Fears that my first outing to gig since becoming a dad would see me somewhat ring rusty turned out to be well founded. Finding the venue, Manchester's Partisan, proved something of a mission. After tens of minutes wandering round in circles with a decidedly unhelpful Google map, I finally followed two people who looked vaguely punk and found it that way (it's to the right of the faintly terrifying snooker hall then right again).
I've been, quite understandably slightly wary of 'safe spaces' after being in one in Leeds and seeing a pissed middle aged man call the lead singer and songwriter of the headline band a 'blonde girl cunt' and proceed to kick seven shades of shit out her tour van. Partisan, however, is everything it claims to be. The space is excellent, the sound brilliant and everyone from the bar tenders to the doormen (not quite to the world weary cheerfulness of the Star and Garter bouncers but not far off) are super friendly and happy. The whole audience seemed relaxed and at home. Job done Partisan, job done.
I arrived just in time to catch the last two songs by Zaplain, who sounded brilliant. I quietly berated myself for my poor orienteering skills that prevented me catching the rest of the set. Brighton's Just Blankets cheered me up again, however. Their gloriously noisy set was infectious with melody and good cheer. Set highlight, Short Walks ('How many short walks/to make this place feel like home?/I don't know') can be found on their Like Velcro EP out now on Everything Sucks. Go buy it. It's class.
Onto the tonight's main attraction, the much missed Onsind. Blooming from a punka troubadour two piece to a newly established five piece, they bound on stage with an odd mix of nervous energy and extreme confidence. The set explodes into Magnolia, taken from their incredible new LP We Wilt, We Bloom on Specialist Subject Records. It's immediately and abundantly clear that the band are skin tight, they sound absurdly confident and absolutely terrific. New cuts are proudly unveiled. Immature, the classic in waiting Sectioned and a poignant Loyalty Festers, introduced by a long and heartbreaking monologue by Nathan about a school friend of his being swept away by the dark icy waves of the far right. (Shamefully, a small gang about the back continued laughing and chatting away through out this speech. It got to the point where the sound man had to go and tell them to be quiet. I've never ever understood this; why go and see a band and talk to your mates all the way through?).
New babies proudly shown off, the band went into a section of what Nathan called, tongue firmly in cheek, 'the hits'. And what beauties there are in their cannon. The still furious BA77, the moving Dissatisfactions, poignant Suicide is Painful and the personal highlight of the evening God Hates Facts. Now, this song is so powerful and emotive it would sound good played on the spoons, but this line up absolutely smacked it out the park. There's a tiny bit of my stomach only the 'Meet me at the reservoir' bit can reach. Heterosexuality Is a Construct has turned into an absolute monster. Delivered at break neck speed (“We are gonna do it faster and faster it last, like, a minute” jokes Nathan), so fast it's a challenge to sing along. Class.
Just before the encore, the promoter comes up to the stage with a cake celebrating Onsind's 11 years as a band. The band are quite visibly touched. “It's vegan too!” adds the promoter, getting one of the biggest cheers of the night. Then onto the promised encore, the greatly anticipated Pokemon City Limits. “Lets get rid of some Tory's” spits Nathan “Seriously, I want to see some fucking heads on spikes”. It doesn’t really get more comforting or cathartic than Manchester screaming never trust a Tory in unison.
This is the key to Onsind I think. Anyone buying their new LP hoping for a map through political swamplands or a cure for mental illness will be left wanting. What the band offer is a hand to hold in the darkness. There's nothing like mental illness, anxiety and disgust at a political climate to make you feel alone. Onsind are not the antidote, but sometimes finding someone or something just as fucked up and fucked off as you are is a comfort. Here's to the next eleven years.