Sonic mayhem in the hour preceding Exploring Birdsong’s glorious set assaulted my aural senses until my battered eardrums surrendered. My ageing ears, rapidly approaching three score and ten, were raised on Zeppelin, Deep Purple and The Who. I have to concede that there are other member of the At The Barrier team more capable of assessing the support acts. However, the young audience lapped up sets from Forager and Take Breath; some so young I swear one of the back packed youths was lugging his homework in it!
During Exploring Birdsong’s set, which was around about an hour long (and far too short), they displayed power but with finesse and musicality. Their set included tracks from The Thing With Feathers (our review here) and some new material bound for their next release delayed due to aborted attempts to get into the recording studio.
Throughout the set, obligatory atmospheric stage smoke enveloped the stage obliterating Johnny Knight, the bass player, and Matt Harrison on drums. Was this a ploy by entrancing vocalist Linsey Ward to draw all the attention to her? Of course not; and a strategy not needed as she enchanted the audience once again. She sang barefoot, and I was wondering whether this helped her to feel the music as it reverberated around the dark Rebellion stage or whether they were still stuck to Satan’s Hollow floor, which was their last Manchester gig in February 2020 (our review here).
A black hooded Matt resembled a medieval mystic but he weaved percussive spells throughout the evening as his style is more than just a driving force but more an integral musical composition to each song. The father of bass player Johnny told me that Exploring Birdsong sometimes practise in their house; how lucky is that? Even after so many experiences listening to them he was amazed at how he can play bass and keyboards simultaneously. It is a wonder to behold when his bass runs are akin to lead solos in places.
The music was sometimes haunting, sometimes with a jazzy improvised feel, sometimes raucous, but it was always controlled and melodious. The set ended appropriately with favourite Downpour; which some of us had probably walked through one on the way to the venue. From the gentle raindrop effects, developing into a shower of dulcet tones, eventually ending with the storm of Linsey’s vocal acrobatics, left everyone wanting more.
Exploring Birdsong deserve a wider audience and larger venues; this would give their fans, and themselves, the chance to be heard without the wild reverberations of a low ceilinged stage. Although pleased there are venues giving talented musicians an opportunity to cut their teeth, hopefully an established outfit will give them a leg up as support on a longer tour.
As the set concluded The Wanderer was played sending Bolton-born drummer Matt into prancing mode as he learnt of a 4-1 away victory for Bolton Wanderers!
So it was win – win for Matt and I (also a Bolton fan), sportingly and musically.