Eclectic sounds meet stirring words @ Night and Day’s WAM Festival
A four-day showcase held at Night and Day Café – one of the best known and loved small venues nestled within the Northern Quarter, WAM was a festival rammed with local and international talent. This was hardly surprising considering Dave Haslam was the curator – a figure embracing extensive artistic endeavours as a music journalist, DJ, author, and events developer in Manchester through to Europe.
The first act of the night, Maud-Elisa Mandeau, had driven from Bordeaux for her debut Manchester show. Her alter-ego Le Prince Miiaou took to the stage, a triumphant silhouette clad in plastic children’s armour from the 80s. The heroine-esque figure was enthralling as she traversed from hard rock into more tender territory, scaling both light and dark faces of electro-pop. Limited capacity made a spot at the event feel particularly precious. Due to Haslam’s admirable reach, another French artist, Laetitia Sadier, preceded the headliners. The crowd gratefully received these European cousins with faces lit red by the strings of chili-shaped lights glowing on the walls, Sadier’s dreamy voice hugging us like waves on the shore.
A twist in tone signalled The Orielles, who clambered onto stage with – literally – all the bells and whistles. From their eager youthfulness bubbled sunshine synth, jangling riffs, whoops and bongos on a journey through genres that revolved on the happy axis of indie pop. Their song Forty Eight Percent stayed with me. Standing astride Sadier for their set, it felt like an opportunity to ice the baffled bruises of Brexit just as they start to make themselves known.
As well as Friday’s musical delights, I witnessed Sunday’s showcase of spoken word. Shoulder to shoulder with an eclectic mix of ages, it was warming to be among a throng who simultaneously admire both music and poetry. The two go together as logically as night and day. Having dipped into the live literature scenes of other cities, I’ve never known something quite as healthy as Manchester’s. Judging by other faces in the crowd, this sentiment is not mine alone. According to Haslam, spoken word events have multiplied in Manchester over recent years; there are now around 12 regular events in the city centre. He sought to illuminate the talent and soul of the best of these, with the finale consisting of speakers from Verbose and SPEAK, among other gems.
Particularly enjoyable was Maz Hedgehog’s delicate verbalisation of strength. Tears sprung into eyes as she invoked a smile, reminding us that callouses, the grandchildren of our blisters, stop soft skin from hurting and make it all the easier to scale new heights. Joining her vivid ranks on stage were fellow aficionados including Rosie Fleeshman, James Friel, Ros Ballinger, and many more.
WAM’s celebrations came at a poignant moment, too. The previous Monday, Night and Day’s founder, Jan Oldenburg, passed away. The bar was decked in flowers gifted by anyone that knew or had heard of his visionary work. He has carved out a blueprint for evening and daytime venues in Manchester and hosted thousands of bands there in his 27 years as proprietor. Amid the sadness of this loss, WAM was an opportunity to revel in his legacy to Manchester – a true and rare gem lit up like a ruby, glowing with pride and the bright promise of talent behind its façade.