Leah Hamer || February 5th

‘The crowd were crazy’, the extraordinary Evelyn Halls of the indie-pop sensation, Clean Cut Kid, recalled of her last visit to Stoke late last year. With this in mind, the loveable four-piece were eager to return for a one-off special evening at The Exchange, on Saturday 28th January.

Kicking off the evening were teenage heartthrobs, Bonsai., performing their first gig of 2017. Trendy, stylish and laid-back, Bonsai, have had their image perfected since their birth, and never have, nor ever will, lose their cool. Yet their sound has grown tremendously. From their loud and indistinct early days, it is a pleasure to see every band mate holding their own clearly and confidently in each of their specialities. Ever the performer, Chris Hough, jokes with his friends in the crowd whilst untangling his curls, as his bandmates remain composed and eager. With tracks like Funky Brown in the arsenal, it is clear that the shining component of the band is the intensity of their guitar work, which continues to impress.  

That fresh and optimistic energy that so often comes with the turn of midnight on the 1st January, has widely dissolved by this point of the year for most of us average humans. However, as the four bodies of Thieves Asylum walked onto the stage that evening, it was evident that they were all filled with a furious fire and determination to reinvent themselves in 2017. Although they pursued their signature work- IKYKIK and Noc Noc, they worked in new tracks that quickly became crowd favourites. Top Hat Rider is one of those that has wormed its way to the forefront of their collection. The key ingredients of Thieves Asylum are inevitably the mad skill of Alex Grocock on guitar, the unique prominence of the kick drum, the strength of the bass line, frontman Joe Tomasso’s ever-growing stage presence, and finally- their humour. No other band in Stoke laughs amongst themselves like they do. Yet they are no comedy act- as the night showed, 2017 is going to be one serious year for Thieves Asylum.

Main support, The Torch, brought with them a colossal crowd of teenage lovers and rowdy college kids. Surrounded by eighteen-year-olds making out and bouncing from side to side, a glimmer of the four-piece on the stage could be made out through the sweaty denim jackets and skinny jeans. Credit has to be given to The Torch for overcoming the hiccups they were faced with that night, including the absence of their usual drummer, replaced by Ben Murray of The Carriers, and an ill singer, Owen Hodgkinson, who trooped on despite his sufferance in the true valour of rock and roll. With this in consideration, it is easy to see why their strength was faltering in some moments, as to be expected under the circumstances. Yet they remained loud, proud and true to their roots and their style, solidifying their loyal fan base even more.

Clean Cut Kid are the manufacturers of happiness. A tasty crowd had formed in the basement of The Exchange, all eager to witness the cosmic four-piece in all of their live-action glory. Hits like Make Believe and We Used To Be In Love, had the audience bopping and swaying cheerfully. The utterly charming frontman, Mike Halls, had us all laughing along to his anecdotes in his scouse accent. As he announced the song, Evelyn, the more hormonal members of the crowd, myself included, felt a little weepy as he dedicated the song to his adoring wife, standing right beside him. To see Mike and Evelyn’s relationship on stage is heart-warming, although they make no obvious effort to show it off. Bassist, Saul Godman, was also a bundle of joy, running into the crowd and constantly offering waves of encouragement to sing and clap. As they ended on their single Vitamin C, it was clear that all of The Exchange had been overcome with the endorphins of Clean Cut Kid.

Clean Cut Kid will be returning to the road in May. For more information- check out their website-