Sunday, 11 March 2012

Arthurs Vision / The Escape / Kadence @ The Full Moon Friday 9th March 2012

Review by Robert Egan

Rolling on down to the Full Moon for a three band evening, it’s a nice surprise to see so many here early on in the proceedings and giving some support to the first band for tonight, Kadence.

I must admit that I’ve never heard these lads previously and was really impressed with their indie rock sound which offers a hint merseybeat and psychedelia at times and also possibly a bit of 70’s glam/punk about them, especially from the main vox which a belted out at levels which could make the throat surgeon ready his operating table, or make you take notice that this lad at the front has got something to say. He’s got a powerful voice which accentuates the music well. 

‘2012’ was of particular note with an anthemic intro and driving bass and rhythm guitars. It has a well thought out composition; certainly not your ‘rock by numbers’ and offers a hint of how good these lads could be.
I heard from a fan that this was their 2nd gig since a new bassist and you can’t tell, so that says a lot about their dedication and drive. ‘Judgement day’ I’m sure had the drummer knocking out a double bass pedal?!-in an indie band! which I really liked the novelty of and hints at their creativity and ideas. They certainly had a small crowd throwing some moves in the pit and that’s no small feat in the Moon; most crowds tend to shy away at the back and leave the pit as an empty void waiting to be filled. I really enjoyed listening to their sound and I reckon you could do a lot worse than catch them if you can.

The second band up tonight is The Escape, whom I’ve had the pleasure of watching previously and they didn’t disappoint. They opened up with a sharp sounding intro and really grabbed the crowds’ attention, ready to unleash the set.

I think they have a slightly ska sound to them at times and certainly a post-rock feel, I can see why they appeal to an audience, especially from the energy that their front man throws off. He’s got a definite presence and articulation about him, devoid of any instrument to hold back his mannerisms which help to convey the mood of the lyrics. The whole band are certainly not about to just sit/stand there and play and this draws the crowd into the pit to try and absorb some of their energy.

A few of their tracks have hints of grunge/grind, but certainly are not to be pigeonholed as such as they always maintain their contemporary feel. I heard some tracks that I’d not encountered previously and some familiar ones-sorry lads, I did not catch any of their names.

The last track of their set was outstanding. Subtly rousing and extremely uplifting with a definite 80’s tinge to it-you can hear hints of the early Cure with these lads. They hail from Crewe so don’t necessarily play around Newcastle/Stoke too much, so I would definitely make the effort to give them a listen if you’re able.

Last and by no means least is tonight’s headliners Arthur’s Vision. Again, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Arthur’s a couple of times before and been suitably impressed with their repertoire, so after hearing that they’d been gigging around the country a little of recent, I was glad to hear how they have developed their sound. 

Their set was opened to much applause from a now sizable crowd with a suitably driving number (in fact it’s nice to see such an eclectic crowd for this band, proof that their music has appeal to many ages and palates), heavy in guitars with a gorgeous rhythm section, holding the track together. Their sound is a nice breath of fresh air for tonight’s proceedings.

‘Feel the moment’ has a taste of Fleetwood Mac about it in my view, especially for the intro, with a country undertone. It’s a melancholic number and the keys help with a suitable accompaniment, yet it is driven and accessible with a very well thought out composition and by this point-which is quite early in their set-they have a pretty full pit of people absorbing their energy and releasing it with some interesting dance techniques. I wonder how you can be moved so much by the sound of the lead guitar, but you are and it’s an extremely uplifting experience. Fact is that they have toured around a bit and the experience shows, both in stage presence and sound quality.

The keys play a significant part in their sound and the parts are worked into the overall compositions very well almost substituting for the lead guitar in a sense rather than accompaniment, which is interesting. The vocals are expressive and inviting, driven at times and their front guy has an impressive range with a damn powerful sound when he wants to let it go. The harmonies are very well rehearsed and are presented spot on (something a lot of bands seem to leave as a secondary thought). You can tell that this band has spent a lot of time honing their skills and making sure that everything is just right.

There’s something about these lads, it’s almost like rather than happening across each other and developing a sound, they were simply meant to be. Very slick sounding and professional and I hope that they go far. Catch them if you can and you’ll not be disappointed...

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Heritage and Clockwork Owls @ The Sugarmill Friday 9th March

Review by Sian Eardley

I can sleep easily for a night.
Stoke may yet be saved from post-apocalyptic, screamo fifteen-year olds, looking to take the mantle and making it to Donnington Park, with as much Kerrang pap press as Paramore. I digress… Local (absolutely amazing, phenomenally good, unbelievably fabulous) starlets, Sian Matthews of Heritage and Aaron Mobberly of Clockwork Owls, are indeed the news of the hour.
Both modest of their art form (with a nod to Leo Robinson/Cult Party who waves the same flag), their folky music, which flows naturally within their talent’s unbounded capacity, is simply beautiful. I feel we have the babes of a Midlands Fleet Foxes in our mist, a collaboration of all three; I think would implode my brain with the sound of awesomeness. Now, being big-headed, but knowing I’m not alone, I have a pretty sound grasp on music, to recognize musical talent, I know what works, and what little glimpses can be just exhilarating to wonder where it will lead. Sian Matthews has virtually identical music taste to myself, and seeing her on stage last night, I felt that a true star was blooming before my very own eyes.
She embraces a beautiful spirit - unaware of her talent, a beautiful voice, which the likes of Stoke has never seen, and has a wonderful path in front of her. She’s as fascinating as Florence Welch – not that I’m comparing her sound, more like her ways. She’s as wondrous, as captivating, as inventive, and again as beautiful. That really does summate Heritage, that word: beautiful…. Having her in session on our Stoke Sounds ( on Mondays 7-9pm) radio show, she bloody blew me away with her raw talent: graceful playing, and educated yet elegant song-writing, I knew this upcoming show would be a blinder and it was. Though, a relatively short set (I wanted more!), with her accompniants - fellow guitarist and cellist, I somehow felt I’d stepped onto the set of a Smashing Pumpkins music video circa 1994 – absolutely Lush. However, the 15 year old brats who were in would have done well to have listened to someone so deserving of credit – had to get that off my chest. The establishment gets worse for policing it.
Aaron Mobberly – business personality, musical ability off the scale. He somewhat band manages his efforts in a charming manner, finds time to do his own solo stuff, and crams it all in to sounding bloody good! Yes, he is a good egg, an all rounder with some pretty darn good music to boot, Again, another radio frequent, we love them both, and as I, you’re sure to be in absolute awe. Very fortunate if on the same bill again. Make sure to check them both out, get on Bandcamp, check their sessions out with us, and I’m sure we’ll see big things from both spectacular Stoke bands soon.

Monday, 5 March 2012

King Charles / We Were Evergreen / Dinosaur Dancefloor / Jack Martello @ The Sugarmill 1st March 2012.

Review by Emilia Rowley

This was not so much a local gig, rather a gig that highlighted some of the secret gems that actually happen to play locally. Arriving to a slightly empty Sugarmill, appeared a young man in ever-so-fetching tweed trousers and a hand-sling. Yes, for this acoustic wonder he couldn’t actually play his own guitar; however much to the enjoyment of the audience, he launched into an acapella solo, merely using his voice to control the beat and the room. Jack Martello began singing something he wrote that very day on a napkin, and recalling a lyric sings ‘like a 15 year old girl’. He doesn’t of course; he sounds beautifully soulful, and accompanied by a friend playing his acoustic guitar, we are reminded of James Morrison and singer/songwriters within that thread. Just 3 songs into the setlist and he has the audience captivated, encouraging them to sing along even though the song is undoubtedly unfamiliar. It is quite refreshing to see this young Kentish gentleman with just his voice and a guitar, especially when he thrusts at the young girls in the audience; what a dreamboat.

The only local band on this bill is my old favourites Dinosaur Dancefloor. As they are currently on hiatus, this gig was a stopgap in recording their new EP. Unfortunately, there were no new songs to tease the audience with, although we were not disappointed by their performance. Dinosaur Dancefloor always sound so together; and they currently sound tighter than ever before. There is so much fun had on stage that their in-jokes and funny quips make the audience smile, even when there’s no idea what is going on. My standout track (not that I haven’t heard them before) is ‘Funny Honey’; uniform harmonies, all members basically playing in a line, and again so in-tune with each other. It’s reminiscent of a 50s musical chorus line and is just so damn catchy. As mentioned previously, DD are working on their latest release; constantly recording and aiming for an EP launch gig around late Spring/early Summer. That’s a small exclusive for you right there.

We Were Evergreen aren’t even British. Hailing from ‘gay Paree’ are 3 of the most beautiful French people ever seen. A xylophonist, a bassist/beat boxer, and a ukulele/acoustic guitar player appear on stage and I’m already interested. The bassist lays down a looped beat over the jingle-jangle of the xylophone, in come electronic drums and an indie-techno dance beat, and tender ‘ooos’ and ‘aaahs’ within lyrics reveal the completed sound. Playing with sounds and making it work is what We Were Evergreen do best; their catchy high-pitched songs of joy could well be this summer’s international success story. Think Two Door Cinema Club but with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The vocal breaks within songs, just perfect harmonies to no music, display the lone female’s beautifully rasping voice. This is enhanced by the remaining members, music, and of course the accent of the language of love. J’adore We Were Evergreen.

With cravats and stand-up collars ago-go, on walk King Charles’ backing group – a bassist that looks like Kenneth Branagh but slicker, and coordinating backing singers in monochrome outfits. King Charles alone has more hair than any man, of which I am quite jealous. He is mesmerising, and of course the main event. Having toured with Mumford and Sons, I can see why King Charles could be the ‘next big thing’. Rolling folk rock that is on the louder and happier side of Mumford and Sons; songs about love of course and finding his queen, accompanying harmonies and backing singers that have dance moves! ‘Bam Bam’ is my favourite track; you only need it hear it once and you’ll also be singing ‘she said she will never be my queen’. Not so much king-like, but definitely folk-rock royalty, King Charles (and accompaniment) is most certainly one to watch this year.