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It was down in the grassiest of grassy roots of Manchester venues I find myself on a chilling Spring Tuesday night as I bypass the haunts I usually venture into on this side of town. I ignore The Ritz, Sound Control and FAC 251 until I’m on Sackville Street, stood outside a little known venue called Retro Bar which I’m entering for the first time. I’m here to see a band that I randomly came across eighteen months ago or so in a village pub in Bolton. ‘Albino Gorilla’ were fresh faced youngsters then, not even legal to drink. They played a set of covers to a crowd of locals, who in their comfort zone have the personalities to go a bit crazy at a live performance in their local pub. Nevertheless, ‘Albino Gorilla’ handled the pressure with complete ease and confidence and rocked the boisterous crowd with a stream of covers that subsequently resulted in them playing a couple of more dates there. The last twelve months has seem them slowly stepping up to the Manchester scene, and with a growing maturity have now stepped out of the shadows of a complete set of covers to self written songs. Having been in contact with them since that first night, I was interested to see how they’d progressed over time and which direction their own sound had taken them.

The night was promoted by ‘Aftershock Events’ and seemed to be a night for those artists that are just at the beginning of their musical journeys, if not evident by reputation, then certainly by age. Retro Bar is small in comparison to other venues within the squared mile, quite a grotty and dingy little place with a small stage. Nonetheless, this gives a charm and character that amplifies a raw sonic that so many of us love when it comes to live music venues…the dirtier the better in my eyes!

However, there’s nothing grotty about the act that appears onstage when I arrive as Warrington based singer/songwriter Kim Jennett starts off her set, armed only with her acoustic guitar. Sporting a black leather coat and a nose piercing she looks cool, but there’s an innocence to her from her small stature, young age and inviting expression, which made me think she may not have the confidence to impress a predominately drunken, male student crowd. How wrong I was!! The girl destroys all preconceptions as her self-assurance transfers into her wailing vocal and strong playing ability as she rocks the crowd with a lively acoustic set that suggests stardom is written all over her future. With a sassy brazenness, she plays a series of her own songs as well as nailing captivating covers of ‘Cranberries’ classic, ‘Zombie’ and ‘Percy Mayfield’s’, ‘Hit the Road Jack’. I expect to see Kim on a grander stage in the future after this killer performance! Her EP has just been recently released, certainly one to look out for.

By the time ‘Albino Gorilla’ appear, more and more youths have arrived, many seeming to already know the band. There’s a vivid anticipation about the fans as if they perceive a beast is about to be let loose as soon as the first guitar note is struck, and something tells me I’m best off standing back. I’m not wrong as the awesome, fiery guitar of Dean Hemmings sends the entourage into a head thrusting, body jerking frenzy that eventually spills over into a semi mosh pit. The stature of lead vocalist Jake Breeze has progressed since the first night I saw him. The confidence witnessed then has grown tenfold into a monster, and he immediately immerses himself into the crowd of followers at the front. Their sound has turned into a very grungy and metal like influence with semi heavy guitars and bass lines and the odd scream from Jake himself. This pleases the crowd who want more and more of the weightier side of rock. However, I felt their strength lay when they toned it down a notch so you could really hear the melodies in the tune and vocals. They did this a couple of times and it sounded excellent, and could’ve been a completely different band stood there, showing evidence of their ability to diversify! The set was predominately their own material, and the covers that once formed the core of a full set were whittled down to ‘Slither’ by ‘Velvet Revolver’ and a funky reggae version of ‘Queen’s’ ‘We Will Rock You’, which if you would have asked me beforehand if it was going to sound any good, I would have adamantly replied ‘No’! But this version was actually very original and laid back with a sweet chilled vibe forming the backdrop, showing further diversification to the heavier side of rock that they seem to edge toward.

It looks like ‘Albino Gorilla’ have acquired quite a following in such a short time, and although the heavier side of rock isn’t necessarily my chosen genre, I do respect its value in the modern music rock world. With that in mind, there is a great potential about these young lads. Having known them now for several months, their enthusiasm, determination and attitude cannot be faulted in an age where distraction can be very easy for teenagers, and that will be of great benefit to them in the coming years! We hear ‘Albino Gorilla’ will be in the studio soon, working on their first release! 

Review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by Matt Johnston

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