Saturday afternoon and Northern Quarter was alive with people.

Guitar and flight cases were lined up outside venues alongside gig goers being told to take their drinks back.  The reason was the sold out and stellar line up of YANA Festival the one dayer raising money for Manchester MIND a cause clearly close to the hearts of performers and attendees alike

In the words of organiser Ben Taylor “It was down to my own personal experiences and from losing friends as a lot of people suffer. I thought it would be great to put on something music based where people could have a great day out and raise some awareness.” Up until recently when high profile suicides rocked the scene, mental health issues within the music industry had been generally been ignored or at the very least had been seen as not a problem through rose tinted glasses. The highs and lows are both meteoric and crushing, as Taylor explains “Its peaks and troughs. One day you’re touring Australia and the next you aren’t working for three months and need money”. Artists also pour out their hearts with every aching lyric and chord progression through their music and as consumers we eat it up without question when we know deep down if we saw a friend in that level of pain we would ask if they are ok… Hopefully YANA will do that which is one of Taylor’s aims, “It feels like there’s a buzz today and people are talking about the issue and if it helps just one person then it’s been worth it”

So onto the music, with three venues and too many bands and DJs to keep count here’s my highlights of my first festival of the year and genuinely enjoyable day.

The crikey they keep getting better band….. Saytr Play Whiskey Jar

After a sell-out date at Gorilla, it was both a surprise and a now rare treat to have the headline band Saytr Play appear on an early afternoon slot in a tiny basement like the Whiskey Jar. Front man Fred Farrell is just a joy to watch, he pouts, poses and acts his way through every considered lyric. His interaction with the audience is beautifully done and which is one of the many reasons the fan based is both devoted and ever expanding. Previous releases “Don’t Go East”, “Mothers Love” to the newer material “Fragile” and “Bang Average” were all sung along to by fans and Farrell openly shared his reasons for being involved with the festival and own demons that have needed to be exorcized in the past. This band just get better and better, I just cannot tire of seeing them live as they are anything but “Bang Average”

The band that rocked, C33s Whiskey Jar

Three people can certainly make a lot of noise when they need to, relatively new to scene and with comparison to the Blinders flooding in after previous support slots the band tightly wove their way through their set. While still relatively unknown both insiders and fans watched on in anticipation swelling with the pride that they were joining an act in the early stages before the world hopped on board for the first real throws of hedonistic industry approval. With only an EP and single released to the public, people are already taking notice with wide eyes and big camera lenses. I predict big things for the C33s and would suggest catching them in an intimate setting before they lose their charming combination of edgy vulnerability and are welcomed on larger stages.

The Oh look I’m dancing in the afternoon and it’s not the wines fault band, Velvet Shakes Whiskey Jar

When reviewing a band at times you need to throw the convoluted descriptions of angst ridden riffs out of the often non-existent venue windows. Instead of focusing on vocals which can raise and fall on a finely tunes whim, which by the way the Velvet Shakes do do all of this and more, but sometimes you need to take a step back and just watch the crowd. It was day light outside and the room danced, moved and whole heartedly engaged like an 11pm 5 drinks in headline slot. The feel good vibes flowed from the riffs to the floor and created an utterly joyous set that would sit right at home late afternoon on a major festival. A true high point for me that seemed to be felt through out the room.

My ears bled and it was worth it, Déjà Vega Jimmys

A sold out Jimmys is always a red lit site to behold and despite having only three members Déjà Vega always seem to not only fill the stage but filter their sound out into the far outer reaches of the room they inhabit and shake the floor along with it. Guitar riffs are physically thrown down the neck of Jack Fearons guitar, across the stage to fellow band members and effects pedals are played like a moonlight sonata on a distorted Moog on acid. Mike Newton uses his bass as a weapon full intent on causing some serious damage, an ear bleeding bass is pretty much exactly how I like it. Unsurprisingly the band are gaining a solid reputation for creating a live show both as experimental as it is electrifying so if you haven’t had the chance to check out this band yet, sure you do over their string of already confirmed  festival dates.

So I realise I never made it to Night & Day, sorry legendary music venue but by this point I took a time out in search of a fake chicken Crazy Pedros veggie pizza. That’s your lot for highlights, next time make sure you buy a ticket and Ben Taylor if you’re reading this please do another YANA Manchester definitely wants you too…..

Feature image © Neil Winward