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Its Friday evening in Manchester and tonight the City is awash with a number of must see bands, from the superb retro band Deaf School on their Listen & Learn Tour, playing Band On The Wall, Wire at the Roadhouse and in the building next door to us - the NME Awards Tour featuring such bands as The Horrors, The View, The Vaccines and Crystal Castle. A veritable feast of bands, and certainly spoilt for choice, but tonight Matthew we are going to see a couple of NME favourites, The Chapman Family and The Joy Formidable.

I’m accompanied this evening by my friend Ian Taylor a freelance music photographer. Check out his site

No show is complete without a local band, and first up we had Airship - who are currently taking a break from working on their debut album by touring with The Joy Formidable and The Chapman Family. Their most recent release was the ‘Algebra’ EP in August 2010, delivering a refreshing and sparkling four track of pop, rock, and indie style tunes. April 2010 saw the band supporting The Editors, followed by their own headlining tour, then support to Biffy Cyro on their European Tour in October. This band are certainly moving in the right direction, tonight we only caught them briefly for a couple of numbers, due to a mix up at the front desk. What we did hear was inspiring and delivered more than a glimmer of light in this dark basement tonight.

Airship are: Elliott Williams, Marcus Wheeldon, Tom Dyball, Steven Griffiths.

The Chapman Family have been together since 2005, hailing from the North East’s Stockton - On -Tees. They entered the stage area, setting up their own equipment, appearances can be deceptive, as all strode on looking like your average ‘nice’ guys apart from lead guitarist Pop’s Erazerhead barnet, no one would suspect that they would try and raise the dead this evening. Pretty soon they began to assault our senses in a dramatic fashion, with abrasive energy and wild abandon. They unexpectedly blew me away with their brand of razor sharp, fuzzy noise guitars – Jesus & Mary Chain, crossed with Velvet Underground, punk, Joy Division, a dolly mixture of all things good. They wouldn’t be out of place on a Factory records label!

Pop’s guitar pedal board failed during one particular rousing number, and I think the rest of the guys figured that was it, end of show, goodnight, but soon they were back up and gushing out their own brand of  tunes. Front man Kingsley held court bellowing their dark, twisted lyrical sounds from ‘The Kids’ with memorable poignant chorus, amidst racing guitars “Don’t you know the kids are not alright today, the kids are not ok,”. Right through to their latest single, the brilliant ‘Anxiety’, plus other great tracks this evening, taken from their forthcoming album. These guys can even drink four bottles of milk, washed down with a bottle of vodka and still play like maniacs. Blasting us out, almost primeval in their approaches, bringing with it a delirious mosh pit of dancing - who’d have thought this the support act?

They’ve even got dedicated fans, one ‘superfan’ told me she travels the length and breadth of the Country following the band on tour, such is the power of The Chapman Family and they say they aren’t a cult?. They are also set to play the Shockwaves NME Awards show later this month joining the likes of Hole, Babyshambles and Delphic. This is the band who won the ‘Single of The Year’ award in Artrocker Magazine in 2010.

Mudkiss are keen to get their mits on the promotional copy of their latest debut album to be released in March “Burn Your Town” for reviewing. Watch out for this band in a town near you in March – headlining with the superb O.Children. Now that will be one show to pencil in your diary folks, they are gonna be massive!

The Chapman Family are: Kingsley, Paul, Pop, and Phil Chapman (they are not actually all family as it might appear to be)

The Joy Formidable – a North Wales trio are a band I have eagerly wanted to see for over 12 months, having played their album ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ on repeat for months. Now with their latest long play ‘The Big Roar’ released I was keen to see them in action finally.

So, with the stage being kitted out, Ritzy’s mic stand suitably decorated with glitter baubles, the lights turned down, amidst a backdrop of strange lighted tree effects the stage is set. The band are welcomed on the stage, a quick wave and  ‘hello’ to the crowd, the basement is now packed to the rafters, hot and sweaty with anticipation filling the air, and calls to the band. The heavy drumming fills the air and diminutive platinum blonde Ritzy strikes up her guitar, then stalks to the edge of the crowd. The first number has the ostentatious title ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie’, a slow build up to the raucous guitar’s, until Ritzy is shouting ‘come on bitches’ to the crowd, erupting into a firecracker of a performance, it feels like I’m transported back to the early days of Blondie, Circa CBG’s when being live was simple and raw.

She might have a diminutive stature (5ft nothing) but believe me her vocals and moves are more like a powerhouse on a rush of coke. Wildly challenging towards the audience but due to her cute, lush vision it doesn’t appear threatening, with eyes tempestuous and smiling insanely at times, the boys out front are baying to catch her attention, with cameras poised ready to catch her glances.

This is a band who really enjoy playing to a live crowd and it shows, the drums are set at an unusual angle (for maximum exposure). Rhydian holds his bass firmly and belts out the unique hard throbbing sounds. Matts drumming is intense and played out with Ritzy facing him. It makes for a great rock n roll moment!

Going of stage, the band return and Rhydian laughingly informs us Ritzy has been ‘spewing her guts up backstage” – she comes on swearing like a trooper for showing her unglamorous side this evening and blames it on Birmingham grub.

At the end, we had some dramatic footage, with the trio giving us a real Joy Formidable episode, with Ritzy on her knees getting feedback from the amps, and crazed moments of thrashing the guitars around wildly. Before they go off she releases a mechanical butterfly on the crowd, and looks a little panicky that it might not return. – but it does! The guitars are left abandoned on the floor, the crowd beg for more.

How to describe their unique sound is really difficult, they possess all the elements of light and dark, evocative melodies, part rock, with punk sensibility and yet they are a great pop band. They really do live up to their name, (it might sound cheesey but who cares) but not only do they give joy they are also formidable – don’t miss them next time they hit your shores!

The Joy Formidable are: Ritzy - Vocals / guitars, Rhydian – Bass, Matt – Drums


The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie
The Magnifying Light
The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade
The Last Drop
Chapter 2

Review/videos by Mel

Photos by Ian Taylor -