The resurgence of alt-rock and grunge music

“The late ’80s was full of over-produced pop that kids had nothing to grab hold of, they had no way of connecting to a hair metal band singing about strippers in a limousine on Sunset Boulevard. Who can relate to that? Then you had a bunch of formulaic pop songstress [stuff], and music was boring. And then a bunch of bands with dirty kids got on MTV and rock and roll became huge again. And I feel like that’s about to happen.” – Dave Grohl talking about the current musical climate and why it reminds him of 1991, the year that grunge broke.

I’ll be honest, alt-rock and grunge isn’t my go to genre but I’m a man that can appreciate good musicianship regardless so when I was invited down to see Untamed! at Rebellion in Manchester I was more than intrigued to see what these five up and coming acts had to offer.

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Untamed! is a regular event organised by local Manchester promoters, Cherry Valentine Promotions looking to showcase the best emerging talent in rock and metal music. They’re fairly established on the Manchester music scene and put on a number of events across the city, if you’re interested in seeing what they’ve got coming up then take a look at their Facebook page.

Opening the show were Smoke Signals, an alt/grunge/punk four-piece from Manchester formed only earlier this year. To say they’ve not been together long, this was their first gig and I’m not overly familiar with this genre – I was impressed. Understated guitar riffs accompanying the frontman’s raspy vocals leading in to heavier head banging choruses proved that these guys are on to a dynamically winning formula that embodies everything you imagine grunge music should be about. Lyrically, their tracks resonated and the execution of their delivery was just the right balance of aggression and angst. To put this group as the opener was the absolute correct decision. They interacted with the audience and really got them going, their energy and stage presence was infectious!

Track of the set: Whatever Happens

To hear some of their stuff (which I would recommend that you do), visit their Bandcamp profile.

After a strong start, Polar Pyramids were next to perform. These three guys are a punk rock band from Derby and were not backwards in coming forwards. They commanded the stage with an almighty powerful set with tracks that included strong vocals, great dynamic shifts and some insane riffs – it even ended with two guitars being thrown at each other! If you’ve never seen a rock band perform before but you’ve got an image in your head of what that would look like, I can guarantee you it’s these guys.

Track of the set: Eye to Eye

To find out a bit more about them, visit their Facebook page.

The third set of the night came from a group of four young lads from Bury that go by the name Dazed Reaction. This garage rock four-piece played a solid set, the frontman has a great rock voice and I was in awe of the drummer. These guys had some strong, well-written songs and ended with a great cover of Jailhouse Rock. They are clearly talented musicians but visually it felt like something was lacking. They were sparsely spread out across the stage to a such an extent at some points it looked like they were session musicians supporting the frontman (they did come together a couple of times) and the bassist looked like he belonged in a different band. Towards the end of their set, they informed the audience that the guitarist had actually only joined the band yesterday! So to say rehearsal time would have been limited, that’s pretty impressive.

Track of the set: Lights Out

Check out some of more their work on their Facebook page.

The Lotus were the penultimate act, an Italian alt-rock group channeling the likes of Pink Floyd and Muse. These guys were probably the highlight of the night for me. While all the other acts made use of the traditional rock band set up of guitars, bass and drums – this set had the inclusion of a synth. As someone who’s trying to brush up on his keys playing himself, this excited me and added a different dynamic to their sound. All of their tracks had some great elaborate yet catchy melodies and the crowd was really buzzing from their energy, probably the closest the evening got to having a mosh pit. While the alt-rock genre in itself is an acquired taste, I think this group would appeal to a mass audience outside of that niche. Their performance had just the right amount of aggressiveness without being over the top, marrying nicely with intense grooves and at times an almost psychedelic sound.

Track of the set: Perfect Love

Would highly advise listening to some of their music on their SoundCloud page.

Headlining and closing the show were Velvoir, an art-rock four-piece from the North East and probably one of the most bizarrely captivating performances I’ve ever seen. While the lead singer was clearly commanding attention from the audience with their emotional vocal delivery, theatrical dancing and crawling across the stage, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the PHENOMENAL bass player. No joke, this guy was insane. The rhythm section was an absolute powerhouse. The best bass playing I’ve ever heard. Ever. And I’ve heard some bass. Believe me there was a lot going on with the lead singer, it took a lot for your attention to be diverted. Instrumentally, this group were flawless and regardless of what genre of music you’re in to, I challenge any one to not take their hat off to these guys. Dynamically, it was a bit all over the place and I usually wouldn’t be a fan of that but it felt like a deliberate attempt to confuse the audience as to what they were about and it worked well with their image – both musically and visually captivating yet utterly baffling at the same time. These guys oozed creativity and you can tell experimenting with alternative sounds is a big part of their niche. My only criticism would be that their songs were too long, while I appreciated it and viewed it as testament to their talent and endurance, the audience seemed less receptive and started to dwindle as their set went on – they were actually asked to wrap it up around midnight, to the dissatisfaction of the drummer – but all in all, an incredible performance.

Track of the set: I’ve got no idea because they didn’t actually introduce any of their songs but let’s all take a moment to appreciate how sick the bassist was again

To find out more about them and listen to some of their work, check out their website.

All five acts did an incredible job and I’m thankful I was invited to witness it. Hats off to all involved, including Cherry Valentine Promotions who put on a great event and secured some top notch talent to perform. I’m more than happy with my break-in to alt-rock/grunge. Am I converting? Possibly. Would I go to another gig? Absolutely.

Is Dave Grohl’s prediction about an alt-rock resurgence going to come to fruition? If these five acts have got anything to do with it… Very likely!

Post by JD Kinniburgh

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