Manchester based indie post-punk rockers Spring King have come a long way in a short time, recently supporting Kaiser Chiefs. Their inclusion at the MIF, the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events is something of a puzzle though, especially as they’re more or less closing it, musically. They’ve been quiet because they’ve been working on some new material but the gig is just a regular one by all accounts; unlike say, Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, which put on an experimental multimedia extravaganza in the same venue the week before involving artistic lighting rigs and wannabe dancers they’d been schooling in a local residency.
No-one is complaining though. They’re an energetic bunch, they can play their instruments well, they’re tight, their show gets the audience going straight away (and their videos are highly entertaining, though none made an appearance here). Moreover, in songwriter, singer, drummer and all-round main man Tarek Musa they’ve got an authentic front man who could charm the birds out of the trees. He thanks the festival’s organisers for their work (no-one else had). At one stage, prefacing the song ‘City’, he even asks two sets of opposing soccer fans as disparate in their own way as North and South Korea to “set aside their differences” and sing along in unison. That’s a big ask, but he succeeds.
Spring King is living proof that there is a future for feel-good guitar bands. They have their own inimitable style but as the show progresses it becomes a trip down Memory Lane for older music fans as they successively call to mind the likes of The Buzzcocks, Status Quo and even The Monkees and 60’s Manc bands like Herman’s Hermits. And they can surprise you, with an unexpected guitar break in the middle of a more bluesy song.
On the way out another reviewer asks if Spring King has it in them to make a big breakthrough. They certainly have many of the attributes required to do that and Lord knows Manchester needs it; it isn’t exactly in its musical heyday right now and all the talk since the beginning of the festival has been of New Order’s set on the opening night.
Support on the afternoon came from Norwich’s Let’s Eat Grandma (a punctuation reference in the same vein as the treatise Eats Shoots and Leaves, not a wish-list for dinner). The two 18-year olds, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, have known each other since junior school and while there is a degree of sophistication about their performance they’re occasionally back in the playground as they happy-clappy and high-five each other.
They are quite different from anything else on the circuit just now, with their enormous hair, like mutant ZZ Top beards. While some may be put off by their bizarre antics and appearance one of the things about them that is refreshing is their ability not only to play a variety of instruments (mainly electronic but embracing also xylophone, guitar, what looked from a distance like a mandolin, saxophone, and a recorder) but also to surprise the audience with just how they intersperse these instruments and different musical styles, often in the same song. Out of nowhere they’ll switch suddenly into a dance beat or throw in some rap as if they’re going out of their way to challenge convention. And both of them can sing.
With the right guidance these precocious young ladies have a bright future. Looking at their schedule in the next few months, touring prestigious festivals like Way Out West in Gothenburg, Pop Kultur in Berlin, Bestival and Hamburg’s Reeperbhan Festival, it looks like plenty of folk are cottoning on to that fact.