My Awesome Compilation / Not Katies plus guests - Retro Bar - 4.8.04

There are very few times you can mention the words cello and charity in the same sentence and still come out smiling, but today is such a day where the unthinkable happens. The Slowdown must have snuck in the backdoor when the line-up was decided because they have nothing remotely in common with the rest of today's bill. Coming across as a less bombastic version of Hope Of The States they set about doing exactly what it says on the tin. Cellos and acoustic guitars intertwine, drums are lightly brushed and it's all so anti-rock In fact it's so anti-rock that by twist of fate The Slowdown are actually the most punk rock band of the bill by being so out of step with what's happening at the moment.

Shoot Significant mix third earth haircuts & meandering Mogwai style riffs. Post rock with a melodic twist with a front man who stands back faced to the audience throughout, refusing to acknowledge that an audience even exists never mind have paid to see them. It's not a statement of rock n roll defiance, but instead the vision of someone being totally submersed and lost in the music rather than performing. With Shoot Significant it's never a performance and it shows as the audience is captivated by this mythical Jim Morrison styled icon for the North.

Echo Freddy have come a long way since we first saw them supporting the Beatsteaks in April. It's been a journey from boys to men and now we find the band with a little stubble, the riffs that little bit scuzzed up and a self assured performance. Months of touring and a record deal with Punktastic Recordings have done wonders for the guys. While once upon a time there was an underlining nerviness about them which took years off their 20 something years, and at times made them look like a Green Day / Foo Fighters Juniors style act (not a bad thing considering Blink 182 have spurned dozens of mini-me style acts who've sold millions), there's now a confidence which means they can share the stage with any band and potentially blow them off stage. Although at heart they're a punk-pop act its that fact they can they can take The Jams "Going Underground" and rewrite it as "Only Yesterday" or the fact that every song bristle's with pure pop hooks with middle 8's to shame the pop fraternity. Echo Freddy have the potential to do for Manchester's rock scene what Oasis and The Roses did for a host of indie bands.

That Not Katies have just gone into number 63 in the Japanese Charts explains a little of what to expect - Popcore with a frontman who wouldn't look out of place as a cheeky affable contestant on Takeshi's Castle. Immediately as the band bounce onto the stage there's something extremely huggable about Rich Watkin. He's the sort of guy you could imagine taking for a pint, but feeling the need to spike his Stella with lemonade in case he gets a little tipsy. It's the same with the music as well - guitars don't so much crunch, as ring out beautiful melodies that the milkman, postman and indeed the paperboy could hum along to. The Not Katies are a band for everyone. "The Hope You Choke", "Play Dead" and "What You Stand For" are as much petulant faux dumb punk songs as they are pop gems and that's the beauty of them. On every single level you care to look at them they work.

My Awesome Compilation are like the Not Katies gone large with synths. They quote Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Feeder as influences, use synths but refuse to do an all out synth pop song, claim to be a punk band but have ambitions of filling stadiums. The best way to describe My Awesome Compilation though are as a low-rent version of eighties Bon Jovi. It's probably the wrong thing to admit, the band will probably be a gasp when they read this but who cares - MAC's setlist reads like a noughties version of "Living On A Prayer", "You Give Love A Bad Name" and "It's My Life". "As Always" is the best rock song written in the last 20 years and it's a shame that MAC are playing it to 100 people rather than 10,000 as they would be if they was any rock justice. "Even the kiss of life wouldn't save us tonight", ah yes but a great rock song would and this band have them aplenty. If My Awesome Compilation get lost in the mire of terrible emo bands, many of which understand the simple mathematics of song writing but who can't actually put them into great songs, it would be a crying shame. This band deserves to be heard by the masses.

Alex McCann

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