A modern-day tale of loss and gain, addiction and overcoming reaches a poignant milestone as Johnny Brown’s Twisted Wheel play their biggest hometown show since a certain support slot at Heaton Park in 2009, that catapulted the band into the realms of cult classic. This was before an extensive list of misfortune plagued their career, causing Brown to rip it up and start again on countless occasions – but this time it feels different. He took to Twitter ahead of the show:
“Made up at the moment. It’s been an amazing journey for myself since starting the wheel back up. I’m very grateful for the support that’s been given to us but I can’t deny it I’ve worked hard to make things happen and it is starting to pay off. Last year I tried and I tried I failed and I failed. Shit went wrong. People let me down. It seemed pointless but I carried on through. This year hasn’t been easy but things came together naturally and I’m in a better place.”
Opening the bill are Middleton’s Scuttlers, who’s abrasive stage persona makes short work of the task of drawing attention. The attention paid is then rewarded with a drop of their initial guard that provides an endearing insight into their work. Guitar ridden hooks are delivered by double lead vocals that progress in energy throughout, almost as if they’re in a duel of one-uppery with each other. The quickly filling venue is evidently the biggest that they’ve played, and they step up to the mark with rapture, likely gaining new support along the way.
“Don’t say we were shit!” Says lead singer Kaiden after the set. Scuttlers were definitely not shit.
Local DJ Dave Sweetmore amps up the crowd with classics in the half an hour between sets, building momentum towards the main event as the constant flow of people bottlenecking through the tiny doors edges the room towards capacity. The view from The Ritz’ balcony can only be described as a human gulf in the middle of the floor, with Stone Island badges taking up a solid 1:2 ratio of the flapping arms around the outskirts of the ever-widening pit. This is before Twisted Wheel have even taken to the stage, which is probably a testament to the brilliance in the choice of entrance song – Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party” makes the punters want to do just that. Maybe a bit too literally. When Brown & Co. finally appear, cueing strands of (hopefully) lager to be sprayed high & wide around the room, there is an air of sheer defiance put forward from the off. There’s a refusal towards production value, with the band’s lack of even a backdrop letting the bare bones of rock ‘n’ roll arrhythmia do the talking. It seems that where most file out the edges during their progressive comeuppance, Twisted Wheel becomes rawer. The 1500 cap auditorium has the intimacy of a side street dive bar. 3 quid all in and not a pot to piss.
Twisted Wheel’s very longevity within the industry is also a show of defiance in the face of the prevalent sneers of Manchester’s ‘hubs’ so to speak, where the slightest show of influence from past Mancunian roots are immediately frowned upon in a largely confusing manner. Granted, nostalgic revisits can easily come across as tired; but to tarnish all artists that proudly wear Manchester’s past pioneers on their sleeves as unoriginal, timed out rip-offs is the most naive outlook available, no matter how superior than thou it may make thee feel. The call to arms chorus of “You will never stop us because you are you, and we are us” makes even the most subdued crowd members dispose of their apprehension, as they become rebellious in the face of the last train home or stay out and Uber it dilemma. Another show of defiance is through unreleased song ‘Ghost Man’ where the verses channel Nick Cave at times, which is a very confident stride into new musical territory where more of the same punk fuelled indie snarl would easily suffice for their enamoured crowd. There’s a noticeable age division amongst the said crowd, however, Twisted Wheel caters for all parties. It’s a catharsis for the kids and nostalgia for generations prior, whereas the 20-30 something middle ground can appreciate what they’ve got here; a band/vision that at its peak is something very special.
With a new album on the horizon, 2020 is set to be a busy affair for the outfit, that with more of the same resilience displayed tonight, may just see them reap the reward.
Pre-order the new album from Twisted Wheel ‘Satisfying The Ritual’ here https://twistedwheel.tmstor.es/. Release date 20/3/19
All images © Trust a fox