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 clichés 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.