The Pink room is a special place for live music: the upstairs of YES has rapidly become something of a status-symbol for bands and artists on the way up, and some of the country’s best, recent prospects have packed out the space. Tonight is the turn of homecoming hero, Antony Szmierek, who brings his poetry to the Mancunian masses.
“This is just… it’’s mental!” offers Szmierek, midway through the second tune of the evening. The aptly named ‘How Did You Get Here’, from Seasoning EP launched the same day is a slice of pure Szmierek, and sees Antony musing on the quirks of modern life, British culture and emotionally charged verse set to infectiously groovy, dancable beats.
Before the set is in full swing, the sense of occasion clearly isn’t lost on Szmierek: he’s a Manchester lad, and professes to spending hour after hour, evening after evening in the very room he is now headlining. With the homecoming show and the EP release falling on the same day, it’s clear from the outset that Antony and his band (made up of friends and family) are here to party.
‘Rock and a Calm Place‘ is a huge moment early on and the band are accompanied by some additional brass to fantastic effect. The crowd are moving and grooving: the cut is such an earworm, and while Szmierek’s words equivocate day-to-day struggles with Sisyphus’ rock-pushing gripes, the jubilant crowd bounce and dance and revel in an atmosphere that is nothing short of euphoric. Szmierek punctuates his flow with more amazement: he can’t seem to believe that he’s actually on the stage: his hand is almost permanently fixed to his forehead in disbelief.
Szmierek wears a baggy single-striped shirt, and his trendy mullet and moustache combo makes him look like a Northern-Quater Tony Soprano, but his words are that of a hip poet-laureate. He muses on working-class culture (‘Working Classic’), takeaway orders (‘mangomood’) and the unshakable beauty found in the mundane.
Recent single ‘Rounders’ is a tender moment which sees Szmierek discuss the nostalgia of being young, and playing sports in the street before being called back in for tea. His mum is even in the crowd, and Szmierek launches himself off the low stage for a big hug: it’s a genuinely touching moment, and evidence that even the coolest indie rappers amongst us make time to give their mum a hug.
Szmierek hangs a hand off the lighting bar above the stage as he confirms that was the last of the “soppy moments” and that it’s a big party from here on out. He doesn’t disappoint, and finds himself conducting the party from the bar at the back of YES’ pink room. ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Fallacy’ is a real highlight to bookend the main show, again with Szmierek in the thick of it, surrounded by his adoring crowd.
The band reemerge almost immediately and launch straight into ‘Twist Forever’, which goes down a treat. Everyone is bouncing and moving, from the front of the low stage to the sound desk at the back – it’s rare that one man and his band can bring such scenes to the Pink Room, and it speaks to the quality of Szmierek’s work.
The night closes out with the triumphantly melancholic ‘The Words to Auld Lang Syne’, and Szmierek is lost in a reverie as he delivers rhymes about love and friendship – he wipes his face, but it isn’t clear weather Szmierek is removing sweat or tears. The night is an utter triumph, and Szmierek has created something truly special.