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Working Men’s Club: Live at YES in Manchester

The four members of Working Men's Club are moddily standing together in a dark room
Photograph by Andy Nicholson

It took less than five minutes to decide to travel from Edinburgh to Manchester for one of the three social distanced gigs that Working Men’s Club were putting on at YES on Sunday 4th October.

Ticket bought for 8pm gig. Train and hotel booked. Bish Bosh all sorted in the space of 15mins.  I love it when a plan comes together so easily!

This was my first gig since Fontaines D.C. in Norwich and Brixton Academy back in February, over seven months ago.  Excited did not even begin to describe how I felt. So fast forward to Sunday and sitting in the beer garden at YES. Working Men’s Club are playing three sets: 4pm, 6pm and 8pm.  Their debut self-titled album came out on Friday which simply added to the anticipation.  All three gigs had sold out immediately.

While I am sitting chatting to a friend who had been to the 4pm show, the band come into the beer garden and sat in the corner, all very relaxed.  Loaded with information of what happens at the gig (more on this later), I wandered round to the queue for the final gig at 8pm.  Masks on of course and having checked that I’m on the track and trace NHS app I head up to the Pink Room.

It was like walking into the unknown, to be honest. I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Everyone had a designated seat, and they are spaced out accordingly. You are warned not to move from your chair unless it’s for a comfort break, and even then you must put your mask back on.  Drinks are ordered through an App and brought to you at your seat.  There is a smokey atmosphere and lots of chatter, but inevitably it feels a little sparse.

Working Men’s Club come on and it’s straight into “Tomorrow”.  I do love this band. Echoes of Joy Division with the electronica sound but Working Men’s Club add a funky guitar and beats which gives it a slightly more accessible feel.  “Cook a Coffee” is one of my personal favourites from the album, and that’s when my chair dancing got into full swing! I knew it would be a challenge not to be able to dance and I resisted the urge to stand up.  After 7 months of no gigs eviction was not an option.  Next was “John-Cooper Clarke”. Lead singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant did not say a word to the crowd throughout which I did find a little odd, bearing in mind the circumstances. But he is a feisty character with changes of personnel in the band before the recording of the album. Current single “Valleys” of course got the biggest cheer and with its current airplay on 6Music it sounded pumping live. The crowd was slightly subdued, but I suspect many were like me and it felt a little strange to sit at a gig.  For “A.A.A.A.” Syd interacted with the crowd as much as he was allowed, snarling forward to those in the front row.  “Be My Guest”, “Angel” and the stomping “Teeth” rounded off the show, it was all over too quickly. This is a band riding high on the critical acclaim they are quite rightly receiving for their debut album. They are full of confidence and menacing swagger, which is perfectly reflected in their bombastic music which simply makes you want to move.

I knew there was no encore (remember that insider information I mentioned earlier…) so as soon as they went off, I nipped to the stage and grabbed the setlist, with my mask on of course.  This was a taste of how gigs are possibly going to have to be staged in the future. I just hope that lessons can be learnt through these experiments so that shows can be put on elsewhere.  Goodness only knows how long it will be until my next gig.  Fingers-crossed its not another 7 months…

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Written by Julia Mason

I love funky punky music you can dance to, and that's the type of music that inspires my writing. Currently an admin for the Fontaines D.C. Facebook fangroup "What's Really Going On?" which now has almost 4000 members. Living in Edinburgh, UK I am also a member of Pentland Triathletes and have completed two Half Ironmans. Good to meet you!

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