“This is a brilliant festival,” says Isabel Munoz-Newsome, lead singer of Pumarosa, a rock band tipped to be 2016's hot ticket.
We're in a warehouse in the back of a dingy Salford trading estate that has been converted into a two-stage venue serving local Port Street Beer House ales.
Shells of jacuzzis are propped against the wall like surrealist decorations, remnants of the building's normal function. Isabel looks out on a sea of faces smeared with glitter and still damp from the drizzle. “You did it… and you did it different.”
Sounds From The Other City is in its twelfth year taking over venues in Salford for a one-day music festival. It centres around Islington Mill, a disused mill that was colonised by artists in 1996 and has been in a constant state of evolution ever since.
SFTOC is a celebration of independence: Where other festivals might feature beer logos of sponsors, Islington Mill is decorated with blue and pink triangles stamped with the all-seeing eye of this year’s theme, the new occult.
Every year founder Mark Carlin gives different promoters their own stage and lets them book their own bands.
In old man boozer the New Oxford, regulars mind their own business while half the pub becomes the “disco womb”, filled with pink helium balloons and women in silver sequined capes dancing to William Onyeabor.
The NHS walk-in centre is serving cider and chicken wings with a side of dream-pop from local band I See Angels.
Round the corner at St Phil’s church the vicar, still in his dog collar, is manning the keg while a feminist pop punk band from Seattle called Tacocat play from the pulpit in skeleton bodysuits. Later, that same stage hosts Gwenno’s lush Welsh-language synth-pop and people dance in the pews.
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At Salford Cathedral, priests, primary school children and a lady dressed up as a cat file in to see Ex-Easter Island Head and the BBC Philharmonic create Steve Reich-like modern classical music by waving magnets over electric guitars laid on tables.
The most promising music of the day comes from new Manchester band Mother.
The Crescent pub cannot accommodate all the people trying to get in to see vocalist Allie Bell screaming over moog synths and psych guitars from a stage strewn with flowers. But that’s kind of the point.
“You can have a million different experiences here,” organiser Mark explains later at a makeshift bar at Islington Mill.
In the gig venue below, art director Paul Hallows hands out gorgeous lithograph printed masks at the afterparty.
A man in what is best described as a space crab costume keeps accidentally whacking people with a giant, flailing pincer on the dance floor. Another is in a PVA-glue and pink paint reimagining of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man that looks like a giant orb covered in eyes.
We grab masks and disappear into the fray.
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