On the 20th January Warrington’s Parr Hall hosted the Music Festival Winter Showcase sponsored by Culture Warrington. It was a welcome return to the music scene during the mid January gloom and despite being low in the pay packet it was an excellent turnout .

 Now readers, I have mentioned in the past that the Parr Hall sound can sometimes appear a bit  ‘distorted’ so to put it into context I thought a bit of history might be worthwhile here –  ‘ Parr Hall was designed by the local architect William Owen in 1895. Originally it was built for the people of Warrington by Joseph Parr and the Warrington Musical Society gave the first concert. The hall has hosted concerts and organ recitals from leading orchestras and cathedral organists over the years’ 

What does that mean for modern music?  Quite simply the building was designed for projection of the voice and instruments without the means of amplification. Having played here myself I have witnessed this on several occasions and you can hear the sound on stage very clearly from the circle. Unfortunately when amplifiers are switched on the sound can sometimes be ‘muddy’ or distorted – you cannot hear the vocals or instruments clearly at first until you become accustomed to it but when the hall starts to fill up with people it gets better as tones and echoes are absorbed. So, huge praise to the sound engineers for this festival, especially for the early acts as I could see them adjusting settings constantly, they did a great job.  

So, what of the music?  Obviously I don’t have enough column space to cover each band in detail and readers will find more reports coming on line from my fellow writers and photographers soon so keep an eye out for those . However, with all new music people have no reference, I am often asked “who do they sound like?”. So after the band name below I have included the music genre and occasionally who I think they sound like in brackets. Here is the line up in the correct order with brief notes on each.

The Odeens – ( 5 piece – EMO Rock , Rock ). I reported on this young band on the 13th Aug 2023 and I have watched them grow from a band playing in Warrington Youth Zone to the opening act at this festival. It’s not easy being first on stage for the reasons given above about sound, but the lads are progressing very well indeed. They have been out gigging and appear a lot more relaxed , they are no longer looking around nervously ,which is common amongst all new bands, and are far more confident with their own parts . Stagecraft cannot be taught , it comes with experience and bolstered by their teenage fans the lads were enjoying themselves , particularly when they played their self-penned number ‘Dirtbag’ which is available on Spotify , YouTube Music & Apple Music. Have a listen and give them a thumbs up.

The Hillocks – ( 5 piece – Indie Rock/ Melodic Hip Hop – sound like The Streets)  Another young band , I had not seen them before and like The Odeens they had a small following for support. The band opted for a mixture of Indie covers and original material, one cover being ‘Boys That Sing’ – a nod to local band Viola Beach which was well received. Covers may be used when the band doesn’t have enough material , however playing them can sometimes be difficult as you either get it very near the original or you do a different version completely . I wasn’t sure in this case , however their own Melodic Hip Hop material was very interesting and proved to be popular in the small crowd. This is where I reference them to The Streets , the vocalist suited that genre and perhaps that is the direction they are going? If I get a chance to catch up with them I will find out.

The Lunar Youth – ( 4 piece – Alternative Rock –  sound like Early Radiohead  )I first saw this band at Cheesefields festival last summer and they reminded me of the band ‘Suede’ the Art Rock outfit in appearance , but that’s where the similarity ends . The Lunar Youth ( not to be confused with Lunar Youth ) appear to have matured a lot .This is the beauty of local – new music festivals where bands can showcase their development and The Lunar Youth are no exception. From the outset you could sense a new confidence , the gelling of strong vocals with an impressive range and jangling guitars all underpinned by a tight rhythm section are quite apparent – I suspect they have been working hard and it was pleasing to watch. Another band for the interview list!

Ritch – ( Vocalist – Pop/Rap )  A complete change of direction as Ritch took to the stage to deliver his own style of Pop-Rap mixed with a few covers to suit, including Hey Ya by Outkast and a novel version of Creep from Radiohead . This likeable and confident young man encouraged the small crowd to join him down the front and have a dance and they duly obliged whilst Ritch played a number of his own songs supported by tuneful loops . There was a definite positive vibe in the air and on looking around ,the young audience were enjoying his performance . As the only soloist of the day hats off to him, I’m sure we will see Ritch more often.

Belmont and the Stocks– ( 4 piece – Indie Pop / Punk) – The genre of Indie Pop/Punk might seem a bit broad but if readers listen to the rough cut of the bands single              ‘ America’ on You Tube you will see where the punk reference comes from. Generally their other songs like ‘ I’m wearing your shoes ‘ appeared more Indie/Pop and this very entertaining , young outfit carried it off superbly . The band are fronted by an energetic Marc Bolan lookalike on rhythm guitar & vocals ,  a lead guitarist , drummer/backing vocals and a girl bassist/ backing vocals who looks on bemused and coolly takes it all in her stride!  Good job because midway through the set the frontman’s guitar string broke ” Oh no , this is live music folk , has anyone got a spare guitar?”  Obviously there was one and as it was sorted out the drummer and bassist tinkered ad-hoc with the Stone Roses number ‘I wanna be adored’ much to the crowd’s delight.   Shortly after this the band had another incident when the drummer’s hi-hat clutch came loose and had to be adjusted!  “Well done” I say , been there & done that and they handled the disruptions very well with good humour before resuming with the Bowie number  ‘Rebel Rebel’ .  A proud parent told me the band had only been together about 8 months and if that’s the case then they are very tight and clearly having fun . Their sing-along anthems are already popular with their posse of followers and I liked them a lot. I will be watching closely.

SYFTA – ( 4 piece – Indie Rock – sound like Arctic Monkeys ) – By the time SYFTA arrived on stage the hall had begun to fill up and the sound had improved dramatically . This is the first time I had seen the band and my fellow writers had mentioned how good they were and they weren’t wrong. This Widnes band is clearly very experienced, with strong vocals and the familiar driving rhythms synonymous with Indie Rock and they delivered a polished performance  . Coupled with good stagecraft the lads looked relaxed and appeared to enjoy playing to a local crowd and it’s not surprising they have sold out shows in Manchester , Liverpool and London. A thoroughly enjoyable set and I would definitely book a ticket to see them.

Parlours – ( 5 piece -Indie Rock – sound like early Oasis)  Having seen the band in November at the Pyramid Basement I was aware of them , so their set was no surprise and they certainly didn’t disappoint in front of the larger home crowd. Parlours music is high paced and electric with good harmonies, and adorned in lads overhead jackets they are the archetypal Indie Rock band that create a buzz in the crowd . With two singles under their belt so far ( Hacienda & Make your Mind up ) and no doubt plenty of material in the bank they are well worth watching . Check them out on Social Media. 

Standin’ Man – ( 4 piece – Psychedelic Inspired Rock ) Unfortunately, duty called and I was unable to stay for the headline act although I have seen Standin’ Man twice before and they are without doubt a quality band that never fails to entertain . However, it wouldn’t be right to add further comments on a performance I didn’t witness but I believe it was a brilliant rock n roll set and I will recommend further reading by fellow writer Janet Harding @allmusicmagazine.com instead.  

Overall the Winter Showcase was a well organised day and coupled with the efforts of the hall’s permanent and helpful staff it was a good day for new music, roll on summer!