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In The City 2009 reviewed

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Richard Banks Richard Banks | 12:36 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

Earlier this week I hopped on the train to Manchester for the annual music industry conference, In The City. Read my previous post for background on the three-day event and why it's so influential.

Mark Ronson and Mike Smith in conversation at In The City

During the day, the plush Midland hotel hosted a series of thought-provoking discussions focussing on all corners of the music business, from publishing to photography, with respected industry figures sitting on each panel.

Given the rapidly-shifting sands on which the industry is built, it was perhaps unsurprising that tackling piracy and making money out of music were hot potatoes at In The City. However, it was still an eye-opener to see just how factious things have become. At an early session on the opening day, Rick Falkvinge - Chairman of the Pirate Party, a political party in Sweden who stand for the decriminalisation of file-sharing - stirred up a heated debate with representatives from the Music Managers Forum and the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Later that day, Paul Curry (creator of the now-defunct Music Search Plus, which helped users search for and download MP3s freely) argued that unless major labels and 'traditional' music industry bodies were willing to revolutionise their approach to music copyright and distribution, file-sharing piracy would never go away.

The trouble is, the industry cannot agree what that approach should be. It's a debate which has been heard at ITC for several years, but recent press coverage (thanks chiefly to Lily Allen) meant it took centre stage this year. The following day, during a conversation between Mike Smith (Managing Director of Columbia Records) and producer/artist Mark Ronson, Mike passionately advocated stricter enforcement of copyright laws, which, he reasoned, were part of this country's history, having been first established nearly 300 years ago.

Of course, the beauty of In The City is that one can leave all this noise behind and hit the streets too see some incredible live music. Highlights for me came in the shape of Dutch Uncles, MIDIMIDIS, Islet and Bright Light Bright Light, all of whom made a dark and drizzly Sunday night positive enjoyable. Also out in force were the BBC Introducing in Manchester team, who reviewed and photographed as many bands as was humanly possible. Here's Chris Long from BBC Manchester's take on the five bands who impressed him most at ITC:

"As ever, this year's In The City was a hectic menagerie of musical madness, with both fine new artists and curious inclusions on offer in the night-time showcases. For me, it was a particularly gruelling event, thanks to a bout of the flu that's currently stalking Manchester, but a few tablets and some grim determination pushed me out into the three nights. In all honesty, I'm glad I braved it, as without doing so, I'd have missed these five red hot properties:

Lost Knives

Lost Knives
Lost Knives have been wowing Manchester audiences ever since they formed back in March and at their In The City set, they showed exactly why. Powerful, visceral and vibrant, they're a brooding mix of rock and dance with all the passionate songs and glorious crescendos you could wish for. They came to the event on the back of a brilliant Electric Proms session and on the evidence of both that and their performance here, they are about to become very big news.


In shorthand, Envy is a Mancunian Lady Sovereign, but truth is that scratch the surface and something more lies inside. She's got a super-fast delivery, catchy hooks and a wilful humour that underpins her finery in glittering fashion. Playing both Huw's Swn stage and our BBC Introducing showcase, she won over crowds that weren't expecting to find their new favourite MC in the basements of Manchester. As one fella said to me, "I thought she was going to be rubbish, but she was bloody ace!"

Liberty Vessels

Liberty Vessels
Liverpool's Liberty Vessels might be the first In The City band ever to announce that they "need to get up for school in the morning". Perhaps that might not be the case for much longer, as the four 15 year olds could need a break from their studies to deal with a music career, if the melody, passion and promise of this nervous set is anything to go by. If this is them barely out of puberty, they could be world class after a few broken hearts.

Bear Driver

Bear Driver
Sporting some of the biggest hair at this year's In The City, Bear Driver were looked like being in danger of being memorable more for their appearance, peacock feathers and toy instruments, than for their sound. That is until they locked into their fine indie rhythms and uplifting drums, meshed them together with fun-soaked vocals and carried the sparse crowd they had before them - the curse of an early evening ITC slot - off in a sea of euphoria. Catchy, exuberant stuff.

May 68

May 68
Another band currently making waves in Manchester and beyond, May 68 were nothing short of sensational, once they hit their stride. Rightfully nervous, given the number of industry that piled in for their show, they took a song to warm up and then never looked back. Theirs is an intoxicating sound, a mix of catchy pop, post-punk and Chicago house, delivered in such an insistent fashion that it's impossible not to dance to. A superb band who get better with every performance.

Of course, the thing about In The City is that I could well have missed at least ten ace bands while watching these five. In fact, there were nine others who played blistering sets at the BBC Introducing nights, Everything Everything were amazing by all accounts, as were The Drums, who packed out Night and Day café on the last night.

A good friend insists that I missed the greatest In The City debut of all time by being elsewhere when Nadine Shah played. Another says Engine-Earz Experiment was immense, too. But then, missing the best stuff is actually half the fun of In The City; it just leaves you wanting more."

Chris Long is a Broadcast Journalist for BBC Manchester.

More coverage from BBC Introducing in Manchester:
Sunday reviews and photos
Monday reviews and photos
Tuesday reviews and photos


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