Category Archives: Live Reviews

MALTHOUSE – The Exchange, Hanley, 04/03/2017

SUPPORT: The Red Kites, Tom Lockett, Rachel Ferguson

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

The Exchange is a place that has firmly established itself as a key venue on the Stoke-on-Trent music scene in recent years, and it had a great opportunity to show exactly why with a Saturday evening playing host to a mix of local musical talent.

Headlining were modern soul/blues trio Malthouse, who were there to give everyone a sneak preview of their forthcoming EP ‘Extracts Of The Soul’.

Kicking things off was singer-songwriter Rachel Ferguson, a relative newcomer to the Potteries. Despite a sparse crowd, she impressed those that were there, playing a set that consisted of her gently strumming a guitar to a sound that fused together elements of folk, alternative and lounge, coupled with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Lana Del Rey.

Next up was another Stoke singer-songwriter, Tom Lockett, who already enjoys a good local reputation. He proved this, channelling his inner Bob Dylan (complete with harmonica!) with a strong performance, mixing intelligent lyrics with a sound that was a combination of folk, jazz, blues and Sixties psychedelia. After seeing Tom, it is clear that a bright future lies ahead for him.

By the time last support The Red Kites took to the stage, the venue had started to fill up nicely, and the people who had just turned up were in for a treat. The outfit played a quality set, utilising a diverse range of musical genres to create a sound that was eclectic and a good listen.

There was much anticipation in the run-up to Malthouse’s headline set, with the now capacity crowd eager to see if their forthcoming release, which they were playing for the first time live, could top their well-received debut EP ‘Staveley Sessions’.

Judging by what I saw of them, it is safe to say that they have done exactly this. The new tracks they performed showcased how they have matured and developed, and I could also definitely get the feeling of abundant passion from them, which was present in the way they played their music. The audience seemed to agree, giving a universal positive response, which shows much promise for the recorded version, which will be out soon.

Yet again, going to a live gig in Stoke-on-Trent has proved to me that the local scene is currently one of the best-kept secrets in British music, and if the city is chosen later this year to succeed Hull as the UK’s City of Culture, then the rest of the country will get to find out just how rich and diverse it truly is.

 

 

 

CONSTRUCT – The Underground, Hanley, 18/02/2017

SUPPORT: Inscriptions, Despoiled, 2 Years 2 Late

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTOS by AMY GRIFFITHS

The metalheads of Stoke-on-Trent were out in force at the weekend to see local lads Construct perform in front of a home crowd.

The metal quintet were in town as part of a tour promoting their recently released debut album ‘The Deity’.

Waiting outside for the doors to open, I couldn’t help thinking that there seemed to be a more sizeable queue than usual, most of them in no doubt eager to see how the five-piece could translate the sound of the album into an effective live performance.

However, before all that, there were three local outfits, all varying in experience, to see.

First up were young band 2 Years 2 Late, who were playing their first ever live set.

Despite a rather shaky beginning, which was understandably down to nerves, they quickly began to relax and grew in confidence as the set went on, so much so that towards the end, the guys were showing the crowd what they were truly capable of.

Next on stage were Despoiled, also a fledgling outfit but with more gig experience, and a much louder, heavier sound, which along with the constant screaming vocal delivery of frontman Kurt Kennedy, contributed to the formation of the first moshpit of the night.

Despoiled are a band that evidently improve with each set, and if they carry on the way they have, then it should only be a matter of time before they are headlining a venue like this one.

Inscriptions, the final support, are currently almost at the same level as Construct, and this was evident in their stage performance. They provided a great warm-up, nicely setting the stage for the headliners and making their job of creating a good atmosphere much less difficult.

By the time Construct were ready to begin, the venue was buzzing and there was a sense of genuine excitement in the air.

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The Potteries quintet showed exactly why they are tipped to make a big impact this year, adapting the sound of ‘The Deity’ for a live set with relative ease. They also had confidence in abundance, playing a heavy, loud metal sound with progressive elements, and involving the audience as much as they possibly could, with frontman Callum Howle frequently issuing rallying cries to make as much noise and moshing as possible in a place as compact as The Underground, resulting in the room becoming one massive moshpit.

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Construct are a band that are now getting national exposure, and if every performance on the tour was like the one I witnessed, then it should be very easy for them to leave the same good impressions at venues up and down the country, and their fast-expanding fan base in unanimous agreement that the money they paid for a ticket was an amount well spent.

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BLACK STAR BULLET – The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 07/01/2017

SUPPORT: Jesse’s Divide, Infinity

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTOS by SIMON WARD

The Rigger, a rock venue on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme, played host to three bands who were the perfect cure for the January blues.

Being the first full weekend of 2017 and after the festivities of Christmas and New Year, it would have been understandable if the attendance had been sparser than usual, but I saw absolutely no evidence of this, with a sizable audience, a real mix of young and more seasoned rockers, packing into the intimate space.

Local outfits Jesse’s Divide and Infinity were the best possible warm-ups, both playing a big, crowd pleasing sound, led by two frontmen who were naturals in this position, showing much confidence with their rallying of the patrons, but crucially, not letting themselves overshadow the music.

Infinity were great as always, they seem to have really grown as a band since I first saw them last year, with the whole group on top form, playing well their style of melodic hard rock.

Jesse’s Divide were an outfit who showed total concentration, perfecting their blend of progressive metal and alternative rock, containing some brilliant guitar solos.

However, this did not stop them from having fun, with vocalist/guitarist Simon Ward interacting freely with the audience, even throwing in some free custard doughnuts for them to enjoy.

Therefore, it must have been quite a job for Coventry headliners Black Star Bullet to top all that, but they rose to the challenge and easily succeeded, wowing the crowd with a set consisting mainly of good old fashioned, no frills heavy rock, which was of no doubt of high and wide appeal.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening watching three Midlands bands who vary in experience, but all have these important common factors: they definitely know how to play to an audience, and are all of immense talent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TORCH – The Underground, Hanley, 09/12/2016

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SUPPORT: Bonsai, West Pier, Jupiter’s Beard

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

The Stoke-on-Trent music scene has had a fantastic 2016, and what better way to cover my last gig of the year than to go to one of the city’s respected music venues and see four local bands who have truly made their mark.

Jupiter’s Beard were first up, playing a mix of original tracks taken from their forthcoming EP and covers, which included a sublime version of Oasis classic ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’.

Next on to the stage were West Pier, whose set was interestingly half acoustic, half electric, which they seemed to pull off effectively, even though I did hear one or two groans amongst the patrons when they began to play a cover of a Justin Bieber track.

Even though Bieber is considered public enemy number one by the majority of proper music lovers, the four-piece performed the song well, making it their own and turning something rather mediocre into a good listen.

Bonsai, the final support of the night, are a talented outfit who I have had the pleasure of seeing live on a number of occasions this year, and every time, there has been a noticeable improvement, and this was no exception, with them playing what was their best set to date.

I really think that 2017 could be their breakthrough year, they already have all the necessary ingredients, a great sound, talented musicians and a rarity in music these days, a charismatic frontman in Chris Hough.

The majority of the females in the audience seemed to be enjoying it, when Chris did his now obligatory stage dive, some of them took the chance to eagerly grab the shirt off his back.

Headliners The Torch are another local fledging band that are tipped to go on to bigger and better things, and after seeing their performance, it would be difficult to disagree.

Despite the fact that some of the members may have somewhat overindulged in the liquid refreshment department, it certainly didn’t seem to affect them.

They wowed the crowd with their fast-paced, guitar-led indie rock sound with a few punk elements thrown in.

Towards the closure of proceedings, some members of the audience began to jump up on to the stage and join in, which in what seemed like a matter of seconds, had developed into a mini stage invasion, which was probably a health and safety officer’s worst nightmare.

Stoke-on-Trent is not normally a city you would associate with having a booming music scene, but after seeing so many immensely talented local bands this year, these four included, it is safe to say that at the moment, it is enjoying very rude health, and it should only get stronger in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAGE CAVE – The Freebird, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 11/11/2016

SUPPORT: Filth, The Skirr, Lost Notes

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTOS by FRANKIE PEERS

The Staffordshire settlement of Newcastle-under-Lyme played host to fledging local rock trio Rage Cave, who were in town to promote their recently released self-titled debut EP.

In support, there were three other Potteries outfits who also look to have bright futures ahead of them.

Therefore, it was no surprise to hear that tickets had sold out prior to the gig.

Having supposed to commence proceedings at half past seven, a lengthy delay (caused by the late arrival of the sound technician) meant that things didn’t properly kick off until an hour and a half later.

However, immediately from the moment the first guitar string was plucked, courtesy of female-fronted alternative rockers Lost Notes, it was clear that it had been well worth the extended wait.

The intimacy of the venue enabled the bands to engage freely with the crowd, who quickly got into the swing of things, snapping up the free car stickers provided by indie rock ‘n’ rollers The Skirr and seeming to genuinely enjoy the high quality of music on offer.

Psychedelic rock four-piece Filth seemed to be just at home playing in the mosh-friendly environment as they were when I saw them at the more indie-oriented The Exchange in Hanley a few months back, and got just as enthusiastic a reception.

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It was then finally time for Rage Cave to take to the stage, and they couldn’t have wished for a better debut headline set, playing with the confidence and energy of a group with many more years of experience, and no doubt enjoying a boost from the atmosphere, which was probably one of the most vibrant I had ever experienced at a gig.

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I think that Rage Cave are a band to keep an eye out for in the future, if they can play sets like the one I witnessed, with the crowd singing along to the rallying vocals of frontman Max Jeffries, when they are barely out of school, then it will definitely be interesting to see what their gigs will be like when they all reach their mid twenties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WSTR – The Underground, Hanley, 29/10/2016

SUPPORT: Milestones, Clay Lake, Waiting For Hollywood

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Liverpool pop punks WSTR were in Hanley as part of a nationwide tour promoting their debut full-length offering ‘Red, Green or Inbetween’, which will be out early next year.

Strong performances from local bands Clay Lake and Waiting For Hollywood and Mancunian five-piece Milestones were the perfect warm-up for the expectant crowd.

The stage was then cast into darkness, with the headliners coming on to Nineties dance classic ‘9pm (Till I Come)’ by ATB.

They then went straight into a set which was a mix of previous hits and songs off the forthcoming album, and was abundant in loudness and energy.

WSTR seemed to take full advantage of the intimate setting, making sure there was crowd involvement throughout.

Another positive of them playing a small venue was that every pluck of a guitar string and beat of the drums could be heard in great detail.

With this gig, they showed exactly why they are seen as one of the bands at the forefront of the new wave of mainly British-based pop punk, and if WSTR can capture the essence of what I saw, then the album should be a big success for them.

 

 

 

 

 

BROKEN FLAGS – The Exchange, Hanley, 01/10/2016

SUPPORT: The Manalishi, The Gurus, John Dhali.

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

There must be something in the water in Stoke-on-Trent.

In the last couple of years, a diverse range of talented bands and artists have made the Potteries a thriving hotbed of emerging British music.

The Exchange, a venue that has played an important part in making this happen, showcased four of the local talents, headlined by indie four-piece Broken Flags, who were there to promote their new single “Dare To Dream”.

First on the stage was singer-songwriter John Dhali who, despite some technical issues at the beginning, played a strong acoustic set with a sound that switched with ease between soul and folk.

Next up were The Gurus, last minute replacements for Shimmer Trap.

They are a fledging group, but their eclectically influenced musical style suggests a maturity beyond their years.

The Manalishi then really got the increasing crowd going with heavy guitar-led compositions coupled with hypnotic vocals.

A sublime set was played by Broken Flags, with a real assortment of tracks.

Watching them perform, you could tell that every note played was delivered with the utmost passion and determination.

“Dare to Dream”, their new release, seems to be more upbeat musically and lyrically than their debut “Enemy”, and that’s good, because it shows that they are not a band that sticks solidly to a specific sound.

Having seen these four and numerous others on the Stoke music scene this year, I’m starting to think that it may only be a matter of time before the Potteries is no longer the best-kept secret place in new British music.