Strange Waves festival returned to the beautiful O2 Ritz for the fifth instalment of indie rock shenanigans with the evening featuring popular indie bands like Sunflower Bean and headlined by South London punk-rock favourites Dry Cleaning.
Spread across two floors, the festival began with a set from Speedy Wunderground’s very own, The Lounge Society. Dubbed ‘the best new band in Yorkshire’ by the festival’s organisers, the four-piece certainly didn’t disappoint. Jumping straight in with the adrenaline-packed, headbanger ‘Cain’s Heresay’; what was already designed to be an incredible evening was off to a roaring start as the top floor of the Ritz began to fill up with audience members of all ages.
Slightly later on in the evening, Sunflower Bean took to the stage for their first Manchester show since 2018 to play a large chunk of material from their upcoming third album Headful of Sugar (set to be released on May 6th). The band’s excitement to be back in the city did not go amiss with lead singer Julia Cumming exclaiming her love for Manchester and how wonderful the crowd had been several times throughout their hour-long set.
Opening with a couple of more traditional rock sounding tunes such as ‘In Flight’ and the titular song ‘Headful of Sugar’ they glided into the dreamy landscape of their previous album Twentytwo in Blue, proving that they’ve still got it and that their ability to switch between two vastly different sounds. It’s a shame the crowd didn’t quite match up to the energy that shone from the stage because this particular performance has cemented Sunflower Bean as one of the greatest indie rock bands of the moment and a total force to be reckoned with.
To close the evening, on the top floor, anyway, Dry Cleaning treated their fans to a generous 12 song set of favourites from their debut album as well as material from their older EPs like ‘Sit Down Meal’ and ‘‘Magic of Meghan’. In the last couple of years where there has been a huge influx of new artists in the post-punk/rock and indie scenes, it’s clear to see why Dry Cleaning has always stood out. Forming in 2018, the band consists of vocalist Florence Shaw, guitarist Tom Dowse, bassist Lewis Maynard and drummer Tom Buxton).
Donning a pair of cream trousers pinned over an all-black outfit Shaw is certainly up there with some of the more exciting female musicians of the last forty years. Reminiscent of Kate Bush, Shaw and her almost deadpan, spoken word delivery combined with the musical talent of her bandmates made for something totally different to your stereotypical ‘indie’ gig.
Although the band didn’t have much stage presence other than an occasional flail of a hand from the lead vocalist, this didn’t seem to bother the crowd as mosh pits formed in the centre of the sprung ballroom floor for almost every song. They even performed a slightly out of time rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for Shaw once Dowse had made this fact known.
They finished a rather splendid evening at the Ritz in the most traditional way, this of course being by playing their most popular track. ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’ is Dry Cleaning at their best and in turn, perhaps the best way to finish off an evening filled with £6 pints and lots and lots of moshing.