Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A Beginning So Beautiful We Treasure Its End: Tapir Bring Their Musical Narrative To Manchester’s Yes Basement

Since the release of their album The Pilgrim, ‘Their God and The King of My Decrepit Mountain’, Tapir have continued to address the novelties of their folk-like mystique. 

Yet after witnessing their performance at Yes Basement, the guise of their DIY costumes was lifted to reveal the extraordinary charm that lies at the heart of their musical narrative.

After arriving in Manchester, I stepped into Yes from the midst of the city's cold air, and within seconds I noticed the sheer excitement on the faces of those who were attending the gig—an understanding, a quiet knowing that what we were about to witness would be something special. 

The gig marked the first of the band's UK-wide tour and the first official outing for the pilgrim and his compelling story. There could not have been a more apt and willing audience of spellbound fans as the doors promptly opened down into the venue's iconic basement.

The evening began with Manchester-based ambient electro-pop artist Modema. Renowned for her energetic flirtation with pop music, the artist provided a memorable set list of synth-based music-making that was a hit with the night's willing early supporters. Her track ‘Running Back’ was a particular favourite with the crowd, binding ethereal vocals with gentle breaks and gorgeous synth swells to create an incredibly listenable opener. Previously joining the Orielles on their late st UK tour, her music began the night in brilliant fashion, inspiring energy from the crowd with her toe-tapping electronic jitters and catchy pop-like hooks. At this point, the room was virtually full, and each and every step I took was met with a smiling grin of acceptance as the band's performance neared. I don’t know whether it was nerves or sheer excitement, but I definitely endured the rush of adrenaline that usually accompanies the body at gigs of this sold-out capacity.

The second support was one inevitably pitched with an air of mystery. Edward Barton is an author and poet based in Manchester, known for his eccentric live performances. His enticing and eclectic mix of slapstick poetry and physical comedy held the basement crowd in a sort of awkward amazement. As his act leapt from excerpts  of the most side-splitting poetry to wrestling a giant cuddly panda, the crowd was in awe of his every nervous movement. Although unusual for a gig of this kind, his performance was full of heart, and its charm and all-out wackiness provided a warm and beautiful nod to Tapir’s literary connections, without obscuring their act with any form of musical pretence.

Then, as Edward Barton was restlessly ushered off stage in the midst of comedic applause, the band emerged from a cloud of dramatic smoke, their masked red costumes poking behind the various musical equipment that littered the stage. The six piece then gracefully erupted into the albums humble opener ‘Act 1: The Pilgrim’. Immediately the room was spilled near silence, the only sounds being ones of awe and disbelief as the frequencies seemed to mimic the various intracies we had all studied whilst listening to the album. As the set moved onwards in the journey of the lonesome pilgrim, with tracks ‘Broken Ark’ and ‘On a Grassy Knoll’, the band's measured approach grew into an all-out beautiful story telling. At no point were the six instruments outweighing each other's importance, a testament to their dignified sound, and as anthemic tracks like ‘Gymnopedie’ unravelled their ensemble, you were rightfully knocked back by the band's almost orchestral vigour. The grace and modesty of Tapir’s musical narrative was a pleasure to witness, and as the bands beaming smiles and nervous smirks held the audience in the palm of their trusting hands, what was once, inventive musings quickly became spirited examples of their musical craftmanship. Lead singer Ike Grey’s vocals are as well-mannered and beautifully pitched as the album so truthfully depicts, and as the set gently folded into its conclusion, the final track, ‘Eidolon’, played out the endearing fans with an acoustic encore that firmly gripped us in the depths of the band's musical imagination.

At times throughout this gig, it felt as if I were witnessing something secretive, something reserved for the corners of a mystical novel or triumphant fable, but its folk-like intimacy was something very tangible, and that in itself is undeniably down to the band's indefinable ability to impart their musical imagination so beautifully upon the listener.

Much like the journey of the pilgrim, the very first strides are inevitably met with nerves and trepidation, and as Tapir extend their folky footprint across the country's most esteemed venues, I am in no doubt that their wicked talent and undying authenticity will continue to be a pleasure to witness. 

Catch them on the remaining U.K dates here

Ewan Bourne 


Image: 'Act 2 Their God' Official EP Cover

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