Monday, 25 October 2010

Oxjam @ The Sugarmill 23rd October 2010

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Alex Mulliner

Tonight saw the culmination of Stoke Oxjam, with The Sugarmill hosting four of Stokes biggest acts each who played their part in the cause, and put on a memorable show.

First to take stage were Stokes biggest showmen, ‘Tequila Lips.’ The thriving energy of frontman Gary Clay mixed with the backing of a band that not only boasts some serious musical talent, but good looks, style and charm that puts any other band to stage. These boys aren’t all about appearance though, tracks such as the anthemic ‘No way back,’ and ‘Joe Teague,’ show the bands promise and Gary’s melodic voice is superbly backed from the rest of the band. Other particular highlights from the set included ‘The Way you say hello,’ and ‘Crystal Ball,’ a track boasting some of the hookiest choruses around. A performance which suggested that these lads were more suited as potential headliners rather than first warm up act, Tequila Lips went down a storm with the crowd and in particular, me!

Next up were The Riots. This band display quality in every department, from the powerful drumming of Joe, to Marks heavy bassing, the Hendrix-style riffs of Steve and vocals of such quality from frontman Woko that comparisons to U2’s Bono come to mind straight away. In tracks such as ‘Hey Now,’ and ‘No Disguise,’ the 80s/90’s Britpop and earlier influences are easy to see with hints of The Who, Pink Floyd, Kasabian and The Stone Roses. For me, Woko is possibly the strongest frontman on the Stoke scene at the moment, and his vocal strength is incredible, in particular within the tracks ‘Shoot Me,’ and the afoementioned ‘No Disguise.’

The penultimate act of the evening was one of the city’s most popular bands of the moment, The Way. On the back of releasing one of the most anticipated albums in Stoke, in addition to two singles, The Way gave us another unforgettable performance. Minus guitarist Dean Dale , this was to have no effect on the other lads and lead singer/guitarist Stefan Smiths powerful vocals blended with Scott Powell’s ferocious bassing and the brutal drums of Rich Howshall give The Way a rock 'n' roll sound similar that to the old school sound in the 60’s and 70’s.

Not a band to follow the stereotypical “Arctic Monkeys Genre,” their two debut singles ‘Yesterdays News’ and ‘One Time Round,’ have the hasty tempo that sends Stoke crowds into a frenzy, and tonight was no different. ‘River Island Skirts,’ see's Stefan showing off the quality of his rhythm guitar and the switchover of vocals between Scott and Stefan give the band that extra versatility. Go out and buy the album, you will not regret it.

Tonight’s headliners were one of my favourite bands from Stoke, Skinny Pigs. This band are what Rock 'n' Roll is all about! Frontman Craig Paterson is one of the coolest men in local music, and can be described best with the aggressive vocal style Liam Gallagher mixed with the coolness of Paul Weller. This is to take no credit away from the rest of the band, the explosive bass guitaring of Ben Nixon particularly stands out in the bands most well known song, perhaps their calling card in fact, ‘Best in Me.’ A track which the band have just made a video for, it has the potential to be released as a successful single.

Thier slower track, ‘Drinkin up’ see’s Rhythm guitarist Lee Swindells display tight sounding riffs to add to the amp shattering guitar solos Sam Hardy in songs such as ‘Leave me Alone,’ and ‘It’s all about the Rock and Roll.’ The backbeat of all this comes from the symbol crashing drumming of the bands newest addition to the line up, Jake Cunnigham. ‘I've got a fever’ is a particular favourite with the Pigs' loyal following, and sees the crowd screaming back the lyrics to the band. Skinny Pigs know how to put on a show and in particular Craig who owns the stage and easily works the crowd. A great ending to a superb night, and in particular raising money for an important charity. Stoke can be proud of it’s bands tonight as they were all in top form.

Oxjam 2010 @ Various Venues

Photo's by Simon Bamford

Pretty Great White, The Sport, and O.K. Coral, all @ The Full Moon

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Swimming / The Heartbreaks / Carl Barat @ The Sugarmill, 17th October 2010

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Tish Scripps

Opening tonight’s sold out gig was ‘Swimming,’ an experimental pop 5 piece from Nottingham. Without a word they exploded straight into a techno poppy indie sound and give off instant vibes of influence from David Bowie right up to a modern day Klaxons mixed with the vocal styles of Vampire Weekend. My particular favourite track was ‘Mirromaze.’

Next up were a band that are in the middle of major hype and attention from NME magazine, ‘The Heartbreaks.’ These lads are touring with Carl Barat and it’s easy to see why they are highly rated. A band that seem to be following the increasingly popular ‘new-indie’ genre and follow in the footsteps of the likes of The Drums, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees, they certainly won over this Sugarmill crowd with their high tempo and the exhilarating playingof a guitarist who seemed to model one of the strangest haircuts I have seen in a long time, fashion is certainly changing!

This is not my particular favourite genre of music but ‘The Heartbreaks’ certainly changed my opinion and i will be giving these a future listen, and in particular their newest single, ‘Why do you always make me cry?’

Preparing for an hour long set, the arrival of Carl Barat on the stage was greeted with tremendous cheers. Perhaps many of the youngsters came to this gig hoping that Carl would play stuff from his time in previous bands, ‘Dirty Pretty Things,’ and ‘The Libertines'; but Carl gave us a treat, not only did he play samples of previous work but showed off work from his newest album which was released on 4th October.

First track of the set was his first single as a solo artist, ‘Run with the Boys.’ From the very first chords it is just Carl Barat all over, from the bassy beginnings to the 80’s style riffs in the hooky chorus which you just can’t help but sing along to. Clearly an idol to many lads in the mill tonight, the sound of Libertines anthem ‘Time for Heroes,’ was met with scenes of delirium and sent this crowd into a frenzy. This wasn’t the only ‘Libs’ track we heard tonight, with Carl also playing ‘The King who would be dead,’ and ‘Death on the Stairs’. Then out came the famous Dirty Pretty things hit, ‘Bang Bang your dead’ and Carl showed us what he’s all about with his perfectly melodical vocal performance and backed superbly by his band, this is just a song that is impossible not to love.

‘Deadwood’ saw Carl bring up the tempo and with the aggressive drumming combining with the grimy guitars which once saw this man at the top of the Britpop scene. Between these tracks of old, he showed off his new project, and how exceptional this alum is! Introducing a more soulful side to his music, he combined beautiful lyrics with music that’s a delight to the ears. Particular highlights from the new album were singles, ‘France,’ ‘The Fall’ and ‘Cloud Nine.’ It was in Mr Barats last song of the night where we saw what everyone had been waiting for, The Libertines favourite, ‘Dont look back into the sun.’ Without doubt everyone in the 'mill was dancing along and Carl, clearly enjoyed himself and couldn’t thank the audience enough for what tonight's memorable gig.

The Black Apples / The Pretty Things @ FatCat Hanley 15th October 2010

Review by John West

Photo by Simon Bamford

Phill Bettany and Octopus have really pulled off something rather special tonight as the Legendary 60s outfit the Pretty Things are here to play in the basement lounge venue. If you imagine a scene reminiscent of any 60s underground club you’d observe a diverse and groovy crowd from mods to rockers to hippies and the local scenesters, this is who are here tonight defying all age groups from across the rock ‘n’ roll generations. Since the last time I was here the stage has been moved, and all the better for it allowing more visibility as it takes up the left hand side of the room.

Support tonight comes from the Black Apples who themselves are a popular local draw with their incendiary garage blues. Despite a plea from guitarist Alex for the crowd to move forward during their firey performance there seems to be some hesitancy. However this does not stop the lads from firing on all cylinders as they hit us with classic songs from their debut LP for the locally based Octopus records. As usual this is a tight performance as we hear “Hypnotised”, “Take me to the station” a couple of newys and, what was the highlight for me a cover of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s anthem “Oh well”. The Apples are the perfect opener for this evening representing the newer generation as they acknowledge the elderstatesman of the blues, soaking up their influence, having their own take and reinventing the sound for a younger crowd.

The Pretty Things are introduced as “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the history of the universe” immediately they storm into the mod classics “Roadrunner” and “Don’t bring me down”. Unlike their mates The Stones and The Who they never quite ascended in the dizzy heights of fame ,fortune, and success however, that does not diminish their importance and influence on a sixties music scene and beyond. Tonight we are treated to a heady mix of blues, r ‘n’ b and psychedelia as they mix up their musical potions in the cauldron. Vocalist, Phil May alongside guitarist Dick Taylor remain at the heart of the band as in the beginning when they formed in Dartford 1963.

Their classic 68 LP SF Sorrow is often regarded as one of the great lost classics of the psychedelic era recorded at the same time as Sgt Pepper and Piper at the Gates of Dawn, from that period we get all the magical whimsicalness of a selection of tracks live including ‘SF Sorrow’ and ‘Baron Saturday’. Phil May relates a tale of when they were starting out and would hook up with the Stones and play these intimate little blues clubs and with acoustic guitar in hand Dick Taylor treats us to a couple of blues numbers so we can imagine, take ourselves back in time and get a feel of what it must have been like back then. The performance is sublime a real treat for everyone, blues as it should be stripped to the bone and meaningful in delivery.

We are reminded from where the Pretty Things got their name from with reference to Bo Diddley and they start to build the momentum again powering through with R ‘n’ B stomp. With a superb ‘Judgement day’ with Taylor playing slide alongside guitarist Frank Holland they later move into psychedelic mode with a stretched out £.S.D which gets rapturous applause .Their cameo appearance in ‘What’s good for the goose’ is acknowledged and tribute played to the late Norman Wisdom - star of said film. As proceedings come to an end with a ‘bring it on home’ vibe Pretty Things have thoroughly enjoyed themselves so much so that Phil May says they want to come back! A nostalgic night for some and a rare treat for us all, a truly inspirational band and one which deserves more recognition alongside the more acknowledged greats who are indebted to them also. Well done to Phil and Octopus for getting this legendary band to Stoke here’s to getting more of the same in the future.

Listen :

Black Apples : The Black Apples

Pretty Things : S.F. Sorrow

Pretty Things : Parachute

Friday, 15 October 2010

Samba Mela - Cancelled

If you haven't already heard this years Samba Mela which was due to take place this coming Sunday,has been cancelled.

Stoke Sounds was providing a stage at this event with 7 of the best local acts, however we are extremely disappointed that the decision has been taken to cancel the event at the last minute.

It is still unclear why this decision has been made, and we are still waiting for full details, but we'd like to take this opportunity to Thank all the bands who were playing and all of you who were planning on coming down.

Team SS

Friday, 8 October 2010

Exit Calm / Vellocet / Lovelust / O.K. Corral @ The Underground 8th October 2010

Review by John West

Photo by Simon Bamford

It’s been interesting over the last few months to find this intimate venue being somewhat dwarfed by the new Tesco complex as it buffers close up to the Underground's walls. Gone is the old car park so no more guerrilla style gigs there for Mr D! There’s a sizeable crowd here for the opening act tonight O. K. Corral, it was originally to be The Decision however, Ben the guitarist has moved on since they split a few months ago and teamed up with 3 new sparring buddies Jack, Jamie(bass), Mark(drums). The band start with a instrumental intro then singer Jack enters the stage to cheers. The band are a tad nervous - its their debut gig and judging by the response on their faces they are more than pleased that people have turned up for them. A remark from Jack that “we’re not The Decision but O. K. Corral” get’s a response back – “they were wank anyway” Ben just laughs. The band have been together barely two months but they don’t show signs of just finding their way tonight-it’s all new material here , there’s no BIB for Decision fans. Jack has a powerful voice, at times reminding me of Mark Lanegan with a hint of a Morrison vibe. It’s loud, it’s dirty, there’s lots of slide a hint of e bow effects on guitar with powerful rhythms and given time they will establish themselves on the local scene, still not sure about the name though lads, ‘tho it’s growing on me I guess.

I’d heard a lot about the next band Lovelust, so I was more than intrigued, having taken a breather outside I returned to find the stage and venue filled with smoke, (an over active machine perhaps?). This all added to the drama as the band could be barely seen other than glimpses of slight motions on stage. I was impressed by their psyche- dance fusion for me sounding like a hybrid of Orbital and Hawkwind ,yet creating their own electronic musical ambience. This type of music would be well received at any festival late at night or even at sun rise, with repetitive rhythms and trance like states it taps into that hypnotic state of mind as the audience sways to the inner pulse as one. I’ll certainly be checking them out again as they are worth catching as they assault your visual and audio senses.

Main support tonight comes from Vellocet a firm local favourite of mine who never fail to deliver, with front man Ryan oozing confidence prowling the stage as the newly expanded band operate fully on all levels. They have massive local support which is evident tonight, the loyal are here to welcome their heroes. With their Kasabianesque grooves everyone is bouncing along to their psychedelic groove rock, Messiah’ is anthemic as usual as they simply prove their popularity with the audience being ecstatic. It’s just unfortunate that a few start a bit trouble but, they are swiftly dealt with by security, why go to a gig and be off with people? Music is supposed to bring folk together not divide us! Vellocet are professional enough to let this go and not allow it to hinder their performance and don’t get involved.
I’m sure it won’t be too long before they are getting more attention in the media, they are hardworking and deserve more recognition, they are one of the best bands in the area in my opinion and deserve a wider audience. My only criticism is that a part of their crowd seemed to disperse prior to main headliners Exit Calm tonight, who were certainly worthy of your attention folks.

Headliners Exit Calm arrive on stage and having seen the band several times before it doesn’t matter how big or how small an audience it doesn’t phase them, they still allow their music to do the talking. They are very humble there are no ego or Rock star clich├ęs here, like the other bands on stage tonight they are here to perform for those who want to listen. We have of course featured them on Stoke Sounds by way of introduction via their debut LP review and interview a few months back. They are currently promoting new single “Don’t look down” on a brief tour, the single is available on club AC30 as a vinyl ltd, cd and download too. They don’t have massive corporate backing no massive publicity machine behind them they do it all them selves to promote and even now very few of the major music mag’s have picked up on them.

They are certainly for me the best new band at the moment. They are honest and sincere with a great deal of integrity about them. I still stand by what I said a few months back, they have released one of the albums of the year, if you want manufactured bands who are stylised you won’t get that with Exit Calm they are the real deal and have the music to boot. Nicky Smith is one of the best vocalists I’ve heard in a long time, he simply soars. He is passionate and believes in what he sings as he delivers his all in their songs of loss, despair and human frailty, surely we can all identify on that one.
Rob Marshall is a guitar hero in the making he just plays his heart out delivering those epic guitar scapes, it’s for others to judge and make those assumptions any way, and with a powerful rhythm section of Simon Lindley (bass) and Scott Pemberton (drums) the band is complete.

For those who I heard say during their set we’ve heard it all before well you’ve got it all wrong my friends, every musical hero of yours will have soaked up their own influences too developing and making it sound their own -it grows organically if your true to your muse. That is precisely what every band on stage here tonight has done, there is no year zero in music that was a myth created in 76/77 with punk and long after the event even they acknowledged who influenced them.
For Exit Calm they will be taking time to record new songs in readiness for their second album to be released next year hopefully.

Their performance was as atmospheric and epic as on previous occasions, there is no bullshit with them, just allow them to enter your hearts and minds and you too will fully realise what a terrific band they really are. Overall a terrific performance from Exit Calm!
Finally for me, I believe that for every band it’s all about getting your music across to people, we need to be encouraging touring bands to come and play in Stoke not discouraging them, Mark Askew (Underground) highlighted this gig as one of quality, one to go to and he wasn’t wrong . We have a thriving music scene here so lets get it noticed out there and support each other whatever our tastes.

Tonight we’ve had three quality supports and Exit Calm. Don’t wait till your told what is good or the next big thing, use your own mind, use your senses, discover and embrace it.
Vellocet and O.K.Corrall are at the Samba Mela, Hanley Park (Shelton) on Sunday 17th October, please show your support and come and say hello. It’s free too, music from noon till 6pm on the Stoke Sounds stage.

NME Radar Tour The Joy Formidable / The Chapel Club @ The Sugarmill 7th October 2010

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Tish Scripps

A spectacular treat lay in store for avid gig-goers tonight as ‘The Joy Formidable’ marvelously presented themselves at The Sugarmill as part of the NME Radar Tour, making for a very splendid evening.

‘The Chapel Club’, the main support, in their half an hour (or thereabouts) set offered a very middle-of-the-road performance, with their gentlemanly name painting enough of a picture of these moody boys in suit shirts. Singer Lewis Bowman looked incredibly pensive, trying to hard to aspire to the tortured soul of Ian Curtis. Their attempt at becoming the new ‘Boy Division’ didn’t pay off in the respect that they tried to take on Editors’ Chris Urbanowicz’s reeling guitar style either. You just don’t go there. They’re the sort of fashionable band you’d here when perusing through Topshop (listen to ‘Bodies’ and “All the Eastern Girls’), but their complex structures didn’t bring any spark to make them stand out and succeed nowadays. Lady Gaga, however, who’s as mad as a box of frogs, plus, makes good music, is popular for her different and extreme tactics.

The stage transformed and blossomed with birdcages of twinkling fairy lights for a beautiful and delicate ambience for tonight’s main entertainment. It was as though TJF were set to play in your very own living room, that, or it was an impression of the MTV Unplugged stage from back in the day. Thankfully there was also a much healthier crowd numbers wise, as opposed to any other night at The Sugarmill this week which added to the atmosphere. ‘Lovely, lovely Stoke’ we were addressed as, and as for front woman, Ritzy Bryan, well couldn’t you just keep her in a box!? Their rapport with the crowd was delightful and the genuine bond between the band themselves came across as genuine, none of this pretence rubbish, they just perpetuated talent.

Their appeal is obvious and they’re bound to be big in 2011. It’s hats off to NME for finally backing an act on musical merit rather than fashionable merits which quickly fall out of trend. They’d probably be quite fitting on a Twilight soundtrack for their melodramatic, awe-inspiring, dark, transcending, eloquent and sensational qualities. A bit like our ‘Metric’ from this side of the pond; absolutely kaleidoscopic in sound. It’s obvious that their rockin’ out style comes ‘oh so naturally’, with Bryan comfortably and sensually thrusting the guitar like Juanita Stein (Howling Bells) who’s also graced this very stage in the same manner.

Throwing themselves straight into it, their opening track was like an encore performance. They gave it their absolute all, and this was a consistent factor throughout the whole night. I was surprised they were able to play on after putting so much energy and soul into song one alone, and even a slamming guitar from the lead vocalist from the top of speakers. Needless to say the applause was deafening and only grew track by track. On they strode with drum pounds like a call to arms for fans, straight into ‘Cradle’. Ritzy certainly celebrates the return of the female in alternative music, making way for future pioneers. As soon as she picks up that guitar she assumes the position of sonic sorceress and all who listen are weak to her musical prowess.

Announcing the release of their first record in January (and a follow-up tour in February including a Stop at Ye Olde Stoke – injecting yet another buzz into the audience), I only wish it was now as I’d run out and secure a copy and run back for the remainder of the gig. And why? Why do they work? They’re out of the box, not too similar to anything at present, not boring and not unconventional, etcetera, etcetera (see Lady Gaga debate earlier in review). It’s no surprise that for the entirety of the gig all band members wore a stupidly wide grin on their faces as everybody was lapping them up, earning themselves the biggest response to any headlining act at The Sugarmill this week.

Their feisty bassy and punkish beats are ignited by the wild eyes and hair flicks of Miss Byran adding a sultry fire to their strong sound. The standard was so above and beyond expectation, I thought choirs of angels, flowing champagne, cascades of glitter, rainbows and fireworks would appear from the venues ceiling at any moment: true perfection. Then, for a bit of variation, out came the old acoustic guitar for a song intended to be about Christmas, with a Stevie Nicks ‘Edge of Seventeen’ feel to the start. It produced chills of mystery, a song for city nights with big city lights in the heart of the coldest and darkest time of year as it holds a sinister side to it. ‘You make my spirit full’ she repeats at the end; the exact sentiment any crowd member would relay to TJF tonight judged on their appearance, and this can be my Christmas number one any time, any year.

Ritzy really does come across as the pivotal force to the group, kicking some really good rock ass, as we’re all right with her there in the moment as they sing and play with the utmost conviction. As for their energy levels, whatever they’re on I’ll have some; their stamina and consistency was spellbinding let alone their material.

Ending on ‘Whirring’ – ‘All these things about me you never can tell’ resonate as lyrics, as they make you feel compelled to grow a loving connection with the band as a whole and their music. Her whirring contraption was another matter indeed but see that for yourselves when they next stop by. It all came full circle, they started as they meant to go on, giving 10,000% effort, being professional and a true pleasure to have on stage, spoiling us with instrumental flourishes of colour and feeling – if only they could play on!

Last week I said I wanted to marry Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), this week I shall aspire to be Ritzy Bryan.

Dinosaur Pile Up @ The Sugarmill 6th October 2010

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Simon Bamford

Yet another music-packed night at The Sugarmill this week; the kind of night where the quality of music lovers in the crowd defines the quality of the band, and in this instance tonight, they were both rather sound! It’s definitely that time of year again where all the good stuff gets put out there for us to lap up.

The first support act (admittedly I missed the name) were pleasant; they had that feel-good summer vibe thing going on, projecting from their poppy riffs, holding a much more mature sound than one would presume from looking at the young group.

‘Everything on Red’ roared onto stage as a huge explosion of sound featuring vocals similar to that of Futureheads front man Barry Hyde which then declined into fluff, as they came across as heavier Enter Shikari after holding high hopes. There was nothing drastically wrong with their performances, but nor was their particularly significant about them to make you fall in love with them and their material. They were just decent filler before the climax. ‘My Lifeline’ was more like it, a song featuring on their EP, abusing the synth for that pop rock sound that sells so well at the moment, with a bit of chunky guitar smashing thrown in for good measure; all perfectly fine and dandy until the closing screamo impression; posing as a poor Alexisonfire tribute act. ‘Forever’ also seemed to hold promise until it was followed by plug, plug, plug, which led to yawn, yawn, yawn.

Dinosaur Pile-up lived up to expectation however, launching straight into the epic ‘Headspinner’; simple, formulaic but effectively infectious, contagious in pure amp sound. If you like the musical explorations of Ash, and really appreciate Kurt Cobain’s whiney angst in vocals then this is the band for you. Paying homage to Nirvana, ‘Mona Lisa’ is a fantastic kick start to getting the bodies moving and you can almost hear the echoes of ‘Sliver’ throughout. It’s an interesting experiment that you should really try; especially with the verses.

Loud, quirky and different, they hold energy like Nine Black Alps where the mere touch of their guitar is like electricity feeding into the crowd when the sound gets loud, and if you play their newly released album ‘Growing Pains’ it’d wake up the neighbours for sure, but we should celebrate; it’s groups like these who are making underground rock cool again!

The massive bass solo from Harry mid-set matched the awesomeness of the bass-off scene from Scott Pilgrim, getting right into your bones until you can’t shake off the feel and sound of them. The penultimate ‘slow’ song, which they don’t usually favour apparently, was truly show-stopping. The crowd was silenced by the lush tones of Matt Bigland in this romantic number, before reaching the beautiful instrumental crescendo, touching and different in the good kind of way. This was followed by ‘Traitor’, a smashing and triumphant ending where head banging, foot tapping and finger drumming never felt so good. Ending on a good note would be an understatement.

Heavy, yet smooth, loud, yet tender, they can deliver everything you want from a decent gig at The Mill on a Wednesday as a solid alternative rock act, serving up a pleasant trip down memory lane of the 1990’s heyday of grunge.

Acey Slade / Sworn to Oath / Hollywood Tease / The Honour Roll @ The Sugarmill 5th October 2010

Review by Sian Eardley
Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

A night of rock with four bands on offer: and 75% of which were pretty darn good, and that includes the main headliners ‘Acey Slade and The Dark Party’, so we didn’t do badly.

First up was local trio ‘The Honour Roll’, who I have to say did a stellar job and they turned in quite a few friends/fans who came especially for them. Including the old hits which everyone knows, (i.e. ‘Hey Bitch’), they dished out exactly what the local scene is crying out for: more bands where vocals can be heard and there’s excellent musical talent to boot, and not just one or the other. They held a classic rock vibe along the lines of Ozzy, Alice Cooper and G ‘n’ R; the good stuff from the 80’s and the early 90’s, y’know, the sort of music you’d find on a Wayne’s World OST. They were of a high standard and exhumed that American rock feel. They didn’t just thrash chords about frivolously, their melodic solos put emotional soul back into the heart of rock ‘n’ roll. They were the perfect preparation for Hollywood Tease; Stoke’s finest rock Gods.

But then what is this? Hollywood Tease gone dark? They’ve donned dark hair, ditched the platinum, and were wearing relatively more clothes than usual. How very queer indeed. However, this may be to add to their maturity level as they reeled out some new material into their routine. It’s been somewhat of a while since a big headlining show for the boys and admittedly their normal gathering was nowhere in sight tonight, nor the ladies in the latex pants. They really are the best act Stoke has to offer, and I might say it every time but they prove it every time. This said, I do prefer their former image as their Glam Rock look further supports the notion that they play the part and also become it. Their newest: “Ballad” as Ashe referred to it was simply astounding, having a similar powerful effect to that of Velvet Revolver’s ‘Pieces’. You’d really think they’d been a top act for years and I want to see them make it so badly, and every time I wonder ‘how the bloody hell did Stoke manage to produce something like this?’ (Swooning babes included) And, for a relatively quiet set, they sure did ‘Turn it Up Again’ for the next act.

Sworn to Oath leapt on to ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ which immediately rang alarm bells, and if that’s not a warning sign of how bad they’d be, I don’t know what is. How they came after Hollywood Tease I’ll never know…They had OK vocals, but were mediocre at best. It’s the same old, nothing set them apart from the usual metal rubbish of today, it was pure amp-munching shredding, and shouting down the mic like a dinosaur. The only track that seemed to rouse the crowd was “Leave you 4 Ted’ – I tried to find what could be attractive about it but nothing unique jumped out at me. To make matters worse, the lead singer had a total lack of charm and wit, and so when addressing the audience as ‘C*nts’, he couldn’t really pull it off. It wasn’t big or clever, so I think I’ll ‘leave you cause you’re pants’. I just really wished the set away, and haven’t been as agitated by a front man since seeing Gerard Way where ‘f’ing’ this and ‘f’ing’ that were the only words to leave his mouth. Good job I’d left the rotten tomatoes at home. They just tried too hard to be too metal and too badass, resulting in no energy, no drive and no spark. NEXT!!!!

As for Acey Slade, I expected to see more bodies, as he was a pretty big deal back in the heyday of ‘The Murderdolls’, yet he really pulled it off, thus being great for making maximum effort to a minimum crowd. He still hasn’t lost his cool edge, especially seen when strangling co-players with a mic lead. Nice touch. He’s quite the performer and very interactive, holding an air of grace. He’s a soft spoken cool dude (not what you’d exactly expect as ‘he’s so weird, he’s so strange’), coming across as a dark Garth Elgar.

Still the crowd seemed to be dispersing, up to the point where it got uncomfortably embarrassing as he’d come all this way to unleash his new solo project and debut album: : a mix of electronic and rock, like a NIN/ Manson revamped sound, fitting for a Matrix soundtrack, and just as you’d want to leave, out comes a diamond of a cover; wickedly good. Acey told the crowd he never set out to sound manufactured (ahem STO!), as they wanted to push the boundaries and do something different, therefore their take on The Cult’s ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ was a belter. This is a personal favourite of mine and even I’d go as far to say it nearly succeeded the original; bringing the remainder of the audience to life with this out of the world performance. Come to think of it, maybe it was a good thing not many were in as it gave the opportunity for Mr. Slade to be more intimate with crowd and even leap onto walls. Now he’s the kinda guy you don’t mind being called a ‘C*nt’ by as we warmed to this charming miracle man. ‘She Bring’s Down the Moon’ was another stunning piece; a good guitar tune with a sexy and intoxicating feel; a heavier ‘To the Moon and Back’ (Savage Garden).

We really have been blessed by so many good gigs just lately and this is just one of them. With the classic rock glimpses of tonight, we really can Keep the Faith that there IS and always will be good music out there.