WHITE LUNG show us the Way: in Manchester

WHITE LUNG is an exciting band and now they’re in Manchester. The Canadian four-piece, with a lead singer who now lives in LA, were recently signed by Domino and are blasting stages around the UK. They’ve curiously slipped under the radar in this country, but I’ve been tracking them for a while and have been enjoying their new album Deep Fantasy, a rollercoaster of killer punk-rock-with-a-nod-to-grunge tracks. They’re getting a reputation not only for being great value live but also for their no-nonsense lyrics, singer Mish Way enthusiastically talking to journalists about her inspiration behind the songs and her thoughts on, well, pretty much everything from gender politics (she has a degree in Gender Studies and Communications and is very attached to her books) to her passion for writing to taking control of her life. They are, in short, a breath of fresh air.

It’s a chilly bonfire night, and the streets are unusually empty in the Northern Quarter for a mid-evening. To the backdrop of bangs and squeals, the band are preparing to demolish the Soup Kitchen. There’s an eerily underwhelming welcome as they drift onto the stage one by one… that is until the first drum-notes shock the air, the screaming guitar wails, the bass pounds, and singer Mish Way evolves into the vocal diva we all imagined.

Opening with new track Sycophant, Way grabs the mic with a passion and, through little gaps in her wild hair, makes eye contact with individual people in the crowd, with a stare brutal enough to turn anyone to stone. This is a lead singer who knows exactly what she wants from her band and her audience, and she genuinely wants each and every one of us to join in the party. Part-way through the gig, faced with a mostly pouting audience, she eggs them on by comparing a good gig atmosphere to good sex where it’s about “give and take” and jokingly threatens to jump into the crowd to get them moving. She actually just wants us to let go, and it’s refreshing to see a lead singer who isn’t all about eyes on her and who is determined to engage her crowd.

The sound balance is a bit out – it sounds like we’re in a tunnel – so I ask the engineer to up the vocals. We can’t hear Way above the crashing sounds, and this is a band whose lyrics need to be heard. Anne-Marie Vassiliou smashes the drums with incredible precision and intensity – one of the best live drummers I’ve ever seen live – while Kenneth William delivers beautifully screeching guitar notes, and new addition Hether Fortune (of Wax Idols) commands the bass, though shredding her fingers in the process as she later points out.

Every track goes down well, highlights being Drown With The Monster and Face Down, the band making this a night to remember as they throw everything into their set. Way dominates the show, oozing a charisma befitting of a lead singer, and politely makes time out after the show to chat to fans, signing setlists and taking photos. The band have an early night, saving their energy for Glasgow… except for the enigmatic Mr. William, who decides to make the most of being on tour and ends up in a nightclub… on a Wednesday night… in a deserted city centre… rock n roll, rock n roll…