The Virginmarys – with guests Moses and Critics

Manchester Academy || 17 June 2016

Words by Rachel Hasnip || Photos by Steve Thornhill

After two intimate gigs to launch their second album Divides back in May, The Virginmarys have taken to the road to tour the length and breadth of the UK. After being lucky enough to witness an adrenalin-fueled all out hard rock set at Camden Rocks two weeks ago, I was understandably charged up for the main event! A pretty much sold out, hometown Manchester show.

Over the years of being a fan I have made many friends in the guy’s home town. Trackside Studios in Macclesfield always lay on a coach for such occasions and I find myself crammed on amongst friends, family and supporters of the band. The atmosphere is already electric as we travel to Manchester with The Virginmarys tunes blasting all the way, everyone in fine voice and high spirits! You can almost taste the anticipation.

Arriving at the venue ten minutes before doors, a sizeable queue is already building up. The appeal of the band to all ages and ranges of musical taste is apparent immediately.

I meet up with other friends and familiar faces from the fan community and we head straight to the front, even bypassing the bar to ensure our regular spot and await the first support band.   The Critics were first on, who are self-described as ‘dirt pop.’ They had an 80’s synth feel which seemed quite in contrast to the punk rock night I was geared up for. They performed well and the crowd responded positively towards their set. But definitely a bit too pop for me.

Moses were up next. There was already quite a bit of hype surrounding this band. Friends that had already gotten to a show were telling me not to miss them and they certainly did not disappoint! This fresh faced indie four piece bounded around the stage with an infectious energy reeling off a tightly performed, confident set. Their lead singer has a real edgy voice and it was difficult to take your eyes off him, quite a mesmerizing performer. Only interrupted when their lead guitarist started throwing himself around the stage with one of the most contagious smiles I have ever seen! At one point he was playing solo on his knees and my thoughts flashed to Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Moses took me back to the 90’s, had a real Brit pop feel and anarchic edge. By the end of the set their frontman had everyone singing along as if we’d been listening to them for years, some skill! Watch out for these boys, I feel they’re about to take off!

The anticipation builds as we await the headliners, the lights dim and air raid sirens begin, red lights circulating, I grab my friend Garry for support as I know it’s about to go off. A quick glance around the front row and it’s a sea of huge grins. The guys bound onto the set to rapturous applause and waste no time launching straight into ‘I wanna take you home” what an opener. This track filled with dirty riffs instantly grabbed the crowd, who bounced and sang along with Ally Dickaty’s savage vocals. The guys launched straight into ‘Halo in Her Silhouette’ with Danny Dolan slaughtering the drum kit and Matt Rose thrashing out grunge tones on the bass, the real punk vibe that has been surrounding their latest album screaming through.

As the intro for ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ starts, the crowd goes wild, the love for their King of Conflict album is blatantly evident. From this point on it’s do or die in the pit.

The guys continue to storm through an immense 90-minute set with a passion and force that just amplifies with each performance. As we hit about the fifth or sixth song in, I notice Danny’s hands are bleeding, and I’m not just talking a scratch. The intensity and delivery of his high powered performance night after night on this tour has obviously taken its toll, and the blood is literally dripping from him. This has absolutely no impact on his committed, forceful performance. Stick after broken stick is flung into the crowd, much to the pleasure of awaiting fans.

Slight respite then as ‘Moths to a Flame’ begins. I grab my friends and we sing our hearts out arm in arm, and I’m not shy to admit a few tears were shed at this point and I know I wasn’t the only one. These haunting lyrics about being drawn towards one another in times of need, is what has literally bought so many of the fan community together in the first place.

The new tracks are continually fired out one after the other, many of which already have an anthem feel, ‘Free to Do Whatever They Say’ in particular encapsulates what the band are all about, people trying to survive day to day in the times we live in and is very much where the whole punk vibe for the new album comes from. Ally’s raw tone didn’t waver once, powering through the set his raucous vocals were on top form, backed by Matts melodic dulcet tones whilst annihilating the bass track after track.

Ally takes time to thank everyone for attending, these hometown gigs are always well attended, and the house is yet again brought down with thunderous applause. The love and appreciation that flows between the band and their fans is something quite spiritual and is always grossly evident at shows. A nod then and a dedication to a young fan and fellow drummer who has spent time backstage helping the guys set up as a Birthday treat. The crowd start chanting Dylan, Dylan, its electric in there! ‘Bang, bang, bang’ this one’s for you Dylan.

Ally then announces that the band had something special planned for tonight, a song they haven’t performed in a very long time ‘Ends Don’t Mend’ from King of Conflict. I wish I had a camera right then! Our faces must have been a picture and for a split second you could a hear a pin drop. As we watched mouths wide open we knew we were about to witness something incredibly special.

As Ally begins to sing the first line you can hardly hear him over the crowd. The song builds to a

powerful crescendo with Ally’s guitar solo literally weeping and Danny hitting the cymbals so powerfully I’m sure at any second they will split. This track literally brings the house down and there is hardly a dry eye to be seen from where I’m standing.

An encore of ‘Push the Pedal’ and ‘Motherless Land’ has the place bouncing again and I fear we will crash right through the floor. A huge roar of approval is met by an almost overwhelmed look on the faces of three very humble guys. This highly charged, gritty, passionate rock performance has come to an end. Hugs all round and we leave dripping in sweat with huge grins on our faces knowing that yet again we have witnessed one of The Virginmarys’ best performances yet. Each show sets the bar a little higher, and I can’t wait to see just how high these guys will go! Thoughts now to Reading and Leeds festival, their next planned UK shows.

Photos by Steve Thornhill

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