LIFE REVIEW – 22.09.21

LIFE Review
by Ollie Hopewell

Photo by John Morris

Review for Ay Up Duck Radio’s Sugarmill Show

When asked “what is the best gig you’ve been to?”  I usually have to think for a while about all of the amazing bands I have seen and somewhat unfairly compare them before giving an indecisive answer along the lines of “well there are so many, I couldn’t possibly choose one!”. But I haven’t had to think too hard since Wednesday 22nd September, as a perfectly matched roster of artists made it clear that the crown was theirs for the taking. So rather than sitting back and relaxing, I suggest you get your dancing shoes on and come with me through a post-punk journey that redefined my standards as a fan of live music.



Kicking off a brilliant evening of diverse yet well-matched artists were Filth, a three-piece from Stoke-on-Trent who sought to expand their understanding of the post-punk movement by incorporating themes and sounds of the psychedelic movement into their craft, adopting the aptly named punkadelia movement and running with all of its quirks and charms.

Through their psychedelic sounds Filth are not dissimilar to local contemporaries Sawel Underground, though Filth have a sound similar to the likes of The Lounge Society, Cabbage, The The, and The White Stripes just to name a few. What I’m hinting at is that Filth are vastly diverse and very talented at what they do, with no song or sound being compromised through the tonal or genre shifts throughout their set.

This wasn’t Filth’s first gig at The ‘Mill, having previously supported Strange Bones and Calva Louise alongside Cheap Vodka in an evening of spectacular mayhem, though they were the most composed and reserved band on both evenings, not that this is a bad thing considering the high-octane and disruptive performances that followed.

Frontman, guitarist, and synth player Jack Melvin was excellent all night long, jumping from upbeat tracks like Fully Introspective: Love, Truth, Happiness, and Tangerine Dream, the band’s two published tracks, to long and provocative spoken word pieces which were mostly acapella, all while sipping a pint and maintaining a tight focus on the task at hand.

This Avant-garde electronic style was beautifully performed by guitarist and synth player Lewis Fernyhough, whose mix of fuzzy and shimmering riffs filled the room with an air of mystery while drummer Adam Heath underpinned the performance with intricate and dynamic drumming which cascaded upon the audience.

Filth’s swirling Velvet Undergroundesque sounds circled round my brain for some time as their influences became apparent, with elements from bands as diverse as Sweden’s Viagra Boys, The Who, Fat White Family, The Beatles, The Doors, and Happy Mondays all culminated in a politically charged and often tongue and cheek set which intrigued and influenced the growing crowd.

Stoke-on-Trent’s flourishing post-punk scene is truly in safe hands as the very talented trio continue to write and play together with new tracks expected soon. I am very excited to see Filth fulfil their lofty potential, and I certainly cannot wait to see them play again in the near future.


High Viz Jackit Theory

Second to the stage were High Viz Jackit Theory, a band who are, in just one word, mischievous; imagine four sugar-crazed toddlers picking up instruments and throwing a tantrum on a stage, this is the level of energy the self-proclaimed “Stoke Noise Punk Bastards” brought to The Sugarmill that Wednesday evening. I, for one, was absolutely delighted with it.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Stoke-on-Trent’s music scene is thriving, especially in the post-punk community where there are several fantastic bands displaying their musical abilities and aptitude for attitude. High Viz Jackit Theory are one of these bands and they may be the most entertaining band to watch in the local scene, channelling extreme levels of energy and aggression and taking a more direct approach to the punk scene all while resisting the urge to smash the gaff up.

Taking to the stage in an unzipped black and white print jumpsuit, frontman Martin Gooding was lively from start to finish, running and jumping around the stage as well as starting mosh pits in the crowd before joining them himself as proper punk etiquette would dictate, though the phrase “punk etiquette” seems somewhat oxymoronic now I read it back.

However, it wasn’t just a high-octane performance that High Viz Jackit Theory gave; their music had substance and edge, being performed by four very talented musicians who just happen to have an aptitude for chaos. These feats of performance were best displayed in Nan’s House and Devilz, two tracks from the band’s debut album Grandads Off Licence.

The argument in a pub disguised as a band have taken inspiration from an array of punk and post-punk artists from the likes of The Clash, Dead Kennedys, Rage Against The Machine, Motörhead IDLES, Minutemen, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Vandals, with wordplay and delivery similar to the punk poet John Cooper Clarke, quite a selection if you ask me.

Gooding’s childish and playful antics onstage were reinforced and encouraged by the excellent work of guitarist Rob Pover, bassist Liam Banks, and drummer Reuben Winnski, all of whom matched the insane levels of energy and endurance from the frontman as High Viz Jackit Theory were an impenetrable and rebellious wall of sound from start to finish, only stopping their set for a brief moment to sink a round of tequila shots and then a round of pints handed over to them by their manager in a move best described as “on-brand”.

High Viz Jackit Theory took their role as support band very seriously, jumping around and making plenty of noise from the crowd as they watched Filth’s fantastic aforementioned set and continuing to do so once headliners LIFE took to the stage.



While The Sugarmill is a consistent and constant purveyor of very talented musicians, I have found myself especially spoiled in recent weeks, seeing some fantastic bands who have redefined my standards for live music. It is no feat of luck, rather extreme talent and showmanship, that LIFE now sit with the best bands I have ever seen.

If there is one take away from the gig, other than my previously mentioned revelation, it is that in a dance-off between David Byrne, Ian Curtis, Jarvis Cocker, and Mez Sanders, it would be the LIFE frontman who would come out on top of this competition, breaking out moves that would outshine anyone on stage. These convulsing movements only served to amplify an extraordinary performance on stage as LIFE displayed exactly why they are at the forefront of the UK’s guitar music scene, championing a unique post-punk sound alongside scene associates, and firm friends, IDLES.

Enter stage left and LIFE emerge in all black, though bassist and fellow mullet-enthusiast Lydia Palmeira adorned an all-over-print shirt, standing ominously onstage, with frontman Mez Sanders taking wardrobe inspiration from the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Ian Curtis with his super straight trousers and matching mac coat, though the coat was quickly abandoned as to not restrict the frontman’s movements.

Kicking off with Popular Music, from namesake album Popular Music, LIFE’s presence was immediately felt as they launched into a frenzy of arid guitar riffs and tribalistic drumming, all of which was complemented by brutally palpable lyrics of escaping the monotony of life, a true saga of post-punk angst from start to finish.

Marauding round the stage, Sanders has a crazed look in his eyes as he observed the mayhem LIFE caused, his brother and band guitarist Mick Sanders firing through Morale Fibre and Hollow Thing at blistering speed with wobbling riffs of electronic bliss piledriving into the skulls of the audience while drummer Stewart Baxter raised pulses with his tribalistic smashes of the drumkit.

LIFE’s sloganeering lyrics are similar to IDLES’ approach to writing a hook, taking a simple phrase or instructions and repeatedly ramming it down your throat until you’re forced to pay attention. From Niceties’ thick bassline to the intoxicating bassline of Never Love Again, bassist Lydia Palmeira displayed her incredible talents alongside the latter-mentioned track’s throaty, haunting, and spidery guitar riffs which relentlessly chased you round the room, sending the crowd into a dizzying spell of dancing while frontman Mez Sanders jumped off stage and paced about the atrium with a hypnotic look in his eyes.

Since watching LIFE onstage I genuinely have not stopped listening to them, in fact I have become slightly obsessed; similar in sound to Parquet Courts, The Fall, Viagra Boys, The Editors, and Talking Heads, and taking inspiration from The B-52’s and The Clash, LIFE take a unique perspective on the world, focusing on the importance of community and resilience and delivering these themes in a quirky but electrifying manner which underpins everything they do.

Hull’s new favourite band, sorry Housemartins, play every song like it was their last ever performance of it, leaving nothing on stage as they crash through their set like a ballet of chaos. Excites Me was an explosion of noise and gave ample room for each musician to display their amazing talents before slowing things down with Beautifully Skint, a crescendo of raw emotion. Ending an exciting and unforgettable gig at The Sugarmill was personal favourite Bum Hour, a menacing track full of attitude and sass, and Half Pint Fatherhood, a twangy but meaningful track about the frustrations of life.

This gig was everything I love about live music, unruly and unconventional performance married with talent and quality. It was so hard to write this piece as I didn’t want to do any band a disservice and I just wanted to get stuck in with the crowd on the evening. I was totally spoiled with the amazing line up and outstanding performances and I will always show my support for each of the bands who played on that night at every opportunity I get.

So do yourself a favour, have a listen to Filth, High Viz Jackit Theory, and LIFE and redefine your standards of post-punk performance, after all, it’s In Your Hands.


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© Ollie Hopewell 2021
Contact: SugarmillShow@gmail.com







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