EL VY at Gorilla, Manchester, UK – 12th December 2015

Posted by Bianca on Saturday Dec 12, 2015 Under Alternative, Rock

Gig Review by Charlie Honnor


Superb shot of the gig featured on Instagram by Sarah Elizabeth @sarah_ess_

Manchester Gorilla is Sold Out for EL VY who are essentially a collaboration between Matt Beninger (from The National) and Brent Knopf (from the defunct Menomena and Ramona Falls). The event and album themselves raise the question, what is a side project for many I’m sure? With The National being the quietly huge band it’s very cool to like (and understandable) they can’t be doing this for the money surely.

As the small but perfectly formed venue rises in heat, bathed in blue strobe lights EL VY take to the stage at 9pm to delirious cries before they even play a note. Careless with its slow keys kicks off proceedings with a calm tone a million miles away from where the set will end.

Similarly It’s A Game continues with ease of pace and brooding emotive vocals, more thuds maybe but this is the calm before the storm. The creeping Sleepin’ Light plays out with subtle but definite weightier hooks as EL VY gently flick the mood changing switch. New Wave stabs and licks of guitar as movement becomes more urgent from band and crowd.

Knopf switches at lightning speed from keyboards to guitar – so quick you wonder briefly where that extra guitar is coming from. The small stage is adjusted to from these alternative crossover mainstream monsters. Sad Case brews more tension and EL VY are playing a carefully crafted game here. Squeezing between and indeed underneath the keyboards, the stage is tiny, the heart is big. More New Wave Television style hooks of Happiness, Missouri which bleeds in, out – and all around the venue.

Silent Ivy Hotel sounds quite unlike The National with its staggering swooning rousing boppy dreamscape. Matt explains his lengthy hair is a mid life crisis indulgence, “it was either this or a Porsche”. The divide between band and audience is minimal in both distance and warmth. Return To The Moon with its somewhat 80’s hooks and twists sends the venue into a state of bliss and serves to racks this all up another level.

The intimacy of the venue makes one forget just what a huge band Matt is in (in the day job) and we get a reminder from a fan who cannot help herself but join Berninger on stage, holding onto him for dear life. A bemused security guard finally arrives yet by now the stage invader is more popular than the band – in a good natured genuinely humorous episode the whole venue chant her name, she’s lost but will remember this for a good long while. The bizarre scene of Berninger, stage invader and security guard looks like a scene from an underground film and the nature of the scene is a timely reminder that live gigs can be such spontaneous and warm environments.


Photos by Charlie Honnor

Order is resumed with Paul Is Alive which is eclipsed by microphones giving out for the stuttering brilliance of I’m The Man. EL VY are immersed in the sound they are creating and the vibe transcends into that of a genuine Hardcore gig, this is beginning to border into barmy brilliance. That throb which carries into the audience, the divide blurs more and Matt is spending more time half in the crowd than onstage. Tight percussion and trickling keyboards.

An unlikely cover of She Drives Me Crazy (Fine Young Cannibals) follows and fits EL VY’s sound, the song rapidly transcends into a punky sing-a-long. Memorable. No Time To Crank The Sun swells slowly but surely. Need A Friend on the album sounds calm and collected, live it turns into an unlikely beast “this is heartbreaking, heartbreaking, HEARTBREAKING”. Matt pours a beer over someones head and I’m not too sure they’re impressed with this. Hellbent he staggers and wanders into the crowd, with no more songs to play EL VY go back to I’m The Man and play a more chaotic version, this time with working mic’s. Typed words cannot clearly portray how wonderfully chaotic the show has become by now as Mr. November becomes Mr. Indestructible or at least Mr. I Don’t Give A Damn lets rip this up.

As the lights go up the venue booms with huge applause and whilst it’s almost impossible to write about or listen to EL VY without referencing at least The National you can’t help but think this is what live music is all about. None of that back to the roots referencing huge bands often cite. Not so much an experimental side project. More a dark side, an exorcism of a something that needs to be done and if EL VY carry on in this fashion they may rear to one day look their alter ego greater known projects one day squarely in the eye and shout “Hey Moby!”…

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