One day each year, Salford transforms into the cacophony of sound and colour that is Sounds From The Other City. Unhindered by the bad weather (which is, in all honesty, nothing unusual for this northern city), we joined the crowds gathering on Chapel Street and dove head first into the chaos.
Eclectic may be an overused word but few festivals merit its use quite as much as SFTOC. Venues ranged from the beautiful St Philip’s Church, which was all arches and traditional stonework, to warehouse spaces, pubs, even a GP surgery café. Then, of course, there was Islington Mill – Salford’s creative hub and the epicentre of SFTOC.
St Philip’s soon established itself as our favourite venue, both musically and architecturally. Playing host to the Hey!Manchester stage, we were treated to acts like the lyrically brilliant She Drew The Gun, American pop-punk quartet Tacocat, and the magnificent Meilyr Jones, whose angelic tones were perfectly suited to the venue. He certainly knew how to make the space work for him, singing at times from the lectern, from within the crowd itself, and from a piano which had been inconspicuously placed to one side of the stage. The final act to perform in St Philip’s, Meilyr closed his set in style with a stripped-back acoustic number. Accompanied by a violist and a violinist, he slowly made his way through the crowd, towards the back of the church, and out of the doors while the last notes still hung in the air. It was, undoubtedly, one of the day’s most magical moments.
Another highlight was the fierce foursome ILL. Tucked away in an upstairs room of the King’s Arms pub, they were quite a distance from the majority of other stages but that didn’t stop them drawing a crowd so large that it spilled out of the doors. The King’s Arms was, in itself, a place of contrasts – downstairs, it appeared to be just your regular charmingly old fashioned pub. Upstairs, however, it was all bright walls, modern décor and what looked a shrine to Elvis on one of the walls, for reasons best known to the owners.
Some of the day’s most curious events took place in the SFTOC.TV HQ, a warehouse from which acts and interviews were live streamed in front of an audience. It was here that we met Trish Dee – the alter-ego of Louise Woodcock and a familiar face amongst the Salford music scene – after watching her “Good Morning” chat show. Flamboyant and always dressed-to-the-nines, Trish likes to think of herself as an “it girl”, and is full of name drops and stories from her party lifestyle. She’s hilarious to talk to and a fantastic creation from Woodock, who agreed to be interviewed in character for GIITTV.
The SFTOC.TV stage also hosted Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno project, a fascinating set up involving layered looping records spinning on the same axel, using audio and mechanical triggers to set off synths, percussion and drum machines. The end result was hypnotic techno concoction, which the SFTOC audience lapped up.
Sounds From The Other City is a festival where anything can happen; a troop in larger-than-life sea creature themed heads can walk down a church aisle, and no one will bat an eyelid. Actually, they’ll probably stop to take a selfie, but you get the idea. Whatever formula SFTOC use to select their brilliantly exhilirating mix of acts, they’re doing something truly special.
Video credit: Helen Griffiths Videography