After basking in the joy of one of the most vibrant small festivals in the UK for the last few years now, Far Out thought it only right that we returned to Salford’s iconic Chapel Street in 2016 to explore yet another heady cocktail of acts.
It’s an event that is rarely defined by headliners, instead relying on a kind of roulette-style set up where (despite a pretty lengthy printed programme of events) you never really know what delights lie just a few metres away.
Even once in a particular venue, the notion of having an upstairs and a downstairs playing host to completely different promoters and genres makes for an intriguing day out.
Far Out’s festivities begins at Paul Heaton’s pub, The King’s Arms, where esteemed flag-flyers for the weird and wonderful The Quietus have taken up residence. It’s still only afternoon but already the usually sleepy downstairs bar is rammed full of revellers enjoying a slice of funky disco.
Upstairs, however, the acts that begin the bill – as handpicked by Quietus editor John Doran – are inevitably abrasive.
Locean and ILL come armed with with psych and riot grrrl-sprinkled post-punk respectively, but it is probably the twisted, sea shanty-esque hypnotism of The Yossarians that most catches our attention during the early part of the evening.
There are influences ranging from The Cramps to British Seas Power with a vocal sounding awkward and poetic in enough equal measure to draw comparisons to Howard Devoto. All the right kind of stuff.
But at risk of getting cabin fever it’s time to spread our wings. Perhaps the venue that could be described as featuring some of the most notable of acts is hosted by Heavenly Recordings and early sets from Hooton Tennis Club and slightly later Far Out favourites The Parrots are well received.
It all takes place within the industrial surroundings of The First Chop Brewing Arm, a real ale house inside a converted railway arch. The party goes on down here way into the early hours with Heavenly DJs, but again variety proves itself king at SFTOC.
With that, it’s off to a staple of the local drinking scene, The Crescent, where hardcore band Queer’d Science have whipped up a frenzy at a rough-around-the-edges kind of a boozer that is yet to fall foul of the gentrification epidemic.
However, the space has been turned on its head by SFTOC and the set leads to a one-in, one-out kind of a situation. Those on the way out who can’t handle the heat look exhausted and a bit like they’re unsure whether the previous 20 minutes were a dream or not. Undoubtedly one of the most ferocious moments of the day.
But now for something completely different… The very essence of SFTOC is probably demonstrated by the next transition that takes us from the chaos of the Crescent to the solace of St. Philips Church, hosted by Hey! Manchester.
Here we catch a slice of debatably the biggest act on the lineup in terms of mainstream attention, Gwenno. This former Pipettes singer has swapped her past glories for an otherworldly banquet of Welsh language synth-pop that comes as a wonderful bit of time-out. It’s an encapsulating set fit to rival the blinding show we caught from Damien Jurado at the same venue just a couple of weeks ago.
In an effort to maintain the breadth of the talent we’ve seen throughout the evening, it’s time to hot foot it to the Salford Arms, where Tru Luv are representing some of the finest underground talent on the Manchester hip-hop scene.
We arrive just in time to sample the feel-good vibes of tri-headed collective, Free Wize Men. They get the tiny room bouncing from the off with a thrilling dose of jazz-infused hip-hop that reminds us of Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde – had they been brought into the world down at Salford General of course.
There are guests aplenty too. For a short while the show risks meandering too far towards pastiche as it dips its toe into UK garage, but by the end the funk ‘n’ soul has well and truly returned with a quick-fire flow that has Far Out fixated.
But just because the early hours have arrived doesn’t mean SFTOC has finished with us yet. A short distance away at the Angel Centre, a ‘Madchester’-style rave has developed at the outdoor stage, while if you’re tastes are a little more industrial, the organisers of the White Hotel are laying on a late night feast of techno upstairs at the Old Pint Pot, punctuated by the sharp-sounding punk-rock of Denim and Leather.
Once again SFTOC has been an erratic shock to the senses that has perfectly showcased all manner of the vibrant spectrum of talent that we find in Salford, Manchester and further afield. It’s a wonderful reminder of what a real festival should be.