FutureEverything – Manchester’s Answer To SXSW

Now in its 16th year, FutureEverything is the leftfield younger brother of SXSW; daytime debates and workshops focus on gaming, data journalism, urban living and emerging technology before giving way to music-filled evenings.

Photo: We Are Tape

Viewed in the past as reverential and tuned away from a mass musical audience, this year the festival has sharpened up its musical programme whilst retaining experimental elements. FutureEverything HQ straddles Manchester city centre while gigs are scattered across the city and neighboring Salford.

Gang Gang Dance began the festival on Wednesday with a startling set showcasing new album ‘Eye Contact’. The Brooklyn five-piece showed fine form at the Ruby Lounge, blasting through new songs and a smattering of older material with taut energy and precision. The sprawling, psychedelic ‘Glass Jar’ took on new wings in the live setting, while encore ‘First Communion’ was a bouncing, hands-in-the-air triumph. Mesmeric.

Come Thursday, Steve Reich performed a retrospective set at the Royal Northern College of Music alongside local musicians. Venturing over to Salford, NME found local noise-oinks Kong tearing apart the low-rent Islington Mill. Loud, brash and battling technical gremlins, Kong were utterly thrilling, while headliners Fucked Up ripped through new album ‘David Comes To Life’ like their souls depended on it. Front man Pink Eyes didn’t disappoint, cajoling band mates and manic fans through an adrenaline-fuelled, chaotic hour. We couldn’t hear anything for a whole day afterwards.

Ears scrubbed, Das Racist are the talk of the town on Friday, slamming into their first ever UK show with energy and a large dose of humour. Despite sound problems meaning songs like ‘Sit Down, Man’ don’t carry as much weight as on record, the trio are still great to watch. The weekend blinked as we scampered to catch the last few moments of Scout Niblett in Salford, providing a heady mix of end-of-the-world fragility and minimalistic bliss.

Photo: Das Racist, by Ian Taylor

With the city drunk on the day’s footballing exploits, Saturday night belongs to Warpaint. Even members of The Strokes turn up and watch as the LA foursome deliver an atmospheric, breathless set. The chiming guitars of ‘Warpaint’ soar, combining with a tense rhythm section propelled by the sharp, heavy drumming of Stella Mozgawa.

Snarled vocals are shared on the surly ‘Bees’ and the looping ‘Composure’, but a lighter shade is shown by a delicate run through of the ‘My Guy’ referencing ‘Billie Holiday’. Warpaint’s onstage aloofness has given way to smiles and cheeky winks and their live show has never sounded better. Don’t bet against them acing a few more festivals come mid-summer.

Photo: Warpaint, by Ian Taylor
As urban bashes go, FutureEverything delivers more than most, with a fresh set of ideas and trends explored at each festival. More focused than previous years, the festival has improved and progressed, with crowd numbers up and collaboration more evident. With the continued backing of local venues and promoters, we can’t wait to see what’s in store next year.