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The Gramotones ability to draw a crowd is becoming extremely noticeable. Tickets sold out for a "secret gig" being held at an unknown venue in Manchester, with the meeting place being the White Lion pub on Liverpool Street. Meet at 8:40. Thats the only information the eager fans were given, from the pub they would be taken to 'the venue' where the band would presumably perform and exercise their refined on-stage persona's as one of- if not THE- strongest unsigned act in
Manchester today. Now, the majority of secret gigs I've ever come across have either been held in pubs, record stores or in the street. I wouldn't have expected to have ended up in the Hilton hotel. That is, in fact, the last place I would have expected to find myself on that frosty Friday evening. Frosty, and yet still 3 months into 2013. Odd. And the entire evening followed suit. Extremely strange, extremely enjoyable. From being led from the White Lion into the Hilton (probably the first and presumably last time I will have such a VIP experience), into a lift without ANY lift music- extremely ominous- and into a quaint flat on the 39th floor where the bands instruments immediately confirmed we had arrived at our destination.

Veterans of the Oldham music scene from an early age, the members of The Gramotones are only in their early twenties, yet are on the path to succeed more than any of their peers. The single "Soldiers Kiss" was released late last year, yet was strongly accepted by the throng of beings now evolving into their fan base. I'm still astonished anything this positive can come out of such a place as Oldham, yet you seem to find the brightest jewels in the darkest places. A four piece, the band play 60's inspired quirky pop with many nods towards bands such as The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, Slade and (of course) The Beatles. Initially upon hearing their early material, I did see the extremely Beatle-esque side to the band, however, with their latest set of musical numbers they have crafted a strong argument for their own "sound" which of course, is what every up-and-coming band strives to achieve. "Horror Draped in Dry Ice" followed the first single, this sporting a Halloween theme to go with the festivities of late October. The song structures of the band focus strongly around vocally driven harmonies, with both Sid Cooper and Jake Fletcher presenting themselves as the vocal leads. The un-gruesome twosome also sport a twin guitar attack, but with the sounds rooted in the laidback grooves of 67', you won't find any ten minute shred solos here. Ryan Cormac provides a third vocal burst if needs be, while strong driving basslines are found on songs such as "Marjorie". James Cardus usually spends his time hidden at the back of live shots, however, he is what holds the band together, with the intro to "Dog and Bone" setting off a straight hitting groove via the drumkit.

The gig provided us with music, laughter and an excellent free ale branded by the band themselves. Support was provided by local Oldham comedian Jimmy Pemberton who did a short 10-15 minute set of comedy set around his single status (a common topic for comedy understandably, but this had a nice dark edge to it). The highlight of this was Jimmy taking us through the E-Harmony registering questions and him answering them more truthfully than anyone would have liked.

With the stage set and the crowd buzzing on free alcohol and the idea of 39 floors up above the lights of Manchester's night, The Gramotones take to the stage for their acoustic set. Jake expressed to me his want to play an electric set tonight but due to the small size of the flat this would leave people with their ears ringing for days on end. The band have now been going long enough to have some fan-favourites which are guaranteed plays at their performances. "Dog With a Bone" hasn't yet been released as a recording, however is already a live favourite with Jake providing a solo harmonica, while the rhythm section kick up a a bouncing beat and Sid smoothly delivering his lyricisms. "Your contribution, to real solution, your revolutions dead, when all along, the answer was, sitting there inside of your head". Featuring a dual vocal climax from the songwriting pair, this is all The Gramotones are about. "Soldiers Kiss" gets a play of course, and also "Marjorie". After a couple of stylophone tuning errors, the band decide to go this one without the hilarious electronic buzz and it still comes out the end being one of the highlights of the set. "M62" has been a strong favourite since the band began back in early 2012, a story about a traffic accident on the motorway of the same name. "Little River" is the bands magnum opus to date, a strong ditty about the "rhythm of life" and how it "leaves you feeling so sad" but to overcome these ups and downs of your own path to achieve what you want to. Truly beautiful stuff. The time comes for requests and a Beatles medley of "Because" and "In My Life" truly show the artistic talents of each member of this group. Fantastic stuff, I and many others now want to see them rise as far as they can go- the modern day Beatles do not exist, but this is closest we're going to get. The Gramotones.

Review by Callum Barnes
Photos by Mike Atkins

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