Sunday, 25 January 2009

Heart of the Sun @ Plume of Feathers, Barlaston January 23rd 2009

Review by Danny Hill

Photos by Darren Washington

Imagine if The Cure had instilled gravelly-voiced singer Liam Gallagher as their lead singer as opposed to the androgynous Robert Smith, then the mental picture you’re picturing should sound something like new Stoke band Heart of the Sun. The lads - all teenagers - are James on vocals and guitar, Dave on lead guitar duties with Arryon on bass and Jake on the drums. Since forming only a month ago, the band have already captured the attention of fellow Stokesounder Charlotte Lunt, who immediately insisted on promoting the band and inviting myself and super-snapper Darren along to witness what would only be the band’s second gig. Charlotte has grand designs for the group, with gigs scheduled all over the place in the coming months, and after listening to Heart of the Sun for a little while, it’s not hard to understand why.

The Plume of Feathers is a pub that’s just had its facelift in terms of interior design, but as I’d recommend it to anyone that fancies a nice quiet pint or glass of wine, I wouldn’t suggest it as a live music venue in a similar vein to other pubs that cater for live music, like Oggys or the Jug, for example... Acoustic nights in front of friends, yes, but as for live bands… The ambience just seems somewhat incongruous. Heart of the Sun, however, are all Barlaston lads, and the choice to pick a venue close to home for some much-needed performing experience seemed a sensible one.

So, as for my earlier comparisons to The Cure - a compliment to the lads, I’m sure - the association doesn’t just end with the boys’ already finely-honed musical harmony, but aesthetically as well. Lyricist and vocalist James, a wild mane of blonde hair, drenched in black clothes and resplendent in eyeliner, looks every inch the rock-star-in-waiting. Bass guitarist Arryon is the wisecracking sidekick between songs, raising eyebrows and huffing and puffing theatrically at the madness of it all. Musically, the drummer and the bassist laid some pretty solid foundations for some neat solo-guitar work from Dave, which reminded me ever-so-slightly of The Edge on U2‘s early stuff.

Heart of the Sun combined their own material with covers throughout their two sets: Movie Scene is the song that embodies their musical line of attack, with some tight riffery and inspiring solo work and James’ soaring vocals. Into the Blue is another notable tune, with some impressive slide work. There are times during their performance that the lads “rock out” and carry on instrumentally for a good few minutes. It was moments like that on Friday night that reminded me of erstwhile local band CODA. The lads executed this instrumental philosophy with their song Embrace This Rock ‘n’ Roll, perhaps my favourite of the evening. Stop and Start - on its delivery - earned its place amongst among their best of the evening. There were far too many influences coming over subliminally to put my finger on one particular genre; with elements of bluegrass, folk and space rock and just “good ol’ fashioned rock ’n’ roll,” I think it’s fair to say Heart of the Sun have cultivated a sound that’s distinctively their own.

Between the two sets local musician Mark Cocker displayed some excellent compositions on his acoustic guitar. Truly remarkable. His covers of Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over and the legendary Nights in White Satin from The Moody Blues were practically flawless. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain earned great cheers. He even managed to throw in one of his own arrangements too - a political message regarding Hong Kong going back to China; the song was simply entitled Red Sun. Of all the copious amounts of decent singer/acoustic-guitarists that appear up and down the pub circuit with the resurgence of acoustic nights over the past few years, Mark was certainly one of the better ones I’ve held witness to.

Heart of the Sun returned to their second set with an abundance of covers, and a broken guitar. It was because of this the lads were unable to perform most of the material they had wanted. James seized the opportunity to apologise at every opportunity, but the crowd were than entertained nonetheless, dancing and spinning across the pub’s floor to the tunes. The lads version of The Kings Of Leon’s Be Somebody was impressive, as well as The Coral’s Thinkin’ Of You. Stand By Me - more Lennon-esque than Ben E King- earned great applause. On the strength of their tunes and intrinsic entertaining style it shouldn’t take these lads too long to build up a large following. Great stuff

Heart of the Sun

Friday, 16 January 2009

Oz - Mosis: Art by Steve Dean @ Art Waves, Nile Street, Burslem. From Friday 23rd January.

Steve Dean’s Exhibition 23-1-09 7pm

A last chance to see the vibrancy of colour created by ArtWaves’ very own Steve Dean - rock journalist, co-founder and co-creator of Stoke Sounds.

Traveling the Southern hemisphere and beyond, the treading has never been bolder! Traversing continents in a never-ending quest of new explorations and inspirations.

E’s goin’ to Australia mate!

Come and say bon voyage.

ArtWaves, Nile St, Burslem, S-O-T, ST6 2BH (on the corner of Adelaide Street)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Glebe Farewell Party 3rd January 2009

Article by Charlotte Lunt

Seeing such a diverse audience at the Glebe for it’s last night shows this pub's importance as a venue that is welcoming, broad ranging, and that it holds a very distinct place amongst the city's music scene. Whilst it may well not be the largest or the most glitzy venue, it is certainly a place where live music is appreciated and flourishes, with no false pretences.

Simi and Jo have been at the helm of the Glebe for 2 and a half years and have prided themselves on providing a venue rather than simply a pub which puts a few bands on. With 20 years experience in the music business, Simi saw the Glebe as an opportunity to “put something back”. “We didn’t want to be like other venues that appear up their own asses, we wanted to help bands learn and we try to be helpful. We’ve been able to teach young bands about equipment and it’s been great when they’ve played again and sounded even better. We want to support small bands as well as those who are making it big. We also want to thank everyone who has supported us in any way”

This lack of ego has meant that The Glebe has given a home to musicians and promoters who are proud not be in the mainstream, and likewise for the audiences that it attracts. With such a diverse and thriving music scene in the city The Glebe has been somewhere that supports bands and gives them opportunities that are not oiled by ticket sales. This was clearly shown by the range and sheer number of bands who played tonight ranging from acoustic singer songwriters, through indie, grunge, and electronica to punk.

Far from being in a musical back water, The Glebe has become the music scene’s ‘local’ without becoming typecast by genre. This was emphasized by the number of people who came through the doors during this 9 hour celebration, and the affection with which they spoke of the venue.

There has been much speculation about the reasons why the Glebe is closing, and even on it’s last night the reasons are little clearer, perhaps it is the natural progression as some scenes move on, or that people are not willing to chance a night out at a gig when they could go to a club, or for any one of the other theories that have abounded. To a degree, the reasons are irrelevant when there is such a passionate support for all that Simi and Jo have created and given the City in this very special venue. I’m certain that wherever they chose to re-incarnate, the Glebe spirit will continue, possibly with even more vigour.

Bands and singer/songwriters performing were:

Hold the Fort
Sold out Story
Opting for Oblivion
Scott Fowler
The Light
Grass Stain
Friendly Campaign
Giro Junkie
Green Reaper
The Shylos

In Simi’s words...

“Rest in Peace The Glebe…..Long live The Glebe…”


Good night”

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sunday, 4 January 2009

The Stoke Sounds Guide to Gigging on a Budget!

Article by Lyndsey Oliver

With the New Year comes new problems. All your favourite bands will be turning in to lend their hands to the wonderful world of touring, but you trot along to your local bank, enter your pin number, and what’s that on screen? Insufficient funds. Looks like you’ll be missing that big night out at the local discotheque. All your friends have already arranged the night, and most of them have bought their tickets in advance, so how can you avoid having to miss out? Luckily here at Stoke Sounds we’ve thought about it long and hard and come up with an (almost) surefire way for you to enjoy that big night out but without pockets full of cash.

STEP 1: PREPARE. Bands don’t suddenly appear at a venue! They tend to announce a date, sell tickets, and then play. The key is to watch out for when a band are visiting your local venue so that you can sort out a plan early.

STEP 2: GET A JOB. You could always try for bar work at an establishment that tends to host a ton of gigs. They’ll need more staff on busy gig nights and an extra pair of hands could be welcomed. Not only could you get to watch all of your favourite gigs, but you’ll also get paid – result!

STEP 3: VOLUNTEER. Not everywhere needs extra staff, and you might not even be old enough to work on a bar, so you need another plan. Head on over to the bands Myspace page and keep your eyes out for bulletins asking for Street Team members. Once signed up you’re usually emailed or posted some stickers and posters to put up in the local area. On the night you’ll be required to march around the venue asking for email addresses or could even be asked to lend a hand on the merch store. You will sometimes be rewarded with a place on the guest list, and all your hard work will be rewarded.

STEP 4: BLAG. Put simply, the bigger the band the harder it will be. You could try hanging around town during the day in the hope to catch them checking out the area. You could locate their tour bus and hang around hoping to ask them directly for a free ticket. No matter what remember to stroke their egos, and not to sound too desperate. You could however try to be as inventive as possible, sneaking into a venue, posing as a crewmember, bargaining with door staff, whatever you feel comfortable with. Blagging isn’t for everyone though; you’ll need to be confident and able to hold your nerve.

STEP 5: SURF. Get yourself over to their official website and sign up for the newsletters. Bands like to reward fans with intimate gigs from time to time and you’ll simply have to pay to get there. Or with current broadband speeds getting higher, streaming is getting easier too; so many bands will showcase a live gig for free on sites such as Myspace, YouTube and their own personal websites.

STEP 6: GET LUCKY. The venue’s website, local radio stations, local newspapers, all run promotions from time to time and the bigger the band the more likely the chances of a competition. Try to judge which publications will be the most likely to champion the music that you are into and pay attention to them. Save their email addresses, add their numbers to your phone book and keep your eager eyes open.

STEP 7: BUDGET. However the only guaranteed way to get into your favourite gigs is to buy tickets. Try to budget and keep some money aside every month to put towards them. Remember that festival tickets tend to go on sale between February and April so you’ll need to budget throughout the whole year. If you’re stuck not being able to go to a lot of smaller gigs then festivals provide an excellent opportunity to see hundreds of your favourite bands over a couple of days, and works out at pretty good value too.

With mega tips like these trying to beat your recession blues, you’re guaranteed (almost) to have much more of a musical year.