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Things Learned At: Cosmosis
Julian Marszalek , March 16th, 2016 19:11

Julian Marszalek reports from the Manchester festival

Photo: Asupremeshot

The best rock and pop is completely interchangeable. And rightly so

The thing with blasting off into space for a multi-coloured and kaleidoscopic trip is that you need a decent launch pad to set off from. You don't just appear at your destination; no, that would be an explosion rather than a blast off. So what counts in Manchester's Cosmosis favour is the decision to book both The Jesus And Mary Chain and Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats.

On the surface of things, the two bands have little in common. One remains a surly bunch of misfits almost embarrassed by the riches that they have their disposal while the other is an exuberant bunch of long hairs only too happy to shake their hard rockin' booties. But here's the thing: despite both band's gleeful delight in turning up the volume, stomping on fuzzboxes and creating the kind of aural vortexes that drag in audiences with all the irresistible force of a black hole, they share a melodic sensibility that gets under the skin like ringworm. Indeed, so strong are these melodies that they could quite easily sit at the top table reserved for tunesmiths whose songs will live on long after we've been propping up the daisies.

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats are hirsutely harmonious. Or should that be harmoniously hirsute? Either way, the blending of two voices, fuzzy riffs that would assure Tony Iommi that his baton has been passed on and a pop sensibility that in a just world would see them bestride the charts like a colossus is just the ticket. 'I'll Cut You Down' is simply glorious, a miasma of riffage and stomping beats while '13 Candles' burns bright with the bite of 'Poison Apple'

Similarly, The Jesus And Mary Chain are on majestic form tonight. Having toured Psychocandy for nearly two years, the band are so gloriously tight and so utterly focused that William Reid's previously lapses into Les Dawson territory are the stuff of bad memory. 'April Skies' kicks off and leads to spontaneous singing in the crowd, 'Head On' follows suit while 'Reverence is fantastically off the hook. Sadly, there's still so sign of new material – though 'All Things Must Pass' sounds great – but as Saturday nights go this is up there with the best of them.

Would it kill someone to build some stages?

The Victoria warehouse is quite the sizeable complex with five separate staging areas. The Air Stage, which hosts The Jesus And Mary Chain, is massive with an impressive soundsystem and while the utlisation of the other areas within the warehouse is to be applauded, the lack of actual stages is not. Consequently it's a bugger making do with just about catching the top of Colin Newman's head on the Earth Stage for Wire's set or just about making out Rachel Davies thrashing her bass for Esben And The Witch over at the Water Stage. And the fact that your correspondent has to do this at the end of the bar does nothing to dispel popular notions about music hacks and where they're to be found.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre achieve sonic nirvana

With all the tension, violence and general ugly vibes that used to characterise gigs by The Brian Jonestown a thing of the past, you might well think that it's all game over for then. Or at least you would if you were the kind of rubber necker more concerned with sensationalism rather than sensational vibes. What we have tonight, in front of a rammed but mellow crowd, is what feels like the full achievement of all the sounds that have been in Anton Newcombe's head all of this time. Once the initial technical gremlins have been harnessed and locked away, The Brian Jonestown Massacre deliver an utterly sublime performance. Bathed in swirling lights and multi-coloured backdrop, the band settles into a deliciously languid groove that taps into the mental headspace of almost all present. Augmented by Tess Parks, 'Anemone' is a blissful highlight as elsewhere, 'When Jokers Attack' hits new heights. Simply magnificent.

That's not a punch up; it's Sleaford Mods

You fuckin' cunt with your fuckin' Brillo pad fuckin' Andrew Neal hair, did you spill my fuckin' pint? Well then get me another you fuckin' fucker and a fuckin' packet of cheese'n'onion and some pork fuckin' scratchings an' all. And a Campari and soda, please.

Yeah, something like that.

Aether Stage hits the hi-tech groove

Upstairs in the Aether Stage is a groove that seems pretty much relentless whoever is playing. Which is just well because with nothing resembling a raised platform or stage for the performers, much rests on the music to work that little bit harder. A case in point is the splendid set that's served up by Newcastle's Warm Digits. Combining motorik beats with mutant funk and shards of screaming feedback and squalling guitars, the heads straining to get a better look first start bobbing along to the music before letting that feel overtake the body and surrendering to the dance. It's perfect music for Manchester, a city with a history and love affair with dance music and it's hardly surprising to see so many misty eyes among the ecstatically smiling faces.

Likewise Finland's K-X-P who power through their set like a Panzer attack. The trio have hit upon the novel and effective idea of utilising the skills of two drummers but here's the rub – one plays snare, hi-hats and sundry percussive bits and pieces while the other mans the kick drum and floor to. At the front of it is the figure of Timo Kaukolampi who takes care of the electronics and vocals. The cumulative effect is a brand of psychedelic techno that's impossible to resist and at this late hour provide a soundtrack that shrewdly takes in the set and setting as well as the advanced state of refreshment of those present.

It's always worth heading off the beaten track to find something new

East London's Saint Agnes – fronted by Lola Colt's Kitty Austen and guitarist Jon Tufnell – are the kind of band that the Dead Weather would be if they had a few actual tunes and some better ideas. But even taken on their own terms, Saint Agnes kick out the jams with a fervour and sense of purpose that's genuinely refreshing by shoving the blues through a mangle of 70s influenced psyche and metal and then spewing them out in a multi-coloured spray. Little wonder that those who've gathered to see them at the Fire Stage are responding in kind and freaking out with levels of intensity that most bands would kill for. The chemistry at play here creates a heady brew and one that should be one worth experiencing again.

Some acts are hard to follow

Though they may be tucked away at the Water Stage, White Hills know a thing or two about blasting out of snug confines and those hearty souls that congregate around them are treated to set of coruscating psychedelic workouts that show the band at its best. As evidenced by the likes of 'Pads Of Light', guitarist Dave W wrings the neck of his guitar for all that it's worth. But there's so much more White Hills than brutal onslaughts. Just check '£SD Or USB' that finds Ego Sensation's bass locking into a murderous groove that frees up her partner's six strings to go off-roading in all manner of unexplored directions. It's thrilling stuff and an examination of Ringo Deathstar's ersatz reading of My Bloody Valentine brings the realisation that White Hills have brought the curtain down on the day.