CMAT and Gossip deliver queer magic at BBC 6 Music fest in Manchester

It’s Friday night in Manchester and the city is fizzing with the weekend’s potential. What better way to kick it off than sipping a prosecco in a hotel room with Gossip’s latest track on BBC 6 Music playing from the TV? There is one way; knowing we, Nonchalant Magazine, would be at the festival in just T-60 minutes.

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CMAT onstage at BBC5 Festival

The station’s radio coverage ahead of doors opening is spliced with delectable disco hits and International Women’s Day shoutouts. It’s the perfect prep to gear fans up for a promising evening with women dominating the night’s line-up – a rare occasion for festival bills. With doors opening at 6.30pm, sprawls of guests gradually fill up Manchester’s O2 Victoria Warehouse for the second day of BBC 6 Music’s flagship event. With an impressive headline show from Young Fathers kicking off the fest the night before, Friday is destined to please since its line-up announcement. Without surprise, fans have hit the jackpot with this one, in a dazzling night full of unapologetically queer vivacity. 

Afrodeutsche & Amy Lamé kick off Friday at BBC 6 Music Festival

Kicking off the evening is a lively DJ set from the talented polymath Afrodeutsche, upping the tempo in the room as the bar is increasingly populated by pint drinkers chatting away to the insatiable rhythms of Afrodeutsche’s beats. The room is decorated with BBC 6 Music’s familiar lime green insignia and the room’s atmosphere bubbles over with lights dancing in time to the music. Another polymath of sorts, the DJ, presenter, Night Czar, author and general legend for uplifting and platforming queer nightlife, Amy Lamé, presents the night joined by Afrodeutsche as they introduce the next acts. 

By the time CMAT springs onstage, clad in a cowgirl-esque get-up consisting of a red ruffled top and miniskirt with boots, the crowd is significantly more densely packed and chattering with anticipation. The Irish rising star, whose debut album, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead (2022) entered the Irish Albums Chart at number one, opens with fan favourite ‘California’ from her second album, Crazymad, For Me (2023) setting the room’s energy levels alight in a warmly raucous start. 

The 8-track set that follows includes a mixture of hits from both albums, such as ‘No More Virgos’, ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’ and then closes with a glittering performance of ‘Stay for Something’. She even surprises fans with special guest, John Grant, for a poignant performance of ‘Where Are Your Kids Tonight?’ Introducing Grant, CMAT said: “My hero. I’ve loved him since I was 14 years old. We’ve never done this before. It’s John Grant!”

CMAT and John Grant performing onstage at BBC 6 festival

CMAT: a support act no more

On the duet with Grant, CMAT told 6 Music’s Matt Everitt: “We’ve actually never done it together, ever, not live, because we recorded everything separately in the studio so that was literally the first time we sang it together.

CMAT’s voice exudes something Kate Bush-esque with its vulnerable power and sting, as her voice cuts through the room like a wire and soars over the audience like a rallying cry. Her vocals drip with the same yearning as her lyrics, full of strength and last-chance-saloon urgency as though she sings to risk it all. It’s tough to remember she isn’t the headline act. 

There are few with the raw talent that Dublin-born CMAT has, but her songs are the ideal casing to take it further in the stories, told with a fun and sassy energy or with a brutal sincerity. The country-esque pop ballads transport one elsewhere, into a world belonging to CMAT, and it’s impossible not to love absolutely every moment of it. Her performance at the BBC 6 Music Festival marks her last performance as a support act and the arrival of a star. 

The interval leaves one wondering how the quality can be maintained, yet Gossip picks up right from where CMAT leaves off. Gossip swiftly and seamlessly carries on the torch, as Ditto graces the stage playfully in a hot pink metallic dress. Within minutes, the dress is torn off, and Ditto performs almost their entire set in just black underwear.

Beth Ditto performs in a hot pink dress onstage at BBC 6 festival with her band Gossip

“I’m not trying to be subversive,” she tells the now packed-out BBC Radio 6 Music Festival crowd in her thick Arkansas accent. “I’m really not. I’m just trying to be comfortable.”

The energy never dips, only changing shape, as Ditto heads up songs old and new, in their first performance in four whole years, and the global premiere of Gossip’s new material. Ditto’s distinct and powerful voice shares qualities with CMAT’s, making them perfectly complementary flavours to one another on their night. Ditto’s voice soars across the Victoria Warehouse, clear and exact, and full of conviction in every word.

At 43 (one would never comment on a woman’s age, but she offers it up several times in an iconic move to celebrate herself), and bringing nothing less than exquisitely affirmative energy, Ditto is brimming with joy and emotional centre stage, wiping away tears between songs as she addresses the audience with wonderfully candid, frank and fruity anecdotes full of warmth. 

At one point, Gossip is joined by Alison Moyet onstage for a cover of ‘Situation’ by Moyet’s previous synth-pop

duo. “I just need a second to think about what just happened. I got to be on the same stage as Alison Moyet… I have to wrap my mind around it,” the Gossip singer told Matt Everitt. “She came and rehearsed today and I was trying not to cry… In my mind,

I’d be like ‘how are you going to sing next to her?”

Beth Ditto performs in a hot pink dress onstage at BBC 6 festival with her band Gossip and Alison Moyet

Gossip’s first show in four years

Gossip’s set concludes with a grand finale of ‘Standing In the Way of Control’, written by Ditto when she was just 23. Ditto notes that the song was written in response to the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 which, if approved, would have outlawed same-sex marriage in the US. The bonafide singer introduces the song in protest against uniformity, as she cries out for individuality, authenticity and believing in one’s fervour. Dancers, activists and members of the LGBTQ+ community waving placards charge the stage beside Gossip, dancing beside Ditto in a joyous celebration of unapologetic queerness and individuality. The placards say everything from ‘God loves lipstick lesbians’, ‘protect trans rights’ and ‘Black, Brown, queer here’ to even ‘Gossip suck’. 

The moment seals in the timelessness and real power of Gossip, their music and Ditto’s inclusive values that she pours into her work and her own existence. Their set, often derailed by Ditto’s impromptu anecdotes and meanderings (with her at one point even scrapping a song upon realising the crowd doesn’t know it) is closed off in a beautiful celebration of individuality, proving that Gossip still pack a punch. 

Both performances were an absolute tour de force, delivering an unforgettable night as galvanised visitors drifted away from the venue, a light in their eyes renewed and fully charged to continue the night’s zest by taxi, train or tram elsewhere. 

This month has seen CMAT announce a North America tour, while Gossip appears in the Glastonbury Festival 2024 line-up. Stay tuned for what more news we might be able to offer you. In the meantime, find out more about the brilliant women in the BBC 6 music festival line-up here

Be sure to check out BBC Radio 6 Music festival next year,

Team Nonchalant x

Last Updated on 24th March 2024 by Nonchalant Magazine

Lauren Hurrell
Lauren Hurrell

Lauren is a writer and editor based in Peckham, covering all things queer culture, books, travel, arts and lifestyle, fashion and creativity. She is also a features editor at New Statesman Media Group, writing on sustainability, cities and tech. She most recently had a chapter on Reykjavik published in an LGBTQ+ travel book published by Rough Guides.

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