Dead Sons | Faux Feet | Wildfires @ The Sugarmill 18.05.12

Local Stoke bands Wildfires and Faux Feet support Sheffield indie five-piece Dead Sons.

First up tonight are Wildfires, but there’s nothing wild or fiery about this unsigned four-piece. For the first half of their set the vocalist avoids looking at the crowd and makes very little effort to talk to them and encourage them to get involved. The crowd, which the majority of is made up of teens are more interested in talking to their friends, messing around pushing and shoving each other and spilling drinks all for a bit of fun. Once the band’s mates turn up at the front the vocalist chats to them during their breaks between songs. They don’t seem to be taking this seriously enough. The vocals themselves are rather dull and there’s a few catchy guitar hooks here and there but overall the band has a very generic indie sound which has been heard many times before.

Up next are another local support alt-indie four-piece Faux Feet, who straight off are much more interesting and immediately grab the attention of the audience. The most striking thing about this band is vocalist Sian Matthews whose vocals are beautiful and her lyrics are sung with utmost passion with her eyes closed and lots of hand movements. After a couple of songs vocalist Sian Matthews asks the crowd if their set is any good and their changeover between songs is a bit messy and should be more fluid, suggesting that Faux Feet need to tighten up their live performances and believe in themselves more. I have high hopes for this band, they have a great potential to be successful. I’d be very surprised if they stayed unsigned for long. Faux Feet are currently recording for their first E.P. which should be very promising if their live performances are anything to go by.

Tonight’s headliners are indie five-piece Dead Sons but as they take to the stage the room appears emptier than before. This reminds me of what happened when the band Francesqa played here back in September and people left after they watched the support bands. Dead Sons are an incredibly noisy band with extra drum power which at times makes it difficult to hear the vocals of Thomas Rowley. Their music strikes instant similarities with indie giants the Arctic Monkeys, who like Dead Sons, are also from Sheffield. This band are bringing something more interesting and different to the indie genre and don’t have that typical indie sound that so many bands of the genre have. Dead Sons have an extra oomph to their music provided by percussionist Mathew Byrne who plays extra drums, maracas and guitar during their set.  At one point during their set vocalist Rowley and guitarist Luke Baker swap positions on stage so that Baker can play the keyboard. Their songs are fast-paced and all have boisterous instrumentals that get the crowd jumping and bopping their heads along. The gig draws to a close and they play their final song. This band leave behind a striking onstage performance that the crowd won’t forget in a hurry.

Becky Davis, Radical’s Rising

RAMS Presents: Metalmania @ The Verve 15.05.2012

Tonight is the first ever Metalmania night presented by Staffs Uni RAMS (Rock Alt. Metal Society). With a superhero/super villain theme, Scuzz TV on in the background and local metallers Sworn To Oath performing live the night is set for high hopes. But unfortunately there is a severe lack of attendance at tonight’s Metalmania gig and even in the very small room that is The Verve, there is still a huge gap in front of the stage.

Stafford five-piece Blunderbuster kick-start the night and open their set to a very empty floor, but they show that they are not at all phased by the lack of people and the bassist and guitarist take advantage of the floor space in front of them by jumping down from the stage and running round. Their music is incredibly energetic and there is a euphoric energy about them, their catchy riffs and fun upbeat sound engages with a few members of the crowd who move to the middle of the floor to start dancing along to their upbeat Celtic punk tunes. Their sound is a mixture of metal and punk with a folky edge created by their fiddle player and at times sounds very piratey, a similar sound to that of the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. During their set Blunderbuster even play an interesting cover of the Rolling Stones ‘Paint It Black’ which the crowd loves.

A great start to a night of drunken dancing and head banging to along to heavy rock, punk metal music. Amongst the crowd are a few people who have made the effort to dress up, including the Hulk and characters from Final Fantasy.

Headliners of the Metalmania live performances tonight are Sworn To Oath, a metal trio band from Stoke-on-Trent who have fast gained a name for themselves not only around Stoke but across the Midlands. They open with ‘Last Call’ and instantly the speakers fill with their trademark heavy guitars and powerful drumming which resonates around the room. Sworn To Oath seem a bit disheartened at the turnout tonight and this is probably one of the smallest crowds that they have played to in Stoke for a while, as they often headline at the Sugarmill performing to a full room. They play the songs: ‘Reminds Me Of You’ and ‘False Promise’ and encourage the crowd come forward and bang their heads along and to punch their fists in the air and shout “hey!” They end their set with the song ‘Leave You For Dead’ and try their hardest to get the crowd to shout back the four simple lyrics: “leave you for dead” and let people know that they can buy some Sworn To Oath merch around the corner in the seating area of the main LRV room.

Metalmania was a great night and could have incredible potential, if only more people had actually turned up to watch the live bands.

 

 

Becky Davis, Radical’s Rising

Translucid @ The Sugarmill, 28.04.2102

New friends and old faces of one of the great local psychedelic rock Stoke bands, Translucid gathered on 28th April to witness the boys headline The Sugarmill.

The minute York quartet The Likely Lads ended their show, the majority of the audience downed their drinks and congregated together at the front. Proud parents of the band had a front row view; the lead singer was given a good luck kiss from his mum.  Screams from every age echoed the Sugarmill as Dan began to shake his tambourine for the first song and shouts “f***ing bring it”, and so the audience get more hyped up and start shouting the memorable lyrics.
Dan being the front man certainly gave an outstanding performance. He pulled the microphone off the stand as he had heaps of energy and enjoyed dancing around the stage like Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips; he got to the audiences level which showed he loved the wild crowd. Third song ‘See the Light’ started to play; Dan holding a bottle of Carlsberg demanded everyone to “get your dancing shoes on”. Beer was thrown and the jumping and crushing began.
Half way through the gig Translucid slowed it down with ‘The Mind is a Temple.’ The crushing turned into swaying but soon after the band jumped into a new song for both new and old listeners. This was a great performance to watch as there was competition between the guitarist and the bassist- it gave the audience something to watch rather than just listening.
‘Blow Out’, one of the wildest songs played, saw Dan jumping on and off amps and Joe’s manic afro hair head banging away. One of the parents turned to me while playing imaginary air guitar “they are f***ing brilliant”- perhaps one of their biggest fans. The guitar solo was immense all eyes were on Steve Pye and his talented guitar strumming. I loved how Dan appreciated Steve and Ben by giving them the floor while they played their solos, it’s not often you see bands like that. I respect you Dan Watkin.
Last song of the night ‘These Friends of Mine’, you could tell the audience were worn-out but this didn’t put Translucid off they were still rocking the hell out of Sugarmill. The last words from Translucid were ‘keep calm and listen to Translucid”.

Wanting to see more psychedelic madness?
http://www.reverbnation.com/translucid

Lucee Clarke, Radical’s Rising

Review of EP from Nicola Jayne Chirnside- ‘Nicola Jayne’

Exciting yet ambient EP from Nicci Chirnside opens with ‘I Won’t’, a track that instantly proves Nicci as a unique artist, and seeing as Nicola Jayne is a solo artist from Stoke-on-Trent, she is certainly someone we should be proud of in the local music scene. Filled with quirky guitar riffs and with at times sorrowful lyrics behind a secure guitar arrangement, ‘I Won’t’ is a strong opening track, though does, however at times run close to falling into a repetitive song. What the song does do is show how unique the voice of Nicola Jayne is. Nicci has clearly worked hard on her singing voice for many years and is now hitting a finely polished sound, becoming an artist with the kind of voice you instantly recognise.

As Nicola wails beautifully “You’re so perfect, you’re so perfect, yes you are”, you are given an intimate insight into Nicola’s emotional lyric, this being enforced when she later sings “I deserve it, I deserve it, yes I do.” These lyrics could be taken with multiple meanings, and though they seem to be simple lyrics, it is often those that are the most complicated to actually understand. ‘Little Hands’ isn’t just lyrics, though. It slips cunningly into a stunning breakdown, a part of Nicci’s imaginative and creative side which should really be let loose on her already well-polished songs.

“It’s easy to forget the worlds revolving, not around you, not around you” are again lyrics deep in meaning, and are also lyrics that are perhaps more mature than Nicci’s years might suggest, but the singer/songwriter clearly has her heart in the right place, with ‘For The Love Of God No’ portraying through her honest lyrics both Nicci’s humble persona and also her sorrow perhaps at the current state of the world and certain people in it.

Certainly deserving a mention here is Venombase Studios, who not only recorded, but also produced, mixed and mastered the ambient collection from Nicola Jayne, who pulls out her harmonica for fourth track ‘You Got It Goin’ On’, a song with a nice, up-beat tempo with enjoyable harmonica play. One minor problem with having the harmonica on this track is that it brings about the thought that the first three tracks could benefit possibly from having similar such additions in order to bring added depth and substance.

Nicola Jayne is a very promising young talent in Stoke-on-Trent, with this EP showing that though there are one or two gaps (which will easily be filled with a little experience) Nicci is full of potential as a solo artist who brings such mature qualities to her work, as final track ‘Bird In A Cage’ greatly shows. Sorrowful and soft throughout, ‘Bird In A Cage’ is not a song that should be listened to alone in a darkened room, such is the power of the emotion laced within. And when an artist can write a song with such power in the lyrics, you know you’re getting close to a potential goldmine of talent.

For more info on Nicola Jayne, go to http://www.facebook.com/nicolajaynemusicuk

 

Lee Barber, Radical’s Rising

‘Scrapbook’ from Lost Kause

Scrapbook, the album from EJ Lycett’s Lost Kause band, opens with ‘Wake Up Dead’, a song with the type of fun drum beats and guitar strumming with pop punk similarities to Blink 182, which is certainly no bad thing. The song progresses with a fast tempo until reaching am inticing breakdown which instantly brings the song added dynamics and effect, before the telephone is answered and the chorus blasts back in with perfect timing.

‘When We Were Young’ is a sentimental song in its lyrics, full of nostalgia which can be related to by anyone who listens to it, but the sense of nostalgia somehow flows through the music also, heightening that feeling you are given whenever the thought of a loved one from the past creeps into your mind. EJ Lycett has taken her poetry and transformed them in songs seemingly without effort, with ‘Salt and Pepper’ having a chorus so happy, witty and simply catchy that it becomes one of those songs that sticks in your head for days after hearing. It contains great backing vocals alomg with tongue in cheek lyrics such as “he tries to be gay but I think it’s all pretend, Salt and Pepper he’s my best friend.” Priceless.

EJ seems to possess the gift of being able to create melodies that are really memorable and interesting, ‘All This Time’ being a perfect example of this, although it has to be said that on occasion, the songs of Lost Kause would benefit even more so if EJ held back less on the angry passion that must be lurking somewhere within, and allow herself to really let go on the microphone and experiment with the clear talent that she already has. This talent is on show in ‘Set Me Free’, a song lending its chorus from the Supremes’ hit, which is cushioned intelligently between a brilliant spoken word poem which sums up perfectly a lesson everyone has at some point learnt.

A very emotional song stuck half way through the album, ‘Rockerbye Baby’ is like a lullaby for grown ups in the real world. The song is beautifully arranged with a hauntingly beautiful piano structure and harrowing story. Stories seem to be quite a speciality for EJ; ‘Hanging Around My Room’ showing this with ease, just as does ‘Breaking Up’, which also reinforces the musical ability of the band.

‘Mix up’s and Misbelieving’ is another song with hints of Blink returning, while ‘Frustrated’ and ‘Public Property’ reiterate the point of EJ Lycett’s ability to pen lyrics anyone can relate to in some way, and these two songs give an ending to an album rich intelligently written lyrics and catchy music which Lost Kause will hopefully be following up soon with more material.

For info on Lost Kause, go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lost-Kause/263683341195

Aaron Mobberley supports Willy Mason @ The Sugarmill 15.05.2012

Tonight’s audience at The Sugarmill arrived knowing the passionate affair that awaited them, with Willy Mason bringing his tour to Stoke-on-Trent. Supporting him on the tour is Nina Violet, a fellow American with a unique quality to her music, and supporting these two great artists is local folk singer Aaron Mobberley, who humbly takes to the stage to open the nights performances. After seeming slightly nervous to begin with, Aaron very quickly settles in with opening songs Unison Harmonies and Commitment. If it is Aaron is feeling a little nervous, that is no surprise after being given the honour of opening tonight’s set for the gifted Willy Mason. But Aaron does not disappoint, bringing along with him a finely tuned set, conjuring a soft, warm atmosphere at The Sugarmill, with the crowd standing quietly in humble appreciation of Aaron and his raw, yet angelic voice. Aaron is the kind of guy every girl wants to take home to meet their mum’s, it’s that simple. He talks to the crowd whilst tuning up his guitar, and even this interaction is done with a tender respectful disposition which is always the case with dear Aaron, and once tuned he entrances the crowd with new song Family Reunion, a song rich in emotion, with powerful heart hitting lyrics.

A touching sight is that of James Tildesley and Josh Morris- Aaron former band mates from the recently departed Clockwork Owls- stood at the front of the crowd in support of their good friend and his budding solo career. And budding is not a term used loosely. Aaron is one of the most naturally gifted artists in Stoke-on-Trent today, an artist who plays with his heart on his sleeve, and this is very evident in every song his offers to The Sugarmill tonight. Aaron is joined by a friend for his finale song, who takes up an acoustic bass guitar. Aaron jokes to the crowd that this song is one of the “Heaviest songs I’ve ever written”. The song he plays is in fact filled with beauty and a raw emotion which all of the crowd seemed to relate to. What Did You Do To My Heart is another saddening story which is portrayed by Aaron with loving, heartfelt lyrics strewn upon an intelligent melody, which is surrounded by a compelling a well structured arrangement. This song, as with all of Aaron’s material, is an audio droplet of emotion, echoed tonight into a room of people who couldn’t help but take in Aaron’s stories with pure appreciation and respect.

Aaron Mobberley more than did his hometown proud here after opening up the evening’s entertainment for Willy Mason, and after leaving the stage in his humble manner, Nina Violet soon took up her place no centre stage. Second and final support of the night, Nina brings with her to the stage her beautiful blend of raw, they soft ambient songs, mellowing out the crowd even more. Hailing from Massachusetts, the solo artist is joining good friend Willy Mason on tour, and with the soft melodies than Nina has gliding from her electric guitar, it’s not hard to see why Nina Violet was invited on the tour. The beauty and elegance of Nina and her music silences the crowd, and it seems Nina Violet will be leaving Stoke-on-Trent with a new fan base.

Her ease and naturalness on the stage shines through, even when at one point Nina dropped her plectrum during a song, to which her reaction was to tell the crowd to wait two secs as she collected it from the floor, all the while not losing the rhythm of the song at all. Such naturalness enables the lyrics of Nina Violet’s to take on an even more intimate feel. Think Laura Marling on an electric guitar, and you’re looking somewhere close to Nina Violet’s brilliance.

And then it was time for the man himself. Willy Mason strides to the stage modestly to the applause of the now full and buzzing crowd. The atmosphere had been building rapidly all evening and now it was beginning to peak. After gifting the appreciative crowd three songs from his debut album Where The Humans Eat, Willy realises he has left his set list in his other jacket, which brings a good laugh from the crowd. The song he then proceeds to play brings yet another comical reaction from the crowd as some feedback kicks in at the start and Willy comically sticks his finger in his ear and vows to start again. He then plays a beautiful song not haunted by feedback, and the songs beauty silences the crowd in awe until its end, where the respectful audience erupts in appreciative applause.

After already being requested by way of a shout out from someone in the crowd, Mason finally unleashes Oxygen unto the eager mass of fans. Carlsberg don’t do music, but if they did, it would be nowhere near as good as Oxygen, with its lyrics so beautifully written and passionately sung. Three quarters through his set, Willy has a chat to the crowd whilst patiently tuning up, and says how nice it is to be here, and give his thanks to the Sourmill. The Sourmill being a venue back in America, Willy hears the crowd giggle and turns around to find himself facing the massive Sugarmill banner, to which he jokes “Well, you can’t get them all right.” Willy has a laugh with the crowd and his natural ability on the stage has the audience in his hands during songs and laughing inbetween.

Nina Violet then joins Willy on the stage with a violin. Queue emotional music to a tear shedding standard. Whilst Nina is tuning up, Willy can’t help but continue his off the cuff banter with the crowd. As they play together, the feel almost of Johnny Cash and June Carter seems to take hold in the mind. I usually refrain from using first person narrative in gig reviews, but such was the intimacy of witnessing Willy and Nina play live together, anything other than writing in first person would take away completely the inspired performance I saw at The Sugarmill. With gigs such as these, there is no wonder why NME voted The Sugarmill Best Small Venue of the Midlands for a second year running.

As they roll into the final song of the night, Will Mason tells the crowd how he has enjoyed being in Stoke-on-Trent, unable to resist the joke of being “Stoked to be here.” Sneaking back on for an encore song, Willy makes yet another joke about the cheese spread and mayonnaise he has backstage (altering a few lyrics from his encore song to make it fit the joke, such is his wit and intelligence)

All in all, The Sugarmill tonight have put on a gig rammed with pure and raw musical talent, ranging right on our home turf in the form of outstanding folk artist Aaron Mobberley, right across the shores to America with the amazing Nina Violet and Willy Mason.

The Get Alongs | The Way | The Van’dals | The Ruby Dukes @ The Underground 04.05.12

Sometimes every once in a while, its good to take stock and ponder over a period of time, for me that realisation was tonight. Being an outsider of the Stoke-on-Trent music scene and not holding any alliances with any of the bands around the potteries (he writes wearing his Get Alongs t-shirt) I feel stands me in a respectable position to voice my opinion on the sounds inside the underground on Saturday 5th May.

The two weeks prior to this gig have felt like a cloud of anticipation just hovering around Stoke which is why I was not surprised, arriving at 7 o clock, to find a string of get alongs t shirts and brit rock hairstyles adorning the brick wall that lines the road outside the underground. Hugging this wall where a mixture of teenage girls and boys as well as the more experienced gigger, ploughing through packs of fags and sipping at bottles of premium lager.

On entering the underground the subtle personalisation’s made by the get alongs, the union jacks in every corner of the room and the red, blue and white lights intermittently rotating suggest another milestone in the life of a get along. The gig selling out quite a while before the projected date, another reminder of The Get Alongs formidable status as one of the most revered bands of Stoke-Trent.

Playing in front of a 6 foot Get Alongs banner first were The Ruby Dukes. A five piece hailing from Stoke racking up their first ever gig as a supporting act. A solid outfit, plenty of attitude, rocky riffs and just good fun, they digested every inch of the stage. Their jovial ‘good times’ spirit reverberated and was well received with the crowd who engaged the lead singers interactions.

Next on stage were 3 piece The Vandals, bringing a brit rock ‘Lets have it’ attitude to the night. Please don’t think I’m being facetious about my comments and remember they are just one persons opinion, but I cant help feeling that The Van’dals could do with just 6 months out writing and experimenting not only with their sound but their philosophy, processes and methods. Their on stage presence, slow and uninspiring struggles to merit an applause from the audience. The Van’dals really are a great band, however just need to take stock, re-inspire themselves and comeback bigger and better.

And so The Way join the stage. The crowd, buoyant with applause, welcome the local 4 piece picking up their instruments. Seasoned Stoke musicians The Way, begin by lifting the crowd evoking the living-for-the-moment attitude their lyrics preach. The Way’s rock and roll sound implores the audience to swamp the front of the stage, something lead singer Stef encourages and embraces. The Way motor through a set of disciplined and well rehearsed set of punk induced rocky tunes to superb responses from the already jubilant audience.

Finally then we come to the main fellas, The Get Alongs. The four piece everyone’s there to see. The floor is chocker block with disenfranchised youths ready to belt out the lyrics with lead singer Shane. Their mentor, Shane, begins by letting everyone know they’re there to ‘go f***ing mental’. The invitation is welcomed by the audience, who proceed to do so by getting the security’s attention with a few pits. The Get Alongs command the stage properly like a headline band should. The band wherever they play enjoy a certain buzz to their sets. For example at Hippy Haze fest, Shane walking round the day before their headline set on the Sunday night just added to the build up of tension ready to be released by the audience. The exact same feeling was evident in The Underground that night. The Get Alongs act as a soap box style of expression for the working classes, letting everyone know just how everyone feels, a quality many bands don’t have the luxury of possessing.

As I said earlier though, sometimes it’s good to look back over a period of time and think about what it is you have achieved. Certainly The Get Alongs have unintentionally or intentionally become a band that can sell out a venue in Stoke-on-Trent within a couple of weeks. The gig on the 5th of May is definitely something to tell the grandchildren depending on where they grow up but are they really content with that? The Get Alongs if they were to venture out of Stoke could easily muster a following of fifty people to a gig and prove to the doubters that yes they are a band that are willing to travel to spread the motives of the working classes. After their Stoke-on-Trent conquering gig then, is it time to think about what they’re capable of and then where they want to go?

Review- Daniel Rowlands.

Photography- Daniel Rowlands

Electroshock Therapy Debut EP Review and EP Launch Gig @ The Freebird 04.05.2012

Even from their pre gig sound check, Electroshock Therapy cause a stir in the lounge room of The Freebird in Newcastle, with one man going to the bar and asking what time the band are on and if he needs to pay to go across the other room where the creative, free spirited four-piece will be playing. Upon opening the set, Electroshock Therapy immediately show the crowd just how much effort has gone into their self-titled debut EP. Tonight is the launch gig for the EP, with the band showcasing five truly inventive songs, each of which set them apart from pretty much every other band in the local area.

Electroshock Therapy have all the necessary ingredients to make it on a national level: they are not afraid to experiment with music, they have an actual band image and look the part, and they have ambition, but not blind ambition, they know they are improving with every song they write. They even have good artwork, for heavens sake. One look at the sleeve of the EP and right away you know you want to hear the music hidden inside.

After opening the set at The Freebird with a song so new they are yet to name it, the boys then proceed to play their first track from the EP, Mushroom Dream. This song is so naturally trippy you could close your eyes and open them to find yourself in the 60’s. Tom Lockett finds himself producing a vocal range that is both cool and soft at the same time, but playing guitar and singing is clearly not enough for experimental Tom, who, whilst playing guitar, uses the neck of his instrument to produce crazily psychedelic sounds from his Theremin. Even a certain photographer had to stop and watch in awe the brilliance he was witnessing.

Electroshock then sweep into their third song of the night and second song from the EP, Occupy, which is an instant fun and memorable tune. Tom Lockett, in an interview a few days before tonight’s gig, stated that the band are nowhere near their best, and that this debut EP is most definitely just the start of big things. If that statement is true, then it may be quite scary to think just how good they are going to get if Occupy and finale track of the EP So Fine are anything to go by. Nick Simpson lets himself go for the guitar solo of Occupy, giving suggestion that he may just be the most creative lead guitarist of any local band at the current time. This may be in part thanks to the bands style and the bands willingness to lead Nick off his leash to enable him to really stamp his mark on the sound of Electroshock Therapy. Even the bass riff is perfectly trippy and catchy, with Dan Thorley playing riffs at with great ability and refusing to stick to root notes for any part of the song.

So Fine explodes into life straight away with it’s simple but extremely effective chord progression and guitar riff. And with great use of the Theremin, the song is given a lease of life at every breakdown point. Electroshock Therapy have intelligently created this EP, putting a lot of time and effort into the arrangements of each song without losing sight of the unique sound they want to reach.

Next up at The Freebird is another new song which is as yet untitled, but which nonetheless goes down a treat with the crowd, who by now are beginning to talk amongst themselves about how impressed they are by this four piece band. Psychadelicacy, possibly the coolest song from the EP, was also well received by the crowd, who could now sense that this band have something different, is full of entrancing bass riffs and drum beats, with guitar play from Nick Simpson which could quite easily become a trademark sound for the band. Watching him zone out to each song is clear proof of just how much Nick loves playing in this band, with his movements being so in sync with what he is playing you could be forgiven that he is producing the sounds with his glide.

Electroshock Therapy then head into their last song of the night, which is the opening track from the EP. Hey Little Girl opens with another immediately catchy riff from guitarist Nick Simpson, and flows into a somehow off-beat drum rhythm which seems perfectly on-beat. The song is a simple blues pattern, but the style in which they portray Hey Little Girl is astonishingly fresh, with a groove to it which has Electroshock Therapy written all over it. This band must put an awful lot of effort into the writing of their material to make it seem so seamless on stage, with each song rammed with trippy lyrics, awesome guitar licks and a great partnership between Tom on drums and Dan on bass. Throw into the mix outstanding use of a Theremin from Tom Lockett and Electroshock Therapy are becoming the beacon of hope for fresh new music in Stoke-on-Trent.