A vast kaleidoscope of influences at Manchester’s most elusive music venue


Han Lake, Reporter


On a swelteringly hot Friday night, with town as swarming and vibrant as it usually is, me and my mates ventured into the unknown – that is, into an elusive Russian doll of a music venue, where one backstreet pub gave way to a second alleyway, giving way to a flight of stairs, ascending which brought to our ears the groovy twang of guitars. 

That, my readers, was our final destination: Aatma. A venue, you’ve probably guessed, we’d never experienced before. 

Situated in a crevice of the Northern Quarter, Aatma is certainly a gem. At once atmospheric and endearing, with fluorescent lights and a mirrorball to boot, the place has a way of making you feel immediately anticipatory of the entertainment to be seen within its four walls. (That, or it’s the adrenaline rush from the journey to it…) 

With Aatma being so hidden a venue, though, it wasn’t very surprising to me that the turnout was miniscule. There must’ve been about 40 people in the audience – a decent amount, but hardly enough to fill the space – a reality that could be further explained by the relative obscurity of the acts performing. 

Still, what may have been lacking in attendance was made up more than sufficiently in energy. Both fans, some evidently long-time devotees of Strawberry Lace (the headline act), family members of the musicians and the musicians themselves – each band wholesomely hyping the others up as the night progressed – all managed to collectively raise the roof. 

Yes, I’m going to shamelessly highlight the role my vociferous headbanging played in the maintenance of such an energy high, mainly because, if I don’t, the consequent neck pain I’m now experiencing will have been for nothing! 

But I digress. You’re not reading this review to hear me whining about a self-inflicted affliction, but to read a review, so, without further ado… 

The Raymonds 

Now, I’ll preface my take on this band’s performance with the little titbit that, due to the slight confusion/panic me and my band of pals underwent prior to actually finding the venue, we arrived halfway through their set! However, don’t fret: we caught enough of them to get a good gist of their vibe. 

Which was, without doubt, a great vibe! Each band member teemed with enthusiasm, moving incessantly to the melodies they banged out as if they themselves were fans, and their lead singer encapsulated this energy; a natural commander of the audience’s gaze, and their movements. 

The Raymonds kicked off the night’s proceedings in reverb-soaked style, exercising as much control over their own instruments as they had over everyone grooving with them. Their performances of their two released singles so far, ‘Nights With You’ and ‘Follow Your Nose,’ were particular highlights – the foursome, sights surely set on broader horizons, relishing every uttered lyric as they played. 

In short? Watch. This. Space. 


Feeling a bit peckish? You should…probably get some food down you. After a bite, though, I’d implore you to go and take a gander at Hungry, the second support act of tonight’s spectacle! 

Another gang of four with indie/rock inclinations, these guys grabbed the baton of energy The Raymonds so adeptly wielded at the first chance they could get and, boy, did they run with it. Banger after banger, assisted by a healthy dose of audience participation and more than enough guitar distortion, and Hungry were off like a shot. 

The 9th of June 2023, I can categorically say, did not see Aatma short of electric frontmen. Commanding the audience in a more literal sense, this time – the incensed gesticulating of hands and frenetic combination of spoken word, rap and singing proliferating their performance – the man at Hungry’s helm perfectly complemented its immense rhythm section, their lead guitarist’s post-punk riffs sealing the deal. 

Following a meaty “cover/jam session” of Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ – which you can imagine went down a treat – Hungry’s set was rounded off with ‘The Jig,’ a song with a chord progression that demands all who hear it jump up and, well, jig. That we certainly did, Hungry, we certainly did. 

Strawberry Lace 

That leads us to the crux of the evening! Strawberry Lace, a quartet (surprise surprise) from Cambridge, comprised of lead singer and bassist Ryan Beynon, guitarists Joe Bunton and Olly Crannis and Will Pierpoint on drums, took to the stage after hours of cheering on the up-and-coming groups who had dominated it before them.  

Having formed in 2018 upon meeting at music college, the band has since experimented with myriad genres and their performance demonstrated their incredibly vast kaleidoscope of influences: intermingling elements of reggae, prog-rock, indie and drum n’ bass with one another effortlessly. (The latter genre of the list was paid particular homage in the form of a Strawberry Lace rendition of The Prodigy’s Breathe – perhaps the prime suspect in the case of my neck pain!) 

As for the group’s setlist, they presented a good balance of new material off their debut record ‘Quadrafeline’ and their earlier singles, both of which were met by lyrics yelled back word-for-word from the mouths of the more well-versed fans in the room. 

Album tracks such as ‘Eye to Eye,’ ‘Pale Blue’ and ‘Quicksand’ allowed for the band to really demonstrate the extent of their instrumental proficiency: Pierpoint reaching ridiculous highs behind his kit with his math-rock-paced drumming, while Bunton and Crannis pedalled their way to victory by way of fuzz, echo and delay guitar effects and Beynon’s vocals soared alongside his winding basslines. 

It was during the more familiar tracks, like Misfit and Ever Be, which has racked up over 1 million streams on Spotify, that the band and their raucous audience were at their very best, though. Sailing on a whirlwind wave of pure, unfiltered energy, both parties were exuberant in the moment; revelling in the carefree joy that only live music can provide. 

That concludes my review of what my buddies and I witnessed on the 9th June, 2023, at the tucked away, Tardis-like Aatma concert venue. But, I hear you loudly exclaim at whatever screen you’re reading this on, “WHAT DID YOUR FRIENDS THINK?” And I’m so glad you asked!  

Faith aptly stated, “Little venue, big atmosphere…banger after banger [and I] knew all the lyrics.” Austin’s verdict was that the gig was “surprisingly good, especially for the price” before adding that the “great covers and original tracks” made it a “10/10.” Luke, The Strawberry Lace Superfan who echoed Austin’s numerical rating, said: “big guitar make me jig and happy” – a gleaming review by all accounts.  

Amy also wrote of the concert, “despite the numbness in my head standing next to some very loud speakers, no knowledge on how to dance at an indie concert in a cool way and a horrendous case of tinnitus the next day, it was a great atmosphere and experience,” quipping at the end that she’s “never going to that venue again though.” 

For me, it was a fantastic experience from start to finish (though perhaps a few arrows outside would’ve been helpful, if a tad uncool for the vibe of the area) and one, I believe, that will only contribute to the word-of-mouth excitement that’s sure to build up around these three bands in the future.