Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sound casino / The Jacobins @ The Full Moon Friday 20th May

Review by Jake Carter

I’ve been meaning to catch The Jacobins play live for quite a while since hearing their self-released EP. It’s a great piece of work that has a nice upbeat indie-pop sound and I’d recommend it to everyone. Anyhow, for Friday’s gig at The Full Moon I was expecting a simple and clean sound, similar to that of their EP, and that’s what we got - especially since their drummer was absent for the performance, so a couple of acoustic guitars and a bass were all the instruments present.

Due to the nature of The Jacobins’ sound, not having a drummer for the night didn’t seem to effect things too much, and they still put on a good performance regardless. Their simple set-up was pleasant on my ears and created a relaxing vibe for the evening. The sound was somewhere between an open mic and a full band set-up, and it was just nice to sit back and appreciate the toned downed set.

I recognised a few songs from their EP on the night, and also noticed a few new ones too, which seemed pretty promising for future releases. Their songs appear pretty happy on the surface, but I sense melancholy undertones throughout that open them right up, and this gives of the impression that they’re actually more deep-rooted upon closer inspection. Highlights for me included the really beautiful ‘A Thousand Stars’ and also ‘City Lights’, which is what they ended on and is what seems to be their most popular song.

The next and last band of the night were Sound Casino, who I’d not heard of until a couple of hours prior to the gig, as the band who had originally been scheduled to play had pulled out. I obviously wasn’t sure what to expect from these fours lads, and after hearing them sound check I was even more unsure as it didn’t seem like my kind of music. But, there’s a reason for sound checks, and there’s a reason for ignoring them as much as possible - no band is going to sound great sorting out the levels and shit-bits.

Once they were all sorted and when there was a bigger audience present, Sound Casino entered the stage, kicked things off and sounding absolutely fantastic. Their first song of the night, was for me, their best song of the night and left me with a lasting impression. They were a really energetic band and the front-man had great vigor and stage confidence. They threw in a few covers during their set - actually I lost count of how many - which included ‘Club foot’ by Kasabian and ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ by the Verve. These songs - especially the Kasabian cover - fitted in quite well with their own material, and gives you a bit of an inkling of what they sound like.

During some of Sound Casino’s faster moments, they really reminded me of the faster paced songs of British Sea Power - lots of energy and steaming vocals. The vocals from the lead singer were one of the most impressive things about the band, as I simply wasn’t expecting too much to begin with. It really goes to show that judging early on isn’t always a wise idea, and that you can never underestimate the power of the audience - this music game truly works both ways.

Despite that face that The Jacobins and Sound Casino have pretty different styles, the night was a success and went quite smoothly considering one band had one less member than usual, and the other was drafted in as a last minute replacement. To make this night a complete one though, there was really just one thing left for me to do: take to the dance floor and practice my best Ian Curtis dance with the fantastic DJ Sweetjayne on the decks. Success!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Abyss @ The Full Moon 7th May 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Martin Kaluza

Abyss: a young group of teenage lads forged from the institution of Endon High School, you may think they’d be Stoke’s idea of some sort of Glee effort, but boy would you be wrong. I like to think I have a keen eye for knowing music and spotting potential when I see it, and, as God’s honest truth, NEVER during all my years reviewing now, have I seen such a young but accomplished band. Liking their metal, and inspired by the big rock gods such as Hendrix, Ozzy and Metallica, Abyss draw on this and don’t just reproduce metalcore with a raving front man who may as well just chuck his own guts up down a megaphone…. Instead here are four sixteen-year old guys with the whole musical world at their feet, and they do it with so much grace, vigor, articulate soloing, melody and enthusiasm that they do it better than some of the professionals. For saying that they’re already at this level at the beginning of their gigging career, it’s obvious they could go somewhere if they keep on rocking and keep on being committed.

Too approving you say? Well let’s break it down… They deliver a cracking 40 minute set, most of which comprises of their own, and very original material, even when there’s a slight fault with some of the equipment and some grizzly-bearded metaller brute steps on stage to sort it during their set, the show goes on and it doesn’t even phase them. There’s no crazy windmilling, just appreciation of their musical craft, no screamo, no whiney, hormonal rubbish like the previous band on stage prior to Abyss, where the girl might break down in tears any minute over her high school crush, that, or she just broke a nail whilst holding the mic. They deliver a mature, tangible, encouraging and thought-provoking set, with no Stoke twang in sight, which is usually off-putting to the ear during song, and it actually made a nice change to see a lead bass vocalist.

These guys have clearly been educated well in their rock roots. ‘Breakout’ best demonstrated this with their Creed/SOAD inspired ethereal opening riffs, which were outstanding for such a young band, and very promising. Their renditions of ‘The Boys are Back in Town’, and ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ were perfect, and made me feel so rock, I wanted to whip Guitar Hero out right on the spot. ‘Crazy Train’ was unleashed, and again, the standard of playing was unbelievable. Journey’s classic ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ (which you may frown at), also made an appearance, but it was a brilliant way of bringing everyone together, and they made it their own with a rock/shred approach, whilst nailing those catchy and intricate solos. Good job Fellas!

They ended on their oldest song: “Wasteland’, which they wrote in 2008 when they formed, and it had a solid feel-good vibe, especially evident in the chorus, which I can only describe as similar to: ‘Team America **** yeah!’ What was especially impressive was that after 3 years, they play it with the same fun and fervor as seen here on stage.

I was really, and honestly blown away by Abyss and can’t wait to see more things from this rockin’ teen band.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Lines / The Fears @ Stoke Sugarmill 5th May 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Martin Kaluza

After a hard day’s grind, I finally roll up at The Sugarmill to find myself presented with local band: ‘The Fears’, ready on stage to perform as support for tonight’s main act: ‘The Lines’. What I find is a group of lads with exactly the right idea. They’re tight, with spot-on sound quality, quality tunes, and quality vocals, delivering all you could ever want from a local gig. Their opening track was blinding – ‘Whispers’ is a killer track, so much so it’s practically sanctimonious, indulging in Editors/Vines undertones, they must, must, MUST headline again soon! Their live act, in fact sounded more new and alive than the likes of Editors (which by my standards is saying a lot), and you could embrace their beautiful dark quality, with vocals that reminded me of Robert Harvey (The Music), with lyrics so luscious you could swim in them.

It was a tall order for The Lines to follow, but of course these talented guys would pull it out of the bag. After being blown away by them on our Stoke Sounds radio show (on April 25th) performing their acoustic set, which pretty much left the people in the studio speechless at just how good they were, I didn’t actually think it possible they could top it. But, here they were, electrifying;show stopping, and performing each note like it was new, with such beauty, integrity, and aplomb. The voice that comes out of Alex Ohm is purely remarkable and holds so much conviction that it perfectly synchronizes to their unique and compelling sound.

‘Circles’ is a winner – lyrics of aptitude (‘what a beautiful state we’re in’ which could be used to describe themselves), and music so elaborate it perfectly carries the song which sees glimpses of a young Richard Ashcroft (‘heard these words from these brothers and sisters’. I’ll not forget to mention their drumming crescendo of a finale, seeing the vocalist pound put some smoking beats to put all that more heart and passion into what they’re trying to achieve, only seen once before by The Temper Trap in Manchester which was also a phenomenal spectacle.

I only wish that their set was just that tiny bit longer. They are magnificent to watch and are so unlike all the indie drab these days that it really sets them apart, and for saying they’re from only down the road in Wolves, The Lines are pretty much waving the flag in The Midlands for music’s future, and I’m all for that. Please, please see these guys!