Manchester Castlefield Arena

Where's it at as well as where it always was...

It's easy to forget that Manchester's D.Percussion started off as an all-hands-on-deck response to the IRA bomb - largely because council mishaps have forced it away from its significant anniversary date. This year, things have mutated still and it's converged with the guitar-led Water's Edge Festival, creating a more diverse collection of live music than you could hope for. This is Manchester's celebration of itself writ large - and true enough, they stick to their own round here - Scouse band Clinic have cancelled.

So after the morning's unsigned showcases, at the Water's Edge Arena, we have ex-Inspiral Tom Hingley to peddle underwhelming acoustic authenticity to less than startling effect. His one attempt to bond the crowd with an a-cappella, hand-clapping cover of 'Lord Won't You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz' loses impact when he goes wobbly on the high notes.

Over at the Gritted Stage, Midfield General rouses the outer reaches of the festival into a lather with his glorious brew of big beat nonsense and a previously benign mass of bodies comes to life. Unfortunately, it's the same infectious/incessant pound that completely drowns out folk vibes of Alfie. Despite this, songs like 'Sure & Simple Time' and 'James' Dream' are beginning to sound like classics.

"My name is David" gurns the singer from Dodgy, still apologising for his presence after two years in the band. From a crowd baiting 'Staying Out For The Summer' downwards, the new material is marginally less entertaining than the wildly-animated man selling poppers. Which rather dampens the fires for Alpinestars, who belong in space, and nowhere else will be enough - and they certainly don't deserve the apathetic crowd here who virtually ignore the most exciting live noise in this city right now. The arcs of treble and thunderous beats come into their own in a way that beggars belief that Richard Woolgar and Glyn Thomas have been around little more than a year. Alpinestars graduated tonight. It's just a shame that nobody seemed to notice.

Sunday starts off in much the same muted vein - until a newly scrubbed-up Johnny Bramwell takes to the stage and announces: "Good Evening, we're I Am Kloot, no laughing at the back" with the confidence of a stand-up comedian. He has control of these people's hearts and he knows it. '86 TVs' is fast becoming the most soothingly epic refrain in the city. If their razor-sharp grasp of melody and acutely judged melancholy could be coupled with Elbow's magically gloopy sonic landscapes we might have the most fantastic band of bedroom miserablists ever. As it is, they're both still several hundred times better than anything else today. So quite why Bellatrix are placed in-between to break up the flow is bewildering. They achieve little more than kicking off the lightshow and delivering their one great song, 'Jediwannabe' with a verve that's admittedly been lacking.

Apart, of course, from The Fall, who are insane enough to please Fall fans, but seeing as the place has been overrun by Fall fans anyway, everybody is pleased with the absolute minimum of effort. Strange too, that at a festival famed for showcasing the best of urban dance music that the sound everybody leaves with is that of the The Buzzcocks. Who tonight, for want of a better adjective, are the Buzzcocks. Evidently they're still rather good at being the Buzzcocks, even when flirting with their fifties (the only other adjective for them is 'vigorous'). Except for 'Ever Fallen In Love' in which, as ever, they transmute into the greatest rock'n'roll band ever, living or dead. Which, along with the closing 'Boredom' is intended to remind you, along with the entire festival, is that Manchester is where it's at as well as where it always was.

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