You Are Not Alone Festival (YANA) is a multi-venue festival in the centre of Manchester City Centre, in aid of non-profit charity Manchester Mind. It started in 2019 and sold out in record time before the small matter of a pandemic delayed the next instalment until 2022. With the choice of 81 bands for £10 there is a little of something for everyone and the sold-out response is testament to its curation.
I arrive in time for SPLINT, a new Manchester offering who I have already reviewed twice in their short history and get better every time. With some changes to line up they sound stronger than ever and if this is a sign of things to come, things are looking pretty special. They aren’t on any social media and so you can’t look them up, which only adds to the intrigue and aura. With a sound that ranges from raw, unadulterated garage rock to some psychedelic undertones, they’re a very intriguing proposition. The vocal style is eerily reminiscent of a certain Mr Reed and the motorik rhythm section means that you’re just wondering what sound is gonna emerge next.
Next up its old hand and fan favourites Cold Water Swimmers who have filled Gullivers to capacity at this early stage. Formed in Prestwich in 2018 these guys know how to make their music kick; with catchy vocal hooks, and a female rhythm section to die for they don’t mess around. They’ve garnered a cult reputation from their inception and the packed room here today is testament to that. They fire through their set with panache and leave everyone wanting more. Just as well there is a lot more to choose from.
I go over the road to probably the smallest venue of the day, The Castle. In the wood clad back room comes Springfield Elementary and one of the best sets of the day. They play what is self-described as ‘acid punk’ and to be fair its not far off the mark. Its loud, brash and unashamedly noisy – exactly what you need to blast out the cobwebs and kick back at these weird ass times we are living in. By the end the singer is in the crowd, drinks are flying and a mini mosh pit is in full swing; what more can you ask for.
After that dose of madness its time for something a little more sedate which comes in the form of The Howlers. The London based trio peddle psychedelic garage rock with a Western twang; think Spindrift meets Tame Impala and you’ll be somewhere in the right region. Their a surprise addition to the mostly Manchester dominated line up but they demonstrate why they have a place with a flawless set delivered to an appreciative crowd who happily dance along to the soothing vibes.
Continuing to get my steps in its back to Aatma for The Zangwills. The Liverpudlian quintet recently took Gorilla by storm when they supported Déjà Vega and they are no less gratefully received today. Their infectious energy coupled with soothing harmonics create an interesting juxtaposition and the crowd are clearly intrigued. They edge ever close and by the end are lapping them up. They’ve found appreciation here and that’s not easy to do on such a bill.
Over to The Rose and Monkey and its time for Hey Bulldog. Manchester mainstays in the psychedelic scene the pub is packed to the rafters for their set. It features fan favourites such as ‘Death & Greed’ and ‘Al Lupo’ and judging by the reactions, a lot of people’s new favourites to boot. Their blend of bluesy psychedelia is delivered with the expected perfection and they more than hold their own.
The last band I’m able to battle my way in for are The C33s. This Manchester three piece deliver garage punk in the style of Oh Sees meets The Growlers. From the first note the energy radiating from the stage is relentless and it is literally impossible not to move to this music. I look around at the crowd in Aatma and see that everyone else is feeling the same – this is what its all about. I’m not sure what it is, but this is it.
With the bands finishing up its over to the afterparty at The Rose and Monkey, which was sufficiently notorious to not warrant further explanation. If you were there, you know, if not – make it a mission for next time.
The great thing about events like this is everyone will have had a different festival. With so many venues and so many bands to choose from, you can tailor make your own experience. Next year’s tickets are already on sale, all that remains is to recover and get excited for the line up announcements.