Manchester Champions Emerging Talent At Off The Record Fest

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The Northern Quarter played host to the inaugural Off The Record on Friday, a one-day music conference and festival collaboration between Sound City, Kendal Calling, bluedot and Louder Than War, featuring some of the culture industry’s big hitters.

The daytime talks were an opportunity for the likes of The Charlatan’s frontman Tim Burgess, Manchester-based band Everything Everything, Mayor of Greater Manchester nominee Andy Burnham as well as representatives from Sofar Sounds, PledgeMusic, and BBC Introducing to share knowledge and insight to aspiring professionals on topics including how to become a successful music writer or radio producer and the technicalities of hosting gigs and festivals, as well as getting your band noticed and making the most of technology.

The buzz was unreal

The evening’s multi-venue festival was a showcase of some of the country’s emerging but hotly-tipped talent curated by trusted names including Elbow’s Guy Garvey, BBC radio presenter Huw Stephens and The Line of Best Fit

Spanning a total of six venues (The Castle Hotel, Gullivers, Aatma, Soup Kitchen, Night & Day Café and The Ruby Lounge), you could feel and hear the buzz as people were shuffling in and out of venues. 

True to their #DiscoverNewMusic mantra, the line-up was not only obscure (in a cool, up-and-coming kind of way) but was also only revealed 24 hours prior to the event which did its best to limit any seasoned festival-goer from meticulously planning an itinerary (yes, I’m one of those spreadsheet types) and instead go with the flow to maximise the night’s discovery factor.

Here's five of my favourite discoveries:

1. XamVolo

First act on at Night & Day. Easily one of the coolest guys at #OTR, the sultry jazz-infused neo-soul singer-songwriter didn’t even bother taking his coat off as he was straight off to Liverpool for another set after he’d vibed out the early crowd.

2. Saltwater Sun 

Fresh off the back of their second EP release, the Reading quintet have had recurrent success in the HypeMachine charts and it’s easy to see why. Their hook-laden guitar-heavy pop rock complete with Jenn Stearnes charming vocals was a welcome ray a sunshine after I had dashed around to Soup Kitchen in torrential rain to see them play.

3. Strong Asian Mothers 

Probably one of the most hyped bands at #OTR and one that I’d been looking forward to seeing since the release of their Lynx Africa EP earlier in the year so their additional to the line-up was a nice surprise. Renowned for their lively performances as much as their highly original and enticing sound, their set was 80% gig, 20% stand up, 100% epic.

4. The Pearl Harts 

The vast commercial success Royal Blood over the past couple of years throws additional promise to this hard-hitting duo who, contrary to their rather mild-mannered chats in between songs, shook the very foundations of Gullivers with their bulky guitar riffs, biting vocals and thumping percussion. The Pearl Harts are set to release their debut album early next year after funding it via PeldgeMusic.

5. Seafoal 

The Preston-native is drawing as much chat about gender fluidity as his music. In the case of #OTR it was all about the music and, complete with backing band, what a performance it was. After doing a bit of research and circling Seafoalas one I definitely wanted to see, latest singles "Van Gogh" and "Chess" are unapologetic electropop, a strong indication of the direction Seafoal is headed compared to the more ambient folk offerings on 2014’s Lucid Living EP.

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Written By

Andrew Sharp

An apathetic Mancunian who has a beard through laziness more than fashion consciousness. Music obsessed jack of all trades, master of none.