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The Ritz Ballroom has undergone a makeover. No more is it a watering hole for drunken stage and hen parties because it’s now been taken over by the HMV group to become a fulltime concert venue. Tonight is my first visit since the doors opened after the revamp and I actually expected to see more of a change. But, apart from a lick of paint and a few new fixtures and fittings there hasn’t been a radical redesign and the old place still retains much of its charm. There is however very few grannies in evidence at tonight’s show, much less ones who want to be grabbed.

Tonight, the HMV Ritz, goes under the banner of ‘Now Wave At The Ritz’ and is hosting ex Pavement man Steve Malkmus and his new band the Jicks, along with very special guests, Girls. Girls are the first guest band we watch out closely for tonight, whilst other support acts prior were Spectrals and Garden And Villa – who we missed due to the early start.

Girls are described as an indie rock band from San Francisco, and interestingly Christopher Owens, was once a former member of the Children of God cult. Built around core member’s singer and guitarist Christopher Owens and bassist Chet White, the band tonight is bolstered to an eight piece that includes a trio of backing singers who give the music a more soulful edge.



With lovely new CD ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ getting positive reviews from all quarters, the band glide through their set with some confidence. Swinging from the almost heavy metal ‘Die’ to the racing shuffle of single ‘Honey Bunny’ Girls can seemingly make a success of almost anything they turn their hand to. Highlight of the evening is a stunning ‘Forgiveness’ which culminates with a beautiful guitar solo. On tonight’s performance there much to appreciate and a satisfying introduction to the bands work.

To a lot of people Steve Malkmus is a legend. One quarter of indie rock band Pavement, Malkmus achieved significant respect during his tenure in the band and build a reputation on being incurably independent. Now plying his trade as Steven Malkmus & the Jick’s, he’s making his first visit to Manchester for the first time in some years, so the Ritz is packed to the rafter with people waiting to welcome their hero.

Less precise than Girls, Steve & the Jicks trade in loose groves burnished with swooning guitar. There are times when the band throw away the roadmap and let Malkmus’ guitar drift gloriously into unexplored territory. However the band rarely meanders aimlessly but continues to drive the song forward with an irresistible force. It all comes to a close after a single encore and a standing ovation.

Whether Malkmus will reach the giddy heights of Pavement with his new band only time will tell. But on the evidence of tonight’s performance he still remains one of the most compelling voices in indie rock.


Brain Gallop
Jenny and the Ess-Dog
Asking Price
Stick Figures in Love
Share The Red
Baby C'mon
Independence Street
Forever 28
No One Is (As I Are Be)
Discretion Grove
Long Hard Book
Real Emotional Trash


Church on White

Review by Phil King
Photos of Girls by Mel - Stephen by Phil