Live Review: Watch Commander, Special Agent Set, The Business Life, Dave Hughes And Mark McCabe – The Bay Horse, Manchester – 29/07/2012

An underground group of bands in an underground venue! Perfect sense at The Bay Horse in Manchester. Located in The Northern Quarter of town, we find the venue just in time for the first act, Mark McCabe. A description of an amateur Frank Turner, with a Scottish accent, bristling with emotion and stories to tell seems very fitting for Mark. A final song about his sister, unplugged and just that bit more intimate with the 20 strong crowd, literally sends shivers down my spine as he belts out that final chorus. Spine tingles are always a good sign.

Following on with the Scottish acoustic magic, Dave Hughes is Mark’s fellow touring buddy as they journey the country to Rebellion Festival. ‘That first song was a test to see whether you’ll join in or stand there’ proclaims Dave after his first song, but the lack of interaction from the crowd doesn’t really bode well for the rest of the set. Bringing on his brother on mandolin adds another dynamic to the usual acoustic singer-songwriter position, but admitting that they hadn’t practiced in 5 years did seem true with quite a few mistakes from his brother. Just about kept the attention of the crowd but we’d seen similar already from Mark.

Ex-Fine Young Firecracker and Codeca have joined forces to unleash The Business Life onto this cellar crowd. Hailing from Liverpool, the band launch into their set like a newborn puppy in the park for the first time (oh yeah, it’s their first show you see). Despite being more on the pop side of punk the band fit well onto the bill by being a fresh change to the two previous acts and a much needed positive lift to the room. First show but a good, solid performance clearly due to the experience these gentleman have between them. Good things are coming.

Like some kind of really watered down indie version of A Wilhelm Scream, with some kind of pop punk wrapped around it, Special Agent Set. Showcasing quite a few new songs seems to be quite a priority for the band, but all their songs feel a little but stuck in that kind of high school phase, whereas playing after the experienced gents in The Business Life certainly doesn’t help either.

Worthy headliners Watch Commander show exactly why they’re worthy headliners. In pure tour mode supporting their new album ‘Clock & Compass’ the band race through an energetic set of new songs and a few from their first two EPs. Each member of the band plays tremendously and with plenty of enthusiasm to show why punk rock and the DIY ethics around it come together; for shows like this. From the growling vocals, to the backing chats and the ferocious blasts at the back on the drum kit, everything is melded together and executed brilliantly. Watch Commander saved the night and were worth the wait.


Words by Michael Brown (@mikeymiracle)


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