LIVE: Dream State / Parting Gift / Oxbloods / Grief @ Deaf Institute, Manchester

By Gem Rogers

Following the demise of two smaller Manchester venues in recent years – Moho Live and, more recently, the loss of the well-loved Sound Control to yet more student flats – Deaf Institute has comfortably slotted into the gap they left, picking up more and more shows in recent months and becoming increasingly valuable to the alternative music community.  Tonight, these familiar confines are home to another sold out rock show – and it’s going to get sweaty. Very sweaty.

It takes some serious Google skills to track down any information on opening band and locals Grief, but it’s worth the effort. About as brand new as new bands come, this is apparently the band’s first ever live show – not that you’d guess. Their moody post-rock style is a welcome surprise to start the evening, and though the clean vocals are often a little quiet and overwhelmed by the music, there’s enough power in the screamed elements to make for a very promising beginning for this band.

Second support Oxbloods take the night in a very different direction with some slightly confusing indie rock; it’s upbeat enough, but lacks any real spark and they struggle to conjure much interest in the room, though there are a handful of willing participants when a pit is requested later in the set. A frankly bizarre AWOLNATION cover doesn’t improve things much and it’s ultimately a forgettable set for what’s probably not quite the right crowd for this band.

Fortunately, things pick up significantly with main support Parting Gift; it’s a hometown show for the group tonight, coming just a few weeks after the release of debut EP ‘Ensom’. Although tracks from the EP make their way into this mesmerising, atmospheric half hour set, the band also dip into earlier singles like ‘Asleep’, much to the delight of some fans near the front. Vocals from Zac Vernon are superb, but the real star of this show is guitarist Jack Dutton – a pure bundle of energy on stage and his enthusiasm is easily matched by his phenomenal talent. The mood of this set and music feels like it deserves a darker room – maybe with a few flaming torches for bonus points – than one with the jazzy wallpaper and brightness of Deaf Institute, but it’s easy enough to get wrapped up in these sounds and forget the setting. The delivery of their haunting songs is immaculate, cementing that Parting Gift’s continued rise is well deserved.

That Manchester is not the only sold out date on this huge 25 date tour is a clear indication of just how popular headliners Dream State are becoming, despite still having only two EPs to their name. Their post-hardcore riffs and raw, honest approach to songwriting is only part of the story – their live show is the other. Near instant chaos ensues as opening track ‘New Waves’ kicks into gear, and it’s not long before the centre of the floor is cleared for a moshpit – not that a little squashing deters those at the front from continuing to throw themselves into a spot of jumping as they sing.

Front woman CJ Gilpin is a key component of what makes Dream State live shows so transfixing, easily being one of the most passionate and expressive vocalists on the circuit as she transitions smoothly between clean melodies and roaring screams at exactly the right moments. Her heart and soul has been poured into these lyrics, and it comes across in the delivery; the ‘Solace’ refrain of “it’s okay to not feel alright” is central to what this band stand for as they turn pain into strength and hope. Gilpin takes moments during the night to speak of the importance of supporting local bands, local music, and the safe space that these shows provide for people to simply be themselves. It’s not an uncommon message these days, but there are few who express it as genuinely as Dream State, and it engenders an uplifting, community atmosphere in the room.

Latest single ‘Hand In Hand’ is evidence that there’s no chance of Dream State slowing down yet; their first track since last year’s ‘White Lies’ EP, it’s met with boundless joy by the crowd and prompts one of the biggest singalongs of the night. There’s only a swift dip into their earlier work with ‘Rebuild, Recreate’, but that’s fine – their recent work is more than enough to keep the assembled fans happy, and their cover of Linkin Park’s ‘Crawling’ is a stunning bonus. It’s a track they’ve truly made their own, with the addition of vocals from guitarist Rhys Wilcox truly complementing Gilpin’s well.

It would take some effort to find any fault in tonight’s performance as they finish with ‘White Lies’, and anyone who’s escaped the sweat-pocalypse until this point surely doesn’t make it to the end in one piece as energy surges through the room one final time. It might not have been the longest of sets, but to see Dream State live for any time at all is to fall in love with the band – there is a vibe and a passion that is utterly infectious, and unrivalled by their peers. With new music on the way and a summer with festival appearances aplenty, it seems unlikely that this is a star that will dim anytime soon.