Sunday, 31 May 2009

My Vote of Confidence / Operation Error / The Control / Bad Sandwich @ The Underground, Hanley May 29th 2009

Review by Dave Harrison

Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

Despite it being a wonderfully warm night outside in Hanley, people were still queuing up in their droves for tonight’s eclectic mixture of local and semi-local acts. Inside, the atmosphere was hot and sweaty, perfect for a close and intense gig for sure.

The first band to appear on tonight’s packed stage were My Vote of Confidence, a local band that has existed in various guises over the past couple of years, but finally settled on a line up and started to gig. Their sound immediately recalled the slower, chunkier sounds of Metallica circa the Black album along with some fantastic double guitar riffing from guitarists Stefan Spain and David Shingler that was very reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s trademark guitar duelling sound. As the set progressed, other influences also became apparent, from the pop punk aesthetics often associated with American teens to an almost Glam-stomp sound, exhibited well in their final song that I didn’t catch the name of, but reminded me very much of Sweet for some reason. Despite a slightly subdued audience reaction, My Vote of Confidence put on a tight, solidly played set of sometimes lengthy but always thoughtfully structured songs that gave a good feel of their overall sound and influences, and paved the way for the rest of evening well.

The next band tonight were Operation Error, a group that claims to have created a new genre, that of ‘progressive epic’. Now, normally when bands claim this sort of thing I immediately write it off as a load of rubbish, but in Operation Error’s case, I think they might actually be onto something. Second song ‘I am David’ showcased their massive snowballing Rock sound fantastically, with vocalist Steve bellowing ‘I am David, you’re my Goliath’ like the angry metaphorical child of Bruce Dickinson and Pavarotti over the most monumentally heavy riff this side of Mötorhead. That’s not to say their sound is pure needless brutality though: - The structure of the songs means that there is an almost emotional quality to the proceedings, ranging from a soulful melancholy before suddenly switching via an unforeseen tempo or rhythm change into a furious anger. If this all sounds a bit pretentious, then that’s because it’s difficult to pin down or describe Operation Error’s sound without somehow demeaning it. Their on stage presence was understated but intense, each member clearly into the music and concentrating hard to give it the gravitas it needs to compete with the frankly stunning vocals on show. This was all well appreciated by the audience who lapped up the set. Excellent stuff.

Despite all the hype that has surrounded The Control over the past year or so, tonight was the first time that I had seen them live and, without wanting to sound too negative, I was left cold by the bands set. Clearly though, my opinion was totally at odds with a good chunk of the audience who immediately started to cause a ruckus, jumping around and generally having a good time. The band themselves were also full of energy, pogoing about the stage with great urgency, lead vocalist Joseph Hulme especially pulling out some fantastic dance moves amidst the screaming and general chaos. The bands sound reminded me of a cross between the Smiths on steroids and ¡Forward Russia!, made especially potent due to a paced and energetic rhythm section that supported Rich Bratt’s fantastic Marr-esque guitar work superbly to create a whirlwind within the audience. Their set was fairly tight, but there were lengthy gaps between songs where nothing much seemed to happen, which in my opinion broke the flow of their well written and clever songs. The Control clearly know what they’re doing and how to get a good crowd reaction, but somehow it felt like tonight was a gig for the converted- the fans who had come to see The Control had a great time whereas the uninitiated looked on slightly confused for the most part.

The headline act of the night came from Bad Sandwich, a Brighton based band but with ties to Stoke-on-Trent through vocalist and occasional guitarist Quirky Brown (With which I’m going to take a wild guess and presume isn’t his real name). Their sound is described on their Myspace page as hypersexadelicdirtyfunkarockindiscocircus, I think it’s safe to say that I agree, as I can’t really find any other way to express the collision of a million influences into one act. That’s not to say they’re a messy band though, far from it in fact- Held up by the stunning rhythm section of Mat ‘Manyhands’ on drums and the funkadelic slap bass shenanigans of Daddy Cool (Slap Bass!), Bad sandwich create a Rock/ Rap hybrid perhaps reminiscent of early Red Hot Chili Peppers crossed with the 80’s style of Rap made popular by acts like Run DMC. More importantly though, Bad Sandwich were fun. A lot of Fun. Quirky Brown didn’t stop moving about the stage for the entire set, arms flailing constantly and feet moving as if he were standing on hot coals, clearly having more fun in their 45 minute set than most people have in their entire lives. Their energy and wild joy became infectious- by halfway through the set, the audience were cheering and dancing around and having a great time. A fantastic end to a marvellously sweaty and energetic Friday night.


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