Rex Orange County Two years ago I saw the incredibly talented Rex Orange County at the Peckham Liberal Club for the release of first studio album, Apricot Princess. The venue held just over a hundred people and the tickets only cost a tenner. When he walked onto the stage he gave a hint of a smile but it seemed there was a slight sense of nervousness to his being. After a few songs, he settled in when he realised that most of the people in his line of sight were friends from school and he played a very cool and calm show for us all.


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Pumarosa The wealth of options available to music lovers of Manchester on this particular Thursday night with the likes of Yonaka, Tokio Myers and Mancunian legends the Happy Mondays all playing within a ½ mile radius you’d be spoilt for choice if you wanted to see a gig. I opted for London based Pumarosa and boy was I glad I did.


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Amber Run Nottingham’s indie rock quintet Amber Run delivered an intimate, emotional set that captured the hearts of all fans, new and old.


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Pale Waves Manchester’s female-fronted goth-pop quartet are back in the Midlands, with a whole new confidence. It’s been a year since Dirty Hit’s Pale Waves released their critically acclaimed debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, and the group are showing no signs of slowing their ever-growing confidence. Playing a large smattering of shows since the album dropped, it sounds like the act have gone from strength to strength, refining their sound at every show. Having seen the foursome only a month ago at a festival, I was already excited for their headline show, but from the minute they swaggered onto the mesmerisingly colourful, laser-clad stage, we were taken on an unanticipated journey of emotions and musical exploration.


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Pixies It was only 2 years ago that Pixies were playing this room last, ending their evening by filling the venue with thick plumes of white smoke and disappearing off into the night. We haven’t seen them since, until now, when they surprisingly emerged from the haze with a critically acclaimed new record and a world tour.


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Anderson .Paak Anderson .Paak has been on an unstoppable rise over the past two years. Every album, track or even feature released, just seems to get better and better. Ahead of his weekend slots at Reading and Leeds he announced an unmissable warmup at the O2 Academy. The sold out crowd were in for a special night.


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Prophets of Rage It says a lot that even a tyre blowing out on the motorway and 2 hours waiting to be rescued at 1am in the morning and getting just 3 hours sleep before setting off to work couldn’t kill the feeling that I had just seen, for me, the gig of the year... Prophets of Rage at Manchester Academy.


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Brass Against 9 times out of 10 Facebook’s suggested posts are just wallpaper that get unceremoniously scrolled passed, but seeing one for a brass band playing Cochise as a tribute to Chris Cornell caught my eye – as a massive fan of his – and it blew me away. That was my introduction to Brass Against and I was instantly hooked. So getting the chance to see them live was something I wasn’t going to miss.


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Kamasi Washington “Let’s Do It”, announces Kamasi Washington, as he and his band take the stage at Manchester's Academy. The venue has a fine pedigree starting life in the sixties with jazzers such as Humphrey Lyttelton before embracing the likes of Hendrix, The Who, Cream and Pink Floyd. An audience of around one thousand are here tonight, mostly students. Some are here out of curiosity but most will be familiar with Washington’s contributions to fellow Angelino Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly – that landmark 2015 chart topper which fused hip-hop with jazz and opened up the genre to a new young audience.


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Manic Street Preachers It seems almost a cliche at this point for artists to play older albums in full, relying on nostalgia to bring in the audience for a quick cash grab. However that’s not always the case, some do it for the right reasons, making it a celebration for themselves and the fans. The best example of this at the moment is the Manic Street Preachers, who over the past few years have been playing a slew of excellent 20th anniversary shows of their 90’s albums.


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Sting & Shaggy They go together like cats and motorways as Alexei Sayle would say, and yet this strange reggae/rock combo works live better than anyone could have imagined. Let’s face it, Sting is a little dry in the humour stakes, Shaggy is the yin to his yang in that nothing is actually serious for him. Shaggy plays the role of warm up man, frequently getting the crowd hyped up, clapping, singing and screaming, while Sting is being Sting, wearing a tight black T shirt showing off a trim muscled bod for a 67-year-old but rarely speaking or smiling too much (unless Shaggy is thrusting his groin forward towards him – in which case he makes a run for it).


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Idlewild Before tonight's gig to promote their new album 'Interview Music', if anyone had asked me how long headline act Idlewild had been performing, I would have never have said that they started in 1995. 24-years has rocketed by for me, but for them they appear to be very fresh indeed.  In fact, if we take a moment to reflect on their careers: starting about the same time as Coldplay, the whole music scene itself feels as though it has slowly but surely moved away from Coldplay's more relaxed style, to where Idlewild have been "at" for all their career.


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Dropkick Murphys The boys are back, the boys are back, the boys are back and they’re looking for trouble! Dropkick Murphys never disappoint for a night of high-energy fun celtic-folk-punk style.


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Sleaford Mods Sleaford Mods. Don’t let the band name mislead you. Sleaford Mods can’t be pigeon holed as a ‘mod band’ - because they're not. Their vocalist Jason Williamson has described their sound in the past as "electronic munt minimalist punk-hop rants for the working class.” They are certainly political, and certainly of the people. Yet in an interview with Channel 4 (2015) Williamson has alternatively said that he doesn’t want the music to be described as working class - as when you're talking about alienation or unemployment there really shouldn’t be that assumption, or stereotype.


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