WORDS BY JANET HARDING / IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
‘It’s Skill And Musical Genius And The Best Goddam Gig You Are Ever Likely To Be At! I Salute You ,Yonaka’
It’s Monday evening and, having made the short journey from Warrington to Manchester, it’s bitterly cold with a blustery, icy wind here in the city. We’re on our way to the 02 Ritz, luckily only a stone’s throw away from Oxford Road station. It’s a big one tonight, and a bloody good one. A reputation for epic and wild live performances precedes them, and I for one am really pleased to be seeing them. Tonight we’re here to see Yonaka and it’s going to go off big time.
02 Ritz is a great live music venue, sitting in the very heart of the musically rich Manchester city centre; it’s not only convenient, but a brilliant destination to catch live sets. Built originally as a dance hall in 1927, it now has grade 2 listed status and still retains its charm. The exterior is like stepping back in time, its facade is impressive and of its time, typically art deco. The venue includes a sprung dance floor (and later this is felt hugely). At a capacity of 1500 it’s not the largest of venues, but still packs in a fair crowd. It’s a very agreeable venue – one of the best for a great crowd, but still with that up close to the band experience. As we arrive there are already a fair few people milling about, it’s a very inclusive, cool crowd, many wearing Yonaka t-shirts as you’d expect, but interestingly I notice quite a few sporting King No-one t-shirts. King No-one are our 2nd support act tonight, and seem to have quite some following all of their own and I’m now keener than ever to see this band.
First Support – July Jones
July Jones arrives on stage before us, and what an arrival. She makes a huge impact. Dressed in a customised out fit with her name on the back, in red and black leather she looks every inch the pop goddess. It’s a solo performance to backing tracks; it’s punchy and fast from the start and is sending very clear messages. TikTok sensation, July Jones, doesn’t mess about, determined to spread the LGBT rights message, along with equal rights and female empowerment. These themes are found throughout her material along with nods to self acceptance, and not being afraid to be who you are, whatever that may be. Defining herself as pan sexual, her messages through song writing and performance are of encouragement and not judging, but with a real edge, a stern warning that ‘it’s never enemies who betray us’. The sound is uplifting, very synth, very experimental but completely pop, with slight hip hop sections. The stage persona is a very defined one, it’s cool, a very forward thinking, stylised look, very independent and with a no holds barred ‘I’m here so you’re gonna damn well listen to me’ attitude, but in the most endearing and likeable way.
It’s bolshie, it’s poppy, the energy put in is commendable, never still for a second, the entire stage is covered. High kicking, dancing around all whilst holding notes, July apologises profusely for her ‘crackling voice’, explaining that tonight is her first performance back after losing it, but there’s absolutely no need for apologise, it sounds great to us. Real ‘stick in your head’ tunes, a strong voice with great vocal range, dance worthy, stand out themes and brilliantly interactive, she s really got tonight’s crowd behind her and joining in enthusiastically.
Great opener, great start. For something quirky, danceable and poptastically styled (think Lady Gaga feels) July Jones is incredible, and so much fun!
Second Support – King No-One
Band Members Zach Lount, Joe Martin, James Basile, Alex Townsley
This next band literally throw themselves at us tonight – they’re a musical force, an avalanche of creative genius; if I’m honest, I wasn’t ready for this, I knew they were good, but wow! A 4 piece band, originally from Manchester, these guys are movers and shakers. With regular plays on Radio One and appearing on line ups at huge festivals up and down the UK, including the main stage at Reading and Leeds fest, Manchester sure is proud (and rightly so) to welcome King No-one back here on stage tonight . Such energy, such performance, real genuine passion and enthusiasm. We have real pizzazz here. The guys simply ooze charisma, are SUPER cool and very stylish, I mean our front man tonight is sporting white Cuban heeled boots and a leather trench coat, and totally carries it off with ease. The sound is bang up to date, it’s feel good, modern indie at its very best, but there is this real feeling of nostalgia with this performance. Clear and visible is a massive 80s influence within the sound, but I’m really reminded of some early live performance of the Smiths, not in sound, but in feels, in the essence, it feels phenomenal. This band look like rock stars, it drips off them, and so at home up on the stage. Both guitarists are positively bouncing around and throwing guitars about. The front man is often on his knees, guitar flat across them singing into it. Vocals are cheery, steady, light and even, then during slower paced tracks there’s a delicious gravel to it. Then, when needed, he easily reaches (and holds for breathtaking lengths) those high end notes too. It’s an interesting sound, it’s layered and multi dimensional. Jangly then shimmering lead guitar riffs of pure indie gold, a bass line that’s banging and rock-worthy, then skippy, then hard and fast drum beats drive the sound, then keys and synth give an electro smoothness and refinement. It’s very, very listenable and it’s an addictive, lively performance.
Simply put, these guys are great. Hints of new wave, touches of new romantic can be felt; think an early Duran Duran sound with Gary Newman feels and the 1975 thrown in. Yet King No-one are still unmistakably original, taking all these styles and genres and cleverly mixing them into a spellbinding sound all their own. The front man is off stage, standing up on top of the barrier, singing right into the crowd, who are devouring every word. The place is alive, it’s full and it’s bouncing. Between songs it’s shouted at us through the mic to ‘really lose our shit, and then the band will really lose their shit too’. All I can say is ‘shit got lost, on both parts.’
Why has it taken me so long to see King No-one live? Completely smashing tonight’s set into pieces… and then some, I struggle to describe how good these guys are. Tight performance, ‘must hear again’ songs, charming, stylish and so much stage presence… they already feel like music greats. Bloody good show lads, I’m exhausted, we all are! Thank you, King No-one.
Set List: Not Willing. Obsolete. Two Islands. Alcatraz. Out of my mind. Roll of the Dice. Antichrist.
Yonaka – headliner
Band Members – Theresa Jarvis – vocals, George Edwards – lead guitar, Alex Crosby – bass, Robert Mason – drums
‘The Seize’, the power mix tape, was released last year by Yonaka and this, the tour to follow on from that, is something not to be missed. As a band Yonaka have indeed become well known as a group who hit hard with their live performance, so this tour was exciting news. Describing themselves as ‘dark art pop, with heavy riffs’ this band, originally from Brighton, have certainly made their mark. Another band who easily transcend several music genres to make an impactful and unforgettable sound all of their own. Meeting at university in Brighton, the name Yonaka means ‘dead of night’ in Japanese. The themes of this band’s songs are of perseverance and empowerment, it’s all very motivational material, both in contend and sound.
In a fog of dry ice, in darkness, a solitary spotlight flicks onto drummer Robert Mason, smashing the beats out of his drum kit, then, making an epic entrance, George Edwards on guitar and Alex Crosby on bass run out onto stage and start to play, jumping around and swinging their guitars about. We now know we really are in for one hell of a show. Then appears Theresa Jarvis, twirling centre stage before skipping to her mic…then the magic really begins. You feel this, not just through the vibrations, but the energy, the force of musicality, the very nature of this whole performance. Ever the ultimate in cool, Theresa is wearing thigh high boots and metallic silver flapper style dress, with bright yellow bobbed hair; the guys are equally cool in cropped back pants with iconic Dr Martin boots. This performance is energetic, it’s nonstop, it’s raw, unbridled, and wild, but at the same time it’s tight, well controlled and seamless. Thumping bass you can feel through your entire body, loud, hard and heavy drum beats, crashing and crunching jagged guitar lines, smooth electro and synth giving a dance or even trance like feel, but with a real heavy darkness to its edge. And the vocals, well, Theresa’s voice is just exquisite. Light, feminine, loud, full and rounded, often with a throatiness, but then loud, far reaching and high, extended notes, held for what seems an eternity, then back to melodies. Both guitarists are high kicking, performing flying leaps, throwing their guitars up then catching them, it’s so full on, you don’t know where to look, there is just so much going on on that stage and the sound is like nothing else. We have heaviness, rock bordering on heavy metal and doom, but it’s dance, it’s upbeat, at times it feels clubby, flashing, glittery, it’s all going on in this sound and it’s wonderful.
The venue is now completely full; the bounding moshpit effect is rippling out into all corners of the house. We actually have crowd surfing going on! Hip hop verses sit in nicely with more rock or grunge feeling vocals. This is a very ‘of the now’, modern or current feeling sound. Its punky, it’s edgy, fresh, very stylish and very slick and really has it going off in here tonight. Feelings/themes of optimism, all crafted into songs that are very well received. You can positively feel the energy coming from this band, the passion, enthusiasm, skill and creativity. Front woman, Theresa, is off stage and standing on the barrier, which the audience lap up. A full set list is played out; banger after banger goes off, each one seeming better and better. ‘Clique’ for me is song of the night, the entire venue is transformed during this song, into one giant pulsing mosh pit, strobe lights flashing, clouds of dry ice, the beats are banging. Led by Theresa the crowd are chanting back the words ‘so get the fuck out of my face’, then George (Edwards) with his guitar climbs up onto the speaker stack and crouches there, after encouraging everyone to up the ante and really go for it one last time.
Theresa counts down, then all at once George leaps off the stack and lands effortlessly centre stage to flashing back lights and a sea of dry ice and screams and cheers from the audience. Wow. And this is why we come to see Yonaka. It’s showmanship, it’s passion, it’s skill and musical genius and the best goddam gig you are ever likely to be at! I salute you ,Yonaka, you completely blew us away. Each band member contributes so much to this extra special performance. Bewildering, breathtaking, memorable and kickass, stand out gig for me, this one, and there have been many. Keep creating, keep making music, but above all, please keep performing live!
1/ Ordinary 2/ Greedy 3/ Punch bag 4/ Call me a Saint 5/ Don’t wait till Tomorrow 6/ Raise your Glass 7/ Creature 8/ Get Out. 9/ Love is a Battlefield 10/ Guilty 11/ Clique 12/ F.w.t.B 13/ Seize the Power 14/ Anthem 15/ Rock star.
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Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals