This year’s MIF has provided Manchester with some of the year’s cultural highlights. From Bjork’s Biophilia to Damon Albarn’s Doctor Dee, the city has been spoiled rotten with some of the biggest tickets money can buy. However, the show that has set the pulse of every young hipster racing is surely WORLD UNITE LUCIFER YOUTH FOUNDATION‘s performance in a tunnel!
The tunnel in question is Part of Great Bridgewater Street, and for tonight one end has been blocked off to create a tall and foreboding stage.
First off, we happily enjoy the one man rockabilly noise of Dirty Beaches, a vast human appearing 8 foot tall on the raised stage, back-lit by the cultish WU LYF cross symbol erected on the stage. Unfortunately, amid the ‘John Maus in the 50′s’ noise of Mr Beaches, we witness the unbelievable rudeness of the stage crew as they wheel WU LYF’s amps and organ into position mid song, something that Mr Beaches does not take lying down, and rightly so. I shout “FUCK OFF” at the offending bald men, but soon realise how it must have appeared to be directed at Beaches himself as he irritably replies, “shall I go, you wanna see WU LYF right?
Quick toilet time, followed by a brief visit to the smoking area where WU LYF have staged a car crash with two crumpled vehicles covered in graffiti next to an ambulance with real life paramedics, then it’s back to the stage to join the amassing crowd of young, fresh, anarchic LYF fans who are becoming ever more enraged and ecstatic to see the band that has truly created an identity and community around their music.
Suddenly, the four mystery men enter the stage and without a word the stirring organ throb of ‘L Y F‘ echos through the tunnel.
As Ellery Roberts’ first rasped, gnarled but beautifully in-tune vocal bleeds from his throat, the crowd are there with him, pushing and shoving against the railing, singing every one of the indecipherable lyrics.
Bassist, Tom McClung, is a captivating figure on stage, stood as he is in it’s centre, staring into the audience, smiling like a prophet, grimacing as the simple euphoric chords slide into each other. loving every minute of it.
World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation
The sound isn’t great, especially where we are at the front, but then considering we are in a tunnel, it’s more than satisfactory. The band are tight, but all the while giving a loose ramshackled facade which gives them raw power! The off-beat, stabbing rhythms of drummer, Joe Manning, are married astonishingly well with McClung’s walking, world beat bass lines, which in turn are soothed and caressed by the catchy washed out top end guitar lines of Evans Kati. But it is Roberts’ destroyed vocals that makes the band so desperately addictive. As he resonates long dark chords on his sideways organ, Roberts screams his rhetoric, veins pulsing in his thin neck, ready to explode all over the blissed out faces of his ‘Bros’.
‘Spitting Blood‘ sees the WU followers at the front of the crowd partake in it’s essential call and respond chorus, and latest single ‘Dirt‘ cements the love in the tunnel beautifully.
WU LYF – ‘Dirt’
It is at this point that I notice how segmented the crowd is; believers crammed into the railings like the gig is oversold, but 20 feet back, although healthy in size, the crowd is relaxed and thoughtful, texting and tweeting, taking in the performance with scepticism, seeing what the biggest band they’d never heard of is all about.
Before the majesty of flagship song ‘Heavy Pop‘ is spat out into the brick tube, Roberts introduces us to the gang, as if finally, and shamefully, unveiling themselves to the city that would have liked to have been proud of them, but instead are left redundant. We meet them, they seem nice, now play ‘Heavy Pop’ you silly WUs!
WU LYF – ‘Heavy Pop’ – Filmed for The Drone at Transmusicales de Rennes
After a brief and confusing interlude where we are led to believe they will have to shut down the show because the organ is knackered – turn it off then back on? Oh wait its working – the night ends with the dancey and uplifting ‘We Bros’, and as our lads leave the stage.
Roberts says some unintelligible words into the microphone which seem nice but no one can understand – I like to think they were a “Thank you for coming and giving us such a warm response despite the fact we’ve been a bit dicky to you”….probably more like, “We have Merch at the back y’all, come chat to us after the show” – We’ll probably never know.
WU LYF have a lot to live up to, and in some respects they manage it. They are fantastic in a setting like this, but the fact is that not every show is going to be in a tunnel or any other interesting, possibly distracting location or circumstance. Imagining them blowing people away in a blank, no frills venue like the Academy is hard to do. The songs are great when you get to know them, but I fear that without the sense of occasion and suspense, WU LYF may have to accept their position as a band that are doing something special but still have a way to go…though I’m sure a comment like that would make Roberts and Co’s eyes roll in their sockets. Good luck to them!