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.

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