IMAGES AND WORDS BY PAUL EVANS
“My Favourite Song Of The Night So Far, ‘Discipline’ With The Dirtiest Bass Sound I’ve Ever Heard Begins To Thunder Off The Walls”
Listening to Ist Ist whilst driving past the towering chimneys of Manchester’s longstanding Hyde brewery and the ominous, sparsely lit contemporary office buildings I was overwhelmed by how their sound seemed to be at one with the city. Wherever I looked I could imagine a music promo for one of their songs and like the great Manchester bands, Joy Division and The Smiths, the sound of Ist Ist could only have surfaced from this great musical city. Their sound mirrored in the dark Victorian archways and rundown backstreets of the past, but given a 21st Century Ist Ist twist. I’ve been looking forward to this gig for a long-time now.
Wandering past the dark, neo gothic University building to the mid-sized Academy 2 venue I realise it’s three years since I fell in love with the band’s song ‘Exist’ and tonight would be the first time I’d get to see them live. Tonight’s gig is the end of a 1267 mile, ten date tour which has taken the band to Glasgow, London and Leeds and is the bands biggest hometown headline show to date. Not a bad first time to see them I suppose.
Lots of Manchester music luminaries, magazine writers and photographers are in the packed crowd tonight and they know a thing or two about good bands. I grab a quick look at a setlist and as expected, tonight’s set is dominated by songs from ‘The Art of Lying’, the bands second album to chart. No mean feat considering they’re a self-releasing band. It’s a long setlist too and I’m slightly disappointed that there’s no ‘Exist’, but I guess with the number of good tracks they have, some things have got to give.
Following good sets from Northwich’s Oceans on Mars and Manchester’s Proletariat, Ist Ist arrive stylishly late on the unlit stage to ‘Wolves’ from 2020s Architecture album. It’s an unashamedly atmospheric and dark opener of slow throbbing keyboards, deep vocals, rumbling bass and optimistic guitar all punctuated with pulsating strobe lighting. The audience are transfixed in the darkness and it’s an ideal introduction to the band’s signature dark and atmospheric sound. I immediately think of the iconic 1950s photo of lots of people wearing 3D glasses staring hypnotized into the distance at a cinema screen.
The amazingly titled mid-tempo ‘Fat Cats Drown in Milk’ follows. The metronomic drumming of Joel Kay, Andy Keating’s minor basslines, Mat Peters optimistic guitar punctuated with Adam’s vocal line “Do you love me anymore?” is perfect to be honest. The ten-date tour has made the band incredibly tight, and the packed audience seem to agree. Mesmerized, the crowd begin to find their rhythm as the tempo increases with the driving bassline and drums of ‘Watching You Watching Me’ before slowing once again for ‘Middle Distance’. The crowd dutifully slowing their movement within the blue lights.
My favourite song of the night so far, ‘Discipline’ with the dirtiest bass sound I’ve ever heard begins to thunder off the walls and is punctuated with the coolest 80s video era keyboard sound from Mat who changes from keyboards to guitar throughout the set. ‘A New Love Song’ follows and slows things down, the constant variation in tempos keeping the audience both moving and transfixed in equal measure.
As the bass introduction to ‘Emily’ begins the crowd clap the rhythm and sing the intro. Wow! The audience have moved closer together now and are in full movement, hands in the air swaying to the band’s iconic song. This has been well worth the wait and we’re only on song four. I’m starting to think singer Adam is a man of few words. One song finishes and another begins without any comment, but as the audience continue ‘Emily’s’ melody after the band have finished, he jokes the crowd are “Ist Ist FC” which they obviously love.
With its yearning chorus the anthemic sound of “Under Your Skin” once again slows the tempo, the crowd swaying along and joining in. Old songs ‘Preacher’s Warning ‘and ‘I’m Not Here’ keep the same pace and the latter has singer Adam with his arms outstretched in a crucifixion pose against an eerily red back light. It’s certainly an atmospheric evening and I can’t wait to see the band again without my camera. Next up are 3 songs from ‘The Art of Lying’. ‘If It Tastes Like Wine’ reminds me of Lodger era Bowie, the stunning ‘Listening Through The Walls’, an Ist Ist Christmas song perhaps? and the shoe gaze sounding ‘The Waves’. The band are obviously enjoying this homecoming as singer Adam jokes “You might not be able to tell from the face, but I am having a good time”. Continuing, “with my best mates, and Andy…”
‘Heads on Spikes’ closes the set to rapturous applauses and seems a strange set closer to me, but what do I know I’m still trying to pick my favourite song of the evening! The foursome return to the dark stage for their much-deserved encore and I’m thinking looking at a setlist before a gig is not a good thing. I know there’s going to be no ‘Exist ‘or ‘Jennifer’s Lips’, but the first encore ‘Extreme Greed’ makes up for my disappointment. The Ist Ist faithful shuffling to the subtle drumming and machine gun bass, which seems to rattle my inner soul, before the cascading keyboards kick in. Again, wow!
The audience begin moving more and more as the tempo of ‘It Stops Where It Starts’ increases before the anthemic ‘You’re Mine’ has the fans bouncing in the blue and red darkness. Choosing a favourite song tonight is now becoming increasingly difficult so I give up on choosing. ‘Black’ precedes the last song ‘Slowly We Escape’ which begins with its unhurried atmospheric keyboard. I can feel the anticipation in the audience as they know the song will deviate to its frantic climax. The band were then gone to ecstatic applause. I put my camera away and for a split second I’m reminded of walking across Hulme bridge dreaming of forming a band all those years ago. If I ever had done, I’m pretty sure it would have sounded a lot like this. Thank you Ist Ist.
2/ Fat Cats Drown in Milk
3/ Watching You Watching Me
4/ Middle Distance
5/ Nights Arm
7/ A New Love Song
9/ Under Your Skin
10/ Preacher’s Warning
11/ I’m Not Here
12/ Fool’s Paradise
13/ If It Tastes Like Wine
14/ Listening Through The Walls
15/ The Waves
16/ Heads on Spikes
17/ Extreme Greed
18/ It Stops Where It Starts
19/ You’re Mine
21/ Slowly We Escape
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)