The BBC 6 Music festival now has a fixed abode – the annual event is to be permanently held in Greater Manchester. This weekend saw DJ sets around the city, with the headliners residing in Victoria Warehouse. Loyle Carner and Christine & The Queens headlined Friday and Saturday, respectively, and Sunday brought sets from The Big Moon and Arlo Parks.
Sunday on 6 Music kicked off with a Don Letts DJ set, where the legendary disk jockey span a collection of dub remixes to acclaim from the growing crowd: it’s important not to understate how effective a quality DJ set is, and Don on the 1s & 2s was far better than any pre-show playlist.
The first band on the bill were The Big Moon. UK festival regulars, their third LP, Here is Everything came out in late 2022, and the band treated the Manchester crowd to a selection of cuts from across their trio of albums. TBM are a seriously underrated group, their records are consistently great and the clear progression of the group across those albums is easy to follow: they’re an exceptional live act too, constantly swapping instruments from song to song, showcasing their sheer talent as a collective.
TBM cranked it up a notch with ‘Formidable’ and ‘Bonfire’ from their debut, with the latter seeing frontwoman Juliette Jackson climb the barrier to sing in the faces of the crowd. A double play from the new LP followed, ‘Statlites’ and ‘2 Lines’ where the band were joined by Manchester’s SHE Choir, topping off an impressive set with their harmonies and overtones.
Before long the enigmatic Arlo Parks took to the stage. Introduced by 6 Music’s Tom Robinson, Arlo and her band launched straight into ‘Weightless’, the lead single from her upcoming second LP. ‘Caroline’, ‘Eugine’ and ‘Hurt’ from her debut followed. Her band are tight and well drilled, backing Arlo with a range of sounds influenced by funk and soul, Radiohead and everything in between. Latest single, ‘Impurities’ draws on trip-hop influences and there are shades of Massive Attack and Portishead throughout.
Arlo then treats the crowd to a short poem, spotlit alone and centre-stage, Arlo reads from a Moleskine bursting at the seems with poetry, notes, and other observations and recites a poem about artist Arthur Russel to pin-drop silence. ‘Black Dog’ is a highlight of the evening, with Arlo accompanied on vocal duties by Romy Croft of The XX: Romy’s vocals seriously elevate this cut to ethereal status, quite simply, it is beautiful. The main set is closed off with ‘Hope’, a gorgeous song of inspiration and, well, hope. The atmosphere at an Arlo Parks show is like no other, her band grove and play with such ease, and Arlo’s projection of pure sunshine makes it an entirely freeing and joyous occasion.
Arlo is joined on stage for the encore – Fontaines DC drummer Tom Coll makes an entrance to perform on a special and considerably punchier version of early cut ‘Sophie’. Tom comes into his own as the track breaks down towards the end, his thunderous percussion adding layers. The set is rounded off with ‘Softly’, which sends the gleeful crowd into raptures.
photo: Chris Almeida