Thursday, 27 November 2008
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
The Raven seemed like an unusual choice of venue for Stoke on Trent's seminal rude boys, The Rough Kutz. The pub is situated on the outskirts of Cobridge, and it is not one that I have come across before to be perfectly honest, but I had seen them play before many years ago, and I knew there would be some faces I would recognise in the crowd. I made the right decision going along, and it turned out to be one of the best gigs I have seen so far this year. That's quite a compliment with it being both late in the year, and the sheer volume of bands I have encountered on the Stoke music scene this year.
The room was packed to the rafters with enthusiastic punters waiting to dance to some original ska. The eager following from Chell Heath was in full residence as usual, although I did speak to some skinhead girls at the end of the show who had travelled from as far away as Chorley on the back of a scooter. The band somehow managed to fit themselves on the small stage provided, which was in itself a good trick given the numbers involved and that full sound was achieved beautifully, and the crowd was dancing throughout the show, me included.
The Rough Kutz have been delivering this full sound and show for over ten years now I was informed by some members of the audience who were keen to pass on their knowledge. There have been some changes in the line up over the years, but they have always stuck to their principles of playing their own original music and songs was the general opinion, and they were obviously life long fans. They have never slipped into that trap of becoming 'just another cover band' playing Madness and The Specials, which is sadly what happens to a lot of good musicians in this business, and I applaud them for sticking to their principles of being original. The Rough Kutz are anything but a cover band, and they obviously have no respect for other such bands given their comments on their own myspace page.
The influences of their sound are the same ones that have influenced the above mentioned bands and include the sound of Prince Buster, Kingstonians and Stiff Little Fingers. They have even recruited the talents of Roddy Radiation from The Specials on the video to their now classic anthem 'Chell Heath'
This highlights the respect that they have gained not only on the local circuit but nationally, and their army of fans continues to grow on the strength of their commitment to creating good original songs from scratch. Tracks like 'Teenage' and 'Popstars' show they know how to craft good bouncing dance tracks. my personal favourite was 'what did you take me for?' which had me digging out my own collection of vinyl. Memories of Tunstall Town Hall disco came flooding back listening to this track that reminded so much of early Madness, and my own roots in music.
I would recommend any music fan to get along and see the Rough Kutz live and experience their sound first hand. This is dance music at its very best. This is SKA.
Monday, 24 November 2008
With influences from The Smiths, The Editors and Joy Division to name a few, ‘Hips Like Cinderella’ offer subtle yet intense songs that leave you wanting more and more.
Consisting of vocalist Ad Price, guitarists Paul Walker and Graeme Salt, bassist Larry Moore and Drummer Andy Todd, ‘Hips’ create something refreshing to hear in an age of guitar-driven indie. Tunes coated in reverb and orchestrated delay along with dark yet somehow funky riffs and dance like drumming give Hips quite a unique sound something that is not often heard in local unsigned music.
Playing only to a half-full Brown Jug, their set captured the audience from the off and didn’t let them listen to any songs that were not brilliantly tight or annoyingly addictive. Some however more so than others with ‘This Room’ and ‘Love will appear’ in particular sounding brilliant.
What impressed me the most about Hips Like Cinderella was Ad Price’s Vocal talent. With signs of Morrissey and Editors’ Tom Smith at his melodic best Ad’s singing was constantly on the mark with no sign of wavering. With his distinct sound and emotional melodies along with the toe tapping backing track hips create I’m surprised they are not better known and supported.
Their set came to a close with fan favourite ‘Andula’. This song for me can only be described as an anthem which sums up ‘Hips Like Cinderella’, a must see for any lover of great music.
Hips Like Cinderella
Review by Clare-Marie White
Burslem old-timers would have you believe Elvis appeared at the Queens Theatre in its heyday, along with *everybody* else. It’s one of those local myths, like Askey’s Giant Wartime Fish or the Revised Town Centre Masterplan. The truth doesn't really matter, no-one would be a true Boslemite if they didn’t find it perfectly credible that if Elvis had made a secret call to England during his GI days, he would have included the Mother Town in his visit.
It’s also not hard to believe that if anywhere should produce a voice to come close to matching the King’s, it should be Stoke-on-Trent. In common with certain other cities across the globe, we have a deep understanding of soul; of dispossession, anger and hope.
Having only heard of Gordon Hendricks a few days ago in the Focal Radio studios, I was nevertheless excited to be in the retro environment of the Victoria Hall, squashed into my metal seat with a proper Stoke crowd, people from across the six towns who find Hanley the best meeting ground to revive old friendships, romances and fights.
And when Gordon took to the stage, this was proper rock n roll, exploding sound systems and all. Like Elvis himself, nobody was taking this too seriously, despite the obvious talent on the stage. Gordon himself was delighted to be “back where it all started” with the people who had given him confidence to unleash what has become one of the most renowned Elvis tribute acts in the world, not least by Presley’s band and writers. Indeed, it was his familiarity with the crowd that hopefully lessened any hurt he might have felt over the unseemly stampede to the bar well before the end of the first half.
And in this unusual theatre environment, part Memphis, part Cheshire Cheese, a truly amazing show emerged. Gordon and the band’s style avoided too much basic imitation and were great performers in themselves. Gordon’s voice needs to be heard to be believed, absolutely authentic and without a hint that the most epic of Elvis’s classics were a strain to imitate. And while we can recreate moments from Vegas for generations, it was the single ‘Where Would I Be’ which really makes one dare to dream. Written by Geoff Morrows, this is unmistakably Elvis, but its freshness sparks the possibility that we could stretch even further than what we were lucky enough to get before Elvis died in 1977. Incredible, of course, in his own right, Elvis was also part of a package. A product of tumultuous times, Elvis was the individual bold enough to stand at the front of a stage and change the world. What else might be sitting in a writer’s cupboard, waiting to be recorded? How might That Voice interpret more of the greatest songs of the last three decades?
In Gordon Hendricks, Stoke has produced another great talent of whom we can be proud. We might have got more of a glimpse of his innate creativity in his home town - it is hard to keep up an American accent when you’ve got people shouting “‘iya Gordon, ‘ow’s yer dad?” - I hope he allows that spark to really flourish.
- Youtube clips
Monday, 17 November 2008
photo by Steve Dean
Having enjoyed City Voices’ contribution to the Stoke Sounds launch back in August, it was a great pleasure to attend their open day in Hanley at the weekend, an event intended to showcase local writing talent. I have to say that I didn’t realise there were so many of them, and what a vast range of local talent they display. Their ‘leader’ Paul Williamson (pictured), a most genial chap, made me very welcome and all the members I spoke to offered great warmth and friendliness as I wandered from stand to stand.
There are really too many to name in entirety here, but those I spoke to included prolific children’s poet Daniel Tatton, who has written many poems since his first in March 2006 and his quirky style makes for some amusing and thought-provoking reading.
Jan Ryan has three published works, including ‘Baksheeshed’; a book dedicated to cleverly explaining some of Egypt’s mysteries in the form of a novel. A copy of which has actually been purchased by an Egyptian tourist guide.
Poet and treasurer Geoff Dulson explained that he is of the third generation of poets in his family, whilst Christine Rowley has written a novel, composed poetry and has released CDs of herself performing her own self-penned songs. Alan Myatt has written an autobiography called ‘Memories of a Blurton Boy’, which he has lavishly illustrated with his own watercolour images and has also published a book called ‘Neck End’, about the town of Longton, which he has written in collaboration with long-time Longton inhabitant and shopkeeper Ellis Bevan.
‘You Couldn’t Make it Up’ is the title of Dave Lee’s book of anecdotes concerning Stoke City football team, a title that speaks volumes in itself; and talking of volumes, ‘Time to be Heard!’ is the title of an anthology containing various works by most of the members and is fine introduction to what they are all about.
Meeting fortnightly in room 1 in Hanley library, City Voices cordially invites anybody with an interest in writing in any form to attend. They will be very pleased to see you. Just turn up at one of their meets or in the first instance message them through their website on www.cityvoices.co.uk
Due to a change in circumstances, I’ll be taking roughly a month long sabbatical and will return with reviews, etc, in the New Year. Stoke Sounds will continue until then with the regular contributors.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Article by Stephen Harvey
A unique live painting performance on the 8th November at 70-72 Piccadilly, Stoke on Trent City Centre - Hanley.
This event is a first for the area and it will incorporate the cream of the UK urban / street art talent.
Featuring DBO, KEV MUNDAY, TWO PENCE, SAZZELLI, ROCKET01, SU1, and FAMOUS WHEN DEAD and will also feature the music of ASUBU & other Guests.
Street and urban inspired art could not be further from the mindless writings of those whose intention is solely to deface. It is about performance, it is about inspiring and involving people in art in a way that has never been seen before.
The importance of this artform cannot be overstated, with record sales and attention at auctions, exploding levels of participation and the emergence of a new breed of artistic superstars.
This live painting event will bring together nine artists at the top of their game to collaborate on producing a unique 12m x 2.5m piece right in the heart of Stoke on Trent around the theme Fantastic, Found and Fake (the cojunction08 theme).
Helping to kick off the city's Conjunction08 arts festival on the 8th November, the performance will feature live painting as well as music, and is probably the first time this type of event has been held outside London.
As a further point of note, this event is probably the first live painting performance to feature in a contemporary arts festival, walking the line between the outsider and the insider, providing a bridge to what is widely regarded as the fastest growing means of artistic expression that exists today.
"We're so excited about this performance, its great for Stoke on Trent and the City Council to be involved and support us. It represents our opportunity to become the primary centre for street and urban inspired art outside London and Bristol" said Paul Bishop who is the founder of LET THEM CREATE.
"our aim is to provide a clear and distinctive focal point to the start of the Conjunction08 festival by bringing an exciting and unique artistic performance to Stoke on Trent.
We want to break down barriers and encourage greater appreciation and participation in contemporary art, at the same time, our aim is also to promote this area as a fantastic place to see, create and be involved with art. "
Sounds like it's something not to be missed.
Monday, 3 November 2008
The Decision / Silent Film Project / Model Radio / New Education @ the Underground, Hanley. November 1st.
Photo by Simon Bamford
With an average age of 16, The Decision pack a pretty mature musical punch for so young a band. A power trio leaning towards the old school, they have a raw, loose sound that takes me right back to the late 60s and the early days of the Groundhogs and Rory Gallagher’s Taste. I’m not saying they are quite at that standard yet, but it is certainly only a matter of time. With plenty of youthful verve, guitarist and vocalist Ben West, bassist Rob Melville and drummer Liam Kaye begun with a spirited instrumental before taking us through a selection of songs that demonstrate a thoughtful approach to the importance of variation in songwriting. With some bands, on first hearing, most of the songs can all sound much of a muchness - not something that can be said of the Decision. Ben has a strongly melodic singing voice and their small, but appreciative fan club bellowed their approval right up until the very last note; the band closing with ‘The B I B’, featuring some nice wah-pedal work from Ben. A fine opening band to what proved to be a great night’s entertainment.
Down from Sheffield, Silent Film Project are a well-rehearsed, very professional sounding outfit with some excellent and generally up-tempo tunes. Beginning with their single ‘Two Days’ and thence on through a set packed with joyful, summery pop/rock numbers delivered with fire, passion and impressive musical ability, Silent Film Project demonstrated immense validity in a scene awash with countless bands. Their Myspace profile tells of Lisa O’Hara, a fifth band member who didn’t appear to be in attendance for some reason, but they played a scintillating set nonetheless. Guitarist Paul Musgrave supplied some faultless, classy vocals whilst the robust rhythm section of Jim Keown on bass and drummer Phill Vernon laid down a solid structure for he and lead guitarist Tom Dakin to work over. The influences are many, but there was something in the arrangements of some of the compositions that put me in mind of Elvis Costello’s early albums, particularly ‘Reality TV’. Having said that though, this band has cultivated a sound pretty much of their own. My own favourite track of the evening being ‘Singer Songwriter’, this outfit’s songwriting skills are one of its major strengths.
Model Radio are simply one hell of a good dance band. Maintaining a relentless and thumping beat more-or-less from start to finish, it says a lot for their ability and understanding of musical light and shade that at no point do their numbers pall or become monotonous. Bristling with confidence, their workmanlike, almost gung ho attitude to the job in hand generated a terrific buzz throughout the venue as they pounded and stomped from one vibrant song to the next. Sporting an excellent vocalist and frontman in Bob Jones, they have a huge sound drawn from myriad influences; from the major electronic bands to guitar rockers like U2, but as with the last band, they have managed to capture a vibe all of their own. Most instantly commercial number to my mind was ‘21st Century Digital Lovers’, which can be heard on their Myspace profile. As a footnote, it was interesting to see an uncommon Gretsch guitar onstage, although there appeared to be problems with it, and also a very rare RSB series Aria bass; in my opinion one of the best general production basses ever made. Nice one.
Headliners New Education, whose single launch this event was actually in aid of, are a relatively new band who appear to be going places fast. One of a series of fairly high profile gigs, tonight’s do celebrates the release of their first single ‘Today’ on November 3rd. Coming across as a sort of Paul Weller meets a jangling U2 , the main thing that struck me on hearing them is the strength and sheer conviction in frontman Ryan Dooley’s voice. He sings as if he really means it; ably stirring the spirit as he vents his musical spleen. The new single, with its excellent phrasing and arrangement, being a fine example of this. Incidently, Ryan was the first artiste Stoke Sounds ever reviewed, playing his acoustic solo at the Old Brown Jug in Newcastle. His talent was very obvious then and it’s good to see him now with a full band. His compositions contain a certain Englishness of the type consistent in the works of the great Ray Davies and the afore-mentioned Paul Weller. Such writers are rare and I would guess this band has a great future ahead. The rest of the group; guitarist David Cartwright, bass player Jack Dooley and John Bradbury on drums are well up to scratch and played a blinding set, supplying a fitting final act to round off a fine evening. Absolutely spiffing.
Silent Film Project