Benefits, Working Mens Club, Sigur Ros and more

Gig season is hotting up as the weather cools down and this month's gig guide is a good un. If you've got time in your calendar between bonfire night and Xmas chaos kicking in, get to a gig, it's good for you.

Read on for our picks from November's Manchester gig calendar.

The Damned By Stefan Müller
The sensible plan is to go see The Damned Image: Stefan Muller

The Damned | 3 November | Manchester Apollo

The legendary punk icons, The Damned, are taking the stage at Manchester Apollo for the evening of the frenetic chaos and electrifying grit they're lovingly renowned for. Punks, goths and headbangers will join in unison to celebrate the British cult rockers' diverse and illustrious 40-year career, with the band championing their original line-up. Rat Scabies is thrashing out the toms on New Rose like it is 1976 again, the year that punk exploded, rupturing and splitting like atoms, bouncing off the walls and crashing into the minds of wide-eyed teenagers. Frontman Dave Vanian's iconic look separated him from the other bands at the time such as The Sex Pistols or Buzzcocks. Vanian was the proto-goth, stepping out of a black-and-white silent movie in charcoaled eyeliner and thrusting himself into the trembling hue of 70s punk. He still upholds this image today and is as cool as he ever was, playing alongside Captain Sensible's slaying guitar hooks. 

Sigur Ros | 7 November | Manchester Apollo

Music is an audible art that is listened to but not seen, imagined and processed in a way that each individual hears uniquely. The Icelandic trio Sigur Ros are distinguished from every other band due to their self-created ethereal airy cosmos of otherworldly sound and layers of guitar clouds one could daze upon for worlds to come. It was the music that mattered. Sigur Ros, at the time, was a band unlike no other, expressing emotions felt so profoundly in a language understood by nobody. And that's because the language Hopelandic was made up by frontman Jónsi, it’s an assortment of heartfelt vowels and phonetics to spark deep-seated emotion alongside the sentimental melodies. It's somewhat surreal to think an album with a made-up language could evoke fascination in so many. 

Their third album, titled (), is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a string of shows for their devoted fans and new listeners stumbling into the immortal dreamscape fabricated by the one-of-a-kind: Sigur Ros. The band is returning with their latest studio album since 2013's Kveikur at the Manchester Apollo.

Wooze | Saturday 12 November| YES

Stepping out of WOOZE's basement laboratory and into the alt-pop world is their finest creation thus far. The latest EP, The Magnificent Eleven, is a scientific experiment alive and kicking with wonky guitar riffs and 80s synthpop, melting all their influences into a Frankenstein's monster of genre-mashing disarray. The Korean/British duo WOOZE take pride in this. Kooky is what they're best at, and their latest single Cowardly Custard, is no exception. The track combines the best of new-wave baritone vocals; think ABC's Poison Arrow meeting the wonky metallic guitar of Fashion by David Bowie, and you'll find WOOZE floating on the periphery.

WOOZE's secret weapon that sets them above and beyond the rest is the sheer talent and synchronicity shared by Jamie She and Theo Sparks. The pair work in harmony, magnetised to each other with their mastered skills and matching outfits, creating space for both musicians to take the limelight and hypnotise the audience with Sgt Pepper-esque peculiarity. Jamie She sings whilst playing the drums. Theo Sparks sings and plays the guitar. Together? They are the wonderful and weird WOOZE, catch them at YES.

Black Midi Wikicommons
New Century's mid-century stylings for Black Midi Image: Wikicommons

Black Midi | 13 November | New Century Hall

Black Midi are the two hysteric words that have been pricking ears since their debut studio release, Schlagenheim, in 2019. Commencing their journey as a group of twitchy and out-of-place artistic schoolboys, they've now garnered a reputation for being the most popular British experimental rock band since Throbbing Gristle. Their technical dexterity has been sensationalised and scrutinised by journalists, musicians and reviewers worldwide - continuing to swing heads with experimental acrobatics and delirious blast beats.

A band rarely emerges in its lumbering awkward puberty and amasses such a devoted cult of fans, but a band as niche as BRIT school's Black Midi, somehow have landed on the bullseye. Black Midi references so much in their latest album release, Hellfire, that at times, it's almost paralysing to process the outright magnitude of their intellect and their influences.  The band, consisting of Geordie Greep (vocals, guitar), Cameron Picton (bass guitar), and Morgan Simpson (drums), thrive in unparagoned unison, fabricating a soundscape of modern prog-rock and the new wave of the gritty British post-punk scene. Eat Men Eat erratically pummels in with a classical guitar and flamenco-inspired bassline, dragging forth like a three-wheeled wagon down a bumpy backstreet, and Dangerous Liaisons astounds with a fascinating jazz backdrop and swooning Frank Sinatra Vegas-vocal crescendo from frontman Greep. It starts as one thing, and within the thing is another. Black Midi are sonically charged Russian Matryoshka dolls, infinitely gazing inwards until it extends outwards. Figure it out for yourself at New Century Hall

GA-20 | 13 November | The Blues Kitchen

Formed in Boston, GA-20 are a band of friends on a mission to fill in the missing gaps and provide hard-hitting, no-bullsh*t rock and roll. Riding the wave of a traditional blues revival, GA-20's music is for those who crave the warm sound of crackling records in a smoke-filled speakeasy or scuzzy dive bar somewhere in deep south Mississippi. 

The unadorned sound of dirty, fuzzy amped-up guitar blues can stir something in everyone. Their tracks are drenched in rockabilly licks and tin-can resonator distortion, honing in on that Jack White sound, but admittedly, with less of the pretence. It's honest, straight-up and into the veins rhythm & blues. And where else would put them up for the night than Manchester's Blues Kitchen? Check out tickets here.

Melanie Charles | 14 November | Band On The Wall

Melanie Charles recreates her ancestral history, covering songs by Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday with an Afro-futuristic twist, elevating her purpose towards modern jazz music with a political message. Like Nina Simone, who also guided her music towards activism in her later career, Charles takes her moment with Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women (2021) to voice her experience in a prejudiced world. Musically, the album overflows with capricious avant-garde sampling, surging jazz percussion and cosmic Sun Ra-esque arrangements. Detour Ahead is an original song on the album, opening with the luscious vintage crackle of live piano chords, spilling into an enthralling glitch jazz breakbeat that Charles masterfully arranges. All Africa (The Beat) chants and cries to a funky primitive rhythm, flowing straight into an astonishingly slick bass groove and powerful vocal in The Music Is The Magic. Charles is an artist to the core, creatively spilling all her influences like splattered paint on a blank canvas - with the result being something so rich in colour and depth it takes a life of its own. 

Working Mens Club
Working men's club coming to a club near you Image: Facebook

Jitwam | 16 November | YES Basement

Jitwam is a well-travelled, musical globe-trotter, and his experiences around the world shine through with his slick music of different sounds. He was born in India, travelled across continents, lived his adolescence in Australia, landed in the U.K, wrote some records, and floated through to New York. Where is he currently? No one knows. We do know, however, that he'll be in Manchester on 16th November, and he's providing his signature R&B jazz-inspired funky jams.

His album, Third, has been picked up by Warp, and it's on this record he demonstrates that he has reached a particular melodic opus, really honing in on what he desires from music and what he is giving back. India has the sweetest psychedelic shuffle and Sign Of The Times-era Prince vocal delivery. It's sexy and tongue-in-cheek. Equanimity features the soulful Melanie Charles (who is also in this month's gig guide) on a downtempo D'Angelo-style moment, a dreamy bass loop with voluptuous charisma, fading out into the end of the track with a Roy Ayers inspired oscillating pitched synth. 

The Umlauts | 22 November | YES Basement

Another Fact is the dangerously electrifying techno-inspired 2022 EP from multi-lingual duo Annabelle Mödlinger, Maria Vittoria Faldini and beat-driven musicians Oliver Offord and Alf Lear. Mödlinger and Faldini's enchanting and alluring vocals are playfully thrown around in different languages, mirroring one another to and fro each verse in French and then German on the track Frightened, keeping the listener intrigued by veiled mysticism. 

The EP manipulates their sensuality into a 'Euro-pop meets darkened disorder' hybrid, tapping deep into the primal nature of Berlin house music. The track Another Fact barrages itself towards the moody club inspiration, hypnotising with a ritualistic ceremonial bassline. The strings in the track create a murky, ominous soundscape, pulling you in with each twinge. It's hedonistic, aggressive and fleshly. Deliciously sombre.

Benefits | 25 November | YES Pink Room

The United Kingdom has been a heated and political place since Brexit, and whichever side you fall on, whether red or blue - Benefits have something to say about it. This band is political, as punk always has been - laughing in the faces of what they call England's 'flag-sh*ggers' in a storm of abrasive, aggressive electro-punk. Frontman Kingsley Hall really doesn't make any apologies for it, either. 

The Newcastle band came together with a unified dissatisfaction, plugging in and creating bare-boned, unadulterated fracas, critiquing the status quo and parading alongside British artists like Bob Vylan and Sleaford Mods in a revolution against the realities of crippling conservative rule. Benefits approach state affairs with a disparaging wit and grim social commentary; the clue is in the name. They are voicing what it is to be a working-class musician and skint, with controversial and remorseless jargon. 

They've got a chain of fraught, intense singles as the band is unmanaged; there's no label, no PR and no management deciding what they do. They've amassed fans in Pixies' Frank Black and alt-rock stars Garbage. Benefits are unhinged and angry. You've been warned. If you choose to be politically radicalised, let it be by this rowdy lot at YES.

Working Men's Club | 26 November | Manchester Academy

The Yorkshire lads are back at it with their second studio album, Fear Fear, and it's gripping even tighter within the realms of unpolluted synthpop. New Order is the most significant frame of reference, as Working Men's Club taps into that same ground-breaking peculiarity that Technique pioneered in 1989 - the album artwork even resembles a candied pink tinge. Despite the similarities, they still manage to break out of the comparison and find their own feet with a more refined, post-punk charm.  The album's lyrics convey feelings of desolation and confinement felt by the frontman, Syd Minsky-Sargeant, in lockdown, creating a brooding atmosphere. The single Widow begins with a dizzying synth line, a match for early Depeche Mode tracks like New Life and Circumference is ripe with all the 80s new romantic dancefloor sadness. The band are at Manchester Academy on 26th November and it’s sure to be a killer gig.

Main image: Benefits by Thomas Jackson

Follow Amelia on Instagram @empireofamelia_

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