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YOUR CITY REVIEW – Sat 24th July

Your City: Saturday’s review
by Shaun Battison

Image courtesy of Mark Vyse

 

Saturday 24th July, day one of 2021’s Your City festival S-O-T, opening our Freedom Weekend out of lockdown with a cornucopia of bands and artists in the streets of Hanley. Venues as such The Sugarmill, Underground and The Backyard all involved in the much-needed return of live music.

With glorious sunshine and a day of listening to live music in my favourite venue, I couldn’t help but be excited for the day ahead. This was even better being amongst a crowd who themselves were eager to catch up on what we’ve all missed so much.

Arriving later than originally planned, bumping into friends out and about along the way, everyone was buzzing with the day so far and more so for what was to come. From security and bar staff to fans and band members, everyone involved in the day made sure the atmosphere was back as The Mill welcomed back by all involved.

Having spoken to some of the crowd, we had Rowena from Leicester, Gemma and Jemma meeting Gemma (true story), Leah with a crowd eager to see Marma, and Daz up for Rock Paper Wizard who were the first band of the day I got to see.

 

Rock Paper Wizard
@rwpband on Instagram

Rock Paper Wizard are a band that started rehearsing together in 2017 before hitting the gig scene September 2018. A four-piece band comprised of Rich Brown on vocals, Ryan Ball on drums, Chris Statham on bass, and Jack Carter on guitar. Drawing in a following of their own instantly filling the floor downstairs, I knew something big was coming.

Once the band had kicked it, you could feel the mood of the place change, crowd participation was brilliant from where I was standing. A loud and clear set began, rocking the gaff from start to finish with a grunge and alternative rock influence being paramount, though there were plenty of other genre influences thrown in. Rock Paper Wizard are absolutely a band I will go to see again.

Just seeing such a varied crowd that turned up was a buzz in itself; from heavy rock long hair, bald heads and beards to a younger 5 panel baseball cap, long skateboard shorts, and mid top Vans etc. with the now fashionable rucksack attached.

Taking a break and catching a cider on the roof terrace in between bands there was a lot of attention around a young set of lads who happened to be Daytime TV, the band up next.

 

Daytime TV
@daytimetvofficial on Instagram

Seeing as they were receiving a lot of female attention I immediately, and wrongly, perceived them to be a boy band, or at least to have a certain style of music for how they looked.

Another four-piece band consisting of frontman and guitarist Will Irvine, John Caddick on guitar, Chris Clark on bass, and finally Gareth Thompson on drums, all good-looking lads (not jealous, honest) with a style of their own; long hair, tight jeans, Brothel Creepers, and man buns to boot, they were a very cool and composed band on stage.

A Pop Band with an edge, which myself and a couple of other lads out for the day were more than intrigued by, with an admiring fanbase in the crowd who really got the place swinging, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Alternative pop is perhaps how I’d best describe Daytime TV, whose track Side Effects came across reminiscent of an Arctic Monkeys style. I’ll admit that they had me singing along and bouncing as I watched on, certainly ones to watch in the future having already been picked up by BBC Introducing.

Throughout the day i just felt upbeat from the feeling of people coming and going to see bands they love once again; good times had come back courtesy of The Sugarmill’s commitments to live music, not to mention the stellar combined efforts of The Mill, The Underground, and The Backyard.

The sense of being back in a venue with bands was sensational, their vans coming and going outside with plenty of wires and boxes being thrown about, hearing the murmurs of practice in the wings, and feeling the excited anticipation of the artists as they stepped onto the stage.

The Metropolis Project up next.

 

The Metropolis Project
@metropolisproject on Instagram

Having listened to I’ve seen Lightning Shatter Houses prior and seen crowd gather in its own right, I knew something special was coming. The local four-piece were my band of the event.

Other than a great set and sound, the lads gave me a few minutes telling me how good it was to be back out and amongst it, while touting the need for Stoke’s music scene to get better coverage. Bands like these wrongly go under the radar for far too long, not appearing fashionable in the music world and not getting their deserved plaudits because of this.

It was good to hear my concerns about how we seem to be lacking on the big stage recognised, as to me The Metropolis Project were more than a cut above some of the bands I’ve seen, be it on the support circuit or on the bigger stage.

Seriously give these lads a listen, and if you see them gigging anywhere get out and see them, they’re well worth it and they’re right behind the plight of raising Stoke’s music scene.

It was also here where I bumped into the two Gemmas, one with a G and the other a J, who had made the trip out to catch these lads.

 

Rainbreakers
@rainbreakersofficial on Instagram

Rainbreakers were up next, but sadly I had missed most of their set as I had lost time talking to TMP, but from what I heard they sounded tight, just not my bag unfortunately.

 

Marma
@marmaband on Instagram

The penultimate band of the evening was local five-piece Marma, who came equipped with a certain edge of individuality, each member doing their own thing and sounding great while doing so. Marma were the only band I saw on the evening who made used of keyboards and being around in the 80s I was more than excited for a potential sound of nostalgia to take me way back.

Singer Bran, drummer Andy, keyboardist Jack, and guitarist Will were the ones to draw the biggest crowd throughout the day. With two new members and a new playlist of new material to explore, they definitely didn’t disappoint.

The lads seemed to forget a few bits of equipment but easily pulled it back together and remained focused as a young and vibrant crowd were totally engrossed, myself included in said fascination.

Each instrument came across in their material effectively and with purpose, giving out a crossover indie-rock sound touched by synth. Total unknowns to me before they took to the stage, but what an extremely talented young bunch they are. You’ll give these lads a follow if know what’s good for you.

 

October Drift
@octoberdrift on Instagram

At the end of a brilliant day, you need a good send off to celebrate the day’s events and it fell to October Drift to do such task.

A South-West band who crossover the British shoegaze movement with the loud ‘States’ sounds of grunge, mixed together with some indie-rock. With Kiran on vocals/guitar, Dan Young also on guitar, Alex Bipsham on bass, and finally Chris Holmes on drums the quartet sounded incredible.

With their Naked EP out and plenty more waiting to be released, October Drift blew me away; by the time Oh the Silence played I was convinced that this was the most energetic band I’ve seen at The Mill, in fact, they were the most energetic band I’d ever seen. Windmilling his hair, jumping into the crowd to play up close and personal with their fans, and dramatically balancing on the sidewalls of the gallery, Kiran was determined to make everyone feel the rush of live music that had gone untapped for far too long. And his antics did not divert attention from the incredible work the rest of the band produced, keeping tempo and accommodating for freedom along the way.

October Drift left nothing left to be desired as they left every last bit of energy they possessed in that room, leaving a lasting impression on each and every person in the venue with the performance of a lifetime.

Seeing the band’s family and friends under the same roof as their fans was an immense feeling. I left smiling knowing everyone had had a great evening, as I hung off every word and each note produced by these very talented artists.

An overall experience that not only welcomed bands back to our best venue, but fans of live music. An absolute pleasure and privilege to be around the return of live music and its fans. The Sugarmill is back with its doors open doing what it does best once again, and we absolutely love it.

 

© Shaun Battison 2021
Contact: sdbattison@outlook.com

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