Sunday, 14 June 2009

Guerrilla Train / My Sergeant Mask / Skinny Pigs @ The Sugarmill, Hanley 12th June 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photos by Matt Attwood

Arriving a little later than hoped at tonight’s gig, I was greeted by the dark rock and tight sounds of Guerrilla Train. Coinciding with this weekends Download festival it could be said that they are currently more of a tribute bands to a genre, than a totally original band. Citing their influences as Korn, Muse, Rage against the machine and Biffy Clyro, the lads are setting their sites high, but this is no bad thing. Delivering their songs in a solid fashion, and giving the ‘bird’ to prying photographer’s lens, they definitely have the foundations of rock credentials. Dedicating one song to “Wally” they fed off the energy that was reflected back at them as vocalist Oliver continued to bait him for the duration of the song.

Amongst the songs that I caught was a brave and ballsy cover of ‘Killing in the name’ which they carried off surprisingly well, much to the appreciation of the audience, who readily joined in.

Speaking to the lads after their set they are full of exuberance for their work, and seemed thrilled at what was their first outing as a 5 piece and their first gig at The Mill. Hopefully the forthcoming summer holidays will provide time for Guerrilla Train to get to grips with writing more of their own material, and provide more opportunities for them to perform. They are definitely on to something, and as long as they take Wally with them I think they’ll be ok.

Taking to a very quiet stage were My Sergeant Mask, who after a quick tune up launched into their set. Coaxing the crowd to move forward, their second song was their award winning number ‘Stereo type’ which got people dancing and really getting into the swing of things. Being the epitome of cool front-woman Katie Crnokrak gave an unfaltering performance which carried the band, before bassist Shaun stepped in to share some of the limelight. From beneath a mop of impeccably groomed hair Matt Davies delivered tight riffs, challenging the racing drums of Ash Dale.

‘Red lines’ a new song gave Katie a wonderful opportunity to showcase the strength and versatility of her voice. Previous comparisons to Debbie Harry I feel don’t do Katie justice, at times she is reminiscent of Amy Lee (Evanescence) with the bitterness of Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Jagged little pill’. The sheer effort that was being put into their set resulted in a request to borrow a drum stick after Ash inadvertently broke one, but he continued unperturbed Following this with familiar song ‘Dancing in the rain’ pairing racing drums and clipped vocal delivery, I can’t help but see a strong New Wave influence in My Sergeant Mask’s music.

The last song of the set was ‘Taking Control’ another fast paced track, where unfortunately some of the lyrics were lost on the sheer ferocity of the number. It was clear tonight that the Stage belonged to Katie, and whilst they may not have been able to prise people from the edges of the venue’s sticky floor, they certainly put on a good show.

As punters began descending from the roof terrace into the darkness of the auditorium, chants of “Skinny Pigs” broke out as the headliners walked on to the stage. They nonchalantly broke into opening number ‘You bring out the best in me’. With an energetic performance from beer drinking frontman Craig Paterson. It was fairly clear that this band fit comfortably in the lad-rock’ genre. Offering a slightly gritty edge to a menu of Kasabian and Oasis influenced numbers, the radio friendly song ‘I said, he said’ really stood out as a crowd pleaser. Skinny pigs couldn’t be defined as genre shattering, but they are definitely good at what they do, exemplified by their song ‘Drinkin up’ with a strong Stoke drawl over riotous guitars.

Having said this ‘A day out’ a heavily distorted number driven by Wez on drums changed the atmosphere considerably. From my vantage point it felt like the band should’ve been stepping through swathes of dry ice in front of 1000’s of excited fans rather than in Hanley on a Friday. (The presence of additional security at tonight’s gig may well reveal the fact that others think this too).

Sadly it was only during the last number that the band got the response they’d been after from the audience, bathing in cheers as they all (bar Wez who held the drum fort) stood on the bass boxes. If Skinny pigs can take up the gauntlet and move away from the ‘Stoke rock ‘ sound that so many before them have succumbed to then they could well go on to great things.

Guerrilla Train
My Sergeant Mask
Skinny Pigs

Matt Attwood Photography

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