After playing just one gig since the bands formation, Camp Stag take to the stage once more with immense anticipation, this time at The Sugarmill to support Dry The River. The Mill is almost full before Camp Stag even venture onto the stage – a rare occasion for an opening act, suggesting the brilliance that is Camp Stag has created much hype around the city even after playing only one gig to date.
The intelligent four piece open the set with slow mover Matilda Please, which surprisingly works really well considering the tempo of the tune in relation to it being their opening number. The band are dressed to impress, with the boys kitted out in black shirts and jackets; bassist Chris Wilson has never been seen in The Sugarmill looking so suave. Chris himself seems totally lost in his music, as the band races through the incredible debut single Sirens he is clearly enjoying this moment immensely, even though Chris himself did admit to a slight kick at the start of the song, which wasn’t all that noticeable anyway.
The dynamics of Camp Stag are second to none, and it is evident that time and effort has gone into each song to ensure that listeners are taken on an in depth musical journey, a journey most enjoyable being that of new single When The Lights Come Down, which itself is a song which makes Camp Stag worthy of tonight’s slot. Due to so much equipment having to be kept on the stage of The Sugarmill, Camp Stag were perhaps a little impeded and hindered in their quest to unleash the full intensity of their music, but, going off the feedback of the crowd, which included many members of the local music scene, including Sian Matthews of Faux Feet, Luke Potter of The Clique, Josh Hollingworth of The Ruby Dukes and All The Young’s very own Jack Dooley, proud to watch his dear cousin Rich on the sticks.
Camp Stag’s set is far too short for how amazing their sound is, but perhaps that is their plan – always keep the fans wanting more. And that is certainly something they did at The Sugarmill last night, most will already be eager to see the sophisticated four piece again.
Main support of the night, Arcane Roots look intriguing and their sound backs up the image of the Surrey based three piece. The band play songs from their new album, including new single Resolve, which is played on BBC Radio One at midnight before being made available for a free download at 9am Tuesday morning. Singer Andrew Groves has a nightmare of an evening with his guitars, having to change instruments not once but three times during the course of the set. Somewhat unbelievably, he manages to keep the crowd entertained as he changes guitars and tunes up, with the first guitar being passed down to him from the balcony, and after the third guitar breakage, he resorts to singing solo the song Arcane Roots are about to play, only changing the words within the melody to give the crowd something to laugh about and even applaud as he cunningly passes the time whilst setting up.
Words are a powerful thing. But no words are strong enough to describe the power that is the music of Dry The River. The local music scene was most definitely taught a valuable lesson tonight at The Sugarmill as Dry The River brought their beautifully crafted music to Stoke for the first time. The talents of this band are many leagues above those of our own music scene, but whilst admiring the bands set, I was struck with the thought that after such a progressive year for Stoke-on-Trent’s music scene, the buzz we have created will without a doubt be the foundation for music as amazing as Dry The River. Singing to a packed out Sugarmill completely unplugged and still being able to hear every word of the bands song – in fact, no, not only could you hear Peter’s beautifully eerie high pitched voice and his band flawless harmonies, but the crowd joined in, singing each word as though the song was some sort of prayer in a cult religion in which everyone present at The Sugarmill was part of. The odd village idiot was present at the gig, as you can only expect, but these football hooligan-esque ‘fans’ were soon put firmly in their place when they mocked bass player Scott, who then proceeded to neck one of the groups Jaggermeisters without hestitation, and then one member of the crowd screaming out that “Dry The River are amazing, don’t listen to them (insert swear words here)”. And right he was, too. Dry The River gave The Sugarmill a performance that will long be remembered by all of those who were present, and with The Foals date already sold out, The Sugarmill are more than living up to their two-year running acclaim of Best Small Venue of the Midlands with NME.