Photo by Martin Kaluza
It’s another cold blustery night as I make my way down to the venue. Last week it was Jack Frost who was biting at my feet, tonight it’s Hurricane Hanley who whips up a storm around the city centre twirling the debris amongst the night time revellers. The Underground is buzzing and very full as Tom Lockett and accompanying guitarist Nick Simpson were on stage tonight. Tom did a good job of warming the crowd but came across as being rather apologetic at times stating that a full band will be with him next time, no need Tom you did well. His sound was something akin to the now defunct cult band The Chameleons but with a hint of John Otway on vocals. I’d be interested to see how the new band will develop particularly liking ‘I’m a psycho’ with its swampy reverb effect which would certainly come to the fore with a full band.
Next up are Fools Paradise who take to the stage with swagger as they jam out an interesting intro acknowledging each other across the stage. Front man Rob Deacon coolly announces that “we’re Fools Paradise” as they surge into a set which offers more than I expected. Yes there is an Oasis aura about their sound but they have the ability to transform this and take it further, I ‘m particularly impressed by young guitarist Brad Mills who has an ability to evoke a number of indie guitar heroes. Their sound filled the venue and was received extremely well by the crowd which was more diverse than usual. I was really impressed by ‘No such thing as twilight?’ if that’s the title, with its wah wah guitar effects. Rob appeared very confident as he switched from rhythm to tambourine a la Liam raising it above his head getting into his groove. Their last song of the night ‘No salvation’ had a punkier edge about it and if the band can perhaps bring more of these influences to the fore their sound will develop, just mix it up more and see what happens lads; as I’m sure the Pistols and the Stooges are in their somewhere.
It seemed that there were great expectations for The Lamps Expire who were making there debut here tonight. They comprise vocalist Jamie Gordon and drummer Andrew Shaw (formerly of Alfa 9) guitarist Jim Mould, bassist Mark Norcup. Hitting the stage they take the audience to another level with a violin led intro ‘Calendar’ with the flamboyant playing of Gareth Copeland. I immediately think of the Gang of Four meeting the Velvet Underground with a psychedelic dance twist as they weave their sound. I hear the influence of John Cale with an injection and interplay of sound and technicolour. ‘Wedding gown’ is quite mesmerising with the violin, guitars and keyboard weaving together creating a kaleidoscopic wall of sound with its funk driven almost avante garde soundscape.
This band have been three years in the making and tonight they did not fail to impress, and from the murmurings it was heard that their were comparisons to Arcade Fire and a nod to Interpol, fair praise indeed to giving them a modern twist on the influence front. With their musical virtuosity they continued with ‘Glorious’ and set finale ‘Pull’. The Lamps Expire are certainly one for Stoke music fans to be keeping their eyes and ears on in the future. They are dynamic stuff indeed and may need a couple of listens to fully appreciate them, therefore I would urge you to keep their light burning.
Before Vellocet take to the stage I manage to grab a few moments with vocalist Ryan Barker. He’s as impressed with the Lamps as I was, finding their set inspiring, uplifting and creative. He’s extremely sincere and genuine in this appraisal tonight. “What the fuck was that about?” simply mind blowing we both concur. I comment that he’s seems really fired up tonight and he confides that something has got to him earlier. He is passionate about his band; they’re a gang fighting against the odds, think The Roses and Primal Scream - true rock ’n’ roll musical pirates. Rock ‘n’ Roll was originally the outsider so let’s not forget that people.
As they take to the stage with the epic intro of 'Animals' Mr Barker shuffles, messing up his hair as if to blow away the cobwebs. There is the implication that they’re going to take you on a journey, be with us be part of it, don’t just talk amongst yourselves. The audience welcomes their hero’s, and he hits his stride in ‘Messiah’ oozing confidence, urging the band forward with their tribal, rhythmic and hypnotic pulse. The audience enthusiastically lap this up, welcoming the band as they begin the year with their first headliner.
Prior to the announcement of a new song ‘Keep dreaming’ he plugs a Douglas Macmillan benefit gig Vellocet are doing on 25th February along with a new band called O.K. Corral, just up the road at Fat Cat (a bit of free advertising never goes amiss). Said song is about the coalition government getting the rich richer and the poor poorer. The synth led ‘Set us free’ features a pulsing rhythm from bassist Lew Wilson and a primary vocal from rhythm guitarist Jordan Gifford. Throughout the set there is evocative guitar playing from Ash Simpson as he conjures up his hypnotic spacey riffs taking the band into the inner consciousness of the listener. There are new songs to be played tonight which is a treat for those who have seen Vellocet before, as is the imminent release of material.
The eastern tinged ‘Suicide Eyes’ with its raga feel certainly impressed me and showed just how far the band are developing their sound soaking up a number of influences, reinterpreting and making them their own. There’s some heavy rock ‘n’ roll in the form of ‘Riverside’ and as they bring the night to a close Ryan urges the crowd to “have a fuckin dance” as they conclude their set with ‘K.I.L.L.’ which has a MC5 feel about it; very much in your face and assaulting the senses.
It’s been a great night for music tonight and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Each band had something to the offer the audience, and whoever you came for I hope you had a great night too.
Postscript; as I finish this I’ve just heard that the legendary ex Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore has died. R.I.P Gary you were a terrific rock/blues guitarist you will be sadly missed by fans and guitarists alike.