Sonder festival Friday 30th – Sunday 2nd July 2017 Sittin’ Pretty
I am at Sonder Festival this weekend and down at a venue called the Ruby Lounge Manchester, but there is a problem—an internal contention that is bothering me. I am here to watch/review a band that I not only know well, but I was involved with in their earlier days. This dilemma is real to me, and I am sure to every music writer out there who has been in this situation. As I order a very reasonably priced lager—which is harder to find now in this city centre—I come back to my basic principle and what I have always done within the music world, which is to be totally honest with myself (come hell or high water) and to anyone who reads my reviews and reflections. So with that little wobble over I relax over the cold lager with the photographer.
You can feel the hard work and effort that has gone into this annual festival.
The festival is over three days, covering a number of smaller venues across the city centre, and it’s a festival that I like, and it’s run exceptionally well, with real value for money.
So the time has come and the band from Bolton who I had come to see are on stage. Sittin’ Pretty have had a 50% change in membership since I last saw them—now on bass it’s Brazilian, Lincoln D’Amato, and on drums, Olli Nicholson, joining guitarist Lewis Grounds and frontman /singer, Conor Wilde. Within three minutes of watching the band the change is immense—it’s not like watching another band, it’s like seeing and hearing something that had grown beyond my expectation to a level that reminds you why live music can be so damn good, and why so many of us watch emerging bands to find that glorious moment when it has been all worthwhile.
To give a background to the band, they always had potential, however the development was slow—frontman Conor was the focal point, but at times it felt he was trying too hard, even though it was fascinating to watch, and this had an effect on the vocals/performance, and the rhythm section didn’t quite work. I suspect helping this new growth has been going on tour with the legendary Ian Hunter, an apprenticeship that can make or break you, and after the band split, many hours soul searching the way forward.
I stand with the photographer Stu, watching the band do a 30 minute set—Stu keeps popping back to me with a smile on his face, both of us knowing we are watching something special, as now there is a real balance on stage with the rhythmic bass playing and vocals of Lincoln, solid drumming from Olli, and a guitar style from Lewis that reminds me of early Free / Paul Kossoff.
Conor has got his act together and it’s addictive watching—a tortured soul has been replaced by a devilish grin. People at the gig came over to me and compared it to Jim Morrison and to a version of Ian Curtis. While there may be elements of that, I just think it’s now quite simple, refreshing—they are the best live rock and roll band I have seen to come from the North West in many years.
The highlights from the show were 24-7, Take My Shoes, and the stomping Shock Machine.
However the band still need to record something that really gives a true representation of who they are and where they are going. Until then just take that opportunity and see them live.