Sunday, 2 October 2011

Giro Junkie / Dinosaur Dancefloor / The Nanateas @ The Full Moon 30th September 2011

Review by Charlotte Lunt

For me, unashamedly this is a long awaited gig. Those of you who tune into Stoke Sounds on 6towns (Monday’s 7-9pm, hint hint) will know that we’ve been long term champions of Giro Junkie, and also that Dinosaur Dance Floor have recently seeped into our aural consciousness. Couple this with the fact that Giro’s album ‘Taxi for Dave’ hasn’t been out of the CD player for the last week or so and you have an idea of the levels of anticipation I have.

First on were the Nanateas, to whom I owe an apology as the impromptu meeting of so many old friends and familiar faces from gig's gone by that I missed the bulk of their set, but I did catch respectable covers of The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m in Love’ and Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’.
With the dance floor filling up for Dinosaur Dance Floor, the atmosphere really took hold as their dancey indie rang out. On a slightly critical note, it would’ve been good to hear the vocals higher in the mix as this really did detract from the performance. Within the first few songs I can see domination of the current Stoke Scene well within these lads grasp – jangly melodic feel good indie pop – perfect for a late summer evening. They are clearly a band who practice hard but also and refreshingly don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and seem to be as much about having fun as they are about the music. This evening see’s them delivering a set of little gems to an audience with their dancing shoes on, and is more than an appropriate prologue for the main set.

Tonight’s performance by Giro Junkie, serves very much like the stories they tell in their lyrics. Starting with 'Murder of Logistics' as the 2 piece they have been performing as for 18 months or so Rich Bloor (vocals and guitar) and Mark Stevens (drums and vocals) they guide us through an album’s worth of songs starting with some simple numbers I remember hearing in The Glebe many moons ago, to the fuller and richer sound they are now achieving with the addition of several new colleagues.

Rich’s ability to use lyrics to tell stories straight from the coal face brings an earthy strength to the songs, notably  'Oh-Dae-Su' and it appears that as the set progresses their music is gaining attention from the venue's patrons. One thing that is fabulous about this evening is the ‘love in’ feeling from so many people who have come out to support the band, and the recognition that as a first album release this is a celebration of their achievements. There is always a pleasure about watching an artist and friend performing, but to see a band develop and grow like this is a real privilege.

Welcoming an abundance of guest artists to the stage to complete the full line up for the last three songs, Giro Junkie showcase the new directions that some of their songs have undertaken. The introduction of more voices and instruments has brought an earthly feel to the music, and a feeling of shared experience, akin to that heard in sea shanties. Although about contemporary issues, songs such as ‘Hands for Feet’ appear to have now grown their roots firmly in the folk tradition, in a way that melds two worlds simultaneously.
Leaving the stage to rapturous applause and one or two ear piercing whistles, Rich, Mark et al. Should be rightly proud of this evenings gig and launch of their album – which in case you didn’t know is available in a limited edition from the band, and also on itunes.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

This was a rewarding evening on multiple levels, for what would have been a quaint and ordinarily boring Sunday. Not only did Abyss stride in to save the day from an afternoon full of a multitude of ridiculously monotonous and poor renditions of indie tribute act drivel, from pre-pubescent teenagers, but Fat Cats has risen it’s head as the best new venue in town; in terms of music quality and setting.
Upstairs, waiting for the dire sounds echoing from the basement to drown out, summer vibes of 60’s soul music flowed throughout the above bar, and it was a thrilling experience as opposed to the apparent dying-out Underground and the same-old Sugarmill. Fat Cat’s has got it going on, and with more and more gigs being put on each month, it’s sure to take the lead for hottest local music venue. The fact that they do something fresh, and have the ability and style to put on whatever they want in a grandeur fashion, instantly puts them ahead of the crowd.

£4 for an afternoon full of sounds (not all good by far – see above) got you hours worth of entertainment, and Abyss as usual were that prolific cherry on top indeed. Hand on heart, I was expecting the interesting lot of teens to perform the same set list as executed at the past few shows I’ve seen them at, I was pleasantly surprised. Again, like the venue, this passion and flair makes them stand out, all this for such a premature yet groundbreaking local band is astonishing, and I’m very sorry Hollywood Tease, but these guys, are my new favourites. It’s also great to see an expanding audience each time these guys play. The word sure is spreading.

They opened with an old corker of theirs, then whipped out a roaring version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, and my gosh did it make the hairs on you arms stand on end – it’s always a tune. The Hetfield inspiration is clear, as I’ve referenced before, especially in Breakout with those intrinsically experience riffs. Having recently acquired a new drummer, you can tell they’ve also worked hard to come together as an even tighter unit, and even treated us with some new material, showing bags of more promise, it’s like they’ve been upgraded perfectly. The future IS bright, and the future IS Abyss, and with even more dates coming up, including a Sugarmill slot soon, be sure to keep an eye out to witness the sheer talent that is known as Abyss.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Troops of the Mafeking / The Control / Faux Feet @ The Sugarmill 10th September 2011

Review by Peter Callaghan

So since I began this gig reviewing lark, I’ve heard certain names banded about the local music scene. These, I thought, must be the bands that have earned their stripes or whose brand of stuff was particularly appealing to the local music masses. This, in all honesty, usually puts me off. Anywhere the masses go, usually sends me running in the opposite direction. But, not long ago, I realised that in this business, I can’t afford to hold such judgements without actually listening to the music these bands were producing. So, I made my resolve to shake off my presumptions like a dog caught in the rain, and decided to check out the launch party for the new Troops of Mafeking EP “Fake Glamour”, at the Sugarmill.

First up were Faux Feet. They have a twee, indie rock sound and are pleasant to listen too. It’s not offensive and the heavier rock aspects work well with Mathews’ vocals. Faux Feet did a good job of opening this gig but heart sank a little for them as the audience were still slowly filtering in whilst they were playing. I think with the right atmosphere and right slot on a line up, Faux Feet would truly come alive as their sound would emanate immensely throughout the venue as they’ve definitely got that in them. But opening a gig is hard, especially when the crowd aren’t giving you anything back.

The Control are another band that I’ve heard the name of time and time again but not actually seen them live. So when they started up with an almost tropical indie sound (or maybe that was just the lead singers Hawaiian-esque shirt?) I thought “Oh, this isn’t going to be for me”. But once again, assumptions made a fool of me and I found myself smiling along to their enticing indie sound. I liked it, mainly because it’s not all just standard indie riffs but they’ve got some interesting dischorded, off-beat passages as well as lead singer Joseph Brennan Hulme being an excellent frontman, whose tourette-like antics on stage were simply fascinating. It must be mentioned that they did not have their regular line-up and instead had to mix it up a little, putting bass guitarist John Burgess on the drums and recruiting a friend to play bass. Overall, I enjoyed their set, especially their banter about “glamorising the monotony of working class life” because it’s almost strangely self-referencing of the Indie scene itself, since most bands write songs about making your Nan a brew or playing football with your mates and then eating pie and chips afterwards. That’s some non judgemental behaviour for you.

Anyway, with The Control done and dusted, it was time for the main event.  Troops of Mafeking started with an almost stadium like entrance; the only thing it was lacking was the flashing search lights and sirens. The guitars roared with feedback as they announced themselves to the waiting audience and then... They exploded. I knew, from what I had been told, that their guitars weren’t the only thing that was electric on stage but I reckon that if you wired the Troops up to a generator that runs off the ambient energy they produce whilst playing, you could probably run every house in Stoke-on-Trent for weeks. I would probably classify them as stadium rock and their appeal is in having a good time, as many of their fans would testify; they play fast and loud and everyone in the ‘Mill loved it. They are an intense live experience and I particularly enjoyed their heavier songs the most as they really seemed to get that electric energy flowing at its peak rate. If this performance was anything to go by, their new EP “Fake Glamour” might blow up your CD players as the condensed electricity fuses the disc drive and surges the national grid... Or maybe not. I half expected them to collapse when they finished but instead, they delivered an encore with as much enthusiasm as when they first started with lead singer Samuel Woolley jumping into drummer Josh Jones’ lap, taking out the drum kit on the way. 

On leaving, I felt genuinely knackered, and was half glad that my bus was an hour late because at least it gave me some time to catch my breath in the grimness of Hanley bus station. I can certainly see why these are the bands that people talk about in Stoke-on-Trent because they do put on a good show. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Oceans Between @ The Sugarmill 9th September 2011

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Following a rash of gigs over the bank holiday weekend, and opening our own Festival earlier this year (which seems like an age away), I can honestly say it’s a treat to hear Oceans Between playing tonight. Performing to a respectably full mill, the three piece, featuring brothers Alex and Oliver Gwilt and Robert Egan; on vocals and lead, bass, and drums respectively they opened this evening’s show with a solid set of their driving rock.

It would be fair to say that they are mostly driven from the rear (no pun intended) with bedrock drumming from Rob - but that is not to detract from the guitar skills of Oliver and Alex. Bravely opening with a new number – a mere 3 days old – they set the bar high, before striding through their set. I didn’t manage to catch all the song titles, but of note is ‘Brothers in Arms’ which in my opinion has real potential as a debut single. Alex’s soaring vocals and delivery reminiscent of an angry Johnny Borrell are really showcased here, and it would be great to see him perform this free from the constraints of his guitar and release his inner front man.

If the pace of a set could be measured by a sweat-o-meter, then by my reckoning at this mid-point, the score is drippingly high; but the amount of effort going into the performance is certainly paying off. What is really impressive for an opening slot at the mill is not only the turn out but the number of people who are really watching the band rather than chatting amongst themselves – perhaps the conversations are happening on the roof, but with people dancing along and clearly enjoying the tunage this is a far better reception than I’ve seen for many openers of late.

Attacking each song head on seems to be the Oceans Between way and stands them in good stead for building a following. Finishing with ‘Reservoir of tears’, a rousing ballardesque number with a definite sing-a-long and mosh-a-long ability, there is a hint of great things to come from this band, so if you do get the opportunity to go and watch them play, take it.