Around the festive season, I experienced the joy of a visit to Manchester to see my favourite post-hardcore band, ‘Enter Shikari’. None of my friends are particularly fond of this genre of music however, and I wasn’t prepared to go with my mother again, so I made the executive decision to go it alone – I mean watching a band doesn’t have to be a group activity, does it? (Said the lonely man to nobody in particular).
I live in the small, picturesque, north-western village of Rainford which is situated nicely between Liverpool and Manchester – a mere hours train journey away from the latter. So I gaily hopped onto the train ready for an evening of excitement and fun. The train journey itself was most agreeable: I got away with a meagre £2 child’s fare, the train was nice and quiet, some kind stranger had left a paper for me to read, and the windows presented lovely views of distant smoke stacks and rubbish-ridden fields. Basically I was having the time of my life – until a “stag-do” boarded the train and loudly started dissecting my outfit. Apparently wearing a duffel coat is the universal method of identifying homosexuality; who knew?
I clambered off the train at Manchester Victoria station to find myself amidst its Victorian grandeur. It has a sense of vintage appeal about it – Hipsters swarm over the place like locusts. I was off to seek a greater purpose however- food; something I would say I am somewhat an enthusiast of. Around Christmas in Manchester you will find the “World Famous” Manchester Christmas Market that spreads far and wide across the city centre, generally getting in the way of everything and teeming with woolly hats, mulled wine and exotic foods from strange lands. There is also a colossal light up Santa perched upon the town hall that is actually somewhat unnerving. I procured a portion of Currywurst from a local vendor that looked distinctly ‘un-German’ and went to find an activity to pursue until my concert started.
I soon found myself at the ‘Manchester Eye’. It seems that since London got one, every city feels a desire to have some form of oversized Big Wheel. It presents lovely views of Manchester City Centre (Colossal Santa and all) with an added impending sense of doom as the carriage shakes precariously on the couple of rusty bolts that hold it up in the suddenly gale force winds. It is at times like this that we question the great mysteries of life. Why are we on this planet? Why does the Universe Exist? Why did I decide to get on this terrifying big wheel without heating in the middle of winter? By the time I got off I was pretty sure I had hypothermia, paranoia, a new-found fear of heights, and slight clinical depression – to name but a few. However, it turned out my life changing experience had taken a mere half an hour, and so I still had a good hour to kill before I was due to arrive at the luxurious Manchester Ritz.
And so... I ended up eating again. Turns out past 6:00PM there isn’t really that much to do in Manchester except visit bars and pubs and nightclubs and the like, which I cannot enter due to age restrictions. I eagerly anticipate the day when I am finally old enough to sit in a dingy pub in Manchester alone wasting my life with all the other lost causes. There is a rather fantastic USA-style Taco Bell in Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre’s Food Court however where you can get one of everything on the menu for £7, and yet we still speculate as to why America has a higher rate of obesity than Britain...
After sitting by myself in an empty food court eating tacos and sobbing about how lonely I was for an hour I decided to get up and head off to the Ritz. The journey was not a fun one. I hadn’t had the foresight to check how close Manchester Victoria station actually was to Manchester Ritz - as it turned out it was half an hour’s walk. So, using my iPhone as a guide, I headed off. The only issue however, is that there had recently been an update to the ‘maps’ application. An application that had remained faithful to me for many years and got me out of many otherwise tough situations. Tonight, this application had no such use - What was already a half hours walk alone in the dark and unfamiliar surroundings of Manchester became an hour and a half’s walk alone in the dark and unfamiliar surroundings of Manchester. Scared would probably be an understatement considering my disposition.
Nevertheless I found the Ritz eventually.
Manchester Ritz is a sight to behold. Originally a ballroom built in the 1920’s it still carries with it a feeling of what once was – of midnight meetings and burnt out cigars and masquerade balls. It even once hosted renowned bands such as The Beatles. Not tonight however, as what was once the grand ballroom floor would situate tonight’s ‘mosh-pit’; the stage that once held an organist, a jazz band or an orchestra would hold such renowned classical musicians as the thrash metal band ‘Cancer Bats’ or the Dubstep five-piece ‘Engine-Earz Experiment’.
I walked in, placed my extraordinarily homosexual duffel coat in the mysterious underground cloakroom, made use of the amenities (which seemingly haven’t been updated or even cleaned since the 1920’s), got a very hardcore drink from the bar (lemonade – if you must know) found a bar stool on which to sit, and took my place on the balcony to watch. I didn’t particularly fancy the idea of ‘moshing’ alone. Images of me falling over and nobody helping me up as I get slowly crushed to death come to mind.
A few minutes later Cancer Bats bounced onto stage, dressed in leather and studs with tattoos of skulls and inverted crosses covering every inch of flesh on their bodies, contrasting perfectly with the gold trimming and crimson carpeting of the Ritz, exclaiming “We are the motherf***ing Cancer Bats!” to much appraisal.
Then they started playing.
Having never listened to them before, I didn’t quite know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t... that. Brutal, guttural screams of hatred and injustice escaped from the lead singer’s coarse throat as the guitarists leaped around, smashing everything in their wake whilst the drummer mercilessly beat his drum kit into submission – I almost spilled my lemonade.
But now it was time for the main event. Performances like this remind me why Enter Shikari are my favourite band - hopping onto stage like a bunch of school boys, looking just as normal as people you would pass on the street and not cast a second glance at. Their music, on the other hand, is quite a different story. A fanatical fusion of seemingly juxtaposed musical genres including (but not limited to) hardcore, dubstep, heavy metal, pop, rap, trance and even an occasional tinge of jazz - as energetic front man ‘Rou’ Roughton Reynolds puts it: “Abusing music genres’ worthless boundaries since 2003”. In their ninety minute set they soar from irate songs about big business such as the violent ‘Arguing with Thermometers’- a garage influenced hardcore mosh about the depressing effects of drilling for oil in the arctic, to the dance floor filling, bass crunching, stomach churning dubstep smack-downs of ‘Havoc A’ and ‘Havoc B’, finally reaching a pre-encore climax with the debut live performance of an album favourite, the xylophone and acoustic guitar driven ‘Constellations’, with unexpected and sometimes extortionate levels of confetti and lasers drowning the room. Enter Shikari sum up the human condition perfectly in the most energetic and imaginative way possible. After what seems like forever they come on for an encore of ‘Zzzonked’, a dirty synth blasting across the room as all the band growl, scream and sing at ridiculous decibel levels into their microphones, finally smashing amps and guitars against the drum kit as cymbals and snares fly across the stage – showing that beneath all the musical premise and technical skill there is a rock and roll band that just want to enjoy themselves and smash things. And if this evening has proved anything, it is that they are a force to be reckoned with.
I left the venue half an hour later after being ushered out by security – who in retrospect probably thought I was just a lonely maniac, a solitary person stood around with a duffel coat grinning broadly. So I went to find my mother to take me home.
On my way out of the Ritz I looked to my left to see none other than ‘the motherf***ing Cancer Bats’, eating at a nearby Currywurst stand.
Maybe I’m so hardcore I don’t even know it.