Let’s Ride. Right On. Right On.

As we change our name (I know, I know) we must do a little send off for the old name. Because.

We named our site/mag back in 2012 (only really starting in 2015) after the spirit of Happy Mondays: outlaws, free thinkers, strange geniuses, originals, quiet influencers (Stone Roses, Oasis and more).

Such as this doozy, which went on to influence your favourite films. There’s tons of Trainspotting in here. And this was a video for an Indie band, at a time when money was found for creative work like this based on merit and only made possible by a decided lack of interest in looking at the bottom line, and if anything, hiding the bills from any accountant who might darken the door frame. Good times. “DON’T YOU HATE,  HATE WHAT YOU ARE”. Now dance.

But look. We still feel like posers, as we used to say, at times. As much as you might like to think you know about music, a story, a time, a place, if you were there…or not there, and read the daily and weekly missives like letters from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as others adventures brightened the half-lit daily grind of twenty-something Toronto-tethered Sims, there’s always more.

There’s facets, there’s insider tales, there’s the journalistic sheen that warped and obscured so much and reduced whole lives to drug stories and score /rap sheets. There’s the stories of this band, Flowered Up, whose brothers Liam and Joe Maher, didn’t make it. They are gone. But this moment of music and visual storytelling, and a band that refused to make a radio edit, are important side stories in the massive encyclopedia not yet written about the “Manchester” sound, its pulse, its music, most importantly, its people, its artists, its characters. Its neighbours down the road in Liverpool. And futher afield in the north or the south, often, outside the centre. And we are reminded or even informed about the inner workings of this in the unexpected gift of an interview with a musician who tells of his discovery of the song. The channels are compressed, the gates are down, you can talk to anyone if you are rude enough, or polite enough. Or have something to say, yourself. If you have, or can make, a map. As it ever was.

Happy Mondays were a ten year long overnight success story. Obscure to some/many in our part of the world, daily diet to others. Whenever I’ve found a Happy Mondays fan I know I’ve found my kind. There’s a sensibility. I’ve listened to them for 25 years and still do. They still help me laugh & cope with life, think & deal with absurdities of the world and aid in creativity as much as high-brow literature or the drugs I’m too scared to try.

Also in the cocktail of STEP ON Magazine, there was a good dose of Banksy, who’s work we’d followed for years before his American fame, when he was still tagging in Bristol & around UK. His POV is still important, no matter his mass popularity and the decals on Etsy which are less offensive then the stuff stolen off bridges or  THE LEFT BANK in galleries for millions, despite all who’d like to reduce him to anything like the rest of the art world and the public worlds he made works on. He changed the cityscape, he changed the conversation, he changed the country, he changed the world, he changed the art game, foul and corrupted as it is. He changed our hearts, and he sent us a beating message from Bristol that said. “I’m here. I’m angry. The world is dying. But I can laugh about it. In fact, I’m pretty interesting. I have a few cool friends who help me. Remember Punk Rock?” and also said “I see you” to his enemies and to his allies, like us. We don’t know Bansky (we don’t think…) but we love him. He was equal parts angry, subversive, witty, and heart. The heart sometimes had to be painted on to make people remember that it’s the first thing we draw, the symbols on the walls of the caves of our fleeting youths. Now they say “I heart you.” They say XX to strangers. But they don’t mean it. Banksy is forever interesting, even worthy of your one and only tattoo that can’t and won’t be painted over.

We wanted to say something with our unknown, out of nowhere, unsupported and unasked for project, coded but clear to those who got it. To those who got it, it was essential fuel to us. Friendships were made. The name & our work under it had some voodoo that led us to amazing and wonderful places far beyond our home city we wouldn’t have dreamed of, and that we dreamed of in secret, and that were not in the works even four years ago and seemed impossible- like being sidestage for Happy Mondays in 2015, and in the pit shooting them in a brilliant new UK festival which seemed to come out of our dreams, as they returned to the stage on their 25th anniversary; writing on the Mondays in an unexpected musical resurgence of a great time in our world across a number of genres and that is both British and lives in other places too, even in Toronto.

Great music is eternal and does not have album cycles, and it’s still happening right now in your city or will visit you if you are lucky and if you are, answer the call. Hint: the best music is usually terribly affordable and in intimate venues, then and now. Connection, through mystical 90s hoodoo, to people who get it and others creating and celebrating too, was the biggest discovery of all we had in looking to our roots as music fans and once-carefree kids who stood and looked up at these Manc geniuses and wanted to be one of them. How do you do that? You start a band. You make something. You zig when they zag. You disobey road signs as long as you’ve only got yourself and your co-pilot to worry about and the road ahead is clear, fuck what’s behind you in the rear view, that’s history, mate.

Wear your references on your sleeve, just like your band T-shirts (you still have them, right? You still wear them? Not just those good boy outfits that makes grown men at the dinner table look no different than their toddler, benign and neutered for the elders? For the babies? The team jerseys are very important so you can find your people, out there!) Today, even online, especially online, we still find each other through our flags, these colour codes and references that are inside and confusing, unless you know them, when you know them they are a gilted invitation. Answer it, don’t be rude. All who answer it get something more. Connection. The goal, the purpose and the endless, unquantifiable, priceless, often underpaid, abused, stolen, aim and unkillable achievement of music, art, writing, photography. Connection, a word that hasn’t been hopelessly ruined by marketing, they can’t fake it.  It’s ours.

We started out doing this from a position of frustration, of homelessness in a way, like many bands do. Creatively unfulfilled, directionless too long, unappreciated.

The same feelings extended to the state of media, the music business, the state of music today (popular/dominant/corporate music you are fed in public and very small children are fed like McDonalds to make you buy expensive merch, tickets and unmemorable experiences they will surely outgrow before you’ve paid for it) and the state of music & film material to read. In a glut of (then) blogs (now taken over by social media platforms, where writing and context are seconded, and community building is challenging) there was only hope in the indie world. So we said, let’s just make something that we feel is of quality, honest, authentic, with love and ignore what we don’t love. No snark, no gossip, no attacks, just have a different conversation and celebrate what we love and we think is worthy, locally, beyond locally, then and now.  The one bit of advice from a corner not to be trusted, was filled with a Bronte like dark portent of what such a thing would do to psyches and relationships. How little that person knew us, our psyches, our relationship. Only a few do- and those that do-accept and understand. And we’ve found you.

The frustration waned away, the idea of focus became an exercise in focus itself. TV is gone, America is all but ignored, especially now, aside from some worthy artists and friends. We don’t need ’em. We don’t eat that. You would be amazed how quickly you can make the pop machine of today and the celebrity world disappear from your consciousness, and how much happier you can be when you fill it with music, conversation, and something real, like we used to in the 80s and 90s. Nostalgia is only good for the moment when you realize, “it was better then.” You don’t have to miss it, it’s not your neighbour’s pool, long razed over, or your shiny new bike. It’s still achievable. It’s rock bars that host open nights, and are free. Sit at the bar. It’s pubs that have vinyl nights. Spin your own, or listen to whatever. Sit at the bar. It’s indie bands with the bravery of Braveheart slugging out days as busboys to create great new music at night, for free, the only way, the pure way, and sending it out on a file on a website to the world, to be found and taken in like medicine to a waiting world who understands. Distribution belongs to us. With money unfortunately besides the point right now, freedom and art can really live and breathe and travel unchecked by borders and uncreative people who rage as they hold onto a fantasy of the big labels, the big media outlets, the big laugh they had on the artists they lived off of, artists who live, and remember, and need them not one jot.

And so it does. And we are so happy to have seen it happen and know people doing it. We’re breathless. We aren’t the same people we were before the rabbit hole of Step On Magazine, which, for us unlike drugs, has no dangerous side effects, rather makes us become ourselves.

As the strangeness of fate would have it, we’re now premiering a great feature interview with Happy Mondays’ Rowetta (who’s doing new music all over the scene) in our first issue under the new name, as we leave behind the old skin which was named for her song, which cannot help but have a special significance to us. We’re endlessly grateful, not just for the time and generosity of people like Rowetta and others we’ve had the chance to speak to recently, but to the connections from emerging bands, quiet friends & supporters who have formed communities with us and let us in to theirs, and the artists returning and still going who we’ve had the chance to see play live in the last two years as we’ve been writing and photographing all of this and finding there is much more news than nostalgia in this cocktail, there’s a groundswell, and good music is always welcome, like a party guest who sings for his supper or someone who plays with your kids for an hour, and we’ve no regrets even if outside of the context of Happy Mondays the name does not make much sense and gets jumbled (thank you to the friends who decided it had something to do with Shoegaze and foot pedals, it would have been nice if we’d thought of that) and the name has benign common words in a world that ruins everything by making us live in webpages and indexes first as if that were anything at all but a means of distribution, not the source, as confused as the machine does get about its prominence.

And if the name STEP ON,  in context, looked at times like a fan page, and we looked like fanboys, that’s alright, for at its heart, it was that too.

As you were.

Disarm Editors

Shiiine On Weekender’s 2016 Line Up: Indie Music & Beyond

With a full slate of music festivals and events designed to maximize the fleeting prime weeks of summer, true music lovers should not miss out a chance to keep the party going well into fall thanks to the organisers of Shiiine On Weekender, back for its second year 11-14 November at Butlin’s Minehead Arena in picturesque Somerset, U.K. (near Bristol). With Early Bird Tickets still on offer, this is a prime time to get a group together and plan a memorable weekend away.

We make no secret of our excitement for this newer weekender that is sure to make you remember family caravaning trips ” with a twist-  now alive with great music around the clock, a crowd of like-minded people and a laid-back and drama-free environment with minimal fuss.

Step On Magazine was thrilled to attend and cover Shiiine year one (which was also our mag’s first year) after getting word from a savvy friend in Canada who shares our deep love for Happy Mondays, 2015’s first major headliner, then touring and celebrating the 25th anniversary (!!!) of their masterpiece, Pills n’ Thrills and Bellyaches.

The line up looked too good to be true. It was very different from many bigger festivals that try to be too many things to too many people, then missing the mark with bloated line ups that make less and less sense. Worse, big festivals (particularly in North America) fail to honour so many solid 80s and 90s U.K. artists that are the backbone of this very notion of togetherness and festival ethos, who are still active and still well worth the ticket price. There are legendary names that deserve the call and that would raise the level of North American festivals exponentially.

There’s an extra effort missing with some other festivals at present, a thoughtfulness required, that goes beyond just the viewpoint of the accountant and comes, instead, from the heart. From the music loving soul who can also write the cheques. And here in Hacienda black and yellow was something altogether new, from people who’d been around the festival scene as fans and clearly felt the need for something else, and then, found a way to create it.

U.K. music fans know their music and are spoiled for choice in the busy summer months. The most mobile even jump trains or flights to great, big European festivals. A new player on the scene needed to offer something different, something a little bit bespoke, that didn’t need masses but the right mix to create an excellent party. And so they did. Shiiine On is an all-in experience that manages to be relaxing and exciting at once, at a pace you can set yourself: the more intimate setting (where festival-goers stay on site but do not have to camp out and lug gear) means they can sleep in until they hear the first strains of the early afternoon sets beginning, or get up for daily pool parties (yes, if you weren’t there you missed Bez’s legendary pool party in year one) see cinema screenings featuring 80s and 90s classics that continue the vibe of Indie, Dance, Britpop, and other iconic images, stories and sounds of the day, and become night owls again at epic club nights that keep the party going until very very late (including the bar).

Club nights for 2016 include Keep it Social, Cool Britannia, Burn Down the Disco and Madchester. To top all of this off, in the place of where might be head-scratching place holders at other fests, come the best in relevant cover bands to round things out to the full (2015’s Clone Roses set was a major highlight, regularly noted as the surprise of the weekend, or the major regret of those who did not get in before the club reached capacity). Clone Roses return for 2016 along with Oasis UK, joined by the TRIFECTA that thrills the 80s kid heart: The Smyths, The Cure Heads, and True Order (the last following last year’s barnburner of a set by Peter Hook himself (with his band, The Light, accompanied by legendary Manchester singer and ambassador Rowetta Satchell).

All this and we haven’t even covered the full artist line up. Here it is:

As visitors from abroad we were well-versed in the music but new to the notion of Butlin’s and to the way things work there. So by way of a brief trip guide for those unfamiliar, Butlin’s site is very informative but essentially the weekend works as an all-in package (festival pass to all performances and other offerings + accommodations) best suited for groups (though single rooms are available) and comes with or without a meal plan (and with optional cooking facilities). We suggest you skip all but your morning tea & biscuit before setting out for there is a local Spar onsite (open 24/7) the home of nightly post-last orders funny moments and quick, life sustaining eats, as well as many affordable restaurants on site and the all-important pasty shop which is almost 24/7 (we miss u). For U.K. visitors within 3-4 hours drive, taking the car is probably most convenient but can also be easily organized by train and coach (see official sources for more information/recommendations).

Minehead proper is just a 5 minute walk along the coast with many great pubs and friendly shops as an offsite option for socializing & mealtimes during the day. Butlin’s, to an outsider who had just recently been to Las Vegas for the first time, is something akin to that otherworldly adult playground but much much more walkable, social, friendly, and happily, without one single cheesy magician full of desperate repressed anger (that Vegas staple who charges as much as a third of this weekend for the dubious privilege). In his place, we have, instead, a delightful array of claw games, a big tent which covers the large, roomy, main stage area as well as a number of appealing different clubs for smaller stages and DJ nights, and indoor/outdoor places to hang and celebrate the scene that deserves a full 72 hours to remind us all how right we were in our youthful exuberance; how right we still are to love it and to preach the gospel of this music. The fine tradition of the memorable road trip awaits you and the kids would love to have a weekend with granny, we promise.

Fans, organizers, a few Canadians and visitors from abroad, and essential, iconic bands all came together to create something rare and great last year. Corporate Pop music and the years of digital noise and declining music press were blasted away the old-fashioned way. Our Canadianness permits us to be earnest for a moment: it was a real marvel. And worth every penny and every jet-lagged mile, in fact, way beyond those things. Like all music festivals and all travel ought to be. For 72 hours, a real village was built that made plain and easy for all the vibe promised so easily elsewhere that falls short when their chosen site, focus, line-up and scale is just to large and scattershot to please anybody.

Don’t take it from us. A testament to this claim is the many players from last year returning in some form or another who’ve made it something of a priority (or….is that… a new tradition?) and the festival-goers who immediately rebooked for 2016 before leaving the site. Bez’s pool party has gone down as legend, but there are still pool parties ahead, as well as music from returning artists The Wonder Stuff, a significant percentage of returning Happy Mondays in the form of Black Grape,  Love & the Family Tree (Gaz Whelan & Rowetta) and a Happy Mondays DJ set on Friday. Also returning to great acclaim is The House of Love (Terry Bickers played with his duo, Fij & Bickers last year) The Farm, James Atkin (EMF) and Thousand Yard Stare (who we’ll be featuring in an upcoming interview). The unusually civil and positive social media exchanges around this weekender by past and prospective attendees are worth noting as well. See you there. (More coverage and band profiles to follow.)

Jacqueline Howell & Dave MacIntyre.

Shiiine On Weekender’s website

Link to Early Bird Tickets and Butlin’s Information

Shiiine On Weekender’s Facebook page

Minehead Tourism- general area information

Headliners: Echo and the Bunnymen; The Wonder Stuff;  The House of Love; Shed Seven;  The Bluetones; Echobelly; Cast; Black Grape; The Farm; Paul Hartnoll (Orbital); (and more)

Read more of our Shiiine On Weekender coverage / view our photo galleries

Shiiine On Weekender: Saturday – Atmosphere

Shiiine On Weekender –Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015. Day 3: Saturday

Here it is. We 6000 strong are not teens on the bedroom floor spinning “Ceremony” on an LP on repeat wanting to ingest it, young enough still not to know the darkness (and Light) of what we wish for.  We’ve teleported from those dull suburban unseen places where these records were totems, where the right T-Shirt compliment could set the course of your entire adult life and marriage and all the grey areas between, where we once talked late into the night in cars parked in driveways about how much this music meant to us, hardwired in to the best place in us no matter how remote we were from it.

It was currency, the only currency that mattered. It still is, as evidenced by this weekend. As kids we talked about “Hooky” like we knew him but could not fathom what it might be like to be in close proximity to musical genius and see, if not ever understand, how it’s made. But through some strange alchemy, we’re right here. All these years later. It all still matters. Musically, its not been replaced, not at all. Rather, its legacy is assured. As Shiiine On Weekender’s James & Steve said so well in their editorial: “We are the last generation to whom loyalty to a band means something. We are a subculture that’ll never die.” “Forever, watching love grow.”

Midday: Now rounding the 48 hour (party people) stretch, festival success is assured. People who’ve been on site since Thursday have settled in to, not a routine, but an ease, a homeliness that is rare anywhere, let alone among thousands of people. Ok, yes, it does include a routine of good-natured heavy drinking. With pride,  festivalgoers celebrate as taps are drained here and there (but never alarmingly). The balance between proper crowds to build excitement and space to breathe has been struck. The organizers are getting well deserved shout outs from the main stage. Saturday’s screens already shiiine with the delightful news that 2016 dates have been booked and are already on sale. It’s not a one off.  It’s now the best of all possible things: a new tradition. It’s Christmas Eve. Let the wish lists begin, or leave it to the wizards.

Full disclosure: the Step On team has fallen off plan Saturday midday via a long pub lunch with new festival friends who are, themselves, a side stage of delight. We’ve no choice but to like them better than the idea of Bez’s Pool Party that was in the plan for months. There is time for chats with pub staff about earlier and later visits, its swiftly become the “local” and suddenly, languorous time is made: for a long lunch where we eat chips with beans or with cheese, and for good measure, crisps as well, in a plan that revolves around a packed house of agreeable Leeds fans (who win) the usual cider “it’s only cider” and lager, a random bit of darts, and a whirlwind of music talk and great stories that circle through the hit parade of the 90’s that we are here celebrating (but,  to be clear “this is not a retro festival…it’s a celebration and hopefully a reminder to people that a lot of these bands never went away and still carried on and made cracking music.” ) If people in general have forgotten some of this music, it’s down to the demise of old media that ate itself and a push towards trendy music in the years since.

Today, this whole four days, that all melts away and numerous great old gigs and amazing stories that are not mine to tell are remembered like sporting achievements, for they were to us. The plan to get us ruined completely leaving us with just a tale of the time we missed Happy Mondays and Peter Hook in the same night whilst passed out minutes away JUST fails and balance is restored to the universe. (Nice try lads. We owe you rounds before a future Wedding Present gig.)

2:00 p.m. While this is going on, Saturday rolls on with Winachi Tribe (we heard raves) and Space Monkeys “would have loved to see that one…how long is this football match/lunch, anyway?” minds fuzzily wonder through the cider haze and the impossible coziness before finally hauling it to the Skyline main stage. Had you not been corrupted by Welsh hospitality, it would be entirely reasonable to catch at least some of all the early Saturday gigs, as the three other stages did not get going until late evening. Deja Vega and Sulk hold down slots at Jaks, and we get to see some of each of their sets on different days, and each time they are very good.

The Main Event.

4:30 p.m. Northside takes the main stage to a full house, and people are really happy to see them back out: Saturday boasts the biggest crowds, and convergence is happening. There may be some nerves at play but the crowd responds well and the music is great. There’s a tambourine, and there’s a bit of a salute, is that what I see coming from the stage? Some of us have same day hangovers so hard to tell. This band is beloved by other musicians on site and fans. They are of The Mondays realm: great songs about illegal drugs that broke into the charts and landed in America, too.

5:45 p.m. Peter Hook and the Light (featuring a guest appearance by friend Rowetta) is on. Hooky has been out with the Light for a couple of years now, and having seen a very early gig of theirs as well as one in 2014, it can be stated with authority that they’ve hit their stride and get better and better every single time. All 6000 of us seem to agree that Hooky came, saw, conquered, and wiped the floor up using the weapon he’s perfected like no one else, his bass, and his music of a lifetime. Moving away from the cut-for-cut album formula which The Light had done on earlier tours (as much as fans love it it’s a format that can be very tough to play) Hooky tonight moves into both comfort and power within his vocal style that complements the Joy Division material that has come to reside in the very marrow of music fans and needs to be played. Hooky’s God-like status intact, we are the lucky ones at a very special gig. Here we get no less than an assault of Joy Division and New Order’s finest, and their finest can touch you in places in the heart you thought for sure had died along with your innocence.

It’s nothing short of perfect to see the godfather of Manchester’s music and club scene, whose very musical labour built the bricks and mortar that would house Factory records and fund the brilliant, mad, Hacienda (not to mention have a part in launching The Mondays) rise like a phoenix from that bad and tragic New Order baggage that we, the fans, refused to drop for so long. It’s also genius: unencumbered by the grind of breaking in new music and at last answerable only to himself, the fans get an intense and pitch perfect wave of nothing but gold. This alone would have been worth the trip, and the ridiculously reasonable ticket price.

Here’s the setlist: Digital, She’s Lost Control, Shadow Play, Transmission, Atmosphere (with lovely, lamenting vocals by Rowetta) Blue Monday, Love Vigilantes, The Perfect Kiss, Ceremony, True Faith, Temptation, Love Will Tear Us Apart.  We all went to pieces after. Need we say more?

7:15 p.m. Picking our brains up off the carpeted (!!!) arena floor, Stereo MCs are there as the Mondays warm up band, just as they were back in 90/91 for those of us who saw them on their U.K. or North American tours. This feels right. “Connected” is still a perfect appetizer for a Happy Mondays show. And people are warming up and into Saturday night with this soundtrack.

8:45 p.m. Close your eyes: remember Shaun Ryder in that 1990 haircut worn better than anyone else with less care, in proper workingman’s clothes, and we all have shiny unlined faces and hair free of silver, stomachs defiantly lean and bodies able to work all day at a shite job and dance all night spending all we made that week and call it happiness. Open your eyes: We’re all older (except Queen Rowetta who’s forever 29) but the truly cool are still cool. We’re all HERE for a start, and we don’t look so bad.

And we’re all still alive. And you can read on Shaun Ryder’s face, even with shades, even with that cool Steve McQueen reserve that can’t be faked, he is happy and he will remember it all this time. The Ryders, Day, Bez & Whelan seem relaxed and at ease. Gaz Whelan smiles and laughs though he’s badly cut his finger moments before hitting the stage and the drums. Our vibe, you see, Shiiine On’s dreamers and, importantly, doers, and all of ours, has spread everywhere. It has been helped and carried aloft in pieces by all the different acts from Thursday and Friday up to now, and all those cracking late night DJs, and the crew at Butlins who make it easy on us.

The Mondays, at the start of their 25th Anniversary Pills n’ Thrills and Bellyaches tour, deserve the packed arena before them and the nods to their lyrics that pepper the festival’s literature, the insider lingo that brought most of us here. The same words inspired this independent mag’s title and ethos. These lyrics have endless melon twisting wit, weirdness, rawness and grooviness. It’s a deeper code within an obscure language of Manchester music culture that separates the wheat from chaff in musical discussions, and can form new friendships just like that. And so here we all stand, through equal parts fortune, fortitude, and hustle.

Happy Mondays still have their edge. Even when a muppet appears hanging over the barrier and gets Shaun Ryder to crack up. Bez is working the full length of the stage, still well able to amuse his mates (job one) and hype the crowd (job two). His maracas say “Sorted” and “Big Medicine”. Rowetta comes out with her whips as all of us who wish we could be her for a day. But being the girl in this gang (not to mention Hooky’s) is only for the toughest and the coolest. After Mondays run through Pills n’ Thrills it’s a short set with essential tracks “Wrote For Luck” or “WFL” (an eternal club anthem and lately, commuter rage survival tool) and “Hallelujah” which is a Rowetta stunner much copied and rarely touched that also allows all of us to play act as someone who could “fill ya full of mace!” Or maybe we just might, but not this weekend. These songs get better, funnier, sharper with time. Like almost everything out of Manchester. No doubt some fans wanted more of Bummed and the back catalogue but there are some of us who want for nothing.

1:00 a.m. Guess what, starting from his hosting of the midday pool party, and last to bed again, Bez is not done. Reportedy he takes to the stage during 808 State’s STUNNING late night set until removed by friendly security (who will later tell us he put “The Happy Mondays” off the stage). Rules are minimal but this is one. No word on whether 808 invited him or he just wanted to Freaky Dance for us, but there is a lot going on up there with live drums, horns, electric guitar, and all the electronic gear. I don’t think it could take maracas too. 808’s is an immense performance, and like nothing we’ve ever seen or heard. It’s yet another must see/mega draw that does not disappoint. No one who’s still out on the road these years later is anything short of brilliant. The strongest survive. As for those festival goers who’ve not soldiered on to make the 1:00 a.m. start time for 808, tsk tsk tsk. Key there is a disco nap and a reset.  Avoiding corrupting influences of the delightful midday drinker just for awhile.

2:00 a.m. 808 is followed up by none other than House legend (yes that’s him in old pictures spinning at the Hacienda) Graeme Park who shut it down in style at 4:00 a.m. Oh yes: “900-Number”, “Deep Inside”, and we are in his hut now…all of this gives the crowd a new lease on this day of days: one day when the years have rolled back and we remember needing little sleep when fueled by all of this. So good is this late night Saturday that the house (Centre Stage) is still heaving with people who boo the Gods for having invented time/limits. Will never forget one guest hanging off the DJ booth, every inch the Cate Blanchett Oscar contender, bellowing “YOU’VE RUINED OUR NIGHT!” at the good natured security guy. He’s a bit of a drama queen. And it’s a joke of the weekend. The phrase now means “this was the greatest night ever”. Tell the kids. Call the cops.

Words by Jacqueline Howell, photos by Dave MacIntyre.

Friday’s write up and photo galleries here.

Thursday’s write up and photo galleries here.

More to come as we round out Sunday. No Days Off!

With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender & North Country Boys. *Quotes from the Shiiine On Weekender Official Souvenir Program, editorial. What, you didn’t buy one?

Gotta Be a Loose Fit: Happy Mondays



“I wrote for luck. They sent me you.”

Happy Mondays erupted out of a Manchester that was somehow entirely different than Morrissey and Marr’s town, twisting The Smiths’ wry wit by the ear.

They bore nothing at all in common with other greats from their city who came before them: Joy Division, New Order, James;  except that they were also singular and also great.

Even twenty odd years on since Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches, it’s astounding and ever thrilling to hear the cocktail of sex, drugs, debauchery, profanity, humour, satire and weirdness that falls out of Shaun Ryder’s stream of consciousness lyrics which are actually often quite pointed and full of cultural criticism, beautifully uncensored and unfiltered, unfettered. They shimmer with true freedom as so many great, at times opium fueled poets of ages past would have loved to be.  These words and intonations were carried on a sketchy breeze of cool, unfussy rebellion, of the sound of Baggy itself, of a shrugging toughness that could never be faked. Whispered in the ear,  mumbled, or barked lyrics travelled round the world and made kids everywhere want to be part of one local scene that existed too briefly in one Northern English city, and the larger unknown culture that formed it, as we nodded if not knowingly, than wishfully, that we could get even a tenth of the inside references. A lifetime mission to penetrate this dialect was born in suburban hearts everywhere.

For to learn the slang of the gang was as worthwhile a pursuit as any we could think of from miles and miles away. Shaun Ryder, the unpredictable bard, made “twistin’ my melon” sound needlessly dirty, naturally, while “four, four in a bed. Three giving head. One getting wet ” came out sounding, oddly, rather romantic and sweet.  The bite of anger in “Wrote for Luck” was mitigated by the naturally funny and freeing lift of Ryder’s offbeat moments, like a long yell in the middle of the song that seemed to say as much about what it felt like to be young in 1990, in northern towns, far from the centre, in faded empires, under grey skies as it seemed to maybe just say, “eh, fuck you”. And today, the same howl and stomping cool of this anthem offers commuter relief in its forever unpackaged originality. Try it on a loop, it’ll change everything on the coach.

They were Bummed. They were Happy. They said Yes Please while picking your pocket, because singing about the travails of a Mondays’ “Holiday” involving “one small sneak” is just too damned funny to be any kind of crime, no matter what the contraband. They were unabashedly street. And they were smart. They reminded us that “Stinkin’ Thinkin’ gets you nowhere (but comes from somewhere).”

“Kiss me for screwing everything in sight. Kiss me for never getting it right. Kiss me goodnight. Kiss me for old time’s sake. Kiss me for making a big mistake.” How could anyone resist?

Have the Mondays ever received their due? In spite of the question that lingers like smoke for this band and so many others who burned so bright in the early 90’s, The Mondays are bigger than petty concerns or a waste of time jostling for cred, as ever. Instead, as if summoned by the endless dreams and devotion of global fans, The Mondays are on a major anniversary lap this past year, a high point of which is undoubtedly headlining the unusually cohesive line up for November’s Shiiine On Weekender.  This festival boasts a roster of the top albums of 1990-91 (and beyond) from across Indie, Dance, Ambient, and Manchester bands and offers a full weekend of music, films, DJ sets and pool parties, including one hosted by Bez himself. Pinch me.

And here we are, 15 years into this goddawful new millennium, when the jetpacks we were promised are still backordered, seeing The Clone Roses. Yes, please. We’ll take two: seeing the great Peter Fij (Adorable, Polak) for the first time ever. Oh and that’s just my personal favourites there’s The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Northside, Peter Hook and the Light, Stereo MCs, The Farm, The Orb, The Real People, Thousand Yard Stare…It’s a month away, and already historic for the happiness its triggered in anticipation.

Shaun Ryder and Rowetta in 1990But back to The Mondays. We’ve waited years for this band’s compositions and Shaun Ryder’s lyrics to receive the acclaim they deserve. True to form, cool resists such things and the body of work has instead gone on to be something better: an inside joke and a secret handshake understood by a select number of global insiders, a knowing head bob, and an appreciation that defies definition. “Show you what the cat’s been doing, and how he gets around” is no less funny if it’s a reference to good ol’ “Grandbag” shortly before his anticipated death, or an image of a family standing around watching and discussing the antics of the family pet (the true meaning of the line holds a decadent amount of air time at Step On Mag HQ of late; we suspect it’s the former, but we are endlessly entertained by the notion of the latter.)

In the intervening years when we all, unfortunately had to grow up (and before the welcome resurgence of our top 90’s bands now that our lot has the keys and can fill the roster like good Indie kids) The Mondays stayed on rotation through the LP, CD, and iPod years. We may never have dabbled in anything stronger than the evil, legal alcohol, but Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches has, through some strange northern magic, served as effective holistic medicine for what ails on that morning after commute. Somehow that Chill Out Room of a brilliant record (and it works best if played end to end) covers the hungover listener in a blanket of comfort that keeps subway rage to a minimum, and its smooth rhythms are a tried and true balm for the self-inflicted wounds of the drinker – a remedy we’ve prescribed to anyone who’ll listen for two decades. This band is not shambolic, you see. Rather, they were and are ingeniously tight and comfortable together, honed over many years before their breakthrough;  as well as their outside projects, their real lives and their individual survival. Back in 1990, their musical looseness, captured rather perfectly on their records along with Ryder’s off-the-cuff ramblings, gave us all something that sounds ridiculously fresh and spontaneous. And free. And offers a different kind of happiness: the darker, weird and authentic kind that we know is all.  And Shaun Ryder’s singing is still one of the most original, fearless and cool in all of music history. His rhymes and left turns contain multitudes that hold up ridiculously well alongside the greats of the English canon:

“We all learned to box at the Midget Club
Where we punched with love and did someone good
It’s good to see ya, to see you nice
If you do me once, well, we’ll do it twice
We’re twice as likely we’re twice as right
You say it’s wrong but we know it’s right

Ride on, right on”

Northern Soul is alive and well and will be celebrated in fine form down south at the seaside for one big weekend beginning one month from today. It might be time to pack up the skin tights and put on the Loose Fits again (Hallelujah!). The original and definitive Happy Mondays line up, with, of course, the inimitable and essential Queen Rowetta, will headline.  And will always shiiine on.

All lyrics c. The Happy Mondays (Ryder, Paul Anthony/ Whelan, Gary Kenneth/Day, Mark Phillip/Davis, Paul Richard/Ryder, Shaun William) Warner/Chappell Music Inc., Universial Music Publishing Group.

Happy Mondays 

Shiiine On Weekender

By Jacqueline Howell

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