Mike Flowers

Story by Jacqueline Howell, photos by Dave MacIntyre

The Cover Bands at Shiiine On Weekender 2016 were part of an after-1o pm slate of programming that kept the party rolling across various rooms (nightclubs) well into the wee hours. We were able to cover The Smyths, The Clone Roses, Oasis UK, The Sex Pissed Dolls, and musical interpretive legend Mike Flowers. We also have a mention of True Order, who we unfortunately missed. (Other band omissions are due to scheduling only, we heard good things from all around the festival.)

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Last year’s Shiiine On featured The Clone Roses, who packed out the room they were booked in, causing long lines and becoming one of the most talked about parts of a strong program of live music & DJ sets. This year they were the feature of late night at Centre Stage, a big, empty room that boasts two 40 foot long bars along either end (and with extra draft bars beside them) which is, on Saturday, transformed in minutes to a packed nightclub of  3000 devoted Manchester music fans, in a game of hectic musical chairs and where you’ll lose your better half for an hour at the bar in conversation and side parties while queuing up.

Imagine if the popular, overplayed and sausage factory squeamish “music” of the current era was suddenly replaced with the best thing ever to come out of England in 1984, and we are all hip to it, and the club was full of it. Some here tonight have seen The Smiths in their brief time as the band who invented Indie itself, and others listened to records in faraway rooms where Morrissey’s angst and unrequited feelings rang as true as the slamming doors of suburbia everywhere, or worse, the real suffering of the poor and lonely where no one cared enough to fight at all. This music is epic, like so much of what Manchester produced (in various sounds and genres and points of view) entirely special, unkillable and fresh as a spring gladiola.

Morrissey’s literary love letters (and bitter missives) lifted by Johnny Marr’s effervescent, transcendent, reinvented jangly guitar sounds was something altogether new, from somewhere the wider world was just becoming aware of through the music of the tragically short-lived Joy Division and then the cutting edge cool of New Order. No one would get far attempting to cover this band as a matter of course, in front of fans (critics) who know every groove of those records. Not in this country. So what we get tonight, all the way down the years (tell that to our hearts, forever 14) is a treat that brings a tear to an eye, as thousands sing along to every word, as there’s never a dud, no filler, no commercial interruptions and the only feeling is happy.

The dance floor is jammed, the seated area is full, you will not find your friend if you did not have a landmark made. The room is dark, everyone is beautiful, you lose your friend, you find another, people buy rounds like handshakes and dream of visiting one another.

If there is a non-Stone Roses fan among the 6000 at this weekender, they are staying quieter than a Trump supporter tonight. The room has been reaching and filled out to capacity steadily long before The Clone Roses (please tell me there are T-Shirts, somewhere, to purchase?) hit the stage at midnight. The less said about “comedy” nightmare act “Ian Brownbottom” which has been slotted in briefly beforehand, the better, but it is such a rare unfunny misfire here that people feel personally betrayed and frighteningly sober for a few long minutes, and will mostly forgive and forget. The rare sound of hundreds of people booing, having had limited personal experience with angry mobs is almost worth the ear bleed and heartache. He’s taken off with a hook (one hopes) and disorder is restored. Here, midnight is the new headline slot and The Clone Roses blow their diehard fans away, presumably selling as many pints as The Roses did at their recent (parties) shows, causing many expressions of love and shuttling us into the glory of 1990.

The Roses self-titled debut stands among the very best first albums in a country of music legends who were honed on tough crowds in scary small town back rooms or made overnight by John Peel, with the pressure and fortunes to be ridden like a wave, above the sharks and around the rocks of ego and substances. Oh, and, the poison press. The album, developed over most of a decade, is so good and is brewed so perfectly that the band struggled to play it live, leading to both legendary and notorious shows, taking risks and shaping their own history that we’ve all watched and felt for like others do the Royals. The Clone Roses do not struggle. It is really like Ian Brown at his best is showing us why he is one of the coolest characters in all of music, and the guitarist impresses greatly; John Squire’s genius is unquestionable. It’s so good, so golden. All we can do is stay up all night, talking and singing, and take a wrap around pic and a little video to remind us over the long winter of one great Saturday night where time stopped.

This year’s too-packed-to-move-sellout-room is True Order’s set. The had to be there, overcrowding, did ya see it story. We have a brief chat prior to set up  earlier in the day (the singer has an eerily good resemblance to Bernard Sumner in his prime, they are lovely guys) and we catch a bit of their warm up where our hearts are warmed immediately as the perfect chords of Bass God and residing king of Manchester, Peter Hook float by. Cover bands are to be admired, who would attempt such a thing unless they could really do it? And True Order are no different. Plans to go are abandoned, friends who say they are in line there instead appear here, and we go off in another direction and plan to see True Order next time. There has to be a next time.

Adding Mike Flowers to the bill in the weeks leading up to Shiiine is a stroke of genius. Flowers comes out onto the main stage Saturday between acts, lightly bouncing in to the front of the stage and riffing off a song or two of his classic retooled, groovy faux-vanilla masterworks, before a quick “thank you” and disappearing. Our jaws are agape. He ought to be booked onto Glastonbury’s roster posthaste. He’s here to do a DJ set late after True Order, and it’s a surprise to us that he’s also here outside of that planned DJ set in all his 1995/1967 glory to treat fans of the various bands to “Candy Man” from Willy Wonka, surprise hit “Light My Fire” (which is a revelation) a brief Prince tribute medley, and at one point, “Wonderwall” which team Step On races through Butlin’s to catch like less elegant Rentons and Spuds on a heist- only to miss most of it! The worldwide Oasis smash that Mike Flowers, with the blessing of all, subverted and snatched away just as the original monster tune was reaching market oversaturation, is a wonderwall in itself, creating something new and utterly glorious.

Mike Flowers is funny, camp, comes from cabaret, and is in full effect even without his dozen Pops around him in chiffon and monkey suits in a half-circle,  and even with someone else’s drum kit behind him. There’s no velvet in sight, nor a place for Flowers to rest his microphone. What a pro. This performer is brilliant, a keen arranger of music, a humourist, a wit, and a delight. With a lovely singing voice. Here’s an idea: how about for Shiiine 3 in 2017, Mike Flowers hosts a daytime party like the famous Bez pool parties, only this one ought to be a Tiki bar or a martini bus. Or eggnog? What’s your drink of choice, Mr. Flowers? (Dear readers: please take a moment to sign my petition, did you see it? I pinned it to the eyeless bear outside Butlins, oh dear, I hope it’s still there for me to pick up.)

Mike Flowers Pops has a new song out, and we’re now a little obsessed with hearing more than 30 seconds of it! He fits into the lineup and our vision of Indie/90s/Manchester/Dance as much as anyone, and we can reveal here that he’s not got a single grey hair! It’s still as lovely as a boy. As is his sense of style and way with a microphone.

A quick pop in was all that was possible for Oasis UK’s set, another returning band from last year like The Clone Roses. Oasis is never far from the ethos of this festival, and their music is needed like air and lager. The nearby art installation by Microdot is full of Oasis memorabilia and rare promotional posters and banners, and is irresistibly priced, too (more on Microdot in our general roundup to come shortly).

The Sex Pissed Dolls, late night in Reds, are no doubt legendary wherever they go.  Clearly skilled musicians, stunning to watch (and look at) and with a massive musical vocabulary, in short order, they cover The Ramones, The Clash, Nirvana “Teenage Kicks” and The Sex Pistols. Don’t miss them if you see them on a bill, a good time will be had by all. Prepare for your jaw to drop when it ends with a sweet voiced, polite “thank you ever so much!” Oh England, Oh Shiiine, Oh Butlin’s, Oh Shiiine On Family, we love you so.