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Set the scene in a relatively-new bar in Manchester called Jimmy’s which digs the “small, dingy venue with neon lights” look. The bar is upstairs, and the smallest stage and mosh pit below. No other venue could be a better scene for the Irish garage-punk band Otherkin.
Otherkin, touring their debut album ‘OK’ released late last year, have already met acclaim and praise after supporting Guns N Roses. Their record reminded me of early Arctic Monkeys, with an ability to write songs, especially edgy “love” songs, well and to keep them memorably catchy. But this recorded sound was tame in comparison to the wild wall of noise that exploded from the stage live. I’ll admit I wasn’t convinced to begin with, but a couple of songs into the set, they’d brought a stage presence that matches their energetic music style and enthusiastic audience. It certainly didn’t take long for the moshing to start (and hats off to the guy who did a forwards roll in the middle of it all, it was impressive!).
Hits of the night included ‘Come On, Hello’, a slightly lighter song in the set that had fans singing away and even the lingerers in the corner swaying along. ‘Yeah, I Know’ was another memorable moment, and it’s easy to see why it’s their most listened-to song on Spotify and Soundcloud. The bassline in ‘Enabler’ made this song, it kept the rhythm and gave the song a notable contrast between chorus and verse, which was very distinctive.
A quick note to the support act, Paris Youth Foundation. This group was a great warm-up act and performed with an intense dynamic. Their songs were well-written and contained all the familiar elements of popular punk/rock band. Saying that, they vaguely reminded me of Oasis but their live sound lacked some texture and balance compared to their records. However, these guys are in their early days, they’ve got time yet to find their unique sound over the generic ‘sitcom soundtrack band’ feel. It’ll be interesting to see where they go.
But in a broader point, these bands all reminded me of other bands, and the venue itself was channelling the small venues and basement gigs of the past. In their self-proclaimed genre of ‘garage punk’, Otherkin refer to punk as the counterculture it professed to be in the 70’s. But now, all the bands are signed onto major record labels, and the venues are now well equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and cosmopolitan cocktails at the bar. The old punk is the current conventional style, so where has the counterculture moved to? Where’s the angry youth pouring their excess of emotion into their music?
Otherkin were entertaining, energetic and in every way a punk band, from the chord progressions to their aesthetic. All they need is a touch more attitude, to be a dash more outrageous, and they’ll be there.