Perhaps the thing we would all value most right now isn’t a big summer blockbuster or a trip to southern France with a fortnight of quarantine, but just a brief moment where things seem liked they used to. For one day, wouldn’t you love to just be doing whatever it was you were doing on an average Thursday in February? No masks, no metres – just doing things normally?
This is the exact experience that ‘Escape to Freight Island’ is offering the residents of Manchester. An outdoor pop-up that resembles GRUB food fair, a previous Mayfield resident, it’s a new public social space storming the city. With the appearance of the scran and booze oasis you’d find at the edge of a posh music festival, it’s unsurprising they’ve been fully booked since opening two months ago. Boasting a satisfying variety of vendors and menu options, it’s a hard spot to beat for going on dates, piss-ups or quick ones after work. Only with people from two households, of course.
The biggest bonus of the spot though is the music. DJs and live acts have been entertaining attendees for several weeks, providing what is likely for most punters the first taste of actual performed music in the flesh since lockdown began. On Thursday 3rd September, they hosted LayFullstop, one of the rising stars in Manchester’s fast-moving hip-hop and R&B scene.
Before Lay takes to the stage, she is supported by two local sisters, The KTNA, whose impressive voices translate 00’s neo-soul with Manc accents. They signal the strength of the local scene and will be worth watching over the next year.
LayFullstop shows why the city is becoming such a centre point for the sound. She shares the richness found in neighbouring vocalists, like Katbrownsugar and Mali Hayes. Switching cleanly between singing and rapping, it’s easy to see similarities to IAMDDB, bastion of the Manchester scene. Something in her voice also goes further back to the likes of Ms Dynamite.
She can flip a whole mood just as fast as mixing up her vocal style. Moving from ‘PMT’ with its nods to dancehall to the quiet storm-inspired ‘23’, LayFullstop shows off her influences and abilities throughout the hour-long performance.
She’s also blessed with a primetime radio charisma. The set takes a step up when the singer comes down from the stage to walk among the socially-distanced tables to take a second platform, planted in the centre of the outdoor set up. Just feet away from her audience, her confidence and presence lock everyone in.
Surreal as it is to have strangers performing in person again, it feels an immense achievement to have that interaction, that sharing of an experience, once again.
The success of ‘Freight Island’ lies in its simple ability to remind us what the world was like a year ago. With a five year lease, they’re expecting to expand the space, booking even more names as they go. You can’t underestimate the enjoyment of sitting with a drink, surrounded by strangers in a safe way, laughter around you, whilst an artist like LayFullstop puts on a lowkey spectacle.
One has to be grateful for getting to see some live music again, even more so when it’s of this standard. It is a hundred times better than watching Glastonbury highlights on iPlayer. And the best part is, it’ll be here for a while.
Follow LayFullstop on Instagram for more updates : @layfullstop
To book a table at ‘Escape to Freight Island’, follow this link