Your City Festival Pre-Party Review
by Shaun Battison

Review for Ay Up Duck Radio’s Sugarmill Show

Friday 8th October saw the return of the beloved Your City Festival, an event special to us for a couple of reasons; the festival both champions and promotes the best musical talent of Stoke-on-Trent while raising money for the North Staffs Mind charity in the process. Your City Festival is also the very first gig we ever covered here at The Sugarmill Show, so it was great to see it back in action so soon!


Ruby J

Ruby J is a solo singer/songwriter from Stafford who wowed The Sugarmill with her acoustic set; young and extremely talented, Ruby J strikes a chord and immediately delivers her striking voice, a voice which astonishes in range and complexity as she begins her stellar set.

Ruby J’s accomplished guitar skills are an excellent match to the sound of her voice and to the themes of her work, invoking a Paloma Faithesque take on the Country genre while adding her own spin and quirks to her work. J isn’t pigeonholed into a particular sound either, her set moves along beautifully and encompasses themes from a few genres, though the initial country sound prevails throughout, nicely tying her work together.

Already championed by the previously mentioned Paloma Faith, who incidentally picked Ruby J on The Voice Kids, the singer already draws apt comparisons to Amy Winehouse, Ms. Lauren Hill, and Macy Gray. From headlining The Backyard at the last, and our first, Your City Festival, to opening gigs and soon to be headlining them, it’s no surprise to see her on the up in Stoke’s ever-growing music scene. J’s set saw her play Pretty Girl, Wanna Be Loved, and Idea of You, all of which is available on several streaming sites.

Highlight of the set was her jazz-influenced cover of Crazy by Gnarls Barclay, a track which allowed her to display her aptitude for quick snappy lyrics with changing tempo throughout on her guitar. Ruby J slowed down Crazy and truly made it her own, encouraging the crowd to join in along the way.

A lot has been said about Ruby J, and I’m certain a lot more will be said about her in the very near and very bright future. It’s always exciting when such a young and extremely talented artist shows up on the scene, and it’s even better when they come back so soon. Ruby J is back at The Sugarmill supporting Beans on Toast on 28th February and we certainly can’t wait to welcome her back.


Lissy Taylor

Back-to-back local talents as Lissy Taylor was next up. Accompanied by her band, the guitar-playing solo artist from Stoke made her presence on stage immediately known with an American rock inspired slow dancing sound which draws the mind to visions of great sports halls decorated for a prom or abandoned after a basketball game.

The American influenced pop-rock sound comes from Taylor’s teenage years spent in the ‘States and has drawn comparisons to The Cranberries as well as contemporaries HAIM, Wolf Alice, Sam Fender, and Phoebe Bridgers.

From a slow and dramatic start to faster and high pitch finale, the sound produced by Lissy Taylor is incredible; you’ve really got to take your hat off as such a young and talented artist. I’m always pleasantly surprised at the range and ease of range traversal these artists have, and I’m sure I always will be.

The odd Cranberries sound creeping through into Soft rock sound isn’t the takeaway from the set though, in fact it is far from it; Taylor doesn’t just stay safe in her work, she experiments with genre and sound and pushes her own limits to establish her powerhouse sound and unrelenting work rate. Her performance of her new material came with an air of confidence and ease, showing maturity and artistry far beyond her years. Quiet Rage, Carefree, and Summer Rain are songs all available in Taylor’s 2021 EP Undercurrent while personal favourites High and Mayday are from 2020’s Wildflowers EP. Mayday was executed extremely well and showed the talents of the whole band.

Lissy Taylor’s Potteries accent really shone through her chats to the crowd in the same way Adele ends one of her songs and takes up her mother tongue. Taylor is “dead excited” for her future and so are we. Her own soft and beautiful sound accompanied by an extraordinary voice make Lissy Taylor one to look out for.





Formerly known as Lazy Eye, cheers to Ian from Crewe for that one, Camens are a four-piece band comprised of singer and bassist Scott Powell, guitarist Josh Egan, guitarist James Corbishley, and backing vocalist and drummer Luke Brightman. Camens are immediately reminiscent of a 90s shoegaze sound in their post-punk feel, a genre well suited to the indie rock spin of their music.

Opening with Leave Me In Pieces, an upbeat track filled with joy, you can immediately tell that the band enjoy their craft and know how to get a crowd on side instantly. This is the first time I’ve seen Camens and it will certainly not be the last; in terms of first impressions, you can’t do much better.

The quickfire drumming and blaring guitars of Danny Devito elevated the mood of the gig to the next level and the lyrics nod to a bizarre date between frontman Scott Powell and a girl who claimed to know Bastille, a tale I’d love to know more about. I was reminded of The Vaccines, Blossoms, and The Lottery Winners when listening to Camens and I was delighted that Stoke continues to produce immense talent.

The Sugarmill crowd were more familiar with the lads than I was, and I can absolutely believe the hype. I’m bewildered as to how I’ve not seen these very talented guys play before and I am leaving the gig as a huge fan after they absolutely nailed their set, getting the whole crowd dancing along to an often poppy 90’s sound.

My personal highlight was Slept on the Sofa, a song I can only encourage you to check out to properly appreciate. The Camens just scream festival head turners, so check them out on our local circuit before they go massive to stake your claim of being cool enough to see them in Stoke!



All The Young

All The Young are one of those bands which always make you gutted that they didn’t make it as big as they should have. After being catapulted into stardom in the early 2010s, the band found immediate success, but perhaps the scene wasn’t ready for the incredible talent they had to offer.

Often compared to the likes of The Enemy, Oasis, The Wombats, and The Pidgeon Detectives, All The Young found themselves humbled and in need of reflection after great things never came into fruition, much like the plight of their home of Stoke-on-Trent. After a hiatus from music, the band came back stronger than ever and began to tour locally once again, bringing them back to the stage of The Sugarmill where they were warmly welcomed by a home crowd who had sorely missed them.

A packed-out audience serenading the band with The Horizon as they entered the stage was enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but not as much as the crowd’s rendition of “we are All The Young, say we are All The Young!” towards the end of the set.

Brothers Ryan and Jack Dooley, guitar wielding frontman and backing vocalist bassist respectively, were excellent throughout the evening as were lead guitarist Tom Crompton, bassist Arron Darlington, and drummer Mike Davies who made the best of the gags about them “coming out of retirement” to deliver a memorable evening of the tracks that sent them into the stratosphere.

Arcane, Today, and Another Miracle serve as proof that All The Young are not messing around with their comeback as they pursue the 90s sound which they so expertly deliver. The five-piece stroll through their familiar set with a swagger and charisma like they never left the scene, prompting many in attendance to tell me that this was the best they had ever played.

Free from expectation and the heavy burden of the limelight, All The Young look happier than ever and are playing the best music they have ever played. Delight is the only word I can muster to describe the band and I am happy to see them back making brilliant music.


A very belated Happy New Year to all our readers and a huge shoutout to The Sugarmill’s Danni Brownsill who has been promoting live music for 10 years. We certainly could not do any of this or live a wonderful music-filled life if it were not for her and her amazing work!


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© Shaun Battison 2022
Contact: SugarmillShow@gmail.com







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