LIVE: Martha / Orchards @ Gorilla, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

“It’s really shit out there at the moment, but at least there’s good rock music,” Martha’s JC Cairns proclaims, and tonight’s line-up highlights that there’s never been truer words said. The County Durham punks headline a show that encapsulates a room full of people completely infatuated with the message on offer.

More accustomed to playing the living rooms of friends and family across the North East of England, tonight represents one of the largest shows Martha have played. Armed with a back catalogue of songs about social alienation, the crippling nature of the welfare state, nostalgia-laden tales of young love and railing against the establishment, they are a band very much needed in 2019.

Warming up is math-pop four-piece Orchards who spread an infection energy through the room with bouncy pop-infused tracks and a beaming smile from vocalist Lucy Evers. Guitarist Sam Rushton provides the intricate melodies while Evers’ almost soprano-esque voice carries the beautiful tunes from their 2018 LP ‘Losers/Lovers’.

As Evers drops down to the crowd, beckoning them to join in the fun, the performance spreads the positive vibes that are a mainstay for tonight’s show. Evers’ eulogising of Martha sets the stage perfectly for one of the finest components of folk punk in the country right now. And, naturally, the four-piece effortlessly deliver.

Kicking off with ‘Heart is Healing’ from their exceptional new album ‘Love Keeps Kicking’, Cairns and fellow guitarist Nathan Stephens-Griffin lead the sing-a-longs, with that signature North East twang. Martha are the band for a working class generation and thank the crowd for managing to make it down to a show on a Sunday night.

Such is the dedication to their varied touring schedule, the forever chipper drummer Daniel Ellis reveals that he’s due to be back in work in Newcastle the following morning. The new tracks sit delightfully next to favourites such as ‘Checkhov’s Hangnail’ and ‘11:45, Legless in Brandon’, providing the perfect intro to ‘Into This’, delivered wonderfully by bassist Naomi Griffin.

The whole evening is just a celebration of living in the moment and taking your mind off the horrible things are going in the world. The planet might be dying, the country might be in a state of political turmoil and Liverpool look like they’ll probably win the league, but when you’re singing about Rowdy Roddy Piper at the top of your lungs during ‘Wrestlemania VIII’, life feels a little more okay.

Martha even treat the Manchester crowd an airing of ‘Curly & Raquel’, an ode to one of the biggest power couples of Coronation Street in the mid-90s and round things off with the utterly charming ‘1967, I Miss You, I’m Lonely’. With another working week rearing its head, can we do this every Sunday?