The first ever BBC 6 Music festival ended yesterday (March 1) with a headline performance from melancholic Brooklyn rockers, The National, at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse.
The group’s eighteen song set spanned across their six album career and ended with an acoustic rendition of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’, which was un-amplified by microphones and caused the crowd to sing frontman Matt Berninger’s lyrics back to him.
The band opened with ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’, from 2013’s ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, then segued into ‘I Should Live In Salt’ from the same record after taking to the stage at 21:35. Berninger climbed over the barriers and into the 5,000-strong audience during ‘Mr November’ and stood atop a speaker during ‘Fake Empire’, in an energetic show lasting an hour and twenty minutes.
Earlier in the day, Scott Devendorf and Aaron Dessner from the band joined Steve Lamacq for a conversation at the 6 Music Fringe event which was also taking place alongside the live music. Dessner explained how he felt their latest album, ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, was their most liberated record: “It’s more relaxed, and I think you finally here more of the musicality of the band… It’s less tense than ‘High Violet’,” he said.
He also revealed how ‘Squalour Victoria’, which came mid-way through their headline slot, almost made it onto the album ‘Boxer’ as an instrumental: “At the last day of mixing, late in the night, he sang to it, and Peter Katis the producer got really upset and said ‘Matt, you’ve just ruined the song’, and we defended him (Matt) because we could see that it was a good song, but it was a funny moment.”
On the second stage at the same time Mercury Prize winner James Blake adapted his usual repertoire to suit the venue, which is usually a club space.
The artist wore a 1-800 t-shirt referencing his side-project 1800-dinosaur and reworked material from his self-titled debut and the award-winning ‘Overgrown’ with added loops and samples. He followed on from Wild Beasts whose frontman Hayden Thorpe spoke of their love of 6 Music before the show: “I think this festival goes to show what a loss it would’ve been if 6 Music had closed down. You’d have been losing a whole strata of art. It’s one of the main places to find creative music. It’s quite a special event. We can’t thank 6 Music enough for having us and supporting us. They play you when no-one else will, and we really appreciated that when we were beginning. “
The Kendal-born art-rock four-piece played songs from their new album ‘Present Tense’, which cameout on Feb 24th. “You spend years designing songs to have these epic moments of subtlety and when people don’t know the songs those moments don’t quite work but now the album’s out the response has been fantastic,” Thorpe told NME before the show. The band described Manchester as their adopted home and relished playing: It’s a proper rave venue. There’s no soap in the toilets. I like the feel of this place.”
Bombay Bicycle Club, who also released their latest album in February – ‘So Long See You Tomorrow’ – played a ten song selection of new record favourites plus ‘Always Like This’ from debut ‘I Had The Blues But Shook Them Loose’. “I think it’s amazing this festival exists considering that not long ago 6 Music didn’t even look like it was going to have a future. To turn it around in such a short space of time is amazing,” bassist Ed Nash told NME before the gig. “They also have one of the best festival line-ups I’ve ever seen,” he continued.
Also performing at the festival were Franz Ferdinand and Jake Bugg, who took to the same stages as Manchester artists Kiran Leonard and PINS.