Review by Robert Egan
For a small venue, the upstairs room of The White Star can be heard across the town centre which doesn’t bode well for my ear drums. I arrive to a pretty full venue with the first band Werewolves on Motorcycles pounding out their already sweat-laced set and I get a feeling that tonight is going to be something special.
We have been featuring their track Dr. Love on the Stoke Sounds Radio show for some time and it is nice to be able to transcend the recording to the live experience. Werewolves are a powerful three-piece and all members eventually take turns on the vocals which gives a nice difference to their already varied songs. Being excellent musicians the band are impressively tight and the music seems to be a more traditional/pure punk sound one minute, then they hit you with a Doom laced edge the next. The sheer volume of the PA and Bass/guitar amps rocks the soul and I am cursing not bringing my earplugs for all of the right reasons! With an impromptu vocal performance from Dave Collins (Leif Ericsson guitarist/vox) for 2 tracks covering Ramones numbers, their set is heated up further, exacerbated by their animated stage presence and Animal-esque antics of the drummer. Before too long the set is finished and I am left wanting more; Werewolves will well be worth catching the next time…
Second band up tonight are All the Best Tapes and to be honest, from an outfit that are not challenged in the age department as yet, I was not expecting the wall of sound that came crashing out of the system. The vocals are being screamed across it seems at ten times the normal volume and it’s causing considerable damage to my already strained ears.
The band have a layered sound which is at times quite mellow and at other times somewhat stomach wrenching. The drums come across clear and precise and the amp distortion is just enough to add suitable depth to the music without being overpowering. The sound is dynamic and thought through with a sincerity, which for a punk outfit really surprises me; it is a more accessible style of punk than you might be expecting with some interesting changes from loud to emotional content. Some tracks sound truly epic yet the vocals remain clearly defined in the mix, which considering the sheer level of the volume is quite impressive.
The third band is The Leif Ericsson, who quickly settle into their set. It’s immediately apparent that they are tight and polished and seem well used to performing. The instruments and vocals come across clearly yet the distortion is just enough to give an edge. Leif want to take you on a musical cruise through their repertoire and as we sail through what seems like a few different genres, we ultimately arrive back to where they began, which interpret as punk with a more mainstream feel. The most appreciative crowd are enjoying their set and if the bands sweat levels are anything to go by; Leif Ericsson are utilising every joule in their performance.
Headlining tonight’s showcase is the Japanese band A Page of Punk. Now I must admit that if a band are going to take the time to come all the way across the world on a tour and pay Stoke a visit, the least we can do is go and see what they have to offer and from the opening track, I am in a bit of awe. Their sound is as loud as it is encompassing. It might be an often used sentence but the audience are going nuts for these guys and the band ride the wave of sentiment higher and higher, morphing from the front and into the crowd so that they are almost indiscernible. Page of Punk are certainly not going to conform to the ‘stage’ area nor the stereotype aesthetic of their genre; their front man Chiaki is decked out in a sparkling gold jacket and with lashings of eye shadow and slicked hair looks more a new romantic. He manages to keep most eyes on his antics as he gradually undresses to underwear whilst throwing himself around the room frantically. The music is tight and well played, loud and driven, energetic and yet playful at the same time. I like this band, they have the bravado and excitement to draws your attention and keep it firmly in the palms of their hands, until it’s all over and you wonder, what the hell just happened? Let’s hope that they come over more often…