Review for Ay Up Duck Radio

Words and Pics by Fiona Konca


“I don’t give a f*ck” – a response, reciprocated by many on the night, to my enquiry as to how Jack from Stafford felt about attending a gig with no COVID restrictions.


It was with trepidation, however, that I myself emerged from COVID-induced social reclusiveness to represent Ay Up Duck Radio at The Sugarmill’s third Friday night since restrictions were lifted, with my trepidations only seemingly shared by one person who refused to cross anyone on the stairs, leaving them stranded for quite some time. My duties were watching those performing, interviewing headliners The Underclass, my usual roll of the dice with reputational death in the photo pit, and attempting to pull it altogether into something at least touching on a gig review.


But back to Jack from Stafford, who I mithered for a few minutes on the rooftop, who was attending with his friend Sam from Stoke. They, among many others, were there to see local indie-pop band DayLily who seemed to have already attracted quite the following despite releasing little music.


@daylilyuk on Instagram


I had been keen to see DayLily having been intrigued by the band’s beautiful artwork shared on their social media pages and having heard their beautiful debut single 2008, something which they juxtaposed with a viral video of Britney Spears dancing (no, really, go and check it out on their Facebook page).


Sadly, I missed my chance to see and speak to DayLily due to my time spent interviewing The Underclass. When I asked how the crowd would describe their set I was met with an enthusiastically unified response of “lots of energy”.


From what I’ve heard on their page and what I could hear emanating up to the rooftop from the auditorium, I would agree that they definitely have energy, but not the kind of energy I have usually associated with live music; theirs was a very haunting and spiritual energy, reminiscent of All About Eve and early Heart, both of whom I absolutely love. The kind of energy that fills empty souls as well as auditoriums, beautiful in its nature backed by incredible vocals from lead singer Jess Boulton. It is great to see women trailblazing in this industry, as joint lead guitarist Britt Llewellyn put up fantastic performance all-too rare in the contemporary indipenadnt scene.


Ross Litherland was the other lead guitarist who performed admirably aside talented colleagues Chris Abramovs on bass and David Smith on drums. I personally am an industrial metal fan, but I am totally impressed with what I have heard from DayLily.


@torrents_band on Instagram


The industrial metal kind of energy I’m more familiar with was absolutely present in Torrents’ torrential opening (I’m sorry I couldn’t resist the pun) – a cacophonous discordant blast, the force of which I didn’t see coming from a two-piece band whose physical presence struggled to fill even the somewhat confined stage of The Sugarmill. Though considering rock duo Royal Blood, I was wrong to make such assumptions.


I was flipping impressed. Impressed at the sound a duo of guitar and drums could make and impressed at the quality of their sound. Impressive too was their Nirvana cover, impressive and apt.


The singer reminded me of a young Kurt Cobain in his all worn out Vans, trackies, and desolation, while the drummer had the whole Dave Grohl thing going on, with his long hair in a frenzy during the set. I’m intrigued to hear more from these fellas and to hopefully see them gain a larger online presence – their social media reclusiveness, while refreshing, a little frustrating to the average fan.


@souza_band on Instagram


The rock vibe continued with local four-piece Souza, who describe their influences as classic and contemporary aspects of the Mancunian indie genre. Formed three and a half years ago, they’ve gained quite a following all over the Midlands, and this was evident in the crowd; now noticeably larger, more enthusiastic, and putting their dancing shoes (the ubiquitous Vans) to good use, Souza got the place rocking.


I could definitely hear the Mancunian indie influences as Fly Away, their brand-new single released on 30th July, reminded me very much of Oasis while Devil in a Dress was a slight diversion from the Britpop sound, crossing the Pennines to the “New Yorkshire” music scene, the home of Arctic Monkeys who were also listed as an influence on the band.


Guitarist Jack Brassington even looks like Alex Turner, but it was the drummer Harry Ball who caught my eyes and ears, with his 1995 Bayern Munich football shirt, relaxed “no f*cks given” vibe and effortless brilliance. Brothers Ben and Adam Rogers completed the quartet with excellent guitar playing from Ben while a composed Adam sang and played bass, a wonderful act with a very cool set!


Jupiter’s Beard
@jupitersbeardofficial on Instagram


By now the venue was really filling up, and so many people on their feet either performing, dancing or moshing (a much-missed phenomenon I’d given up all hope of ever seeing again), what stood out for me amongst all the standing up was someone sitting down. I’m of course referring to the keyboard player, the first one of the evening, in the following act Jupiter’s Beard, a Stoke-on-Trent indie-rock trio comprised of Spencer James, Luke Brown, and Simon Lowe.


Being a keyboard player myself this was wonderful to see and hear, though I’m not sure if Nathan Peake, the aforementioned keyboardist, was a recent or permanent addition, as the band describe themselves as a three-piece on social media. Let’s hope he stays as Jupiter’s Beard felt very complete with him!


Either way, as a local band having spread their wings on the touring circuit beyond Stoke to the likes of London and Liverpool, it was great to see them savoring the stage in their home town, and to feel, hear, and see the energy building – both in the music, the musicians, and the crowd – was a real privilege.


Indeed, their latest single Angel is a masterpiece of dynamic change, alternating between crescendo and decrescendo – a proper rollercoaster of music and emotion – one of those songs which you have no idea where it’s going next and certainly one to listen to as soon as you can.


The Underclass
@the.underclass on Instagram


I had no idea where the night was gonna go next; as I crouched in the photo pit waiting for local guitar driven indie-rock headliners The Underclass to kick in, I felt a surge of energy from the crowd who had now totally filled the venue and who had stormed forwards in anticipation of what was to come.


I waited patiently as drummer Adam Badenjiki egged the crowd on as they flung themselves at the barrier, the last bastion of restriction in the venue. My patience was not reciprocated as the audience was now riotously chanting the hymn that would echo throughout The Underclass’ set, “UNDER, UNDER, UNDER F*CKING CLASS! UNDER, UNDER, UNDER F*CKING CLASS!”


I remember thinking I hope they kick in soon as I could see myself getting kicked in the head! Much to my relief they did kick in immediately after this thought; with the explosive release of 18-months of pandemic pressure the sound was immense and the atmosphere tense.


Led by cool as f*ck frontman Jorge Wilson, seemingly indifferent to the scenes of beautiful chaos unfolding around him, The Underclass dominated the evening, giving a performance which I can only describe as all thrill no fill. Their performance flipped the bird to the imposed order now all-too familiar in our daily lives, encouraging chaos and emotional release from a crowd who may have been waiting just as long as they had for this gig.


These fellas were in complete control and had the audience in the palm of their hand, shoving off technical hitches and pauses to incite the tribalistic return of their chant, “UNDER, UNDER, UNDER F*CKING CLASS!”. I thought Jorge played beautifully during the previous Wonderwall-esque song, supported by guitarists Matt Trevor and Dillan Ashton who had been brilliant throughout, not to mention the cool and steady hands of bassist Aaron Smith who kept composure when the stage was at its most hectic.


Getting a crowd to mosh to The Zutons’ Valerie is impressive enough, but I cannot understate the justified arrogance and swagger of The Underclass, who, on the night, drew immediate comparison to early Oasis and The Stone Roses. We can only hope that Stoke’s very best go down in history like those who inspired them.


You can read more about the band and their music in an exclusive Sugarmill Show interview released soon!


© Fiona Konca 2021
Contact fiona.konca@sky.com











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