Monday, 26 July 2010

The Control @ The Sugarmill 24th July 2010

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Alex Mulliner

Unfortunately for tonight’s large crowd there was to be no support bands to start off the night and something which seemed to dishearten a number of the youngsters here tonight, but with their usual on stage antics, local boys The Control knew exactly how to liven things up. The band brought their usual lively crowd, although it seems that today’s gig-goers seem to be getting much younger, (or that I’m getting older?).

First track of tonight’s set was a new one, ‘Mammoth.’ As usual, The Control write a track which just has that edge with the gritty guitar riffs of Rich Bratt. ‘Crimes of Love, dance and music’ was next on the bill, and frontman Joes demand’s for people to get dancing sent the vast majority of The Sugarmill into a delirium. The hooky chorus of next track ‘Pienki’ was screamed back to Joe by the crowd and bassist Olli Fencott seemed in particular to enjoy this throwing himself around the stage and onto the bass boxes in delight. ‘Whitedogz’ is possibly my favourite track from the local music scene and it’s easy to see why many of tonight’s audience seem to think the same, with the symbol crashing drums of Mickie Davies supporting the booming vocals screamed out by Joe. Arguably Stokes strongest frontman, and most certainly most entertaining he certainly knows how to get a crowd reaction.

Older tracks such as ‘Jackpothead’ and ‘Suzie equals Fags’ always show what The Control are about mixing their post punk genre mixing with a progressive indie rock. The Control have a bit of everything and its clear to see why they are making themselves so popular, mixing sounds of Ska, Indie, Britpop and Punk to create a perfect genre. The Control then treated us to two of their newest tracks. In the chorus of one Joe belts out the line “down with the Potteries”, but with bands who have the potential and promise of these four lads, then maybe Stoke-On-Trent’s music scene is on the up. The penultimate track of the set was ‘Britain’ and with its bassy beginnings and memorable chorus, you are destined to be humming the chorus to yourself for days. Last track of the night was the bands calling card, the unforgettable anthem of ‘Playground Punks.’ It’s rare to be unable to hear the lead singer over a crowd but tonight, everybody in The Sugarmill was yelling back the chorus to Joe and the band. An unforgettable set and the strongest I have seen The Control perform; a band that have so much promise, I expect these boys to put Stokes music scene on the map.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall 18 July 2010

Review by John West

As we take our seats and look around the Civic Hall the audience reflects a varied age range from those who remember the Doors first time round through to the late 70s punk/early 80s alternative crowd – think Stranglers, the Bunnymen, Teardrops and beyond, to much younger fans who maybe are getting into the music of the Doors for the first time. The youngest here is surprisingly about five complete with Morrison t-shirt accompanied by mum and dad – its music for all generations and for the future. Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger have kept their music alive in various forms over the years, the last outing featured Ian Astbury (the Cult) holding the torch for Mr James Morrison. This time they have an orchestra in tow the Royal Philharmonic Concert orchestra with the former Steelheart vocalist the Croation born Michael Matijevic (who’d previously auditioned for Slash’s Velvet Revolver) stepping into the lizard kings boots. As the orchestra takes their seats, with the strings to the left with brass to the right, someone shouts out for ‘Light my fire’ as they tune up. Ray Manzarek enters the stage to rapturous applause, closely followed by Robby Krieger they wave and position themselves as Manzarek sits at his trusty keyboard, with Krieger plugging in his Gibson SG. A quick queue and they burst into “Love me two times” – the audience rise to their feet to welcome their heroes. The Doors of Perception have been opened at the Civic. Is everybody in?

They plunge into the organ intro ‘Break on through’ with Matijevic delivering a fine vocal performance as it finishes there are chants of ‘Robby Robby’, the guitarist smiles. With yet another guitar change of his customary SG for another SG, he acknowledges the disciples. With ‘Love her madly’ following, things are bought to a more calmer level as ‘Waiting for the sun’ oozes out from this collective of musicians, held wonderfully together by these two “legends” as Krieger using some very effective slide on guitar. As Manzarek performs his master of ceremonies act, conducting his hand assisting the conductor (Brent Havens) signalling to the band and coaxing them through ‘Strange Days’. With Manzarek and Krieger introducing each other ‘Moonlight drive’ segues to ‘Horse Latitudes’ the poetic refrain being handled by the former. At this point he asks the audience to get down - it’s supposed to be a rock n roll show after all, a dash to the front ensues despite initial requests by security for the audience to sit down at the beginning of the gig. They accept the bands request allowing the audience that closer contact to their heroes, much to their appreciation. Manzarek states it’s time to get dark, it’s time to get strange, it’s time to get weird, as the band and orchestra interweave further Doors classics to everyone’s delight, ‘Not to touch the earth’ indeed.

After a short break, which seems to be the norm now with living legends (re: Crosby Stills and Nash review a couple of weeks back ), Ray Manzarek introduces Robby on Spanish guitar after some lovely feather light playing the faithful already anticipating ‘Spanish caravan’ as it flows from the refrain of this brief solo spot. We next head out on our own aural voyage on board the ‘Crystal ship’ to more calm waters which is simply divine. People really are getting strange as Manzarek honky tonks in part the main riff of the song, the audience loves it; he is overwhelmed by the response and thanks them.

Jim Morrison was no stranger to controversy as we all know – constantly challenging society, its’ politics, makeup, authority and control – here RM takes the mantle dedicating ‘Five to one’ to all the warmongers out there urging them to make love not war. Some things never change and maybe we ought to be doing more in today’s troubled world, surely it still makes sense even more so now - 40 plus years on! Their catalogue of music can still have the ability to inspire musicians and the listener generations on. With Manzarek thumping out the main riff on the organ it builds and builds not quite the apocalyptic proportions and menace of the original and “ live” recordings but ballsy all the same.

Its time to get funky and sexy as RM urges us to move into James Brown territory – hitting the keys for ‘Touch Me’ as he grooves the lines, taking over from Matijevic prior to whom I believe seemed to be having throat problems earlier in the set? This doesn’t distract the listener though; they are on fine form tonight as the audience sing along to each song. As the gig draws to a close (there’s a 10pm curfew) RM asks if we can hear rain – queue ‘Riders on the storm’ which is atmospheric and works brilliantly with its orchestral accompaniment – the strings adding an ethereal touch to this classic tune.

Manzarek recalls a trip to Amsterdam in ‘68 where Jim was given a chunk of “hash” by a fan, on top of what he had already consumed that day, rendering him unable to sing that evening way back, therefore he was no stranger to taking the vocal lead for the night. This did not detract from what Matijevic did earlier he did a fine job – leather pants and all, as did the band and orchestra – a great combination and presentation of the music of one of Rock’s most influential bands of all time. The bluesy rocked up feel of ‘Roadhouse blues’ then hits us as everyone laps it up, no one remains seated as we crave more. We get this of course with ‘Light my fire’ as expected, its past 10 and time to finally close the Doors. As Messer’s Manzarek and Krieger bring the evening to its conclusion, having clearly enjoyed themselves, we head out into the night, we got together one more time and as the evening shadows gathered in we headed for the train home on our own moonlight drive.

This is the end!!

Listen (all remastered with bonus tracks)

The Doors

Strange Days

Waiting for the sun

Morrison Hotel

LA Woman

Very best of the Doors

When you’re strange - DVD (new documentary film narrated by Johnny Depp) available August 2010

Monday, 12 July 2010

Crosby Stills and Nash @ Liverpool Echo Arena, July 7th 2010

Review by John West

This group of legendary singer songwriters need no introduction they are without doubt living legends a perfect band for long hot summers with its warm summer breeze, combining beautiful harmonies and great musicianship one of the original surviving supergroups. Despite there longevity they defy their years, forming in 69 David Crosby (the Byrds), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Graham Nash (the Hollies) were here in Liverpool bringing it back home acknowledging their own influences, with Nash giving a special mention to the Hollies being at long last in the “Rock n Roll hall of fame”. For four decades plus they have bought to music a sense of perfect harmony, a political awareness rallying against oppression and the ills of war on a global scale commanding high respect amongst their musical peers be they the original Woodstock generation or influencing a wholenew generation(s) of younger musicians – Midlake, Mumford and Sons spring to mind.

The arena is vast and cavernous as they hit it the stage, no support here this is to be a pure CSN gig for a mainly older audience however looking around the age range is still varied. The opener is of course “Woodstock” with smiles on their faces they take us back to that legendary event 41 years ago allowing the audience to sit back and soak up the vibes for the next two and a half hours. After “Long time coming” Stephen Stills takes centre stage to perform his BS classic “Bluebird” closely followed by Nash with tongue firmly in cheek stating to come with them to Morocco n light a big one! Haha! “Marrakesh Express” obviously ensues. Next “Southern cross” has lost none of its edge of inequality which echoes our own state of racial disharmony . Nash then introduces a new song “In your name” the theme being the dangers of religion being the premise for conflict where ever you maybe in the world dedicating it to anyone who has died in such circumstances.

Someone shouts out for a song and Nash quipped that they would be here till next tuesday if they were to play everything they had recorded, the audience cheers! The band then laugh and banter about the “skinny Canadian” who isn’t with them on this jaunt referring of course to their legendary friend and sparring partner – one Neil Young. On this tour they will be performing a different “Shakey” song -after much deliberation beforehand tonight its gonna be “Long may you run” which is received with rapturous applause substituting the Beach Boys line with the Beatles lalalas . After this Crosby states they’re going to get weird as Deja vu is rolled out with more than a hint of psychedelia about it. There is a jam enthused organ/guitar workout of “Wooden ships” hot on the heels as the first part is drawn to a close and a fifteen minute break follows.

After the interval Nash returns to say that Spain had won - re the World cup also jovially saying that “its not like the Cavern is it ?“ They proceed to play their own take on “Norwegian wood” which was extra special for the SS team as we had been to visit Lennon’s childhood “Menlove Ave home and “Strawberry field” earlier in the day. Crosby sings his ode to love “Guinevere” as several covers follow - songs which have been originally penned by their musical friends for a try out for a future album of their interpretations which I believe is to be produced by none other than Rick Rubin, with Dylan’s “girl from the north country” kicking things off. They also deliver the Glimmer Twins “Ruby Tuesday”, and the Allman Brothers “Midnight rider”. Throughout the concert CSN have majestically displayed their vocal prowess and musical prowess.

David Crosby’s problems have been well documented and he dedicates “Delta” to their friend Jackson Browne who helped him finish the song when he was “lost” he’s very open about this, suggesting it wasn’t a nice place to be. It’s a beautiful heartfelt delivery from a true survivor with Stills simply adding acoustic guitar. Graham Nash takes to the piano bathed in low light the stage is a glow with candles and he delivers a poignant spine tingling ethereal “Cathedral” prior to the arena crowd pleaser singalong which is “Our House” when the audience erupts and couples hug each other - aah nice!.

Then an awesome cover of the Who’s “Behind blue eyes” brings it back , with Stills stretching himself across the stage with a slight hint of the Townshend windmill guitar play about him. Stills proceeds to sing and play some wonderful guitar on his Springfield’s “Rock n roll woman” in the final section prior to Crosby’s hippy anthem an epic “Almost cut my hair” which is played with venom and gutso. They exit the stage and return with encores “Love the one you’re with” and “Teach your children”. With Stills throwing his picks into the audience and they take their bows the audience still want more, if only more bands would take example these are the originals and still going with dignity pride honesty and harmony .Rock music is ageless it can be thoughtful, it can still be dangerous , thought provoking and it can still deliver and satisfy your soul. Let music bring Peace to the world !!Their magnum opus “Deja vu” is forty years young and long may they run too....!

Recommended listening :

Crosby Stills and Nash – Crosby Stills and Nash

Crosby Stills and Nash – Carry On

Crosby Stills Nash and Young – Deja Vu

Crosby Stills Nash and Young – Four Way Street

Exit Calm: Interview

Interview and Review by Chloe West
Photo by Simon Bamford

Following the Stoke Sounds review of Exit Calm’s debut album, the band kindly answered a few questions for us to share with you lovely lot...

First off, the debut LP is a great recording and is constantly on my biscuit player....awesome! Can you give SS a brief resume of the band, i.e. when and where you formed for those who may be new to the sounds of EC?

Scott Pemberton (drums) - Me, Sime and Rob had a band together before this one but we parted ways with our singer, but as musicians we wanted to carry on making music together, I don’t think we wanted to be in a band with anyone else. Although we had elements in us from our last band we wanted to make something new and be a different band. We auditioned singers for a while and Nicky was one of them, and with no disrespect to any of the others, he was leagues ahead of anyone else and he joined the band. I think he had been in the band about a week and we got a call saying we were going to Japan, I think he must have thought we were taking the piss! It kicked us into shape quicker than we would have normally got it together and through one way or another we agreed on exit calm as a name and it stuck.

How does it feel to be compared to the Verve, Roses etc... and having the label of the “best new band” at the moment?

Simon Lindley (bass) - The best new band tag is not for us to say, it’s for other people to say with obviously supreme taste. Getting compared to the roses and verve is always a compliment to us. We've never denied the influence, how could we? It’d be pretty lame of us to deny it. It just gets a bit tiring when it’s all reviewers have to say about us, but I suppose it’s better than being compared to early learners krautrock like every band with big guitars at the minute. All we're saying is there’s a lot more in there.

Exit Calm are a real collective and it resonates from within to create your music. Rock music seems to have lost its edge, and many feel more focus is on image rather than the music itself. What are your views on this?

Nicky Smith (singer) - I suppose it depends where you look. If you are talking about bands like 'the drums' then I would agree. They reek of stylists running around them telling them to "put this shit top that's too small for you on and try these tight jeans on.” I think with them though the whole 'stylist' thing has run onto their music as well. They sound styled to me. I understand that people are hearing catchy tunes and melodies you can hum along to, or whistle whilst you're getting bummed by the tax man. But as a great man once said : look away, take a big deep breath and then look back at them. Piece of shit. That's all it is. Nothing more!

Your music to me is a fusion of some great, influential bands; can you highlight what your influences are and those that who inspire you?

Simon - Its like i said with the influences question, there’s more to it than the obvious, but not many people are gonna recognise dark star or campag velocet in us ‘causes they weren't mainstream. The stuff we listen to is always a wise range, bands like the House of Love, Shack, I am Kloot, to stuff like Underworld, and early Chemical Brothers. We mentioned the 3 labels Mo'Wax, Creation & Factory as we think its sums up where we came from as a band. Those 3 labels put out the music we were passionate about when we were all getting into music, from Oasis to DJ Krush, and there’s shedloads in between.

Where do the ideas for the music come from - are they from jamming or from ideas initially from acoustic s sessions and the band bringing in ideas?

Scott- Our band is a democracy so nobody tells anyone how it has to be. We can get an idea from anyone in the room and then we get parts that we like and shape the songs that way. Sometimes someone has a set idea for the way something should go and it’s the others job to try and do that justice, then when we jam around the parts our personalities come through and I think that’s one of the things that shape us and give us our sound. Sometimes tempers get frayed but it only because we all care about what we do.

I mentioned your “wall of sound” in the SS album review how do you achieve that? How do you replicate that on stage too?

Simon - It’s just natural to us. Obviously the wideness of the sound comes from Rob, but it’s all done live. To be honest with the sound it was a case of how to record it properly, not how to replicate it live. It’s a letdown when you go see a band and it’s all sequenced and done off backing tracks. For me it takes the humanity and instinct from it, so there goes the soul straight away. People don't believe us when we say it’s all done live, all you've gotta do is come see us when our amps get moody or decide have a nervous breakdown mid song and then you'll realise the sounds some from us. The only thing we do that takes it away from being basic is that Rob plays about four guitar parts at once, so that sometimes means four amps. We all know our dynamics and we use volume. Not just crank it up and hide behind noise. Just ‘cause it’s loud doesn't mean it’s good.

The music industry seems to be in meltdown at the moment do you find it difficult to get your music played on radio or other media, how do you reach that wider audience?

Rob Marshall (guitar) - The music industry being in 'meltdown' has brought about some positives to be honest...The old factory days of do it your self are been born out of it-like the reason Tony Wilson put a label together in the first place was to create an outlet for all the Manchester bands that the majors didn't give a fuck about. I think it’s a time for the underground scene and the independents to really soar again. There’s already evidence of that happening.

In terms of radio, it’s a bit of a’s always gonna be difficult for a band that’s main focus has nothing to do with fitting in between the confinements of main stream radio. We've had little bits here and there but nothing major....The last single we did was 6 an half minute song edited down to about 30 seconds, and still, "it’s too heavy", " it’s too dark", "no strings on it"...You can’t win! Its gonna take someone to really go out on a whim and just play it cause they're in to it..Disk jockeys with balls and confidence. Not many about...well a few but their more interested in red carpets and Pimms and lemonade than music. The best thing to do is just get on with making music and let our manager Richard Hawkins worry about that.

EC seem to have strong links with Echo and the Bunnymen – I surmise they have been extremely supportive of you and you’ll also be hooking up with them again for the Tramlines festival , how did that relationship come about?

Nicky - The strong link is that we have the same agent, but yes apart from that they have been very supportive. Will put Rob in touch with someone in America straight away for a particular sounding tiny amp, that Rob now uses a lot of the time and I think that has shown a mutual respect between them from the off. Just to get the support was amazing anyway. There were and still are a lot of bands with much higher profiles than us who would kill to support Echo and the Bunnymen, but we got the nod and it spurned us on. Each one of them was absolutely sound as well. We heard a lot of bull shit before meeting them, but now in reflection that is created by the people surrounding them. As soon as we all met them they put an end to all the crap straight away, each one of them was down to earth, genuinely good people. It's a bit shit to mention age, but I don't care because it’s the truth. I think for Mac to be doing what he does now and still be one of the coolest bastards around is a lesson for every idiot out there, because that's how you do it isn't it? He is a diamond.

As a local online site Stoke Sounds supports local music and beyond - any advice you can give to bands and artists who may be setting out or seeking a wider audience?

Scott - How do you give advice to bands without sounding like a wanker? I only know our mentality. We know bands that played their local pub week in week out but you have to make sure you don’t get used to family and friends coming to every gig just for the safety that brings. We used to see the sense in going further a field and sometimes we'd turn up and there would be nobody there or sometimes we would catch a hand full of fans and they would stay with us. I think its learning to take the rough with the smooth that a lot of bands can’t do. I’ve seen bands play to 5 people and walk off stage half way through their set ‘causes its a shit turn out, I remember that happening and just thinking if that’s all the respect you've got for your band you should fuck it off now lads. Then you get the nobheads that get narked ‘cause the stage isn’t big enough or there set was cut a bit ‘cause another band run over then they try and kick off at the promoter. All anybody ever thinks of them is that they’re wankers and to steer clear of them or not give ‘em a gig in the future and they don’t know why.

Nobody owes you a thing and the only way to gain reputation is to get your heads down and earn it. If you can’t do that, go and get a different job.

Finally are there any plans for Exit Calm to play in Stoke in the future?

Rob - First time I was in Stoke, I was in a place called The Talbot. The man behind the bar was Dog Ruff and the toilets smelt like a disease...Sugarmill with Sunshine Underground was the last one and we had a few tech problems, the usual, pickups just dropping out of guitars and amps switching them self on and, yeah we'll be back to resurrect our selves soon ;)

A jaunt up north later and the StokeSounds team arrive in Barnsley for the band’s highly anticipated home coming gig. The venue, The Civic, open for just open a year, is plush to say the least, and certainly not your typical surroundings for some rock and roll lovin’. Prior to Exit Calm’s arrival, support Dogfight Revolution brave the stage. Hailing from the ‘industrial wilderness’ that is Wolverhampton, it is easy to see why the headliners chose this act to warm up the punters. Spaced out, psychedelic guitar compliments Tim Baker’s raw vocals, manipulating their vast range of influences. Third number Have You Forgot Who You Are, has a Death Cab For Cutie air about it, with its bassy beginnings, while Easy Life echoes the hypnotic beats of Spiritualized’s Come Together. Dogfight compliment EC’s sound to a T, cooly combining Ashcroft vibes, melancholy tinged lyrics, and big riffs before the Barnsley boys release their full on assault.

As the band file on stage, tension rises; frontman Nicky Smith paces around, arching his body in preparation for his delivery. The room is barely lit, eerie to a certain extent. Even though this is home soil for the lads, and the Civic is top notch, you get the sense that this sound would fit more aptly in a close knit, sweat dripping venue, rather than the vast assembly rooms. Kicking in with You Got It All Wrong, the effect is immediate. Goosebumps. The band must surely find the Verve comparisons tedious, as guitarist Rob is no McCabe rip off, and even though the similarity is obvious, EC emit their own unique sound, an evolution from the 90s space rock era rather than a replication. The set tonight consists of a complete album play through, meaning their loyal fans know exactly when their favourites are about to kick, and reaction is most seen for past single Hearts & Minds. Its raucous opening unfolds into an anthemic body, and the song, like the rest of their set, exposes the bands passion, direction, and union with their music. They combine Northern swagger, with serenity; confidence with calm. Quite simply, Exit Calm provide a sense of escapism. It turns out that venue is irrelevant here, EC are mind blowing whatever the surroundings. Catch it while you can.

A big thank you to Exit Calm for their time and thoughts.