Stockport was honoured to have a member of illustrious Manchester based band, ‘Nine Black Alps’ grace the charming and intimate venue of The Blue Cat Cafe on this cool September Wednesday evening. Ironically, the member wasn’t any of the Mancunian contingent, but Yorkshireman, Sam Forrest, making his first appearance in Stockport to perform a string of tracks from his solo project.
Before that, supporting band, ‘Darktown Jubilee’ gathered onstage to open proceedings. These are a Manchester based five piece that have a vast array of individual experience, now coming together to comfortably play in a band that underlines each of their strengths with confident simplicity. Tonight, they are made up of three guitars, two acoustic and one electric which is played softly, with drums and keyboard making up the rest of the band. Assuming they were predominately an acoustic, gentle playing group judging from their set-up, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they are generally a fiery indie/rock band after researching them. The toned down approach tonight suited the mood, also showing a degree of tangibility in their music, executed at the highest level. Focussing solely on what I witnessed with their softer manner, they are tight and solid performers with singer/song writer David Boardman providing an eloquent serenade like voice that explores the more sensitive side of human psychology. Their experience and precision sails them completely untroubled through the stormy, emotive waters the lyrics embody in this quieter, intimate venue. However, in the studio they take on a whole new dimension where the heartache is replaced by a fiery passionate onslaught of great guitar indie rock, yet still grinding out the underlying meaning that’s embedded in the words. Songs such as ‘Stay’ and ‘The Great Escape’ are played slowly and create a more sincere mentality than its original intention, working extremely well and setting the pitch for the main act. ‘Darktown Jubilee’ gave a good account of themselves given the change in style. Having heard their recorded versions since, I’m more than intrigued to hear them in a setting where they can cut loose and shift into full throttle.
With little hesitation from ‘Darktown Jubilee’s’ exit, Sam Forrest took to the stage, opening with tracks that are dark and compelling, acoustically driven that carry a sense of sultry psychedelia in the strumming and singing. Playing a variety of songs off his new and older albums, the style is refreshingly different to what we associate with ‘Nine Black Alps’. It would be easy to produce albums that are an assortment of unused ‘Nine Black Alps’ material, but this collection is stamped with Sam’s own individual and eclectic vision. It’s much less fiery and edgy than the band in full, but nonetheless, covered with profound song writing from the reclusive serenity of North Yorkshire. The first few songs are played with quiet guitar, allowing his talented and delirious vocals to shine through. Eventually the electric guitar does kick in and it’s inevitable and expected that ‘Unsatisfied’, a ‘Nine Black Alps’ number is played, amongst a couple of other solo efforts before reverting back to the acoustic. This time Sam announces a song that he was asked to write for the film, ‘Surf’s Up’, titled, ‘Pocket Full of Stars’, sharing insights that the producer wanted a song that sounded similar to ‘Green Day’s’, ‘Time of my Life’ which he jokes, ended up sounding nothing like.
With only a couple of songs left to play, he tells us of his quirky experiment that involves writing about the weird and wonderful characters that reside in his hometown of Malton, North Yorkshire, playing us a couple of numbers influenced by this subject that are catchy, fun and comical in nature, bringing smiles and laughter to the crowd as the set finishes.
As usual, it’s a hectic time for Sam. If it’s not demanding enough that he’s currently embarking on a solo tour with new EP, ‘Silo’, in tow, there are also dates and a new album from his parent band, ‘Nine Black Alps’ to manage. Add in his work as a producer, and the creation of his own label, ‘Desert Mine Music’, and you have an individual who really does live and breathe music. Fantastic to see such dedication from a young musician. Next for Sam is continuing the solo tour that’ll lead him back with ‘Nine Black Alps’ in mid October, before going off on his travels again around the country performing his solo work. In the New Year, who knows? I wouldn’t put it past him to already have other material up his sleeve and a potential sixth solo album come January.