Saturday, 31 May 2008

The Long Dead Sevens/Maelstrom @ The Band Stand, Hanley. May 30th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Having waxed wide-eyed and lyrical about the The Long Dead Seven’s album ‘The White Waltz and other Stories’, I had been looking forward to seeing them live ever since and this Friday, spotting them billed at The Band Stand, I grabbed the opportunity. My first impression as they took the stage was that two of the members, guitarist/piano Paul J Rodgers and dark-toned vocalist Nick Cliff, have a very distinct stage image, whereas bassist, banjo player and steel slide–guitarist Ian Turner has virtually none. The other members of the 6-piece ensemble being somewhere in between. Beginning with ‘God’s Own Movie’, it became apparent as they worked through a selection of songs from the album, that it was not going to be an easy task to recreate the sheer polish of the recording’s production live. At times, a suitably dramatic atmosphere was conjured, but too often the illusion was spoiled by Ian Turner’s electrical clicks and bangs as he fiddled with the plugs on his instruments. This happened so often, I began to wonder if it was some misguided part of the production. He appeared, at times, almost separate from the band; his perceivable attitude apparently as if he were playing from the stage wings, so to speak. I recommend, at least, that he purchase some new guitar leads without delay. As a listener, I would suggest that the running order of the undeniably fine songs be re-thought; as by the time the first notes of more up-tempo sixth composition ‘Seven Levels’ were reached, the rolling arpeggio piano chords of number after number were wearing the audience’s number a little thin. The overall musicianship, including some lovely violin from Jenny Hames, was very good, although marginally unsteady arrangement-wise in places, but that can be forgiven as it will take a few gigs to fine tune their performance anyway. ‘Entertaining’ is a fitting last word.

Maelstrom are something completely different. I’ve seen lots of rock bands, but never one with a drum machine. Not one that takes itself seriously anyway. The contraption actually supplys some very beefy beats, but without the emotive vibes of a real person hitting the skins, something is somehow lost, no matter how clever the mechanical drumming may sound technically. Aside of the machine, Maelstrom are singer/guitarist Joe Cummings, guitarist Jon Cummings and bassist Harry Dagger. Song-wise, they have some very good ideas, although they can sound repetitive to the unfamiliar ear. Having said that though, ‘Whirlpool’ and ‘Sleepers’ are great tunes. They seem to have a fairly nonchalant stage attitude and it has to be said that the endings of some of their tracks could do with stronger definition. Lost applause is often because the audience is not sure if the song is over or not if one member keeps hitting notes after the song has finished. It is surprising how many bands made this simple mistake. When the song is over – shut up – you’ll get miles better appreciation. The incessant beats to their robustly melodic compositions put me in mind of 80s band The Cult in places and the strongest part of the band is easily Joe’s voice. Although slightly shaky towards the ends of the notes from time to time, there is real power and timbre in her vocals and with the right direction and maybe voice training, could easily shift up a few gears in potential for success.

In this age of half-hour sets, Maelstrom showed they’d been around a time by the length of their 12-song playlist. Not bad at all.

Andy Gower talks to Danny Hill

Article by Danny Hill

I'll only keep you half an hour,' I promise.

'That's good - I have to be somewhere for eight,' Andy Gower agrees.

There are few local artists that have been around as long as Andy Gower has. And now, as the singer-songwriter pushes forty, he has decided that the time has come for him to hang up his guitar for good. This news has sent shockwaves through the local music scene, with hundreds of fans and musical contemporaries alike expressing their wishes and cheerios in bucket-loads, many through courtesy of his MySpace page.

'There's been so much of a response it's unreal. I've had pages upon pages of emails - people from all over the place.' Gower is characteristically relaxed, and any preconceptions I may had had that Gower's early retirement from the music parlour is all just a simple flash-in-the-pan, have all but evaporated.

This particular impression, however, is not without precedent. Gower is no stranger to periods dwelling in the live music wilderness. During the late 90s, after playing in numerous bands, Gower then decided enough was enough. It wasn't until he hit his thirties, playing privately for a few friends, that he rediscovered his thirst for live music. Since then, Gower has gone from strength to strength - his act culminating in Radio 2 airplay with the catchy This Town, plus earning plaudits from TalkSport's James Whale ("like a musical Lowry") as well as lending support to acts up and down the country such as The Lightning Seeds, Stephen Fretwell, Paulo Nutini and Scott Matthews, amongst many others. Impresssively, he has earned comparisons to Billy Bragg and Noel Gallagher for his rythmic, melodic, acoustic-guitar playing and singing style.

Gower is not simply a part of the furniture of Stoke's burgeoning music scene, he is the Grand solid oak armchair at the foot of the dining-room table, a song-writing/performing tour-de-force that any city would be proud to call their own. What I wanted to know, along with many others, is this sudden departure really true, or just another flash-in-the-pan?

Apparently not, Gower explains. 'Ultimately, it just feels like the time is right to stop,' Gower says. 'I also want to stop while it's good. I do have good memories, I've had a bit of success, played some amazing gigs. I just want to keep it like that and bow out now.'

Andy is nostalgic as he remembers the early days of his solo career. 'I remember one of my first solo gigs at The Sugarmill - I was halfway through one of my songs and was sure we were undergoing on-stage sound problems. It wasn't until I realised people were singing back every word that I realised what was going on. That was quite a moment.'

Gower refuses to look back in regret, or to rue missed opportunities. True, his album I Live & I Wonder shifted hundreds of copies locally, and he may have been unable to replicate this sales-shift further afield.

'It's a shame not many more people are going to get to hear it,' he says. 'It's a shame there's not many people selling records these days on the simple basis that they like your music.'

But fame and fortune has never been too heavily on the singer's agenda. For Gower, it's not about chasing the dream - for him, the dream has all been about embracing the opportunity to do what he loves doing, and few would argue, that he's actually quite bloody good at it.

Andy Gower's love of music is apparent as he talks animatedly of current acts around the area, including The Sport (formerly Agent Blue), who I mention I haven't yet seen. 'You should go see 'em,' he enthuses. 'Great songs. Great band.' Here's To The Atom Bomb: 'Good lads, they've just released an E.P.' and The Control (a band I admit I'd never heard of). 'They've only done about two gigs,' he adds. 'Loads of energy and attitude. The lead-singer's only fifteen - he's still in school!'

Gower is also the owner of the Tremolo Rehearsal Rooms in Stoke, that holds regular showcases at The Sugarmill. The next is scheduled for July and will feature new acts such as Rumour Has It and Dressed To Kill.

As for the future, Andy dismisses the idea of a final gig. 'I feel these things are done for the artists' themselves and not for the fans. The idea sounds a bit cheesy to be honest.' But don't write him off just yet. 'I'll still be around, now and again… Once a year, maybe, if somebody asks me.' Ironically, the day after Andy announced his news, the one and only Ocean Colour Scene were in touch with an offer of a support slot. 'It was tempting,' he says, smiling. Which only serves to confirm what I have come to believe - this time Andy Gower really does mean to bring the curtains down.

And who is set to grab the Andy Gower mantle? He laughs at this. 'Who knows? It's up for grabs.'

And what, I ask, is the important appointment for eight o' clock that Mr Gower must keep - the England match? An exciting new band? 'Nah, it's Springwatch, mate, with Bill Oddie init? I never miss a show.'

Some things, it seems - much like the music of Andy Gower - are sacrosanct.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

An evening with Nemo @ The Blues and Jazz Festival. Newcastle-under-Lyme. May 25th

Review by Danny Hill

Photo by Darren Washington

"I am the owner of the sock! This is my sock!" The Owner Of The Black Sock proudly declares into the microphone; hoisting the offending article into the air like a flaccid, black flag. This is before 'The Owner Of The Black Sock', egged on mercifully by the raucous crowd, cramped into the tiny venue like so many sardines, takes the sock to his face and inhales deeply. His prize for this very public declaration and apparent vindication of his own non-sock-smelliness? A bright pink vinyl record containing what seems to be the greatest hits of Max Bygraves.

Confused? You will be. We've hardly began to scratch the surface as to why Nemo are indeed as popular as they are along the Stoke-on-Trent live music circuit. The Black Friar pub - a superb venue that has just been pulled from its once murky depths by its new proprietors - is the perfect setting for a Nemo gig; its tight corridors and relatively small space doesn't invite intimacy, but demands it. And if you were to ask any of Nemo's members, Andy, Paul, Lee or Kramer, they would all unanimously agree that's exactly how they like it: tight, sweaty and charged with an atmosphere unparalleled by some of the larger live music venues in the city.

Serving as perhaps a testament to these admissions, Nemo are practically on first-name terms with half their audience within the first ten minutes of starting their set. "The drummer has had to rush off to the toilet," lead-singer Andy calls, "who wouldn't mind filling in for a few minutes?"

To this, as though at beck-and-call, an audience member rushes through the throng like a moment from The Price Is Right, a willing game-show contestant ready to pit his wits against the elaborately dressed quiz-master. He introduces himself as Carl, and sets himself at the drum kit, tapping cymbals delicately. Carl, however, soon discovers the extent of his drunken bravado, and admits he's never hit a drum in his life.

Nemo have a lot of followers, the only difference being that Nemo prefer to refer to them as friends. In terms of likeability, Nemo sit somewhere between grannies with trays of biscuits and cakes, and sunny days sitting in beer gardens. Characters are always greatly in evidence, and Drew is never too far away, affectionately known as their mascot - resplendent in his inflexible Pith Helmet - waving meaty fists and singing back every word of every song with animated, chest-pumping exuberance. And what about the ominous, Viagra-induced Graham, a man who, apparently, cannot be trusted with anyone's biscuits?

Nemo are in surprisingly energetic form considering this gig would be their third in a single day, following on from The Full Moon and The Glebe, the latter being only an hour-or-so earlier.

"A good way to dust the cobwebs off," says Andy.

"My neck aches," states bassist, Lee - and given the energy that goes into Nemo's every gig, it's not hard to understand why.

At one stage the camaraderie has gone on for well over fifteen minutes and lead-guitarist Paul boyishly asks, "Um, shall we do a number?"

In true rock and roll fashion, Nemo have decided to reserve their best performance of the day for last. After opening their set with the pulsating bass loops and solid riffery of fans' favourite User, with its urgent, screaming vocals, sounding more dangerous than teasing an angry Rottweiler with an 8oz steak. Then follows a the pop-inspired Always Afterall, climaxing with an epic solo, melding flawlessly through a haze of feedback into an equally sensual yet vigorous rendition of Desmond Says.

As the gig progresses, Nemo provide proof of the old adage - if you're gonna chuck one or two covers in the mix for good measure, you can't go wrong with The Beatles. Money, and One After 909 thump from the amps with abandon, and Nemo reserve the guilty pleasure of remodelling these already brilliant songs in their own turbo-pop/punk-rock image. Masters of the build-up and break down as they are, Nemo later show different sides of their musical character with the seaside-like sing-along chorus of Thursday Eyes. Andy, in the style of an old-fashioned crooner, cocks his head back and sweeps his trademark red polka-dot hankie around in the air as his gravelly vocals swell and dip to the relentlessly charging melody. And still, Nemo whip the crowd into a hyperactive frenzy, belting out tune after tune.

Make no mistake, Nemo like to make a noise; euphoric noise that sweeps and crashes against their audience like a cacophonic landslide. But as noise goes, it's pleasant; and doesn't jar, irritate or become repetitive. If anything, it's quite hospitable. Engaging.

Further variations in their act appear with a bizarre cover of These Boots Were Made For Walkin', with an impromptu rap-performance from another of their many friends and contemporaries in the surroundings. I'm The King Of The Swingers, also earns appreciative cheers.

The time arrives for Nemo to finish their act, but the braying punters are demanding more. It is not a request, some intone - they are quite literally held against their will.

Try With A Little Help From My Friends, more Cocker-esque than Beatles, lives up to its title. Ironically, Nemo invite their friends to do exactly that. Local artist Jason Lockett (who has been handling sound assistance all evening) handles the vocals and The Owner Of The Black Sock, to the surprise of the band, returns with backing vocals. Mayhem ensues, walls of sound crashing down like a burst dam, the crowd are rocking. Status-quo restored. Nemo, quite visibly, have used up every last drop in their tanks. Everyone is standing, and rightly so.

As the gig ends, The Owner Of The Black Sock, still proudly clutching his Max Bygraves record, cheekily chirps to singer, Andy, 'I've had a word with the band. We're trading you in for a younger, better-looking model. I'll be handling lead-vocals from now on in.'

And Andy, for the first time this evening - if perhaps ever - is truly lost for words.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

CD Review: Here’s to the Atom Bomb.

Review by Steve Dean

Released on the We Like Danger label, ‘here’s to the atom bomb’, by the 5-piece band of the same name, is one of those albums which take a few listenings to before the tunes catch hold; but once they do, they hold on tightly.

The first track, ‘History’, with its heavily U2 influenced guitar line, is nonetheless a fine song no matter what the influences may be. It boasts marvellous rollicking drum patterns and some really nice and catchy backing vocal chants. On this track and throughout the album, vocalist Phil Jones sings with the same sort of unpolished sincerity that used to hallmark the voice of Paul Weller back in his The Jam days and at times achieves a kind of appealingly poignant plaintiveness. Towards the end, this number has a very effective slow-burning build-up which I thought very well done. A great song and a great arrangement.

The second and another impressive track, ‘Something’s Got To Give’ contains a relentlessly throbbing bassline supporting a maze of interwoven guitar lines. Interesting to listen to and features some excellent work by drummer Tomos Hughes once again.

The general feel of the third number, ‘This Information’, reminded me of a cross between the aforementioned U2 and early Roxy Music; Phil Jones even sounding like Brian Ferry in places. Roundabout the middle, an at-first strangely-toned guitar interlude kicks in and lifts the whole track right up - it certainly made me take a little more notice. The tone itself having an appealing but slightly discordant sort of bagpipe sound. Another strong song.

The last tune, ‘Ghost is Daylight’ opens with a great bassline as the song sort of saunters along, slowly gathering in intensity until the tune finally gets into its stride. Putting me in mind of 80s Scottish band ‘Big Country’, the two guitarists, Rich Dooley, Alex Shenton and bassist Peter Bray take the song to a fine ‘high’ as the tune nears its abrupt conclusion.

Although this isn’t an immediately commercial CD, it is full of great ideas and once you get into it, you stay into it, so to speak.

Go to for a listen to “History” and “Something’s Got To Give”. All good stuff.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

We Dream of Discovery/Tribal Brides of the Amazon/The Control @ The Band Stand, Hanley. May 23rd.

Review by Steve

Photo by Simon Bamford

It appears there were four bands on the bill this evening, but unfortunately we missed the first one as proceedings began a little earlier than normal. I didn’t get their name and I offer apologies. Anyway…

We Dream of Discovery are one of those young bands that make you sit up and take notice, so to speak. I was impressed with the maturity of their playing and the incessant nature of their opening number’s main riff gripped me from the start. In fact, there wasn’t a dud song in their whole six number set. They seemed to have brought a sizeable fan club with them and the place was packed with appreciative teenagers throwing themselves about wildly to the beat. All I can say at this stage is that they can only get better and better and maybe their dream of discovery may well be more of a reality before too long.

Whilst listening to Tribal Brides of the Amazon’s first song, it struck me that if Elvis Costello and the Attractions, who rode in on the back of the punk revolution some thirty years ago, actually had been punk rockers, this band is what they would have sounded like. Composition-wise they have some very interesting ideas and a listen to the songs on their myspace profile demonstrates this well. Vocalist Jim Mycock sings with a certain frenzied energy and his efforts on ‘Jaws Four’, which incidently is about the number’s only lyric, but a very enjoyable song nonetheless, had him hollering fit to burst. For me, highlights of their set were ‘Better Days’ and the closing number ‘Dim Hills’ had them rocking out to a juddering wall of feedback as Jim and lead guitarist Jake Morgan applied pick-ups to speakers with raging gusto whilst drummer Michael Walsh and Bassist Jon Cole wound the song down accordingly. I must add that Tribal Brides of the Amazon, as their title well suggests, have an intrinsic sense of fun that reflects well in their numbers. A fine and well-played half-hour show.

There was a sense of high anticipation as headliners The Control took the stage and once they kicked in, I understood why. Beginning with a new number, the title of which I didn’t quite catch, but lyric-wise referred in the main to the seeing of no ships, The Control more or less had the whole audience springing around in wild joy as they struck the very first note. Their overall sound is somewhere between ska and indie/punk and their enormous potential is much in evidence. Their second number, the beaty ‘Crimes of Lovedance’ has immediate bouncing appeal and it was during this number that cracking bassist (no pun intended) John split the neck of his EB3 bass straight down the middle, adding the rueful comment “don’t buy Epiphones, they break too easy”, before hastily borrowing a replacement. They have a solid frontman in vocalist Joe (yet another band with no surnames on their myspace profiles) and their third song, ‘The Wings Have Fallen Off’, with its chanted verse and slow and beautifully-chorded middle eight grabbed me right from the start, as would all the compositions to come. It was then I realised that with the right direction, this band has one big future. They also boast a fine guitarist in Rich, who kept knocking out snatches of Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ in the short intervals, and a powerful man behind the kit in drummer Greg. Being another young band, I just hope they stick together. They have a big future; of that I’m certain.

Congrats to the Band Stand for putting on yet another great night. This really is becoming one of the most popular venues in Hanley, and quite rightly so!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Stolen Creation: To All Who Knew Samantha Fallon.

Stoke Sounds has been asked to tell all who knew Sammie Fallon that Stolen Creation are dedicating their gig at the Glebe in Stoke this coming Sunday May 25th to her memory.

Seventeen-years-old Sammie tragically died of MRSA on May 9th at North Staffs hospital and the band will play a very special set in her honour. Vocalist Pete Crutchley knew her quite well and wished to change the lyrics to a new song in her memory. They have worked very hard to get this right for her and they ask all who knew her to please come down to the Glebe on Sunday and pay their respects.

The song will be entitled ‘My Ruined Soul Aside’

The bill also includes Accountable to None, Unleash and Nemo.

Stolen Creation will be very pleased if you are able to attend the gig.

Steve Dean

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Godless Festival @ The George Hotel, Burslem. May 17th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Giglou

Featuring: The Black Box / NEX Offendo / Munki Fetus / Maraduke / Grass Stain / Apogee / Bad Coma / Red Eyes of Russia / Betrayal / Mantus / Run Fast Turn Left / Soma /Djevara / Eternal Shadow /Long Time Dead / Hebephrenic / Maniacal / Exopilots / Retaliation / Giro Junkie / Screwloose / Allerjen / Razorwire / Tiny Tigers / Enemo-J / Dead in Vegas / Stolen Creation / Lesbian Bed Death

With two stages running simultaneously - the ‘signed’ bands in the ballroom and the ‘unsigned’ ones in the much better acoustics of the cellar bar; sponsored by Unsigned Magazine - it would be an impossible task to review each band’s full performance, but having caught at the very least two of each band’s act, the best I can offer is a ‘snapshot’ of each, bringing an overview of the whole day-long event – and what an event it was…

First band to actually sound a note were The Black Box, a three-piece from nearby Kidsgrove. A young band, I was impressed that they were actually tuning up by ear, a skill I thought had almost been lost. Specialising in agreeably head nodding lead-heavy chunky riffs, they rounded off with a somewhat inapposite version of Ace of Base’s ‘All That She Wants’; which didn’t quite come off, but was interesting nonetheless.

Finding themselves the opening act in the ballroom, I felt that NEX Offendo would rather have gone on once the audience had warmed up a bit; there being a ‘clear light of day’ feel about the place at that time of early afternoon. This fact appeared to rub off onto their performance a tad, as a listen to their stuff on their myspace site demonstrates that they can do a lot better. Some good songs though, no matter what. Just try and avoid that short straw next time, is all I can advise.

A quick scamper back down the cellar bar found me just in time to watch two lasses going by the name of Munki Fetus, a guitar and keyboards duo, begin their act. Although their circus clown-like attire gave the impression their set would be one of fun and gaiety, their music unexpectedly leans very much to the opposite; being slow paced and melancholia tinged. To be fair, they appeared to be suffering confidence-denting problems with their Roland keyboard which obviously wouldn’t do as it was told and therefore their act wasn’t quite as dynamic as I’m sure they’d hoped. The next time it’ll be great though, won’t it girls?

Back up to the ballroom to catch Maraduke. Their music is best described as a heavy funk rhythm section with much assorted guitar effects spread thickly over the top. As a band, they appeared to be suffering from the same mild agoraphobia-like symptoms the vastness of the sparsely populated ballroom had apparently induced in NEX Offendo. It was at this point that I realised that the bands in the cellar bar, with its far superior acoustics and intimate club-like feel had got by far the better side of the deal. At least until the night fell anyway; and that was a long way off.

Returning to the cellar bar to the strains of Grass Stain in full flight, I was pleased to find the first band of the day to strut their stuff the way a rock band should. Posing like veterans, these youngsters played their hard and chunky stuff to the grunging max as a handful of the maddest dancers I’ve yet to see sprung and bounded around all over the place. I also have to say that 17 year old drummer Daniel Blachford is one of the loudest, gutsiest sticksmen I’ve come across in a while; as his pounding interludes in their last number bore serious testament to. In not so long a time to come he, and perhaps the whole band, will be something quite formidable.

Meanwhile in the ballroom 3-piece Apogee were strutting and posing energetically well themselves. Whatever was truly bothering the previous bands on this stage certainly wasn’t bothering these three and they put on a cracking show. Switching their heavy tempi with seamless ease, guitarist and bassist Jack Clulow and Ed Jarvis respectively barely stood still for a minute as drummer Tom Brookes laid down solid foundation. Some nice guitar licks as well. Great stuff.

I managed to catch the last song Bad Coma played in the cellar bar; well, it should have been the last song, but due to a band not turning up they managed to fit in another one, a cover by Tool. As a no-nonsense hardcore/metal band, Bad Coma are top-notch and with the classy Big Dan on lead and an excellent vocalist in Chris M, their powerful ‘I’m Fine’ had the audience violently, but joyfully throwing themselves about the place in manic abandon; as did their version of the Tool number; the title of which I unfortunately didn’t catch. Easily one of the best acts of the day.

After a visit to KFC, unfortunately Burslem’s only takeaway eatery - on a Saturday and at that hour anyway - I returned to the George ballroom to find Red Eyes of Russia were having not such a good time of it. The audience was once again pretty sparse, which the sheer size of the room only seemed to accentuate and the ‘broad daylight’ feel had returned. Arriving in time to hear their final two songs, I can only comment that the first had an interesting arrangement and accompanied by applause more suited to a cricket match, they appeared only too glad to get off. Having listened to some fine songs on their myspace profile, I can only conclude it just wasn’t their day.

Down in the cellar bar, I only managed to catch the last two numbers by thrash metal band Betrayed as well; except they were getting a much better reception. I have to say that drummer Stonier must be one of the fastest I’ve ever seen. So fast, in fact, it gives great credit to the band that they can even keep up with him. Some great staccato type singing in the last number and overall they sounded like an excellent band all round. Maybe I’ll get a chance to catch them again sometime.

Hailing from Derby, Mantus, also in the cellar bar, failed to receive the same reception. The somewhat depleted audience were denied any chance to offer any applause, as the guitarist appeared to insist on linking all the songs together; unless they were doing just one half-hour long number. That’s what it sounded like anyway. Whatever it was, with no room left for respite and being filled with little more than a collection of nondescript riffs and frenzied monotone vocals, loathe as I am to offer negative criticism, it was hard to deduce what they were actually trying to achieve. Perhaps I missed a point somewhere, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what.

Walking back into the ballroom to view 5-piece Run Fast Turn Left and listen to their final 10 minutes or so, the first thing that caught my eye was the presence of a beer keg supported by a stand on the stage. From the two songs I heard, they sound like they have a lot going for them and I have to say that the beer keg, which was drummed on by one of the guitarists during the last song, actually added to the overall sound of the number very well. Original and interesting.

Back in the cellar bar, Soma, another 5-piece, had whipped the audience back into the frenetic atmosphere previously generated by Bad Coma, whose guitarist Big Dan they also featured in their line-up. Although I wouldn’t have thought it possible, they sounded many decibels louder than any other band so far and they delivered their attention-grabbing numbers with well-rehearsed panache and plenty of hair-flying relish. Terrific guitarwork from Dan and great vocals from singer Mark, a frontman who obviously enjoys himself, plus maximum effort from all members made this set one to remember. Absolutely first class.

Absolutely first class is a term that could also be applied to Djevara, a 3-piece up from London. Playing in the ballroom, singer and guitarist Bass (Usuyak Bassey) was quick to sort out the sparseness of the crowd by ordering all to the front, to which they promptly went. His audience now in position, he and his sidekicks Geoff Courts on bass and new drummer Sandro played a blinding set of energetically punkish, but passionate heavy metal with a stamp all of their own that impressed all that bore witness to it; going by the comments I heard directly afterwards anyway. Easily another to add to the list of best of the day.

A return to the cellar bar found young band Eternal Shadow belting out thrash metal at full pelt. Vocalist Dan Al-Khan gutterally growling along with the best of them, the whole band demonstrated a fine understanding of their chosen genre. Although they have recently lost one of their two guitarists, Nick Austerberry coped very well on his own, inspiring much mad moshing throughout their set; or at least the bit of it I caught. It never ceases to astound me how much battering these moshers can take; having never once seen any of them lose their rag during the constant bruisings and bashings. Admirable in a odd kind of way.

Catching Long Time Dead displaying some fine twin leadwork, their particular brand of kickarse heavy metal managed to achieve the best audience response so far; so far as the ballroom went anyway. Going by information on their myspace profile, they have been playing together for some time and their combined experience shows. Confident and with a kind of knockabout attitude, they obviously have a keen following. They also know their stuff – and well.

Returning once again to the cellar bar and finding manic moshing back in progress, this times to the strains of extremely heavy Hebephrenic, another band who obviously enjoy their work. A 5-piece with a female bassist and drummer, their music has a wide range of metal-based influences and it was good to see yet another band putting on an enthusiastic show. Their vocalist Nick McMullen spends a lot of time amongst the manic audience and some of the time he can be found somewhat dangerously sitting in the middle of the floor as all erupts around him. Brave man.

Next came came Maniacal, also in the cellar bar and having seen them at the Sugarmill only recently it was good to see them once again demonstrating a standard of musicianship that is always a pleasure to watch. They have an exceptionally fine lead guitarist, playing his guitar behind his head as the hair-flying mayhem explodes all around him. The audience love them and they can always be relied on to put on a great show. I have to add that vocalist Tommo is also a master of his style and a first rate frontman. I just do like this band.

Up in the ballroom, Exopilots were doing something a little different. Being keyboards oriented, they have a trippy, spacey sound that sets them apart from everything else I’d seen so far. They are certainly very heavy though, and have a lively frontman in vocalist Chris (I’m unable to find a surname; it’s amazing and a little frustrating that so many bands just use their forenames on their myspace profiles). They also have some interesting songs. Having only caught a few numbers, this is another band whose whole act I’d like to see sometime.

Although I only saw him a short while ago up the Glebe, it was nice to hear a few songs from singer/songwriter Giro Junkie once more. Playing his acoustic in the cellar bar, he more or less played the same set and he gave my ears a welcome relief from the relentless bombardment. He is an entertaining and able player and a nice bloke, to boot. It was good to see him again.

Back to the ballroom to see Dutch band Retaliation. They had driven for eight hours to get here from Holland and they put on an inspiring show. Although in the same vein as Maniacal, whose singer Tommo they once toured with, if I remember rightly, they put a certain stamp on their material and they entertained mightily. They have plenty of good ideas material-wise and have a dynamic stage presence that made all present at their fine performance glad they came. Nice one.

A quick dart down the cellar bar found 3-piece Manchester band Allerjen doing their heavy thing. Although they are powerful in the way all metal bands are and vocalist John Dower growls away in the correct manner, the lack of guitar solos and discernable melody lines make everything, on first hearing anyway, sound somewhat samey. They certainly enjoy themselves though and the sparse crowd in attendance made them very welcome. Splitting from the head-rattling norm, guitarist Paul Wilkinson seems to enjoy skipping around in a manner reminiscent of a morris dancer – and why not? Different there anyway.

Razorwire were next in the ballroom and like Djevara before them, solved the problem of much empty space by ordering the audience to the front. Containing organiser Dan Peach, this is another band who obviously enjoy themselves and they made for a very entertaining half-hour indeed. Vocalist Dave Scragg is a top-notch frontman and a fine singer. Some nifty guitarwork showed what a difference a good leadman makes and the high standard of musicianship made these a very worthy addition to the list of best acts of the day. Some great songs as well. Very enjoyable.

Usually gigging around London, Tiny Tigers are a little lighter music-wise that most of the other acts on the bill, their songs leaning more to the commercial market and putting me in mind of Blondie in places. Vocals are shared between Angela and Chris (no surnames on myspace), the two guitarists, and together they make a fine vocal pairing. Bassist Paula and drummer Steve supply an able rhythm section and as a band I would say they have a great future ahead of them. It was a shame there were was only a sparse audience in the cellar bar to see them. They were very good indeed.

Dead in Vegas are similar in theme to Razorwire, but don’t quite match their dynamic stage presence. They nonetheless have some fine songs though and demonstrate a well-rehearsed discipline. New guitarist Steve showed himself to be a fine addition to the band’s line-up, tickling some neat licks and playing his guitar behind his head at one point. I wonder if this is going to be a standard thing eventually? The ballroom audience appeared to have remained in position from the last act and gave them a satisfying reception; demanding a well-deserved encore at the end. Night had fallen now and the atmosphere had altered accordingly.

Having seen and reviewed Screwloose only recently, I was impressed by Stuart from Operation Error’s last minute stand-in for guitarist Andy who couldn’t make it due to work issues. They nevertheless played a fine 5-song set in the cellar bar and displayed all their usual fire and energy. By this time, I have to admit that my head was feeling a little battered from the relentless onslaught of band after band, but I could still appreciate a fine act.

Still in the cellar bar and the final act in there, Enemo-J rocked mightily from the minute they started to the minute they stopped. Vocalist Craig is a big man with big energy to match. The band crackling with fiery power, they knocked out song after powerful song with a drive matched only by the confident frontman’s boundless stamina. Well-drilled, they put on a terrific show and Craig’s invitation to get a mosh pot going at the end saw much fun-filled, but brutal bangings and bruisings as they brought their performance to an end. Great stuff indeed.

Penultimate band in the ballroom Stolen Creation were a little different yet again. A young band, they have a street attitude more associated with a hip-hop band than heavy metal; although crunching gutteral-voiced heavy metal is what they do. Having a radio mic fitted to his instrument, lead guitarist Jake Weston spent a lot of time stalking around the room, while vocalist Pete Crutchley roared and bellowed over the crashing accompaniment with a vocal maturity that belied his youthfulness. There seemed to be a certain rebelliousness in their act that may well have stemmed from waiting all day to go on. Interesting nonetheless.

Final act Lesbian Bed Death, also containing organiser Dan Peach, were different yet again, and very good they were too. In fact, if it were a competition, they would easily be in with a chance as the most entertaining band of the event. Their stage attire predominantly gothic, they have a mean vocalist in Luci4, a scantily-clad little lady who certainly does know how to put on a show. Her maniacal laughing as she rolled around the floor during their first number was something to behold indeed. I loved the great riff in their second number and the whole set was filled with strong compositions. Their final number, the catchy ‘Goth Girls are Easy’ had the crowd baying for more, but unfortunately, so Luci4 said, they didn’t know any more. Never mind, it was a great end to a great day.

Congratulations to Dan Peach for setting up the whole event and everybody else involved. I look forward to the next Godless festival, but for the time being, I think I’ll just give my ears a rest.

Monday, 19 May 2008

We've got a new site!

Over the last year, we've accumulated loads of projects and communities. While much of this is going on offline, it befits our company name that we should eventually launch a social network of our own. So now, thanks to Ning, you can join the Social Media CIC network.

I know a lot of people I send invites to will be asking "What's the point? You invite me to these things all the time", you'll be saying, "and I don't know what it's all about". So here are a few reasons why I thought it was a good idea:
- all the people involved in any of our projects, and a lot of other communities in the local area, can connect. Stoke is still a very disconnected place and while more people are on email now, that doesn't have the same power as people who can get together around common interests
- it can support offline activities. Much as I love joining online clubs, it's still more fun to have proper conversations, especially in Burslem on a Friday. But a good online network is complementary: it gives people a way to get involved in activities they might not otherwise know are going on, or gives them contact with other people that they may not have because of mobility restrictions, shyness or any other reason. Plus the groups feature means that people with little web experience can have a useful presence for their activities without needing to do anything more complicated than fill in a form.
- it's a pretty little site with all sorts of extra features. You can upload photos and MP3s and they'll be displayed in a professional way. We'd love to see this site become the host for a Stoke Sounds radio station that we've been mulling over for ages - so if you're in a band and would like us to share your music for you, please head over there. Hopefully it will become a showcase site for the bundles of talent that Local Edition and Stoke Sounds have highlighted over the last year.
- it's really very, very easy to join and contribute to. Promise.

Hope to see you there soon!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Open Mic Acoustic Nights Every Wednesday.

Article by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Singer/songwriter Paul Dennis is hosting an open mic acoustic and jam night from 9.30 to 11.30 every Wednesday evening at the Oxford Arms in Moreton Parade, Maybank, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 0JD. Although this venue is usually known for tribute bands, Paul is inviting anybody from beginner to expert professional to come along and play a tune or two. You can bring your own equipment, be it electric or acoustic, bass, bongos or whatever, although acoustic guitars and mics are available at the venue.

Bamf and I called in on Wednesday and we were made very welcome as we watched Paul and Gemma Moss sing a mixture of their own songs and some well-played cover numbers both together and individually before fellow guitarists in the audience got up to do their stuff; including a guy with a ’62 Strat fitted with a Roland Guitar Synth! The pub has a very welcoming atmosphere and Paul finished the evening by playing requests from the audience, including an impressive version of Jacques Brel’s 'Amsterdam', once covered by David Bowie and a great song I haven’t heard in a very long time.

If you fancy a strum in a large venue with a great sound, get yourself along…

Check out

Probably see you there sometime…

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ Birmingham Academy May 5th.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ Birmingham Academy 5th May 2008

Review and photo by Adam Coxon

It’s Bank Holiday Monday and what better way to spend it than in the company of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This evenings show is one of only three UK gigs that Mr. Cave and his band of merry men are performing on their tour.

This show sold out within a matter of minutes and straight from the ballsy opening song, “Night of the Lotus Eaters”, it’s obvious to see why. Cave is his usual captivating self and from start to finish, he shows all the energy of a slightly deranged teenager. He completely dominates the stage and frequently stomps to the front, pointing and characteristically snarling in the face of everyone present.

Next up is, “Dig Lazarus Dig”, the title track from the Bad Seeds brilliant new album. The album has received rave reviews throughout the music press. It marks a return to work with the Bad Seeds for Cave, after the release of the superb debut Grinderman album last year.

The band played a varied set which featured many songs from the new album. There were several highlights which included, “Red Right Hand”, “Your Funeral, My Trial“ and “Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)“. The highlight of the new songs had to be, “We Call upon the Author”. Cave conjuring up a demented, grinding sound from the organ throughout the song, playing it like he was possessed.

Cave ended the set with, “More News from Nowhere”, another song from the new album. The thing that is startling about a Nick Cave crowd is that every person in the audience knows all of the words to every song and each one sings along all the way through. This is strength to the proof that Cave’s song writing had been consistently brilliant during his many years in the music industry.

The band then returned to the stage for the first of two encores, Cave sporting a “Dig Lazarus Dig” T-Shirt. They kicked in almost instantly with, “Get Ready For Love”, which was extremely well received. All the way through the set, Cave was plagued by constant song requests being shouted at him from the audience. To many of them Cave simply replied with a polite, “No”, or, “We will not be playing that”. However, Cave finally succumbed when someone shouted, “Straight To You”. Cave accepted and commented, “That is one we definitely can do”. He then joked that it was next on the set list anyway and that the band now did requests, much to the audience’s delight.

The band left the stage after playing, “The Lyre Of Orpheus”. They quickly returned for a second encore. Cave sat himself down at the piano and played a very poignant rendition of, “Into My Arms”, which got possibly the biggest cheer of the evening. The show was brought to a close with one of Cave’s best known and best loved songs, “Stagger Lee”.

This is one band that the youth of today could learn a lot from. They’re still selling out shows wherever they go, still writing brilliant songs and still putting on one of the most entertaining shows around.

Highly Recommended!

Bands Wanted for Top Record Labels

How does this sound?

A seriously top flight name in the music industry has asked promotors That’s Showbizness for details of any bands that they consider to have the necessary potential to make it to the top for presentation to big name recording companies down South.

Criteria demands that the bands must have a professional approach, be image-conscious; have three commercial tracks plus at least 12 – 14 tracks for an album and great onstage presentation.

If this is your band, send a CD plus photos of band and individual members plus biography to:

Debra Anderson
That’s Showbizness
2 Nave Road

Unfortunately, That’s Showbizness can only reply to those who are selected.

Good Luck!

Steve Dean

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Lungs/Party Fire and Theft/Screwloose @ The Band Stand, Hanley. May 12th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Leo

Having risen from the ashes of The Flight, I gather that this is Lungs' first gig since. They did very well. Sporting a new suit-wearing, but still casual image, they kicked in with a raunchy cover of Placebo’s ‘Nancy Boy’; giving a fair taste of what to expect from thence onwards. Guitarist and vocalist Tom Moreton announcing that most of their set would consist of covers until they had had more time to get organised, they continued with self-penned tunes ‘River Town’ and the appealingly chaotic ‘Orange Pizza’. It was remarked that they are reminiscent of the Ramones in some ways and I readily agree with such a comment.

They are a lively band, their music having strong punk overtones and diminutive female singer/guitarist Hollie Lucas adds a valuable dimension to their overall sound and presentation. They put on a good show and their leaping up and down during ‘City of Angels’ inspired members of the audience to bound around a bit themselves. Drummer Danny Beardmore drives the band along very nicely and I had to grin when bassist Scott Walton apologised for any mistakes before they’d even tackled Rancid’s ‘Maxwell Murder’; the song’s bass solo being being an integral part of the tune. He needn’t have worried, he did fine.

With Hollie going offstage while the rest of band continued with P.I.G., the audience was invited to dance; my bemused mind boggling a tad as one of their number performed a manoeuvre apparently called ‘teddy bear rolls’. He summed up the fun of the event nicely though. Leaving a solo Hollie to finish off, she closed the set to enthusiastic applause from an audience that had obviously enjoyed them immensely. Not bad for a first gig. In fact, not bad at all.

Reading up on Party Fire and Theft on their Myspace profile, they seem to have had a fairly convoluted history involving several incarnations, but it is enough to say that how they stand at present adds up to being about right. Having an excellent drummer in James Rathmell, also of Everything on Red, his technical expertise played a great part in ensuring a set that was tight, gutsy, and never less than interesting to listen to; despite Guitarist and singer Mart’s (I’m unable to find a surname) confession that over-refreshment had left he and the first rate 5-string bass player Andy (ditto, regarding surname) a little worse for wear. I must say it didn’t seem to effect their playing though. Their songs are all their own compositions and beginning with ‘Stop and Deactivate Robots’, they shone with a blinding set put across with dexterity and plenty of energetic panache. Main vocalist Mart has a strongly melodic voice, putting me in mind of celebrated 60s band Cream’s Jack Bruce in his heyday and James joining in for some choice harmonies really added that extra spice. I particularly liked second number ‘Deleted Scenes’, with it’s descending chords and James’ vocal interjections, and also the final composition ‘Driving me Away’ made a fitting end to a fine set.

Having reviewed Screwloose’s new EP ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Life’ not too long ago, I was very much looking forward to hearing the numbers actually played live. I was not disappointed. Screwloose, comprising lead vocalist Matt Brown and Andy Winstanley on guitars, Rob Tooth on bass and Chris Burgess on drums put across their songs just as well live as they do on CD; except with that extra bit of raw power that live playing always adds . First number ‘Out on Friday’, track one on the EP, set the scene for a very entertaining half-hour as the band strove to pack in as many songs as possible before the law of the land demanded that they finish, due to a late start earlier causing them to run over. The second number, ‘A Matter of Affinity’, boasted some nice guitar exchanges in the middle part and I loved the tight reggae-ish interlude within third song ‘The Magic That I feel’. Two other numbers from the EP, title track ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Life’ and the bouncy ‘So you Call this a Setback’ were also included and the extra live fire brought out the true appeal of this band’s earnest interpretations of some thoughtful lyrics. Linking up the last three compositions, Screwloose managed to fit everything in and finished to well-deserved and appreciative applause.

The Band Stand may be a small gig, but it puts on some big talent. I say “well done” once again.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Hadouken @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. May 10th.

Review and Photo by Chloe West

Having released debut album ‘Music For An Accelerated Culture’ at the beginning of the week, Hadouken! always receive a mixed reaction. This is probably as they aren’t easy to digest like Snow Patrol or Keane. Youth culture wants something new, different and challenging; not something your mum would listen to over dinner, and the London based five-piece deliver exactly that; moulding grime, pop and new rave.

Recent reviews have stated that Hadouken! no longer keep in touch with the fast-paced scene they derive from; although from the Mill’s response tonight, Hadouken!’s performance definitely did not disappoint. From the first beat of opener, ‘Get Smashed Gate Crash’, the place erupted and the rave didn’t cease for the rest of the set. Second number ‘Liquid Lives’ jovially gives an insight into the drunken antics most town centres experience every weekend, while further on in the set ‘The Bounce’ provoked a huge response with the crowd chanting back, “don’t give up your day job”; a day job the band clearly enjoy.

The calm, collected Alice Spooner’s synth combined with James Smith’s bellowing vocals and the heavy bass line create a self described ‘asbo-disco’. ‘Leap Of Faith’, however, deals with the more complex issues of teenage pregnancy and domestic abuse; it contrasts to the tongue in cheek attitudes of ‘Dance Lessons’, but reveals a darker, more serious element to the band’s talents. Ending with ‘That Boy That Girl’, their first single fitted well after an intense cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’. Also the album starter, ‘That Boy That Girl’ has now been unfairly described as a ‘dusty relic’; yet it certainly ended the set in the same fresh and furious manner as on hearing it at the start of last year.

The overall atmosphere can only be explained by the amount of sweat lining the walls afterwards; which I was unfortunate enough to put my hand into. I’m sure there were plenty of dehydrated Hadouken! fans strewn around Stoke tonight.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Giro Junkie/Thom Price/Andrew Hall/M S Thomason @ The Glebe, Stoke. May 8th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

It was good to see the BBC Subculture show’s Matt and Dave at the Glebe this evening. All four acoustic guitarists were being recorded to hopefully be played on next week’s Thursday broadcast between 7 and 9pm. From what I heard this evening, it promises to be a very good indeed.

Smiling as he took the stage, Giro Junkie, alias Rich Bloor, began with a song actually about a ‘Giro Junkie’; and very entertaining it was too. He has a captivatingly gritty voice which compliments his meaningful songs perfectly. Playing his guitar left-handed with the strings upside-down, he accompanies himself extremely well and a few listenings to the CD he very kindly gave me show that he is capable of some strong songwriting. His second number ‘Confiscate the Hippies’ is a fine example of his talent and is featured with the backing of a small band on his recording, which gives the song yet another dimension. The pained vocals applied to his third number ‘Novemtree’ brought the full force of the lyrics through and his version of Tom Waits’ ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’ did the song very fair justice. Breaking a string during the number, he nonetheless got through his last song, ‘Slavery was never Abolished’, a statement I’m inclined to agree with, admirably well to finish his act to loud and well-deserved applause. A great opener to the evening.

In a different style altogether, the next up, Thom Davies, at other times the voice of band 'iye', proved himself just as able. Demonstrating some nice picking, he sung his emotion-packed songs with much depth of feeling; his raw passion being almost tangible. His songs have a kind of hypnotic dreaminess and his opening number ‘Fire Consume’ was a fine example. I’ve listened to this again on his myspace profile and as statements from the heart go, they don’t come much finer. I was unable to catch the titles of the rest of the songs in his act and he was gone before I got a chance to ask him, but it is enough to say that all of his material has a haunting quality, at times bordering on the entrancing. He is very good indeed. At the end of his third song, he was forced to ask a few members of the audience to stop talking, as they had annoyingly been loudly doing so throughout the number, and chat outside, if they must. He was right to voice his disapproval; the atmosphere he managed to create was being ruined in the same way such talk would be deemed offensive during a sermon in a church. I read that he is a preacher’s son. He knows of such things.

Our third man, Andrew Hall, is much more commercial in his approach, in both his songwriting and presentation. Playing for much longer than the previous two, his songs tend to contain more conventional chordwork than the guitarists already seen and although he has an obvious talent, he didn’t grab me in the same way. That isn’t to say he isn’t good at what he does though. As I said, his songs have a general commercialism that the others lack, although not sorely, and that fact alone should afford him some far-ranging success. On listening to the songs on his myspace profile, his opening song ‘Frontline’, amongst others, benefits from the addition of other instruments and on the whole, his songs, to me anyway, would have more appeal if they were played live with this extra backing. He has a fine melodic voice and there is no reason at all why he shouldn’t do very well in the direction he is heading. He comes across as a likeable chap and I wish him every prosperity. He has obviously worked very hard.

Another hard worker, headliner M S Thomason specialises in atmospheric haunting songs of a certain delicacy. He remarked to me on his arrival that it made a change to be standing on a stage that didn’t contain the banks of amplifiers, etc belonging to the bands he usually finds himself on the bill with. Thinking further along those lines, his act would benefit from some subtle stage lighting, but then again we can’t have everything, not at this stage anyway; and at this stage, I doubt he will remain. With the right guidance he will go very far indeed. Casting aside obvious comparisons to the likes of Leonard Cohen, he has talent in abundance and his songs of life and lost love are aglow with melancholy beauty. As a guitarist, he has a stylish way of picking that accentuates the depth of his thoughtful lyrics. His playlist including gems such as ‘New York’, ‘The Bastard Who Stole my Love’ and ‘Bloody Mess’, he demonstrated why he is a firm favourite of Subculture’s Dave and Matt, on whose show he is often played and indeed will be featured next week. Closing the evening to much appreciation from an impressed audience, he was a fitting end to a fine night.

If I had one, I’d tip my hat to the Glebe for their ongoing support for all things musical. “Well done”, I think, is all I need to say.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

This Hope Lays Ruin/Maniacal/Burnt @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. May 3rd.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Three bands playing metal in various forms promised an interesting evening, and an interesting evening it certainly was.

This Hope Lays Ruin, a 5-piece from Stafford, were first up and after a comment regarding a hope that the audience finds them ‘good’, they launched into ‘Take a Walk’ - a powerful track that initially put me in mind of Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars, the bringer of War’ - and whether intentional or not, it worked very well. All of the following numbers, like the first, containing a great deal of staccato drumming, it seems to me that much of this genre relys on the complex tempo changes that every one of the bands on the bill utilised to great effect. Admittedly being unfamiliar with This Hope Lays Ruin’s playlist, the five compositions they played seemed fairly pedestrian compared to the following bands’ works, but on the whole they certainly generated enough hair-flying fire and energy to set a fair percentage of the audience off on a moshing merry-go-round by the time they reached their third song. However, the lack of vocal melody lines and guitar solos leave little to stick in the memory. I have to say that their song endings need attention too, most of them just seeming to peter out. Going by the vocalist’s opening comment, I suspect they haven’t got that many gigs, and therefore much experience, under their belt. What they do have though, is a lot of promise. On the whole, not bad at all.

Maniacal (pronounced Man-eye-a-kul), on the other hand, showed how it should be done. Although their songs also feature no actual melody lines and very little in the way of discernable words, so large is the range of confident frontman Tommo’s vocal dexterity, he easily managed to keep things unfailingly interesting throughout the entire set. Mix in some well-greased guitar solos and the whole concept demonstrated by the first band shifts up several gears. Beginning with a vast wall of feedback, they were in manic flight in seconds; the moshers eagerly taking their cue immediately. Organising the frantic mayhem from the stage, Tommo placed somebody apparently very willing into the mosh pit centre, lined up batteries of others either side of him and then ordered them to charge the hapless middle man while they blasted out a raging accompaniment. Hardly a tea dance, these gigs. The throwing of a blow-up sex doll into the mob mental a little later only adding to the bruising, but good-natured lunacy. The adroit drummer applying the necessary thunder, all three guitarists; lead, rhythm and bass, proved themselves technically very impressive; at one point the lead displaying a neat bit of showmanship by playing his guitar behind his head. Watching them leave the stage to very appreciative applause, it crossed my mind that headliners Burnt had a hard act to follow.

Appearing not to bother with big entrances, the members of Burnt wandered nonchalantly around the stage while necessary adjustments were made to the equipment before suddenly and effectively bursting into their opening number. I then got the point. Nice one.

Proving themselves Maniacal’s equal, although not entirely the same bag, vocalist Ant, brother of the prior band’s Tommo, actually sings in a more conventional fashion in places. Tight as an angry fist and very disciplined, Burnt took us through an exciting, well-rehearsed set of songs taken from their debut album ‘Rephrase the Lie’ and the new one to come; ‘Vertabreaker’. With respect to the excellent drummers already heard, I was exceptionally impressed by the man behind the kit here. Playing with immense power and energy he drove the band along like a demon as the rest of them showed their mettle (no pun intended) with striking prowess. Aside from the almost relentlessly chopping guitars, I noticed the bottom E strings of all three bassists present here this evening to be constantly rumbling, a definite and integral part of the overall sound. Of Burnt’s numbers, I especially appreciated ‘Birth’ from their first album and a track called ‘Backwards’, for the rendition of which, Ant pulled his brother Tommo up on stage to join him. The very next track saw the fired-up frontman down with the crowd, moshing with the best of them. Rocking out with the great riff of ‘Defy’, the audience were disappointed to find that Burnt were not allowed back to do a thoroughly well-deserved encore. It appeared that some daft law or other prevented it. A shame indeed. That aside though, it was a great night all round. Congratulations to all concerned.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Interview: Debra Anderson of That's Showbusiness

Interview by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

If I said TV, film, music, theatre, radio, dance, fashion, modelling, DJ, comedy, magic and photography, that would just about cover everything that Debra Anderson and her new company 'That's Showbizness' is all about.

Currently managing talented Stoke-on-Trent band The Fears, Debra is confident that her new venture with her partner Rob is just what the showbusiness industry needs. She is also on the lookout for any other bands that may meet the criteria she feels the industry demands.

Originally from Birmingham, she began dancing at 5 years old after she went to watch her sister attending her dance classes. Her sister's teachers noticing that the little girl was itching to get up and dance, she was invited to have a try; an event which eventually led to her winning the all-England dancing championship and visiting South Africa, not to mention an appearance at 14 on Blue Peter; sporting what she calls 'an atrocious haircut’.

Despite her dancing talents, all she really wanted to do was sing and ended up in a band put together by Fine Young Cannibals vocalist Roland Gift, which eventually fizzled out. She then found herself going to London and drifting into fashion modelling and promotions, a pursuit she found infinitely preferable to office work.

Eventually taking up once again her ambition to be a singer, and a bit wilder in those days, she found herself in a rock band and then an R&B group, the names of which she has long since forgotten. However, this led to an interview with Kiss fm in 1998 and an eventual meeting with Peter Hammond, who was involved with Stock, Waterman and Aitken. A production genius of 110 top 10 hits at the time, Peter noticed her passion for singing and introduced her to Graham and Nick, two guys who shared similar ideas and ambitions and the result was a five-piece all-girl group along the lines of the Village People called Girls @ Play, which also contained a certain Rita Simons, now a member of the cast of Eastenders. This wasn't really her bag though and left the group after she realised that her ideas were being stolen; the band itself reaching 18 in the charts with 'Airhead' shortly after she left.

Spending some time as a promotional girl at Harvey Nichols, she heard her voice on the radio being used in a cover version of Mel and Kim's 'Respectable'. Disgusted with events, Debra decided that she needed to do something to help the industry as a whole. This is how That’s Showbusiness was born.

She left London for Stoke-on-Trent, where her mum had taken up residence, and met her partner Rob, as I understand it, the first hairdresser to have a licenced barber shop in the whole country.

At first, she considered Stoke-on-Trent, with its steadily declining industries, to be something of a land of the forgotten. However, she decided it was time to get all her ideas together in the form of That’s Showbizness, a communication portal including many useful features for artists and companies alike. Containing news pages; adverts; 'tipped for the top'; what's on; new releases; finding new people; opportunities in modelling, etc; what's new?; auditions and a much needed 'needle in a haystack' problem solver. Debra has built this tool through the eyes of an artist and her experiences in the industry, she said it is a tool she wished she had had when she was active in the industry. She has just taken on an IT firm to handle upkeep of the site and there are already actively updating and implementing new design features which will assist the user in the future. Avoiding myspace, she is keeping to trusting her instincts. She also offers an advice section to help people to avoid the many pitfalls the entertainment industry holds. Everybody is encouraged to help each other.

She has some big plans, including the organising of a talent show at a venue in Birmingham in the not-too-distant future. For those who are interested you can register your interests on their coming pages soon.

Registration is free for artists and promotional credits can be purchased from as little as £7.25 - very reasonable. She is also intending to enlist a small TV company to film the event and there will also be some helpful prizes, geared towards assisting the winners with their chosen career. Although the computer is down for a few weeks due to some last minute tweakings, people can still register interests or contact Debra on

The company can be found at or and persons must be over 18 to join up; evidence having to be produced for those wanting to register under the age of 18. Basically Debra has sackloads of experience within the industry and wants to use it for the common good of all. Brimming with enthusiasm, there is no reason why That’s Showbizness shouldn’t go a long, long way. We at Stoke Sounds wish her all the best with her venture.