fail to reach Andy’s heights are dispelled almost immediately. Many songs are graced with long liquid solos, all of which are lapped up by this perennially thirsty crowd.
Alex kept himself busy whilst hospitalised, and one of his new songs is given an airing tonight. It’s called Think of the Sunshine, and it has the catchy chorus that would have been inescapable circa 1997. The track, when it’s finally released, will probably sink without a trace, with the fickle press only mentioning it whilst guffawing that this band should dare to still exist. But think about it – this is a song about yearning for light and positivity, written by a man undergoing punishing chemotherapy and kidney dialysis. “Poignant” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
They close with Step Into My World, the opening bars of which doubtlessly take vast swathes of the room back to a younger, happier place.
Gang of Four are up next, and their lineup is a strange inversion of Hurricane #1’s – all have departed save Andy Gill, the original guitarist and songwriter. He’s joined by Thomas McNeice on bass, Jonny Finnegan on drums, and John “Gaoler” Sterry on lead vocals.
Early into their set, we’re informed that some of their equipment has blown, so they have no choice but to play some older songs. Absolutely nobody complains.
What’s most striking about Gang of Four in 2015 isn’t necessarily how good they sound – which is very good indeed – but how animated they are onstage. Nobody can keep still as they groove their way through a flawless set of loud and slinky rallying cries.
I must admit, I have always felt somewhat ambivalent about Gang of Four. On record, I find that their spartan post-punk often sounds too dour to be really engaging, and their sound was aped to the point of tedium circa 2005.
Seeing them live, though, resistance was futile. Damaged Goods, At Home He’s A Tourist, and To Hell With Poverty were impossible to resist, and I am now proud to call myself a convert.
Equally revelatory were Pop Will Eat Itself, a band for which I’ve previously harboured not so much ambivalence, as outright hostility. Today it was a choice between The Poppies and Diesel Park West in Academy 2. The latter seemed like a no-brainer, but I was convinced to stick around. And holy potato, was I glad I did.
This was everything a live show should be – loud, vibrant, engaging and, most important of all, fun.
Tub-thumping chest-bumping veteran grebo MCs Crabb and Byker are experts at raising spirits and galvanising rooms, so right from the start their tight 60 minute set is a righteous anarchic party to which everyone’s invited.
PWEIzation, Can U Dig It, Get The Girl and Kill The Baddies and, best of all, Def Con One – the countercultural anthems come one after another, and not once does the energy dip below the manic levels.
They close with Their Law, their collaboration with The Prodigy, and the dance becomes a rave.
This second installment of The Gigantic Indie All Dayer is approximately three times larger than last year’s. Should the 2016 edition prove to be even bigger, the crowd reaction to PWEI suggests that it would be a very good idea indeed to devote an entire stage to rave.
Or they could just book Dreadzone. That would work.
Following PWEI is perhaps even more inadvisable than following the raffle, but up next is Inspiral Carpets. They’re playing to a hometown crowd thick with Boon Army militants, many of whom begin to low long before they even take to the stage. This crowd is in very safe hands – this set was always going to be a triumph.
For us, though, Inspiral Carpets were the first real disappointment of the day. The sound mix felt slightly off – the bass was far too prominent, the guitars far too low. Many of the songs were unfortunately transformed into soul-sapping muddy dirges.
It’s only on those beloved fan-favourites – where the singing of the crowd drowns out the murkiness of the mix – that this set truly shone. Luckily, Inspiral Carpets have a potent arsenal of crowd-pleasers at their disposal, and tonight they treat us to Joe, This is How It Feels, a triumphant Saturn 5, and my personal favourite, Dragging Me Down. There’s even a gobby Mark E Smith sample for a hypercharged I Want You!
Then the excitement really starts to build for the headliners – Echo and The Bunnymen. We’ve been looking forward to this moment for over six months, but unfortunately we had to leave before their set even begun.
Hey, there were train issues! Had we stuck around, we may not have ever found our way home!
We still felt naff, though. This, combined with the comparative disappointment that was Inspiral Carpets, meant that our day ended on a downer. We shared a bus with some exhausted anti-austerity protesters, who looked every bit as shattered and deflated as we felt.
Never mind. Gang of Four, PWEI, enormous quantities of real ale, and the infectiously enthusiastic crowd meant that, on the whole, The Gigantic Indie All Dayer was a bloody triumph.