The best concerts are full of surprises. So when I read that Manchesters The Answering Machine would take the stage at 8 p.m., I hauled ass to arrive half an hour early. The bands set didnt start until past ten, however.
The highly anticipated Friday night gig took place at The Borderline, a very intimate venue which is essentially an underground pub with a performing space tacked on. Hidden away down a small alley, there was no queue to speak of, and inside the venue it was essentially empty.
The lineup read The Answering Machine + Guests, an ambiguous list that gave the night a strong hint of confusion. I had anticipated a punctual 30 minute supporting set, and therefore upon arrival the Answering Machine should have been running their sound check. I was wrong.
Driver Drive Faster
Within 15 minutes of arriving the first band were setting up their gear. The steadily growing crowd was ignoring them, drinking their pints and chatting away loudly. The set started without any introduction, commanding our attention. Some effort was made to strike up a rapport with the crowd but even their name was lost in the confusion. The Borderline makes bands work hard for their reward.
Within two songs the reluctant crowd had moved closer. Driver Drive Faster could easily hold their own as headliners, combining preppy style and a brilliant sense of rhythm to lace together a strong supporting set. Songs such as “They May Talk” blossomed in the live environment, and they strung together a nigh on hour long set, impressive for a inexperienced group.
Lo Fi Culture Scene
You might accuse these teenagers of being precocious. When they dragged their gear on stage they were easily mistaken for roadies, plying their trade. Once again we were in for a surprise when a sound-check morphed into their opening track.
Lo Fi Culture Scene‘s musical talent is way beyond their years, although the stage craft offers room for improvement. A number of mentors lie in wait; drummer Tom MacColl is Jamie MacColls (Bombay Bicycle Club) little brother. The singles shine strongly, and “Waxworks” is easily their best song to date.
They outperformed Driver Drive Faster, relying on a hard-core following for call-and response- it’s not hard to see them maturing into The Kooks of the future. Their sound was extremely tight, and after their set they joined the crowd to watch the headliners. A nice finishing touch.
The Answering Machine
The Answering Machine had a lot to live up to. After two consecutive high-quality performances, there was a real chance the headlining set would fall flat. They brought an instant energy to the performance, destroying any doubts. Like all great performers, they found an extra gear.
They chucked everything at this set, including a megaphone and a melodica. The songs themselves have an extra dimension, taking on new meaning when you have four energetic Mancunians and a crowd of people shouting the chorus. This is music destined for the stadiums. All four members moved around like a whirlwind, so much so that grabbing a static photo proved practically impossible.
The Answering Machine were humble, genuinely surprised by their success. Besides reminding us that this “meant the world to them”, lead singer Martin Colclough had “kept his best shirt for tonight”. Bassist Gemma Evans retorted, “Isn’t it held together by safety pins? Nice try.”
Songs from the band’s debut album, Another City, Another Sorry, made up the foundation of the set. As the crowd warmed to them, they added a genius cover of The Wannadies “You And Me Song” and some more experimental new material towards the end. Some songs lacked the intensity (see “Oklahoma”) but they were clearly stage-young. The rest of the material had experienced a brilliant transition from record and these will no doubt be given the same when their schedule permits.
To close the show, “one final song” was quickly transformed into two after some inter-band conferring. We were in their pockets at this point but they wanted to seal the deal. The show closed with an old track, “Silent Hotels”, reminding us that they were producing material well before the critically acclaimed debut album.Within minutes The Borderline was empty again, returning to it’s usual calm state. The venue might be able to wipe the slate clean but we would be hard pressed to forget such a brilliant show.