Wednesday, 9 December 2009

V.B.S - For you and there I’ll be there

Review by Stephen Harvey

Image courtesy of VBS

The latest offering from Chris Dulson or VBS as he is now known is a little bit different from his previous offerings to the world of dance music. This is a far more energetic and uplifting style of trance to what we are hearing locally and one I am sure his growing fan base locally will enjoy. A very heavy bass-line and swirling synths build and excite throughout the opening few minutes, and there is the inevitable break in the middle with a dreamy vocal accapella that we come to expect in this style.

To be honest vocal trance is not really my particular favourite genre. The last such offering I purchased was DJ ‘Tiesto – Just be’ A fine album, but one that doesn’t really make me an expert on this very diverse and popular style of dance music. This release though, I feel is a good attempt at capturing this extremely lucrative market that is dance music, and I think it may well have a good shot if given the bigger audience it so rightly deserves. Sadly the ability to create such tunes is no guarantee of success in a very competitive market these days, and the contacts in the mainstream world of radio airplay and big name DJ’s playing your tracks is a far more of a useful tool nowadays.

That said this track would not sound out of place on one of the hundreds of compilation albums that will be for sale this Christmas in HMV, which to me speaks volumes for it.

My only real negative is that maybe the quality of the female vocalist, sometimes doesn’t reflect the quality of the production skills used by VBS, This may be just my ear though, and I would advise you all to check it out yourself.

The track and his new E.P are available on iTunes for digital download


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Bleached WaiL / The Boothen / Tequila lips @ The Underground 21st November 2009

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Chris Bostock

Tonight The Underground played host to one of it’s most eagerly anticipated shows of 2009, Tequila Lips Album launch. Excitement was clear from the reasonably sized crowd by the time first act, Bleached Wail took the stage. These lads from Alsager got straight into things with the pulse racing beats of ‘Rumours’ and then into the boisterous rendition of ‘He’ll do anything’. The yelping vocals of frontman Gus shone throughout a set filled with energy and passion. So much so that they somehow managed to knock over two mics and destroy an amp. A band who can’t be put into one specific genre, showed a small snippet of everything including indie, pop, ska and punk. Bassist Floody danced around the stage as if it were on fire and kept the crowd more than entertained throughout. Throw this in with Nicks frantic drumming and it’s in tracks such as Zoo Town and ‘Hot on his heels’ that this band shows their promise.

Following this superb first act were newishly formed band, The Boothen. Formally known as The Rough Charm, these four lads are the perfect example of the sex, drugs and rock & roll cliché. The Boothen arrived tonight with their usual large following that were sent into a frenzy by the engaging choruses of songs such as ‘Pure’ and ‘Calling’. As their performance goes on, with each song, each infectious charge of head - bobbing riffage, the band increase in confidence. From front man Will's swagger, guitarist Liam's energy fuelled guitaring, bassist Danny's cheeky laid back attitude to Ashley's symbol crashing drumming, it's hard not to admire the boys for their style and charisma. Will demands respect from his audience and certainly earns it with crowd favourite ‘Suburban Suicide’. It's a testimony to Will's song writing ability that large sections of the crowd were singing along to every word of his lyrics. The clear influences of the late eighties-mid nineties era of bands such as Oasis, and The Libertines is evident throughout in The Boothen’s set. Ending with an old but classic track and a stage invasion from their loyal fans indicating the kind of popularity The Boothen are experiencing at the moment.

Next it was the moment this near sell out crowd had waited for, the appearance of Tequila Lips. To say the lads were excited was an understatement considering they all ran onto stage. Storming into their set with the anthemic ‘No Way Back’ got the crowd going, much to the delight of frontman Gary Clay who urged them to get involved throughout the set. It has to be said, Gary is easily one of the most talented frontmen in Stoke right now. The thriving energy of guitarists Tom and Dave, mixed with Azza’s tight bass playing and Sam’s ferocious drumming give the band the perfect stepping stone to create a sound powerful enough to earn comparisons to influences such as The Verve and Kasabian. A band not only big with and sound and musical quality, but with the good looks, style and charm that screams out coolness. ‘Joe Teague’ was screamed back to Gary by the loyal following of the band and sent the crowd into further chaos prompting scenes of flung pints, frugging mosh pits and crowd surfers. ‘The Rain’ and one of the bands newest tracks went down well with the crowd and the mayhem continued. These boys certainly no how to put on a show! It was then time for the title track of the album, ‘Crystal ball’. After having a sneaky preview of the track beforehand it’s clear to see why it’s so popular with its neat and tidy guitar riffs to its engaging chorus and hooky melodic vocals. It’s the kind of single that rattles around your brain for days and was impossible to leave without humming the melody to yourself. Finishing the night with crowd favourite ‘Another Face in the Crowd’, the band finished on a high and in particular Tom, whose pitch perfect voice carried the first verse of the song. A successful year for the lads from Tequila Lips and was topped off with one of the most spectacular performances I’ve witnessed in a long time from a band who are already making their mark on the local music scene and are expecting to go on to big things.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Good Shoes @ The Sugarmill 16th November 2009

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Simon Bamford

It was a ghost town for a Monday night in Hanley; twinkly lights yet no-one around. However, a good turn out (for a £10 gig mind) could be found in The Sugarmill, waiting for headliners: “Good Shoes”. It must also be said that the quality of support acts is definitely on the rise, as the penultimate act had attracted more viewers than the eventual audience for Good Shoes, and were an interesting mix of Dogs, old school Editors, and good old fashioned rock (not the drivel you’d hear on the radio which gets to much airplay). Also, and most interestingly, the night had a very much male dominated crowd – maybe because it was all testosterone on stage across all acts, but it also got me thinking -maybe Good Shoes are on a connecting par with the males, maybe they push their buttons, (?) as through their performance I was honestly stumped as to whether it was: good, bad, middle of the road, exciting or boring. I couldn’t put my finger on what they were.

It was a bit of a rough start (potentially due the sound guys bodging the levels), as the vocals fought the music, and it just looked and sounded dreadful. However, with a few alterations, it was pulled back and from a scratchy feedback of noise, and reached a more eloquent tone, as vocals “subtle…subtle…subtle” floated into the air, with a “Never Meant to Hurt You” comeback.

It’s a very confusing experience to see Good Shoes. Are they likeable, are they not? Are they loud, are they soft? It’s fair to say they’re like mini explosive outbursts of energy on stage, and they’re verging on punk rock with a pinch of Doherty, a dash of Jamie T, and a sprinkling of The Holloways. And just when you’ve got that figured in your head, “The Way My Heart Beats” - “ends so softly” melody, resembles that of a good old indie love song, and then to further mess with your head, massive drum pounds come in from nowhere to resemble The Distiller’s “Hall of Mirrors”.

They proudly stated they were a south London band, and it looked like it was a south London crowd they were expecting, instructing the crowd to: “Get involved”, “applause because we like being applauded” and it all came off a bit too big headed. Still, it made you think about them: “Do I not like the band but find myself drawn to the music?” This I kept trying to fathom, through their emotive thought processes which came off as Muse-esque intros, outros and interludes. At times, it did seem that they were too big for their own (Good) shoes, expecting London chique from a midlands crowd. You can appreciate that they’re trying to bring something new and unique across, but they’re not intended crowd pleasers. The set was all a bit dilapidated, but then again was catchy in parts. This is the thing! What to make of them?

They get into your head by puzzlement, mixed with semi-fashionable sound (often sounding similar to Jake Penãte’s: “Are We Really?”), and on stage, main singer: Rhys Jones had a clear childlike anxiety and want for fame, which is only too visible in his stage act, up to the point of being vulgar. He’s clearly expecting to make it sooner or later, but then, thinking about what constitutes commercial success, it’s the charts (not that-that’s good either) and sales and downloads that drives you up there, and they’re not going to fit amongst the Razorlights, or The Views of today, but for festivals- yes!

There’s some sort of irony as just when you’re ready to leave as you think you’ve got all you can out of their set, an amazing riff will come out of the sky and you’ll be compelled to stay and listen. Maybe it’s intentional, maybe it’s genius? And maybe the real answer as to how well their performances go is to judge for yourself; see the musical ups and downs, see the samey parts, see the inspirational bits, decide whether to press play or eject. One thing that is fact is that they’re intriguing and they are the first act ever to still leave my mind boggling for hours after the performance!


Good Shoes

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Vellocet/Acid Sunshine/Screaming Lights @ The Sugarmill Hanley 11th November

Review by Liam Kelly
Photos by Leo Mazzocchio

First band to arrive on stage to a modest sized crowd were local band, Vellocet. Starting their set with a sublime instrumental solo and then kicking straight in with 'We are the Frontline.' Ryan Barker approaches the mic with a style similar to that of Liam Gallagher whilst screaming out a vocal performance with the passion and quality of influences such as Arctic Monkeys. This is supported by Jordan and Ash on guitars, Louis on Bass and Leigh on drums. Jordan’s soaring guitar riffs combined with the perfect delivery of Ryan’s vocals make Vellocet a must see band. A set packed with energy and enthusiasm on stage gives this band a great stepping stone to go on to big things in Stoke. Songs such as 'The one and only' and 'I am alive' make leaving the mill without humming the warms of Vellocets heart-warming choruses an impossible task.

The main support slot was taken by a new 5 piece from Stoke called Acid Sunshine. It’s fair to say that I have never been so impressed by a band on my first viewing of them as I was by Acid Sunshine. Front man Andy Character had one of the most demanding stage presences I have seen and he clearly knows how to entertain the bands loyal following. They are a group who put on a visual performance of real quality have a sound similar to that of Queen of the Stone Age and Tokyo Police Club. It’s the songs such as 'Black Star' and 'The Citizen' that have made this band so popular amongst their loyal fans, with the symbol crashing of Kev Jones on drums mixed with the fast and furious guitaring of Lee, Day and Jack. The bands most accomplished song of the set was 'Billy no mates' which has a chorus boasting that 'feel - good factor.' A band who are a must see and in particular for Andy’s humour and entertaining stage show.

The headliners tonight were a band who come from Liverpool, Screaming Lights. A band who are riding on a wave of success from an album release and Radio 1 airplays, it was clear tonight to see why this band are kicking up such a fuss in the music world at the moment. Starting the set with the popular 'Volts' shows how this band have become so popular and with the range in pitch from front man Jay Treadell, the band have a unique sound that could see them go to on to even bigger things. Liam Riley’s funky techno beats on keyboard is the benchmark for the band and throw in with this the raw and edgy bass playing of Alan, the aggressive and symbol thrashing of James on drums and the tight sounding guitar riffs of Max then the band have the quality to perform a track as 'GMN’; a song that will be rattling around your head for days after. Other noticeable tracks that continued to show Screaming Lights accomplished sound were 'Hello Tomorrow' and their most successful single to date 'Phenomena.' The variety of instruments used, including synthesisers and piano, give the band that edge over other up and coming guitar bands, and Jay in particular boasts a range of musical talents that make him the perfect front man. Unfortunately for the band, playing at The Sugarmill on a Thursday night doesn’t usually attract the biggest of crowds and tonight this was again evident. This had no effect on their performance and these are a band you should expect to see many more albums and festival performances through the next couple of years.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Nanateas / The Only Alternatives / Skinny Pigs @ The Underground, Hanley

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Simon Bamford

Tonight’s opening band were the local trio, The Nanateas. A band that clearly aren’t too keen on following the indie rock and roll genre that is evident with most upcoming bands at the moment, The Nanateas played an acoustic indie pop sound throughout their set, and their unique sound surprised the crowd. A group heavily influenced by bands such as The Beatles and The Pixies gave a tight sounding performance, and in particular lead singer Andy showed a melodic and tuneful vocal performance. Dan on Bass and Ang on drums backed Andy and the songs that stood out best during this act were opening track ‘Street Lamp life’ and ‘Enthusiastic Dave.’ Upon first listening the bands style seems simple but as their set went on their performance became one of infection and exuberance. The crowd seemed to be enjoying the memorable melodies of The Nanateas and they kicked of the night in style. A band I will certainly be looking out for in the future.

The second support band for Skinny Pigs were young 5 piece, 'The Only Alternatives.' What this band lacks in age and experience they certainly make up for in stage presence and confidence. The band kicked straight into their set with the catchy and upbeat track which unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of. Lead singer Cam Conway found his vocals in the next track ‘Have you seen it?’ and he belted out a powerful vocal performance of which we’d expect from band a lot older than him. The audience seemed to be particularly impressed with the bands versatility too pull of a cheeky cover of Arctic Monkeys ‘Still Take you Home.’ Charles Steele’s fast and furious drumming set the platform for the band and add to this the neat guitar riffs of Jordan and Paddy and the powerful bass playing of Jack and you sense that these lads could go onto big things. Songs such as ‘Keep the Heat’ and ‘Robot’ reminded me of the sound of early Arctic Monkeys and its clear to see they are heavily influenced by bands such as The Enemy and The Stone Roses. With a few fine tunings and more chances to play live, the future could hold big things for The Only Alternatives and I will be one of many following this band all the way.

Tonight’s headliners were the ever increasingly popular Skinny Pigs. Unfortunately tonight’s gig had not been very well advertised and after some confusion with dates, their usual large crowd was not present. This had no affect on their performance though and as ever, they put on a memorable show. Frontman Craig Paterson has a rock and roll attitude that puts Liam Gallagher to shame and the lad’s appearance suits the Indie Rock genre like no other bands. The track ‘I’ve got a fever’ has the potential to be one day released as a single and showed the bands qualities all around from the powerful vocals of Craig, the frantic drumming of Wez, the authoritive bass playing of Ben Nixon to the tight sounding guitar riffs of Lee and Sam. Skinny Pigs have a gritty sound that stands out from other bands in Stoke at the moment and was best shown in crowd favourite ‘It’s all about the Rock and Roll.’ The band continued their fast tempo in tracks ‘You never listen’ and ‘Wait for nothing’ and Craig was superbly supported by the backing vocals on Lee and Sam. The band weren’t at all effected by the crowd size and ‘drink it up’ saw the audience screaming back the chorus. Ending the night with ‘Wish you were here,’ the band ended the night in style with a excellent instrumental solo for the final few minutes and left the stage to rapturous applause and chants of ‘Skinny Pigs na na na.’

The Nanateas
The Only Alternatives
Skinny Pigs

Friday, 6 November 2009

Ghost Trains, Ghost Trains and Rollercoasters

Review by Danny Hill

It seemed Halloween came about a week too early as I was handed an album to review following a chance meeting during a cold and dark night commuting from Manchester this week; a band known quite ominously as Ghost Trains.

Ghost Trains are vocalists and acoustic noodlers Tim Ellis and Elijah Wolfenheart, and according to their MySpace page the band - then minus guitarist Wolfenheart - were set to call it a day last year, but now they’re back with a new line-up and new material. The result is thus: two new songs, Where Lovers Die and Breathe Again, and more on the way, all recorded in Tim’s studio, Bad Apple, in Hanley.

Last year Ghost Trains recorded a 9 track album entitled Ghost Trains and Rollercoasters, which is one of the albums I have here. Considering their new direction of late the old material might seem somewhat redundant for a review, so excuse the epigrammatic.

The album opens with a few sinister arpeggios before bursting into fierce rhythm and Ellis’s macabre lyrics, which sets the tone for the entire record.

Listening to a folk record can be a dreary business when done wrong, its horizontally inclined acoustic ambience is not exactly a recipe for those looking for a pre-clubbing pick-me-up. However, what defines this album is its hybrid tendencies to infiltrate folk’s close-cousin genres of pop and soft-rock. Close your eyes, sit back and let the music do the rest. Whereas Terrible Man and Time doesn’t quite hit the stoned-majesty of the album’s opener Ease Your Mind, by the time Mocking Bird arrives at track 5 the album comes into its own, and probably my favourite off the collection. Shooting Star, opening with synths and heavy basslines, makes it even better.

Ellis’s vocals offer a distinctive range, coursing easily from soft to almost stadium-rock proportions. His wailing recalls Paul Draper to mind, and that can only be a good thing. In fact, with their lilting melodies and atmospherics, its macabre-dwelling lyrics and ambience, if you can imagine what Mansun’s Attack of the Grey Lantern would sound like if stripped down to its bare acoustic bones, therein lies the essence of Ghost Trains. If there's one thing about Mansun that made them great, though, it was their little idiosyncrasies, their ability to laugh at themselves and their subject matter. Maybe, just maybe, Ghost Trains take themselves a little too seriously?

Silent Whisper lowers the tone, however, dreary and slightly pretentious, and probably the worst track on the album. Lying Awake is only slightly better, but the album’s saving grace comes in the last track, Cool End To Summer; simplistically endearing, a subtle creature that will sonically creep its way into your consciousness.

At a hair over 35 minutes Ghost Trains and Rollercoasters is short and sweet, but not entirely filling. A small selection of party snacks for a cluster of friends perhaps. But all good things have to start somewhere, right? And this brings me back to Ghost Train’s recently recorded songs.

The new guy, Elijah Wolfenheart, is a concept all his own: not a bad songsmith himself, at all, and armed with picking skills to make Nick Drake blush. When two talents like these get together it can go other one or two ways. Luckily for Ghost Trains the musical marriage has worked out beautifully. Where Lovers Die, easily the pair’s best track, combine their skills exceptionally, from the melodious Simon and Garfunkel duelling to the harmonious singing. Ellis’s voice sounds even better for it, too. Breathe Again somehow demonstrates the same qualities but, quite cleverly, doesn’t fall into the same trap as sounding grudgingly similar to its predecessor, as a lot of the songs on the album do.

Both songs are available to listen to from their website and their MySpace pages. The duo, along with the band, are currently adding new tracks to their impressive couple. The album will be entitled When I Was Still Alive. If you fancy something a little different, a little calming, then I thoroughly recommend you pay them a visit.

Ghost Trians

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Amateur Assassins: Pioneer Abnormalities

Article by Robbie Dennison

Once upon a time in Stoke, there was a nice thing called the Music Room. Of a Saturday you could get the bus up to Stockton Brook and spend a day drinking tea and browsing the most eclectic and exciting small record shop you're likely to find this side of reality. The Music Room also put on regular nights at the Talbot Hotel in Stoke town, which were the sort of thing that you wouldn't think could happen in "this sort of place".

Yet they did, with a range of bands including anti-folk heroes like Kimya Dawson, US alternative figureheads Of Montreal and downright great local acts too. It was at the Music Room that I first noticed the emergence of the guitar-driven, mazey-jazzy-spazzout sound as purveyed by Amateur Assassins. Maybe I was behind the times and all the kids with better shoes had been playing this sort of things for years, but I found it all pretty intriguing.

Around that time, and since then, places like Manchester and Nottingham seem to have become something of a stronghold for this sort of music. I've always thought the danger associated with it, and what sets apart good examples from bad, is the ability to vary the textures and feel of tracks (varying tempos certainly aren't a problem).

This album from Amateur Assassins manages that, with the first track Morphine Pupilus initially reminiscent of industrial electronica. We are soon lead back into more familiar clean, jazz picking and anaphylactic vocal stylings on tracks such as Cyanide Sweet Shenanigans and Signed, Served and Sealed but crucially this is tempered by the moody instrumentalism of Dinosaur and others.

In fact, this pattern is varied regularly across the whole album. It's good to see, as being a bit of a secret pop nancy I've not always got along well with bands that stick solely to the balls-out-of-the-bath hardcore jazzout. So here it's nice to report that the more ambient tracks, or intervals or whatever you'd like to call them, make the whole a much more palatable and crucially memorable piece. It feels organic and as if the tracks were intended to sit well next to each other - a rare feat in these dark days of albums featuring five singles and seven tracks of bloated b-side filler acting as the wood shavings in this particularly bad sausage metaphore.

Amateur Assassins

Friday, 23 October 2009

Full Moon Rising

Article by Matt Taylor

The Full Moon, in Newcastle, is due to welcome back customers to the venue on Friday, October 30, when an entertainment-packed opening weekend will begin.

The pub was a favourite spot for music fans and was on the circuit of bars associated with the indie crowd and has been much-missed for its late-night antics.

But licensee, Matt Taylor, is vowing to bring the pub back to its former glory, as well as capitalising on previous strengths, a year almost to the day since it mysteriously closed last year.

Matt has reinstalled a stage, and is hoping to turn the Full Moon into one of the city’s leading live music venues, as well as offering discerning customers cask ales and ciders, plus several draught continental lagers.

On Friday, the opening night will feature two leading local bands performing original material, plus acoustic guitarist Gareth Powell doing his quirky versions of popular indie and classic tunes. After the music played by a resident DJ will go on until 2am with indie and rock music into the early hours. Doors will be open from seven o’clock and the bands are on from nine, with a two pound charge for entry.

To continue with the party, the next day, October 31, will feature a Halloween party, with magician Ben Cardall doing ‘spooky’ close-up magic, a tarot reader, acoustic music from Haley Strangelove, indie/rock tunes from the DJ, all in a location done up in a style befitting a horror film set. It is free entry until 11pm and two pounds thereafter.

Matt hopes that the opening weekend will be the start of great times to come. He said:
“I was a loyal regular of the Full Moon for a good while until it closed down. I was absolutely gutted when I went out in Newcastle this time last year, dressed up in a Halloween get-up, and when we got to the Moon, it was shut.

“We are going to start off with live music on two nights: Chilled Out Wednesdays with a regular list of amazing local acoustic musicians, and Fridays featuring a range of diverse originals bands followed by DJ SweetJayne who used to be on the decks before the pub closed last year. Then on Saturdays we will have two alternating resident DJs with a slightly different feel than on a Friday.
“Eventually I also want to bring back the old open mike acoustic nights. I remember going to them years ago and they were some of the best of their kind.

“I know the Moon has been sorely missed, so I hope we will make a lot of people happy by doing what we’re doing. And if anyone has any ideas of how we can do things better, our ears are wide open to suggestions.”

The Full Moon opens on Friday, October 30, and entry on the night will cost £2. To keep up with what is on the agenda for coming weeks at the venue, join the Facebook group “We’re Bringing Back the Full Moon".

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Another Rhythm Jesus / She is Sue/ The Chapman Family @ The Sugarmill 16th October 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photos by Chris Bostock

A ruefully empty Sugarmill was the venue for a gig which for my money ranks amongst the best I’ve seen this year.

Opening the night was Burton based ‘Another Rhythm Jesus’ hotly tipped by local music hero Dave Hamer, and it was easy to see why. Melding jazz rhythms with an edge of (somewhat tongue in cheek) Sonic Youth, they presented a timeless set of music. Swapping instruments and vocal leads throughout the set they moved effortlessly through a range of differing styles. From ‘Greyhound’ with its “weird rhythm” and vocals reminiscent of early Siouxsie Sioux, to ‘Haircut’ which was a cheeky little number with a decidedly dirty bass line.
Their last song ‘Punch numb’ combined a bedrock of soaring guitars and indomitable vocals, giving it a real horizon-chasing road trip feel, then just when least expected a chord progression which takes the track on a jovial circuitous route back to the dark edge of the witch hunt it narrates.

She is Sue, lightened the mood somewhat with a sound that struck me immediately as sounding like a hi-bred of The Sport and The Control. Not that this is a bad thing. Providing bite-size indie numbers to the audience and with a particularly candid performance by their guitarist, I found myself wondering if the performance would’ve been more energetic if they weren’t constrained by the coats that the frosty temperature of the mill demanded. At times the delivery of the lyrics was so fast that the sonorous vocals of the front man.

For the last couple of songs they were joined by a sax player, who I understand is to become a permanent fixture in their line up, which gives them a slight edge over other guitar based bands. The audience now replete with a banner for aforementioned sax player, started venturing forwards appearing to thaw out somewhat. Whilst firmly in the indie trenches, She is Sue’s music would not be out of place on any given Brat-pack Soundtrack, not because it harks back to the 80’s but it does have that feel good actor about it; one to hear ringing in your ears as you watch the protagonist heading off into the sunset.
One of the emptiest stages I have seen in a while lulled me in to a false sense of security as The Chapman Family cranked up the volume. Opening in a very measured fashion; such an understated approach coupled with the clarity and menace of Kingsley’s vocals could lead to comparisons to Glasvegas, but The Chapman Family deliver an entirely different level of anger; equally brooding but I’m tempted to believe these guys might just swing the first punch.

A real electric charge emanated from the stage during the first song whilst Kingsley repeatedly wound the mic lead round his neck in a macabre imitation of hanging with his eyes rolling back in his head, surrounded by pounding drums, frenetic strumming, and a bassist seemingly possessed by a greater force. Treating us to a “ballard”, a number with far more commercial appeal than its predecessors showed why this band have been so hotly tipped, and why perhaps they have escaped being pigeon-holder into one specific genre.
The stark picture on their promo poster does not give a true picture of what this band is about. Whilst they are from the darker edge of the music spectrum, they are a band who clearly have a good sense of humour, and who are eager to take their music to new audiences as shown by their current 31 night tour. They give a sinister whirlwind of a performance, which tonight included a superb rendition of ‘Kids’, as well as forthcoming single ‘VIrgins’.

Their last song grew to a catatonic and climactic finish, and as the last chords rang out, negotiations were underway for an encore. With the same disconcerting faux-suicide visuals as their opening number and wave after wave of feedback, this is the sort of music that drives accelerators to floors, and sends tribes charging into battle (but may not be for the average Sun journalist).

Another Rhythm Jesus
She is Sue
The Chapman Family

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Kinch / The Souveniers @ The Old Brown Jug 14th October 2009

Review by AFD

This week’s We-Play night, although a little thin on the ground audience wise, provided an opportunity to see some fine talent.
From Manchester, Kinch opened up the night’s proceedings with an amazing style that is quite difficult to categorise;I would say that they have a new individual sound of their own.
The band themselves describe their sound as, “Britpop with a taste of motown, ska and the early 80s.”
With strong chord progressions, an interesting use of dynamics and almighty harmonies, the four had everyone’s eyes on stalks. Throwing tunes out there like ‘Never Be You,’ to ‘Falling apart’ and ‘If looks could kill’ just showed the versatility in both their song writing and live performance abilities. They are an out right brilliant collective of musicians.

Headlining, The Souveniers influenced heavily by bands such as: The Who, The Kinks, The Clash, Buzzcocks and more, delivered a very Libertines/Pulp style set. Debuting their single at the Jug, ‘The 21st Century,’ they had people humming the song long after the night was over.

The Souveniers

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Pearl / Tommy Reilly @ The Sugarmill 12th October 2009

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Chris Bostock

Rarely does a support act usurp a headliner in an almost anti-climatic fashion, but it is fair to say that the first acoustic act: “Pearl”, (usually of “Pearl and the Puppets”) stole the limelight off 19 year old Tommy Reilly. However, that isn’t to say that all hope was lost on Mr. Reilly and co. But…being so moved by the pure brilliance of Pearl, I feel it is only right to report on both musical musings of the night.
Firstly, I do have to note that the crowd were very unforgiving (in regards to all four acts on stage); with the average member being an excited 16year old girl, making it hard to tune in to anybody, for their constant screaming and yelling in anticipation for Tommy Reilly. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when the bands start getting agitated by it too, there are also rumbles amongst the audience. This didn’t exactly make for an electrifying atmosphere, especially for those respectable fans
who come to appreciate the music, so with this in mind; it did put a “downer” on the evening.
This aside, the show went on…

The lovely and magical “Pearl” floated on stage, in hand with acoustic guitar (as borrowed from co-support act “Roddy Hart”, who you should also look up), producing sounds slightly reminiscent of “Fiest”, but more importantly, it was music good for the soul. Her lullabies and romantic melodies are very much in fashion with the film release – “500 Days of Summer”, which has established it’s very own style in dress and music. Each song reminded me of Regina Spektor’s “Us” (from the 500 Days soundtrack), as she manages to captivate innocence, purity and beauty with every breath and strum, with lyrics: “Shame
to make you cry”, and “I dearly love you” just touching the iceberg.
Here elegance and grace were sadly overshadowed by the rowdy crowd as she sung “Love me like I do”, which was purely ironic as I loved the set even though it was hard work trying to hear what was happening on stage. Her music works as background music to your life or loved ones, or you can find yourself falling completely in love with her sentimental sounds as I did.

Her music was poetry, and moved like words noting a romantic novel. Her cover of “Use Somebody” was purely stunning. It did actually give me chills, and for once, the rest of the crowd did stop in recognition of this wonderful rendition. Besides the music, as an artist and as a person, she had a very sweet disposition and came across as the kind of gal you could get on well with down the pub.

She has to be my favourite discovered artist since… I don’t know when! “Pearl”/”Pearl and the Puppets” are a must see! She’s a rare gem and it was an honour to be able to witness such grace, refinement, and loveliness on stage.

And onto Tommy Reilly…
The first thing to probably note, is that he’s very different on record than live. On record, it becomes apparent that he’s influenced by Dylan, and give him 15-20 years, and he’ll be all distinguished and as husky. Also, he too, like Pearl, has the acoustic airwave thing going on, painting the impression of birds soaring in the air; just as light and delicate. Reilly makes the kind of music you’d stumble across at a festival in a lower-key tent, but of higher quality music.
So, I don’t know if it was the buzz and excitement
of having “just released an album last month” as he proclaimed on stage, or the hyperness of the pubescent audience, but a very different vibe was given than the heartfelt tracks found on his MySpace, (check out a track called “Telephone”).

He had a very childlike ambivalence; a naivety which met with the conviction of his chords; similar to The View’s “Kyle Falconer”. Reilly also has a generational appeal which gives off this “happy days” feel, as his music is very much “of its time” making for a light-hearted set, and one that sees you expect for him to break into The Libertines’ “Don’t Look Back into the Sun” at any point. Therefore, it is feel-good music to listen to, but it soon gets repetitive, relying on the powerful drum beats and choruses to pull it off, and carry them through. But then, during this very Scottish night (where all the acts hailed from, and even Reilly’s keyboardist bore a striking resemblance to Biffy’s “Simon Neil”) a jaw-dropper emerged. “Having No-one” had just as much romantic caliber and punch as one from Pearl’s repertoire, and
was almost familiar (beat-wise) to Peter, Bjork and John’s “Young Folks”, whilst the lines: “That’s why I’ve gotta find myself someone…’cause having no-one isn’t much fun” made my hair stand on end. The whole place was moved and made the whole highlight of the show, with tracks “Tell Me so” and “Jackets” being close contenders.

And so, not being an engaging act as hoped for, I’d still say to check Tommy Reilly out; whether on record or MySpace to get his full impact. I don’t know whether it was the vibe or the formula tonight where it didn’t quite work out, but Pearl was left glistening.

Tommy Reilly

Friday, 9 October 2009

Cause an Effect / The Rittz @ The Old Brown Jug, Newcastle 7th October 2009

Review by AFD

Some might say these Wednesday Night events at the Jug have become an asset to live music in Newcastle under Lyme.
The night is run by Joe Thomas and Tom Wood hosting a display of musicians, ranging from different styles and genre, but mainly based around Indie. With that in mind, and the duo, Joe and Tom themselves, playing the decks, you have nearly no excuse to have an early night.

Out of town band, ‘Cause an Effect’ opened Wednesday’s gig with a hard hitting rocktastic set. The four piece played a range of their own material right through to a most surprising mix of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, crossed with Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers at the end of their performance. Make of it what you will but it was definitely entertaining one way or another to say the least.

Soon after, the four boys from Congleton addressed the audience with brilliantly well thought out riffs and dually given stage presence; of course I’m talking about the sounds of ‘The Rittz’.
At such a young age, Adam (guitar and lead vocals), Sam (guitar and backing vocals), the powerful Matt (Drummer) and Jake (Bass), never fail to impress talent and modesty in their actions. With pumping tunes like: ‘3:42’ to ‘False Apologies’, the sound was blasting, almost spoon-feeding the crowd’s open mouths.

A great night for all involved, and for an audience, great to listen to.


Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Rittz / The Sport / Sound of Guns @ The Sugarmill Hanley 28th September 2009

Review by Liam Kelly

Photos by Leo Mazzocchio

Arriving on stage to an already large crowd, were a band I’ve seen plenty of in recent months, The Rittz. After being very impressed in the past by this four piece from Congleton, tonight was no exception and they were at their very best. Starting of the set with their most well known song ‘Justify the Need,’ lead singer Adam French and guitarist Sam Hancock showed off the furious guitar riffs which have made this band so popular in Stoke. ‘3:42’ was the next track with Adam and Sam supported by the powerful bass playing of Jake Alldread and the symbol crashing drumming of Matt Bass. ‘Patriots Paradise’ and ‘Someone like me’ really got the crowd going much to the delight of Sam, and the band got better throughout the set. Adam has one of the most unique and powerful voices from any local bands and has the talent to go on to big things, and is superbly backed by Sam, Jake and Matt. Finishing the night with the quick tempo of ‘False Apologies,’ this sent the near full crowd into a frenzy and the band were given a great reception as they left the stage. An excellent performance from one of the most promising bands in this area at this moment in time.

The next support band were the ever increasingly popular 5 piece, The Sport. The Sugarmill was now packed with their loyal and energetic fan's and the band kicked straight into their set with ‘Slow Down.’ This song quickly demonstrated this bands intentions of giving the crowd and unforgettable performance and the crowd screamed back the chorus to frontman Nic Andrews.
They then belted out the anthemic stomper ‘Holiday’ which showed off the quality and pitch perfection of Nic’s melodic voice, add this to the authoritive bass playing of Nick Gallagher, the robust rhythms of Mark Taylor and Alex Shenton on guitars, and the frantic drumming of Matt Jones, and you have one of the most unique sounding bands in Stoke, and its easy to see why they have become so popular. The band finished the night with their two most popular songs ‘Dead Stars’ and ‘Tick Tock’ which sent the crowd into further chaos prompting scenes of flung pints, frugging mosh pits and crowd surfers.

Headliners Sound of Guns arrived on stage to a smaller crowd then the one that had turned up for the support bands. This was not to have an effect on the boys from Liverpool and if anything it prompted them to put on an even better performance to prove what those who's left were missing out on. It’s clear too see why this band are rated so highly by Radio 1 and definitely earned their time at Glastonbury. Andy Metcalfe has a well pitched voice and has certainly knows how to put on a performance, constantly urging the crowd to get involved in each song. ‘Alcatraz’ and ‘Architects’ were the bands most accomplished tracks of the night and showed the quality instrumentalists in the band and in particular Lee Glyn on guitar whose tidy guitar riffs give Sound of Guns that accomplished and professional sound. A band who are already making their mark in the music world and are expecting to go on to big things.


Monday, 21 September 2009

Sold out Story/Bonfires/Tequila Lips/Heart of the Sun @ The Underground Hanley 19th September 2009

Review by Liam Kelly

Photos by Scott Sharman and Matt Attwood

Opening tonight’s proceedings were pop punk band Sold out Story. Arriving on stage to loud cheers from their loyal supporters, it turned out that two of the band members had to be replaced after pulling out last minute. Sold out Story gave a reasonable performance considering the difficulties and I was particularly impressed by the tidy vocal performance of front man Matt who gave his best throughout the performance. The most noticeable track from their short set was ‘Breathe’ a quick and upbeat number that highlighted drummer Ben’s capabilities as well as being a clear crowd pleaser. What this band lacked in experience they certainly made up for in passion and confidence and I would be interested to them play with their permenant line up.

Next on stage were the much favoured 3 piece Bonfires. They kicked straight into their performance with the well known track ‘Drop the Weapon.’ This track in particular showed the quality Britpop sound this band creates throughout their set, and it’s clear to see the influences of The Verve and Ocean Colour Scene in their sound. Lead singer and guitarist Stu has a strong voice matched by his friendly guitar riffs throughout, this is backed by the deep and authoritative bass of Darren and the furious symbol crashing of Mike on drums. Unfortunately the crowd was not as complementary as they were for the previous band but this was not to have any effect on Bonfires performance and they deserve full credit for their set. The two tracks ‘Time is right’ and ‘True to life’ were particularly catchy and both featured hooky choruses. Finishing their performance with ‘All we have is tomorrow,’ Bonfires played their most accomplished track of the night and Stuart excelled with his vocal performance and guitar solo. A very enjoyable performance from a band who I am looking forward to seeing plenty more of in the future.

Tequila Lips were the main support for the evening and with them followed a very large tribe of fans. Quite clearly popular they went straight into their set with an upbeat number and frontman Gary Clay urged the crowd to get involved. Their second track ‘Joe Teague’ showed what this band is all about and the two guitarists Tom and Dave gave an energetic and smooth performance combining with the powerful bass playing of Azza and raging drumming of Sam Aspinall. Gary then really got the crowd moving and singing along in ‘Never enough’ showing his melodic and well pitched voice at its very best. ‘Crystal Ball’ showed how good Tequila Lips are, with a superb quick tempo instrumental performance. Finishing the night with ‘Another face in the crowd,’ this was definitely the bands strongest song and was sung by guitarist Tom at the beginning and his supreme vocal performance was superbly matched by the rest of the band. Tequila lips stunned me by the sheer quality of their set and this was certainly one of the best performances I have seen in a long time.

The final act of the night was from headliners Heart of the Sun. They started their performance with a new song titled ‘City Boy’. Next was the well known track ‘Movie Scene’ and it was in this track that Heart of the Sun showed where they fit into the progressive rock genre, with a heavy and unique sound. ‘What is on your mind’ showed frontman James Blake’s heart warming melodius voice at its best showing why he is one of the hottest talents in Stoke right now. Self titled track ‘Heart of the Sun’ was a stark change from the previous track and showed the bands incomparable stage presence. The frantic and energetic drumming of Jake Nixon was amongst the best I have seen from any band in Stoke right now; add to this the furious guitaring of Dave and the versatility of Ross on Bass, and you have one of the most impressive sounding bands in local music scene. This was further highlighted in the next track ‘Pausing stop and start’ and again James put on an impressive visual performance as well as belting out pitch perfect vocals also showing the gritty sound produced by the band. Finishing the night with ‘Break’ the band showed further variety with the tight funk blasts of Dave on the keyboard.

2010 could be a big year for Heart of the Sun, a band who have the talent and passion to go on to big things and tonight they showed just why they are rated so highly.

Sold out Story
Tequila Lips
Heart of the Sun

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Dave Barlow Memorial Gig The Decision / Friends of Ken / The Black Apples @ The Sugarmill 12th September 2009

Article by Martin Goodhead

Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

A memorial concert to gig-going mainstay Dave Barlow, saw some of Stoke’s finest showcase a heady mix of punk-pop, churning indie, blues and psychedelia— along with an appearance from the (infamous) Trent Vale Poet. A touching night, with the line up selected from Dave’s favourite Stoke based bands.

The first band to take the stage was The Decision, who presented half an hour of outstanding indie rock. Having clearly spent several hours in the studio, they have developed a polished performance that puts them well ahead of their contemporaries.

In what was a fitting tribute to Dave, Trent Dale Poet took to the stage during change over to share not only his poetry but brought a new dimension to his work by rapping to an accompaniment by Friends of Ken. Local heroes Friends of Ken draw in a mess of influences into their whiplash pop-punk, from Green Day and Ash to the Pixies-who they homage with a suitably cloud-cast ‘Holiday’. In amidst the usual between song ramblings, Big-un paid fitting tribute to Dave, acknowledging that he was a prolific gig-goer that often put other muso's to shame. This however did not dampen their rip-roaring set which showcased their new album and also showed their adeptness at delivering a winning set.

Trent Vale Poet again entertained the gathered crowd between sets, providing a dose of ramshackle witticisms, including a dramatic monologue which took on the BNP. As the last band of the evening, The Black Apples certainly delivered the goods, with a solid set of their best songs they really got the audience going. Continuing the celebratory theme of the evening, they provided us with note perfect songs such as ‘Don’t give a damn’ and ‘Buy me a ticket’. Not only would this evening’s performances have been a great gig as a stand alone event, but the atmosphere poignantly paid tribute to Dave Barlow and his memory.


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Inspire Festival - @ Stoke Plaza, Hanley 28th August 2009

Review and Photo by Steve Harvey

On a day when the weather could not quite make up its mind, I likewise, was finding it difficult to muster up the energy and enthusiasm to get myself off the settee, and walk down to the skate park. The aftermath of hurricane Bill was upon us, and it was desperate to call a halt to the fun planned for the day. However I did manage to get out of my cosy chair, and I was mighty glad I did. The future of Stoke scene is alive and kicking in these young bands with bags of confidence and enthusiasm to perform.

The first band on the stage was a five-piece rock band called The Only Alternatives. They had drawn the short straw, and had the unenviable task of performing first. This with the heavens suddenly opening up seemed like a recipe for disaster. This was never going to ruin the day for the young lads, who to their credit, continued as normal. The crowds were soon shuffling their way out of the safety of the many large tents, and down to the front of the stage, to hear them perform. Heavy bass lines were the order of the day, and although the band is obviously young in age and experience, it did not deter the front man in giving it his best shot. What the lyrics lacked in maturity, they certainly made up for with pure enthusiasm. I am sure the band will continue to grow and improve, and on the back of this chance of playing a festival and good sizeable crowd, they will tighten up the overall sound they deliver to their audience in the future I feel.

Jo EE T was the next act on the stage. His experience of playing the local scene shone like the sun that had momentarily emerged from the clouds, and he soon had the audience dancing and clapping along. Live electronics is possibly one of the hardest genres to fill a stage with, but Jo EE T has the charm and charisma to conquer the hardest of crowds on the live scene, and today’s performance was flawless in its overall delivery. The set included a cover version of 'Computer Love' alongside some of his older and more familiar back catalogue of house and acid tracks.

Third on stage was Ryan Whitmore, with an acoustic set that matched up to any artist that I have seen locally. Although the crowd was not as enthusiastic as they had been to with previous acts, it did not make a scrap of difference to his set, and he did win them over in the end. Some well-written lyrics that seemed well beyond his years were delivered with outstanding confidence to his acoustic guitar.

Last, but not least, was Grass Stain. A classic three piece punk band, that were trying there very hardest to play the part of rock star, as best they could, given the information they had received from watching Nirvana videos on MTV. Perhaps this is a little harsh, but there were a lot of Nirvana based riffs in their songs. This small criticism of their music became even more evident the longer they played their set.

Being that I am, a huge Nirvana fan, this would have most definitely, clouded my judgement of a band with a lot of potential for the future. This said, they were very confident in what they did, and they did bring along a sizeable and appreciative audience with them. The lead singer looked and sounded the part, and the lyrics were catchy and grungy. I am sure with time to mature; they will blossom into something very special. They were most definitely the better of the two rock bands on the day, but this was mainly down to the fact they played confidently and in tune throughout. The lead singer, I felt, was sometimes singing out of his range slightly, and this led to some momentary off key moments, but overall, he delivered the goods.

The winner was later announced as Ryan Whitmore, with various reactions from the large crowd. On the whole, I thought it was a good decision by the judges, given the differences in styles and performances, and difficulty in judging them fairly and without bias to a certain style or genre. It was not one I completely agreed with, but I am biased towards electronic music for obvious reasons.

Ryan’s prize is a complete deal, that would make any up and coming musician extremely happy. This included shooting a video, a four-track EP release on both digital download and CD. A professional photo shoot and to top it all, being signed to a brand new record label.

It was a fantastic day for the local music scene, and most of all the young people of Stoke-on-Trent.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Wolfshit / Hanging Iscariot / Hudson @ The Sugarmill Hanley 21st August 2009

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Simon Bamford

The Sugarmill can be a dull, dark and dismal venue but tonight was lit up by three very contrasting acts. The first band to grace the stage to an average sized crowd were a relatively unknown band called Wolfshit. With all four members arriving on stage in wolf masks it was possibly the most unusual sight I have ever experienced at a gig. They soon drew the crowd down from the roof and straight to the front of the stage. Accompanied by only an electric drum kit and a laptop, Wolfshit kicked straight into their set with a song called ‘Sloppy shit.’ This song quickly demonstrated the bands intentions of putting on a memorable performance for the increasingly growing crowd. Their next two songs ‘Brain drain’ and ‘Lazertrash’ gave a clear indication of their electronic/dance/trip hop genre style. The vocals from the two front men were mainly heavy and powerful but both showed a melodic and tidy side to their performance.

Their most accomplished song of the night was ‘Porno Stop’. Not only did it further highlight the tribal vocals from this band, but was matched by the explosive drumming and the tight funk blasts from Sam O’Neil’s laptop. This band is like no other that I have ever seen and create a unique and heavy sound. Not only did the masks and costumes worn by the band members make it a great visual performance, but the energy and movement of the front men was also a joy to watch. Finishing the night with the final song ‘We are Wolfshit,’ this also happened to be the final line of the song. As if this crowd really needed reminding of whom this band were.

Next on stage were Screamo/Punk band Hanging Iscariot. With the Sugarmill holding a large crowd at this point, the band gave an outstanding show. Starting their performance with ‘Deus Ex Machina,’ the band soon got the crowd reaction they wanted and their loyal fanbase went wild. Their next track titled ‘September 28th’ expressed the power of lead singer Face’s vocals and was matched by the pitch perfect backing vocals of Davey and Mickey. ‘If this is Darwinism’ was a clear crowd favourite and sparked scenes of chaos in the middle of the floor much to the delight of the band, as well as members of their large audience screaming back the lyrics and clapping along to the instrumental solos. Face showed a range of heart warming melodies combined with gut wrenching screams to add to the versatile guitar riffs from Davey and Mickey, not too forget the exhilarating symbol crashing of Spam on the drums. The band interacted with the audience throughout the set and this paid off as it drew even more people to the stage. The final song of the night was their most well known song ‘A tequila to kill her.’ The backing vocals in this song played a vital role in creating a dynamic sound and showed this bands versatility. An impressive performance which captured the audience’s attention throughout.

Soon after, it was Hudson who arrived on stage for their farewell gig. They were greeted to rapturous applause and cheers. After thanking the large crowd for their presence they got straight into proceedings with their first song ‘Keep running.’ This caused mayhem in the crowd and the band grew in confidence because of this. Next track ‘On the words of others’ showed the quality guitar riffs Damo and Jack are capable of. What they lack in age they certainly make up for in stage presence and put on an unforgettable visual performance. This was backed by the powerful bass playing of front man Rick and the frantic drumming of Tim.

Hudsons last ever show was fuelled with energy and enthusiasm and they created a performance that will never be forgotten. ‘Reverie’ illustrated the passion of lead singer and bassist Rick and he belted out spot-on vocals throughout. As the set went on the crowd became wilder, and Hudson just found more energy. This was reflected in Damos onslaught of guitar riffs. The final song of the night, and the last ever song Hudson will perform live was ‘212, We’ll never know.’ This song lead to unforgettable scenes, every member of this large audience going wild and even lead to a stage invasion by a section of Hudson – lovers. As the song came to an end there was mixed emotions all around. Hugging, crying, clapping, cheering, no matter what any member of the crowd did at that moment they were all there too give Hudson the send off they deserved. An unforgettable night in which the band were superb. Hudson will be deeply missed by local music lovers and should be remembered for their passion and dedication. I feel privileged to have been able to witness the last ever Hudson show, and in my opinion, they will go down as one of the greatest bands to grace the Stoke music scene.

Hanging Iscariot

Friday, 21 August 2009

The Vanguards / Bonfires / Little Comets @ The Sugarmill 19th August

Review by Chloe West

Photo's by Simon Bamford

Riding on a wave of much recent success, The Vanguards, barely formed for a year, are already conquering national spheres. Fresh from an Xfm radio session on Sunday, the local lads took the first slot with great anticipation. The initial element most notable about this band is how effortlessly the vocals shift between each member, beautifully amplifying their sound. This is best seen through the performance of ‘You Get It Off Me’ much reminiscent of the Magic Number’s style. The Vanguard’s use their set to demonstrate their ability to do the arty, the dancy, the poppy, but then also slow raw bassy funk, even dabbling in a bluesy feel on one number. Mid set, their new single ‘Regress’ is introduced (recently chosen by listeners as record of the week on the Radio 2 Radcliffe and Maconie Show) and epitomises that ‘feel good’ summer sound. With so much buzz surrounding the track and the band themselves, lets hope they take their own lyrics literally as they grapple with the manic music biz. (We will never surrender/ we will only get higher/ as we walk into the fire). ‘Drop The Weapon’ soon beckoned down any roof top goers enjoying a withdrawing sunny evening.

Cheddleton based Bonfires began their set with this forceful Britpop type number, which along with ‘Streets Tell Stories’ show a present slant on the nineties era Cast, Ocean Colour Scene and the usual players from the last decade could all be name dropped here as elements these possess. The trio take a calm and collected stance on stage, holding their positions until singer Stuart tries to liven up his onlookers. Bonfires maybe less experienced than their predecessor, but have the potential to tweak their genre and expand their horizons.

With impromptu gigs nationwide, from Sheffield trams to Salford lecture halls, the 'Mill may have seemed a rather mundane venue for Little Comets. The four hail from the 'other' Newcastle, and despite only visiting the Potteries realm a few months back, a keen young following assembled towards the stage for take two. To describe the Comet’s style takes several ingredients; few dollops of Mystery Jets and Vampire Weekend pop, drizzle of clinky clanky, twingy twangy guitar, sprinkle of lazy summer vibe and there you have it. Front man Robert’s yelping vocals echo one Jack Penate, and this band – like support Vanguards – gain strength through the vocal interaction of all members. Particular highlights of their set include the jaunty ‘Adultery’, which is also their new single and almost a synopsis of their style. ‘One Night In October’ also deserves a mention, a seriously catchy number, with a hook certain to rattle around the brain for days. Ending on a punkier tune, Little Comets withdraw to cheery applause, and a few more Stokian fans for their collection.

The Vanguards
Little Comets

Summer Jam @ Leek Hockey Club 15th August

Review and photographs by Simon Bamford

Last Saturday saw another addition to this seasons festivals rosta in the form of the first Summer Jam. It seems with more and more people turning their back on overpriced corporate events, the demand for this type of home made alternatives is on the increase. With a modest £3 entrance fee, that was given to local charities, anyone who attended must have netted the deal of the week. Organised by a dedicated team of friends that included a sheep, the event attracted around 2000 people. Revellers enjoyed an afternoon of quality live music, DJ sets, fairground attractions, craft stalls and believe it or not, sunshine. The Vangaurds, Jupiters Heroes and The Lies were amongst the acts to grace the main stage. There were acoustic sets from Gaz Abbot, Operation Error and Kayleigh Knight. Meanwhile the bar tent partied away to the soundtrack of sets by Audiomill, Twitch, Crunch and Dust and The Duke. Elsewhere in the field a man in a cow suit was selling raffle tickets and believe it or not, I swear I saw a Fairy by the hedge selling CDs.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Bleached WAil / Creepjoint @ The Sugarmill 15th August 2009

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Simon Bamford

Arriving at the Sugarmill, I was full of excitement to see Bleached Wail headline after recently seeing them perform so well at the Stoke Sounds festival. The news that 'The Gospel according To John' had pulled out of tonights line up disappointed many members of this already large crowd but support band Creepjoint did not disappoint.

Starting with ‘Nos’, this song demonstrated the bands instrumental strengths and in particular those of guitarist Steve. Throughout 'Dumbshow' it was clear too see their influences such Queen of the Stone Age and Radiohead. Their songs are powerful which is really impressive considering there are only 3 band members. The song ‘Harbinger’ was a slower song which demonstrated lead singer Steve’s excellent range in pitch and tempo and his smooth guitar solos. The next couple of songs played really got a small section of the crowd going who were urged on by Steve. The superb versitility of this band is demonstrated when bassist Matt sang two of the songs and did a great job of it. A cover of the well known ‘My Sharona’ went down really well in the crowd, and in particular showed the quality of drummer Tom with great visual performance s from Matt and Steve. Finishing the night with ‘Violencer,’ Creepjoint impressed this large crowd and surprised a few people. They show variety in every song they play and not only look great on stage, but sound it as well. Definitely worth a watch in the future.

After a long wait (35 minutes!), Bleached Wail arrived on stage to a near sell out crowd to rapturous applause and cheers. There’s only one word to describe this 3 piece from Alsager, sublime! Without saying a word they kicked straight into the set with ‘Rumours.’ It was with their second song ‘Mrs Magic’ that the crowd really reacted. Every member of the crowd enjoyed this song and it is clear that Bleached Wail have a large and loyal following shown by most of the crowd joining in with each song.

Well known track ‘Bounty Hunter’ was superb and showed Gus’s unique and melodic vocals, not to mention demonstrating his furious guitaring. Their next song, ‘He’ll do anything’ was a particular crowd pleaser and set every member of the audience and this boosted the confidence of Bleached Wail even more. Bassist Floody showed why he is one of the most exciting prospects in local music at the moment. He boasts a great deal of confidence up on that stage and puts on a great show as well as powerful bass playing to go with it. This was all frantically matched by Nick on drums who played a high tempo set. ‘Get Rowdy’ was fast and powerful and Gus demanded that the crowd themselves got rowdy. Their next two tracks ‘This Man’s Life’ and ‘Prodigy’ showed their ska - style influence and the vigorous instrumental quality of Gus, Floody and Nick.

Their most well known track ‘Stolen Thunder’ was their tightest performance of the night. It was clear too see how Bleached Wail have a unique sound and are not trying to follow the Arctic Monkeys, Oasis cliché, but choosing to carve their own sound. The song that got the biggest crowd reaction of the night was ‘Hot on his heels.’ With a resonating chorus, every member of the elevated audience screaming back the lyrics to Gus.

Having left the stage and after chants of ‘We want more’ and ‘Zoo Town,’ the band ran back on stage to perform again. ‘Ten Man Grin’ was followed by the final song of the night, the much loved ‘Zoo Town.’ This song was performed with incredible passion and every member of the crowd dived towards the stage when Gus and Floody played solos on the bass boxes. At the end of the performance Bleached Wail walked off to thunderous applause and whistles. A truly breathtaking performance from a band that should go far. Easy too see why they are rated so highly by Radio 1 DJ’s. The boys from Bleached Wail played a high quality set with real passion and interacted with the audience superbly. With an already large fanbase which is going to only get bigger, Bleached Wail are certainly one of the hottest bands in Stoke on Trent at this moment.

Bleached Wail

Monday, 3 August 2009

Stoke Sounds Festival 2009, let there be Rain

We may not have had sun shine but we definately rocked.

Many Many Thanks to all who
discovered new music,
painted faces,
twiddled knobs,
slid faders,
held brollies,
shared kit,
and didn't mind the rain,
on Saturday,
It really wouldn't have been the same without you

Extra Special Thanks to Steve Clarke, Steve Finn, Simi, Alex, Jeff, Dan, Matt and Dave


Charl and the Team

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Stoke Sounds Festival 2009 @ Burslem Park 1st August 2009

To celebrate our wonderful music scene, Stoke Sounds is hosting it's annual festival on August 1st in Burslem Park.
Gates open at 12 noon and will close at 10pm, and is free to enter.
Featuring artists ranging from Hang Drum performances, singer-songwriters, Gypsy Jazz, and many other local favourites.
If this wasn't enough, there'll be family orientated entertainment, street performers, fairground rides BMX and Graffiti workshops and lots more.

Full Line Up

'Out of the box Stage' running from 1.00pm - 5.30pm
Michael Colley
Jonathon Tarplee
Daniel J Nixon
Giro Junkie
Hayley Strangelove

'Bitjam Stage' running from 5.45pm - 9.45 pm
Flesh Eating Foundation
What would the Captain do?
Bitjam jamming session

'Other Stage' running 1.30pm - 5.45pm
The Rittz (acoustic set)
Chris Morallee
Sumo Kings
Sgt Wolfbanger
Mistaken for Strangers
Skinny Pigs

'Wrongpop stage' running 6.00pm - 9.30pm
M.S. Thomason
Andy Robbins
Tribal Brides of the Amazon

'Main Stage' running 1.00pm - 9.45pm
Friends of Ken
Sold Out Story
The Decision
Tequila Lips
The Vanguards
Heart of the Sun
This machine is Off
The Riots
Bleached Wail
The Fears
Come along on the day, support your local music scene and don't forget your wellies

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Hawkwind @ Skyfest 12 July 2009

Review by John West

Photo by Simon Bamford

It’s a pleasant summer evening on arrival at Biddulph Grange Country park to see headline band the legendary Hawkwind celebrating some 40 years playing their own brand of cosmic space rock here at Skyfest. The band have survived many line up changes, personal tragedies and an ever changing music scene, however leader and guitarist Dave Brock has taken his band through all of this, developing and pushing the Hawk sound through many musical genres yet pioneering a sound and visual presentation which many bands site as an influence namely the Sex Pistols, Queens of the Stone Age and dance acts such as the Prodigy and the Chemical Bros.

The event has been organised by Gemma and Chris Connelly of Sky Studios based in Biddulph. It’s a well organised affair very chilled out and family orientated. The crowd although varied in age and displaying their particular interest in alternative culture be they hippies, bikers ,ravers or the interested locals it’s a nice environment to be in very much different to my experience the previous day witnessing Oasis at Wembley. This crowd are here to see Hawkwind and listen, not throw beer etc into the crowd it’s a more civilised affair.

First off were the winners of the Skyfest battle of the bands the energetic and youthful All about Eden who gave a promising performance. Next were Crave who had travelled from Northern Ireland and were well received with their particular brand of Lizzyesque rock urging the crowd to sing along and get moving. Finally Essex metal band Forevernever pulled a sizeable crowd with there nod to a Slipknot vibe going down extremely well.

As Hawkwind arrived on stage they were joined by two dancers appearing like some characters out of a greek tragedy with their white masques of death and sythes swaying on stilts to the sound of these musical warriors on the edge of time. The band were thoroughly enjoying themselves and certainly put to shame a lot of today’s bands who seem more concerned with image and hairstyles than the actual music. With Hawkwind it is very different, as the music is the important factor which is enhanced by a dazzling lightshow and projections depicting weird sci-fi landscapes, liquid projections and Manga art.

They are truly on form as they groove out fan favourites “Orgone accumulator” “Assault and battery” the anti war song “Who’s gonna win the war” and the eastern tinged “Hasan I Shaba” . The effective use of guitar and synthesizer is paramount and with a pulsating rhythm section and effective use of a theremin it’s not difficult for the audience to drift away and soak it all up discovering another musical world. Hawkwind are not rooted to hippy nostalgia they have evolved yet remain adrift from the mainstream music scene continuing their own journey of being musical pioneers and without knowing setting the trend for others to tap into and take to a wider audience. Long may they continue bringing their own brand of cosmic space age rock grooves and if you like you can get on board their spaceship. As a fitting finale they asked the organisers to get up on stage and thanked them, a very nice touch to the end of the evening. In the meantime I’m off to find a stone circle and some ley lines.