Review by Steve Dean
Photo by Simon Bamford
Being the first band on the bill can often mean playing to a very sparse crowd, but The Shylos, namely bassist Matt Spence on lead vocals, Sean Barclay on guitar and second voice and drummer Elliot Timmis, still managed to extract some enthusiastic applause from the Underground’s early arrivals. Although they don’t come across as a very experienced outfit, they have some good ideas that with a little more expansion could become very good ideas indeed. I liked the raw chopping chords behind the opening number and overall the sound was great throughout their melodic, but straightforward and somewhat pedestrian set. With soloing presently kept to a minimum, the songs could do with a bit more content and some experimentation in their rehearsal time would benefit them greatly. Finishing with a cover of the Anti-Nowhere League’s cover of Ralph McTell’s ‘The Streets of London’, The Shylos, overall, showed the developing ability and potential to take things more than a little further.
The Riots, by comparison, are a tad further down the line, putting on much more of a show. Clearly enjoying themselves, they blasted through their exuberant set with an energetic confidence that well-deserved the enthusiastic response each of their numbers received. Their set is packed with catchy and danceable songs and I would say at least half of them have the potential to be chart hits. They obviously put a great deal of thought into the arrangements of their compositions; their songs being full of interesting incidental parts such as the attention-grabbing descending note sequence in ‘Prisoner’. On the negative side, it would appear that only lively bassist Mark Holdcroft dresses for the occasion, the rest of the band looking like they should be propping up the bar, rather than standing on a stage in front of a paying audience. Then again, maybe this is the trend. I’m not saying anybody should dress up like Bootsy Collins, but to my mind, if a person is aspiring to be a professional, a good way to start is to begin dressing like one. That aside though, this band has massive potential, and can only get better still.
Penultimate act Olly, Ginge, Ja, Matt and Rodders, otherwise know as the Dirty Mundays, kicked in with some good honest chunky rock and just went from strength to strength – thrashing out their thumpingly ballsy numbers until finally reaching a well-executed crescendo ending – leaving the stage one by one as a wall of grinding feedback filled the venue. Dirty Mundays have a certain onstage attitude and they also have an excellent singer in new frontman Olly, the standard of musicianship being impressively high all round. They also possess a rock solid rhythm section in Matt and Rodders, drums and bass respectively, driving the band along like a well-oiled engine while guitarists Ginge and Ja flesh out their numbers with admirable panache. The 70s and 80s influences within their compositions putting me in mind of the Cult in places, the Dirty Mundays are a gutsy band with a sturdy full-bodied sound. They have recently taken down the songs on their myspace profile which is a little unfortunate for me, as I would have liked an opportunity to recap on the songs. Still, they will no doubt be replaced with recordings with new singer Olly. I shall certainly look forward to hearing the band again.
Having reviewed headliners The Fears some months ago, I knew they were going to be good; but on this night The Fears were little short of sublime. The gritty sincerity of Oliver Davies’ passionate vocals permeates every well-arranged composition and the band’s pounding rhythms are of the most exhilarating quality. Set high from the very start, the energy levels remained constant from start to finish. Diligent drummer Daniel Finn worked very hard throughout as did Andrew Redfern on bass and Alex Coleman and Craig Parr on guitars and occasional synth. The gradual build-up within a number called ‘Circus’ demonstrated some well-focused coordination between the band members and I loved the Nirvana-like intro to ‘Surface’, one of the band’s slower tracks. There is also some fine songwriting talent within this tight and well-disciplined outfit and emotion-charged tracks like ‘Victim’ and ‘Impact’ speak for themselves. I also much appreciated a virtual extravaganza of a song called ‘Patrick’; a title apparently suggested by someone in the audience calling out at a prior gig. Their act over seemingly all too soon, they rounded off the night to much enthusiastic applause. The Fears are yet another Stoke band with the content and style to make it big. Music at this level deserves a wider audience.