Monday, 27 February 2012

Six Towns / The Rimes/ Wildfires / The Lost Scenes @ The Sugarmill, 25th February.

Review by Kirsty Underwood

The Sugarmill’s stage became home to local lads Six Towns on Saturday 25th February, with The Rimes, Wildfires and Lost Scenes joining the bill. The venue began filling up quickly and being a Saturday night, there was a lot of hairspray and high heels down on that good old sticky floor.

I’m gutted to report that I missed the set from The Rimes, due to dull work commitments, so apologies to the band for the lack of a write up! However, the internet grapevine suggests that these rock and rollers, with their Beatles, Rolling Stones and Ocean Colour Scene stylings, kicked things of in the spirit of their musical forefathers and got people shaking it their way (ignoring the terrible play on the name, check out track Shake It My Way online and you’ll see how apt a title it is).

It’s typical that the first few supporting bands on a line up get the least out of an audience, whether it be due to them being new to peoples ears or the bar having only been open for an hour. Not the case for Wildfires. Swaggering on to the stage, lead singer Patrick Taylor produced attention demanding confidence from up his denim sleeves. Taylor punched out vocals like the love child of The Twang’s Phil Etheridge and Scroobius Pip over indie rhythms scattered with a touch of punk disregard. Ballsy energy and the break out of a mosh pit early into the set sent the high heels scattering and the bar set well and truly high.

Next on the bill, Lost Scenes. It became evident that a good proportion of the audience was made up of Wildfires fans as the dance floor emptied a tad. This was a shame because Lost Scenes gave a powerful performance which I have a feeling would’ve been played with as much earnest enthusiasm if they had just been practising in someone’s garage. It’s no surprise that these boys use their talent to do some good in the world either, having recently raised money for charity with a cycling gigathon. They produced a pulsating, passionate set filled with bop-worthy tracks to make your toes twitch. Something like Elbow letting their hair down and trying to save the world at the same time.

Having played The Sugarmill as headliners before, and with a name proudly showing their roots, Six Towns were hopefully feeling rightly at home when they took to the stage. From the minute they stepped under the lights, front man Liam O’Brien’s presence indicated that this was the case. Hammering through a set to overwhelm even the most dedicated indie rock fan, the combination of influences being thrown at the audience was musical psychedelia. The presence of rock giants Oasis, Kasabian and Stone Roses was palpable throughout, but on tracks such as The Chase and Dirty Desires, there were stirrings of the early days of heavy rock. The Chase, with the lyrics “we’re coming to get you”, built up to a climax that left a euphoric audience in no doubt that they had indeed been “got”. Dirty Desires demonstrated the band’s creativity, exploring an earthier sound that O’Brien’s gravelly tones richly emphasized. New track Wasting Away gave goose-bumps, indulging in some almost medieval “ahh-ing” and continued the robust stance that Six Towns are currently revelling in.

The Stoke lads gave a triumphantly toxic set packing in plenty of enticingly anthemic tunes that are not to be missed. They can next be found locally at Fat Cats on April 8th and Wasting Away is now available as a free download on the Six Towns website; I strongly recommend giving it a listen if you like your indie rock and roll a little to the grungy left of Brit Pop.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Dressed Like Wolves/Cult Party/Aaron Mobberley/ Jim Mcshee/ Heritage @ The Old Brown Jug 8th February 2012

Review by Pete Callaghan

Whilst my back was turned, a scene of young, devoted musicians has seemingly emerged in the heart of the six towns. United by a passion for lo-fi acoustic folk and blues, these guys and girls came to my attention just before Christmas and I got word (on the grapevine of course) of great gig at the Old Brown Jug where they would be playing some of their eclectic songs for free, of all prices! So jumped a couple of buses and headed down there to check out the score.

Heritage, made up of Sian Matthews of Faux Feet, Ben Cornwell and Alex Liebeck, play a wonderful little acoustic songs that fit beautifully with Sian’s versatile vocals. Its delicate music that breezes in and out of your ears, something you could quite happily relax to in the evening or any other time of the day really. They opened the gig with this beautiful brand and with tracks like “Young but Old”, which gently plucks on guitar and double bass whilst Sian sings euphonious verses about the passage of time, definitely got in going on the right track. 

Jim Mcshee is becoming a bit of a veteran of Stoke music scene, playing his unique take on country and blues. This evening he played material from his new EP “The Coffin Nail” and some of his personal favourites and covers of other obscure acoustic musicians. Like all good blues, the music is somehow upbeat set against lyrics that conjure up imagery of the Church, death and of course, being depressed. It’s the kind of music that you can tap your foot to whilst thinking “is that guy okay?” I particularly enjoyed his version of “The Fishing Blues” and one of his own “Bloody Knuckle Blues”; it’s got really a tight tapping rhythm, brilliant lyrics and a great chorus. I once said to people that white guys can’t sing the blues but it’s getting harder to say that the more I hear this guy play. Great set.   

Lead singer of local band Clockwork Owls, Aaron Mobberley was up next with his solo project. I enjoy his mix of indie folk with glorious vocals which sounded so lush in the corner of the Old Brown Jug that night. Like all the acts on this line-up, it’s really good to see music of such a high quality on the doorstep. His track “Commitment”, title track of his EP, is a perfect example of this; its timing changes, rural lyrics and the way the rhythm plays with the vocals, and vice versa, is indicative of a really talented song writer. “Crayons” is another brilliant track, reminiscent that characteristic indie sound but the way he plays it and makes it his own transforms it into something pretty special. Look out for Aaron next time you looking for a gig to go to because it’s well worth checking him out live; I’m glad I made it down; another great set.

Cult Party is a real diamond in the rough (the rough being Stoke-on-Trent). However the barren de-industrialised landscape of Stoke produced such a gem is completely unknown to me but I’m glad it did. His unique little lo-fi ditties, played on a ukulele, electric and acoustic guitars and even a djembe, have some real leftfield lyrics about zombies, vampires, dimensional shifts and video games which all come together in either short bursts of oldie swing style tracks or longer alternative folk numbers that leave me speechless. This evening he was joined on the drums which added a little percussion to his performance which was nice to hear.  His ukulele numbers like “Undead” and Zombie Song” were interspersed with his longer acoustic tracks like the brilliant “Hurricane Girl” and the slow, yearning “The Forth Dimension” which made his barely 20 mins set pass in moments and left wanting him to just play the entire thing again. Before this review devolves any further into me telling you how good his songs are, I’ll just say that this was an exceptionally good set and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

Last up were Dressed Like Wolves from Teesside and unfortunately due to the time constraints of public transportation and human society working on a monetary system in which one must exchange labour for financial gain, I ended up leaving early and missing their performance, which is a shame because they make some fantastic lo-fi music. Check them out on MyFACE tm or some other internet platform; it’s definitely worth doing so.  Same goes for all the bands on this lineup or better yet, go and see them live. It was a cracking gig and I hope there is more of them.

Monday, 6 February 2012

My Vote of Confidence / Fighting Flux @ The Foxlowe, 3rd February 2012

Review by Kirsty Underwood

This was one hell of a cold night in Leek. Even inside the venue where I was informed the radiators had been on all afternoon I was wondering whether to trade in my coke for a brew. The Foxlowe, an unassuming building opposite the market place in Leek, has recently undergone a bit of a spruce and is now home to upcoming music promoters The Situation. This was my first visit and I liked what I saw; the bar slap bang in front of you as you walked in, low lighting from mismatched lamps and table-top candles, a few sofas dotted around by the dance floor, random antique telephones. A surreal living room with a stage.

Being a new venture the place wasn’t heaving with people but My Vote of Confidence and Fighting Flux had seen to it that their friends and families made a good audience and of course the local music lovers were drifting in as the night went on. I was aware however, that there seemed to be a divide. In front of me were groups made up what I feel I’m grumpy enough to refer to as youngsters or teenagers and behind me the age range jumped up a bit. This left me wondering where the twenty somethings were…beer and music, get yourselves out!

The background rumble of The Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols died down and gave way to Fighting Flux. In their short time as a band, round about a year, they have already played at The Sugarmill, so I was hoping for a good dose of stage presence from these flannel-shirt wearing newbies. They didn’t disappoint. What was delivered was a pleasantly loud surprise. Influences of Black Sabbath and, dropping the N-word, Nirvana were heavily evident. As a throw back to the rock of old a bit of 70’s style wa-wa slipped in alongside guitar solos that were given with centre-stage fervour and put smiles on faces. Vocals were confident and brash. A cover of Adele’s Rolling in The Deep was a personal favourite of the set, and a damn sight better under rock stylings. But none of this compared to a cover that the band’s lead singer admitted he did not want to sing; Tick Tock, Kesha, an act of genius that left the audience giggling with glee.

As Fighting Flux disassembled, joining their jubilant groupies, it was time for My Vote of Confidence. These guys have been knocking around Stoke for a few years now in a few shapes and forms and have their first digital album Chasing Dreams up online. Prior to the night I sampled the tracks and was expectantly waiting to see how track I may, I Might, with its Motorhead appeal would transfer. I was hoping that the band’s name was not going to jinx the performance especially as the bassist was nowhere to be seen. However, the set was short lived and ended with two tracks performed acoustically by the lead singer. Those performed by the band as whole had a good dusting of Iron Maiden-esque classic guitar solos and grunge influences circa early 1990’s (I didn’t want to drop the N word again!) and I May, I Might was the best of the lot. I must say though that I was left a little flat and maybe it was because they were missing a bassist, but this wasn’t a 110%, I’ve only got one arm but I’m going to drum anyway, kind of performance.

So hoping that next time would be better for MVOC and that Fighting Flux would keep up the good work, I made my last scribble of the night; “candle burnt out, warmth gone”, and headed for home humming Kesha, cheers boys!