It’s Friday the 21st November and The Whisky Sessions launch their first ever event in where else but the great city of Manchester. Today is the opening night of a two day event in Victoria Warehouse complete with bands, beards and brews. What else could you ask for? Three free whisky tasting tokens are handed to us as we enter so we delve through the pouring rain and manage to manoeuvre around the puddles to “The Whisky Hotel”. A finely decorated room with rouge carpets, a mahogany bar and free whisky; the only improvement would have been a huge armchair and log fire. The Whisky Sessions have gone all out on this launch event.
Matthew & the Atlas play the main stage in the early afternoon, the large room is pretty sparse with people but this doesn’t faze these young men. Matt Hegarty’s vocals are deep, powerful and dynamic which when added to the glorious harmonies created by the other musicians makes for a warm and wholesome sound. Hegarty’s tender vibrato embellishes the whole performance especially when singing falsetto. Tracks like ‘Nowhere Now’ and ‘Pale Sun Rose’ show first class musical ability and it’s a shame more people weren’t there to see Matthew & the Atlas perform.
I wander into the main room and find Admiral Fallow – a Glasgow band performing quite standard folk/pop tunes. Occasional songs are lively and fun with a good enough melody to keep interest, but overall their music is considerably underwhelming, especially for the amount of people on stage. Six band members, each often playing multiple instruments and yet the textures and additional elements to be heard are limited. At one point someone changes from playing keyboard and a drum and whips out a clarinet. A clarinet? It really added nothing to the overall musical whole; perhaps it was a quirky element to try and liven up a rather dull set.
Unfortunately, The Whisky Sessions decided that the main stage and second stage set times should coincide, meaning I get to see less bands than I anticipated today. I catch a few songs of Southern’s set – a brother/sister duo from Belfast making bluesy rock for the new age. They play some great tunes like ‘Where The Wild Are’ before I hop over to the main room to catch the remainder of Tim Burgess. Still adorned with his blonde mop of hair, Burgess woos the baying crowd with his charm and on stage charisma. Performing original material of a much slower and gentle nature than what one would expect, ‘Tobacco Fields’ is 5 minutes of sweet but slow melody, with layers of reverb ridden guitar. All hell breaks loose however when Burgess introduces the band members including “Mark on acoustic guitar, we’re in another band called The Charlatans.” After the crowd manage to calm down, the pair perform ‘So Oh’ from their recently announced new album ‘Modern Nature’ and the classic ‘The Only One I Know’. Burgess’ solo material is totally diverse which I love, he ends the set with an almost reggae influenced track with bubbly bass and syncopated rhythms that, according to Tim, is already set for release on Record Store Day 2015.
The penultimate set comes in the form of British Sea Power – longstanding British rockers with seven albums under their belt in a ten year period. The stage is littered in decorative foliage and strung with lights all around, a lovely change of scenery for the plain warehouse. In addition, the stage is rigged with four adjacent diagonal lighting rigs with strobes and flashlights of all different colours. It’s pretty much impossible to explain how incredibly mesmerising it was, but it really was. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing British Sea Power live before, so it was quite the shock when a huge bear came clambering into the crowd. Well, it was a man in a bear suit, but still very disconcerting. Apparently this is a common practice for Sea Power gigs, totally cool. Finally, headliners I Am Kloot grace the stage. The room is absolutely packed to see the Manc band in their hometown and it’s an absolute showstopper. I Am Kloot topped off a great day at Victoria Warehouse, I can’t wait for the next one.