Gig Review: The Manatees at The Chameleon Arts Café

Words: Maddie Dinnage
Monday 09 October 2023
reading time: min, words

Acknowledged by the likes of BBC Radio One for their reserves of great potential, The Manatees are building their own empire amongst the indie-rock soundscape. The London-based three-piece have had a big year so far, with the release of their debut EP Dream in Colour. Jay, Tyler, and Miller clearly intend to end the year on the same smashing note on which they started, as they embark on their biggest UK headliner tour yet, including a date at Nottingham’s own The Chameleon Arts Café…


Even though this is my fourth year living in Nottingham, I’ve admittedly never been to The Chameleon before. My only defence is the fact that it is one of those places that is hidden in plain sight. But what a hidden gem it is! A quirky little bar and live performance space situated in a fairy-light-laden alleyway; this is certainly the venue to attend if you want to feel more like a Notts local.

The best part of being a music journalist is discovering independent artists on the daily, so when I was given the chance to see up-and-comers The Manatees perform, it was impossible to turn down. The band, based in the south-coast of England, have come leaps and bounds since the release of their biggest hit Milan in 2018. This year has certainly been the year of new music for these guys; they put out their debut EP Dream in Colour this April. Since then, they have released singles Better Way to Think of It, and Call You a Criminal, the latter of which I was looking forward to seeing the band perform; they have only played it live a handful of times.

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The support act, Bandit, warmed-up the crowd with an energy which was palpable. The four-piece have a raucous stage presence and their indie-rock anthems pack an emotion-fuelled punch. Beneath the blaring waves of quintessential indie guitar melodies and percussion which speaks to the soul, their lyrics have an element of romance and nostalgia. Their 2022 single Sefton in the Summertime is one to remember, with a sun-bleached melancholy I just can’t seem to shake. They revealed a layer of vulnerability through Sad Boys, a track which was set for release at midnight that very night.

With their opening set, Bandit started a fire which refused to be put out. Their energy is not only difficult to forget, but it makes them an incredibly tough act to follow.

One band up to the task was The Manatees. The crowd was considerably more packed out by the time that the main set kicked off, and the room was ablaze with an air of local love. First up was Best of Me, followed by Naturally, a high-energy track with a funky baseline. The band’s natural chemistry was instantly apparent, each component slotting into place with ease to create a sound which just makes sense.

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The band performed their latest singles Call You a Criminal and Better Way to Think of It back-to-back. The former track shone a spotlight on frontman Jay’s vocal tone, with a chorus which is wistful, addictive, and desperately danceable – think early Arctic Monkeys. BWTTOI, meanwhile, gave rise to a pulsing percussion beat, and a motif of crashing symbols throughout.

It’s hard not to find yourself feeling like a deer in headlights when the words “audience participation” are thrown around, especially in a venue as intimate as The Chameleon. However, the audience quickly agreed to a simple set of dance moves during Dream in Colour, a feel-good track with a psychedelic sound. The audience member with the most energy won a free merch item – well worth it then!

The crowd were left reeling as the set concluded with no sign of much-loved track Milan. As fans begged for just “one more song”, lead singer Jay began to sing those long-awaited opening lyrics “can we not take this slightly slow love”. The encore track created a slight contrast to the main bulk of the set, taking a more acoustic direction in comparison to the far more chaotic, rock-inspired sound the band had established throughout the night. With lyricism which evoked a feeling of romantic nostalgia, the concluding track made for memorable farewell.

The Manatees performed at The Chameleon Arts Café on 5 October 2023.


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