Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Piccadilly Circus @ The Unicorn, Hanley 4th July 2009

Article by Matt Taylor

This new City centre event takes place in Piccadilly, Hanley, on Saturday 4th July, and will feature a programme of stage entertainment including eight bands, acoustic acts, theatre groups, high school performances, and a salsa lesson for everyone who comes to watch!

The agenda will highlight some of Stoke-on-Trent’s up-and-coming talent from one extreme to another; from some of the area’s hottest bands playing their own material, to youngsters taking the stage for the very first time.

And back down on the ground there will be plenty going on too, with Stoke’s Top Talent contestant close-up magician Ben Cardall baffling his victims, while visitors can quench their thirsts at the real ale beer festival tent, including beers from Staffordshire and the rest of the UK.

This is the first time this event has taken place, but organisers hope that its success will repeated year after year. Matt Taylor, who is also licensee of the Unicorn, Hanley, coordinated the event. He said:

“It’s taken a lot of time and planning to get to where we are now. It’s hard to believe that it’s actually going to happen on Saturday."

“I’d really like to thank all the people who have helped with the event: Stoke Sounds for their part in organising bands, Sarah Smith for contacting all of the theatre groups, and the council for closing the road and allowing us to go ahead with it."

“We have had some setbacks and a couple of bands have dropped out, but that’s the way it goes."

“All the signs are that we’re going to have a cracking day, and if we’re lucky the weather will be with us too. I urge anyone who has only just heard about it to come along and have a look, after all, it’s free!”

Piccadilly Circus will take placed on 4th July, in Piccadilly, Hanley, this Saturday, between 12pm to 10pm and the itinerary is as follows:

12.00 Stoke youth Musical Theatre Company

12.30 Alsager High School
12.50 Salsa in the Street
13.15 Liberty Theatre Company
13.40 Clough Hall High School
14.00 Gareth Powell (acoustic guitar)
14.35 Five Towns Theatre
15.00 Stoke youth Musical Theatre Company
15.25 Phil Wagg (acoustic guitar)
15.45 The Coach Trad Jazz Band
16.45 Molotov Revival
17.30 The Black Apples
18.15 Cocks Entry
18.45 Interval (feat. DJ Hushmore)
19.15 Mistaken for Strangers
20.00 Heart of the Sun
20.45 The Decision
21.30 The Control

Sunday, 14 June 2009

'Sunday for Sam' @ The Sugarmill 21st June 2009

Article by Charlotte Lunt

This coming weekend, there is a very special event taking place at The Sugarmill. 'Sunday for Sam' is a memorial concert for Sam Lyth.

Sam was a fantastic boy with an infectious smile and zest for life, he had just turned 15 before he lost his brave battle with Cancer.

Often seen at punk, indie and metal gigs at The Mill, Sam was a well known face always wanting to chat about music and his other big passion, motorbikes. Not only did Sam get the chance to meet many musicians at gigs, he also received a personal 'get well soon' message from Valentino Rossi, and was one of the few people who knew the true identity of 'The Stig' after meeting him too.

Sunday 21st June will give many of the local bands that Sam liked a chance to play in his memory. All proceeds from the night will be going to the 'Donna Louise Trust'.

Tickets are available (£4.00 in advance or £5 on the door), from all performers, and Music Mania (who have kindly waived their booking fee). Many Thanks to all bands, performers, for performing on the night, and to Sugarmill Staff and Broken Branch records who are all donating their wages to the funds.

Sworn to Oath
Friends of Ken
The Control
Daniel J Nixon
All About Eden
Chris Morrallee

Buy tickets
The Sugarmill
Music Mania

Or direct from any of the evening's performers

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

Model Radio @ The Underground, Hanley 12th June 2009

Review by Sian Eardley

To sum up tonight, I’d have to quote Alex Turner and say: “Get on your dancing shoes!” With a fully charged set and no signs of flagging, (did someone give these guys a Redbull?) Model Radio were the perfect Friday night act for firing it up.

With a huge electro intro and an “Orate?” from the band, the crowd were instantly involved in the bouncy, upbeat, and swarming energy that is Model Radio. Drums were on form as well as guitars that soared through the pounding electro beats, whilst almost having the speed, intricacy and electricity of Chris Urbanowicz (Editors), to boot with great backing vocals from the bassist and keyboard fella’, showing they all have a part to play in achieving their sound.

The singer describes the night with lyrics: “Feel like everything’s gonna be alright”, “Something’s going on”, and “You’re not alone”, with the last statement being especially true. There are definitely fans about, and from front to back people know the tunes and the cool kids are doing their thing.

Throughout the set, there are a fusion of sounds; indie pop, sounding somewhat like One Night Only’s “Just for Tonight” (great for airplay), grittier rock, reminiscent of Pendulum, and then a more space-age feel, well suited by the line: “Welcome to the new dimension”, all to make an interesting contrast of sounds. Model Radio do pull out some “massive” tunes and have clarity and a clean sound, but the great thing about this band is that they’re not offensive in any way, and you could get into them from the hypnotic beats alone. It’s certainly music to turn your head and drag you in, as seen by tonight’s audience with a spectrum from 16 – 30+ years.

Tonight was about the music and feel good times, the party was started down by the stage with an array of jumpers, and the singer gave off a Happy Mondays/Stone Roses vibe, whereby you could almost envision Bez up there dancing with him.

To end on a high, drum and bass madness was unleashed, echoing the best of 90’s dance, which was fitting as they then leaped into a thrashing cover of Prodigy’s “No Good/Start the Dance”. With practically a full house, everyone was pumping it up, and it’s that sort of scene which is phenomenal to see. It was absolutely fantastic for starting the weekend and unsurprisingly ended in a deafening roar from the crowd. If you want to see a gig where you won’t be disappointed then go and catch Model Radio.

Model Radio

Gig Junkie

Monday, 1 June 2009

Love Music Hate Racism @ The Britannia Stadium 30th May 2009

Article by Danny Hill

Photos by Gig Junkie

Since its establishment in 2002 the Love Music Hate Racism organisation has held a countless amount of festivals, gigs and club nights across the country, culminating in last year’s festival in London’s Victoria Park, an event drawing in a massive crowd of over 100,000 revellers. Bands such as The Libertines, Doves, Bloc Party, Hard-Fi and Kasabian have all pledged their support to the cause over recent years. Although Saturday’s sun-drenched 11-hour event at The Britannia Stadium didn’t correspond with the overall populous of previous events, it was not without significance. Being, as it was, the largest music festival that Stoke-on-Trent has hosted in its history.

One the main reasons for LMHR’s inception are due to some alarming electoral successes for the British National Party over recent years. In the event of the party’s bid to win seats in the forthcoming European elections next week the timing could not be better for LMHR to make a stand in a city known significantly for its predominant white working class demographic and - unfortunately for the majority of non-racist residents of the city - one of the BNP’s main constituencies.

So, how did it all pan out? Magnificently, as it happens. The gods were clearly on the side of the organisation officials as thousands of music lovers of all ages, races and minorities mingled peacefully with Union representatives, Socialist Worker sellers and socially dedicated musicians, all basking under the intense heat. The main stage was constructed in front of Stoke City’s away stand facing the famous Boothen End - where some sweltering music lovers rested nonchalantly in the shade, nursing bottles of Carlsberg or ice-creams. Others rested on the temporary pitch covering with ready-made picnics or enjoyed games of football, enjoying the music and sunshine.

Over to the northern car-park more of a carnival atmosphere prevailed, with numerous stalls and funfair rides available for the throng of the shirtless and bikini-clad. This was also where The Sugarmill stage was situated, which would go on to feature heat finalists from the Road to Britannia: Ryan Whitmore was one of them (aptly covering Stoke City’s anthem Delilah, to the confusion of one or two from outside the area). One Horse Race also performed; The Decision, Heart of the Sun (with a new bass player in tow) Bleached Wail and many others would all go on to grace the tiny car-park stage.

Overall winners of the competition The Fears kick-started proceedings on the main stage, confidently whipping up the large crowd into an adrenaline-charged frenzy with infectious songs like Perfect Reason and Victim.

Red-faced with exhaustion and overwhelmed following their energetic performance, the lads good-heartedly gave us the chance to chat in the all-too-posh Stanley Matthews suite.

‘I wasn’t sure it’d be as easy grabbing the audience’s attention as in The Sugarmill,’ said bassist Andrew, ‘but once we got going it didn’t seem any different. Everyone was singing and clapping along. It was amazing. It’s given us the hunger to go out and do it again.’
‘It was a great experience,’ vocalist Oliver Davies commented, ‘if only to see how a gig of this size is put together and how all the backstage pieces work together. Wee were overwhelmed by being treated as a professional band, being used to lugging our own gear around. Respect to those super, speedy, hard-working roadies!’
Guitarist Craig Parr added: ‘Playing for such a good cause has added something to our music. Cultural diversity is a cause we strongly believe in, not just within our city but nationally as well.’

Comedian Eddie Izzard compered the event on the main stage, offering listeners generous slices of his idiosyncratic, acerbic wit laced with political messages. In addition, filling time between performances a number of dancers performed to the masses; a riot of colour, energy and good-will, ensuring there was never a dull moment. Fellow Stoke lads The Sport followed their local peers with a short but ultimately sweet set, including the anthemic stomper Holiday. Also adorning the main stage throughout the day were Manchester band Kid British (soon to be headlining The Sugarmill), New Beautiful South (minus their originator Paul Heaton), Beverly Knight, former Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland, former Sugababe Mutya Buena, Get Cape Wear Fly (a massive success on the day), Pete Doherty (who only performed four songs!). Reverend and The Makers headlined the event against schedule in place of the strongly influential keyboard player Jerry Dammers, the once-leader of Britain’s greatest multi-racial group The Specials.

Things weren’t exactly running to schedule on The Sugarmill stage either, as the majority of the bands, due to Spandex Ballet’s (don’t ask!) late arrival, artists were performing half an hour ahead of schedule. This was all before an Austrian band who I didn’t catch the name of stank the place out! New local band Tequila Lips headlined on the evening, and I hear that The Sport returned from the main stage for another short set on the Sugarmill stage, too.

The event has come under criticism from some parts, with claims that the festival’s acts were not big or good enough. Although a band like Kasabian or The Enemy may have added a few more thousand heads through the turnstiles, what some forget is that Saturday’s event was more about integration, equality and adding awareness and weight to a virtuous political ideal. In that respect, the event was exceptional.

As the day wore on the stadium’s capacity increased, ensuring the party atmosphere continued well into the evening. And as the pop stars each clamoured and screamed and sang, reinforcing their unanimous message throughout the course of proceedings, the memorandum was clear: Love music, hate racism.