As expected, there were big turnouts for the headline bands at this weekends Axis festival – it’s not often you get to see acts of the calibre of Get Cape or the Guillemots visit our fine city. But the queue streaming back from the ‘Mill and the Underground on Sunday night showed that people in Stoke regard their local scene as just as important, and deserving of their attention.
In the tradition of BBC Radio Stoke’s SUBCulture programme, the line up was diverse and eclectic: – You could take your pick from screamo-metal, indie rock or electronica, although the way that stage times worked you often had to tear yourself away from one band in full cry mid-set, to leg it up or down the hill to catch the end of another one.
I started the night at the Mill, where brothers Joe, Pete and Jim Richards, aka From the Captain tore into a set of post-rock bluster which evoked, at times, Biffy Clyro, with a splash of Incubus thrown in for good measure. Judging by the crowd reaction to the thundering tune that is “KO the Recognition” the boys won a lot of friends tonight. Keep an eye out for them stirring up a moshpit near you soon.
No average 16 year olds
Time to hot-foot it down to the Underground where another up-and-coming name, My Sergeant Mask had already packed out the venue and got it jumping. It’s hard to believe that the band have an average age of just 16, but in Katie Crnokrak – they’ve found a talented front-girl who can not only belt out a tune but really hold an audience. It would be sloppy to just tag them with the Blondie moniker, but in anthem “Stereotype” they have a bona fide hit that Ms Harry herself would be proud of.
Next up, it was back to the Mill and This Machine Is Off – who’s heady mix of electronics and indie will draw instant comparisons with the likes of the Klaxons. But make no mistake TMIO aren’t just bandwagon jumping clones – they ooze class and a real dance music sensibility in every pulsating beat of tracks like “J’s Synth” and “Only Way” :– a real wall of shimmering electronic sound which gets the crowd’s feet moving and heads bobbing. Quality.
Like Cronenberg extras
At the other end of the spectrum is Black Vegas who tear around the stage with a relentless energy, driving through their own brand of neck-snapping screamo which draws heavily on bands like AFI and Glassjaw. At times frontman Alistair looks like an extra from Cronenberg’s “Scanners”, the veins in the temples of his head pulsing at every strained note. But from the opening salvos of their set – the 5 piece open up a mini pit, which kicks up dust for the whole 30 minutes they’re on. Brutal yet brilliant, you can put your money on Vegas stealing the show tonight.
That’s taking nothing away from Trial of Origin - who’re on next at the Underground - where after a couple of songs in which they suffer at the hands of the soundman, (too much bass!) they really hit their stride. They play the song of the night, with the Jimmy Eat World-esque sing-along of “They’ve won the lottery now..”, and follow it up with an equally impressive version of “All Four Corners” which disappears into the Stoke on Trent ether in a swathe of feedback and guitar solos. There’s no doubt they have the songwriting and live potential, it’s going to be interesting to watch these guys grow.
Which leads us handily to our headliners of the night at the Mill – Blast Stereos Loud – who rarely fail to deliver in a live capacity. Nicely colour co-ordinated, the lads rip into new track “Long Time Dead”, a riff laden nu-punk anthem which isn’t afraid of showing it’s pop sensibilities. So much so, that every fist punching the air during the chorus also belongs to someone who knows every word to yell along.
BSL proceed to tear through tracks old and new – a rousing version of “Forever Failed Today”, is bettered only by the crushing breakdown of “Leave Tonight Behind”, which ignites the mini-pit again. This is their last home town show before they hit the road on a 3 week stint with Death Can Dance – and you can see why BSL were voted 11th in Myspace’s top unsigned bands chart recently. Many more performances like that around the country – and the labels will soon be knocking.
All in all it was a rousing end to the weekend – and a more than worthy birthday party for the BBC SUBCulture programme. If the Axis festival does prove to be the event which finally puts Stoke on Trent on the musical map, on this showing, it’s about time.