Live Review: Symposium / A @ Club Academy, Manchester 16/11/2023 – Part 1

It’s agony when you’re waiting on a new spare part to arrive, so you can get your cherished motor back on the highway. So, with a new flux-capacitor from eBay fitted, I cranked the old DeLorean up to 88mph and transported myself to a better time. Around 1996 to be exact, when as a first-year student I discovered tonight’s acts playing in Leeds, part of a new wave of Brit guitar bands, loosely labelled as post-grunge, but with one foot firmly in the pop punk camp.

A, with the three Perry brothers, Adam, Giles and Jason, probably committed career suicide by choosing to name themselves after a single vowel. In one fell swoop they became the hardest band to find on the internet, although back then we only had AltaVista or Yahoo! True, they were the first alphabetically but that was little use if your local Our Price didn’t stock them. They stuck around until 2005, having released 4 studio albums, before calling it a day in 2005 after Teen Dance Ordinance, the follow up to Hi-Fi Serious, which had broken the Top 20 album chart going Silver in the process, crashed and burned at No.95. Their live performances were legendary. Briefly resurfacing several times over the years, notably performing at the slimmed down all British version of Download Festival in 2021, as live music returned cautiously from the lockdown enforced in 2020. Tour support in 2022 with Reef, followed and appears to have whetted their appetites for more.

Symposium however were slightly easier to locate. They barely limped into this century before imploding, giving birth to post-hardcore band Hell Is For Heroes, formed by drummer Joe Birch and guitarist Will McGonagle, leaving behind one 8-track mini album One Day At A Time and one fully fledged long player On The Outside, surprisingly produced byMartin “Youth” Glover of Killing Joke. Only denting the UK Top 30 singles chart twice, they were definitely a band best experienced live.

So here I am in the almost full Club Academy in Manchester, and the first thing that strikes me is the wide range of ages represented in the crowd. There’s a smattering of teens but also a fairly significant body of mid to late 20’s representing and as far as I’m aware, nothing to do with Satan’s App or Tik Tok as it’s better known. Of course, there’s the rest of us, the lumpen over 40’s still reliving our collective youth, who seem palpably pumped that this is happening at all. It’s perhaps fitting that Club Academy is in the basement of Manchester Student’s Union, as this feels like an underground movement.

Jason eventually shuffles onstage, after his brothers Giles and Adam, Mark Chapman (no, not that one!) and new guitarist Richard Trigg making his debut, strike up the first chords of No.1. Poster boy for skater brands like Vans back in the day, Jason still looks every bit as cool as he did back then, although not sure about the Nike kicks on display (only kidding Jase!)

It’s so great to hear these songs again, and we even get treated to a brand new song Hello Sunshine, which is promising for the future as alluded to on the Make A Great Again flyers adorning the merch table. Jason encourages everyone to take it easy, as “none of us are getting any younger. The legs are still there but the knees have gone!” Halfway through the set he gives us a multiple choice option on how to react to the next song, one of which being to basically sit on the floor for it’s duration, not unlike James but without the histrionics! The crowd wisely choose this option, because although it’s a relatively short set, its been 88mph stuff so far!! They crash through old faves Somethings Going On, Foghorn and Nothing, which is still my favourite A song, before dashing across Manchester to catch McFly at Victoria Warehouse. And so my Back to The Future experience is eerily completed!

“A” Set List

  1. No.1
  2. Bad Idea
  3. Hello Sunshine (New song, live debut)
  4. Starbucks
  5. I Love Lake Tahoe
  6. Summer On The Underground
  7. Monkey Kong
  8. Somethings Going On
  9. Foghorn
  10. Nothing

For the Symposium review see part 2.

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