Local Bands Come Out On Top Amongst Strong Competition
Lee Barber || July 30th
Earlier this week I received a Facebook message from Jamie Cartlidge asking if he would be able to get into the basement of The Exchange to set up a bit of a backdrop for Shimmer Trap's EP launch gig. When I arrived a number of hours later, I was greeted by a strong smell of spray paint and found Jamie and Ben Nixon helping out Rob Bebbington, a graffiti artist who was designing the backdrop, only this was no ordinary backdrop... I was instantly excited for Friday's gig.
When Friday finally came, I was more than aware that this gig was going up against some fierce competition; Shed Seven were performing at Keele SU, while The Sugarmill were playing host to Glastonbury headliners Ash. Could four local bands (with one being a debut) compete with this? The answer was most certainly yes.
Mark Mason had been 'out of the game' shall we say, for some time, having not performed for a number of years after his time with previous band The Black Mirrors had come to an unfortunate end. When I got to The Exchange, Mark was already there, sat against the bar with a Stella waiting patiently and anxiously for the rest of his band to arrive, while Shimmer Trap and 10O'ClockChemical arranged lighting equipment. Explaining to me how nervous he was at getting on stage for the first time on over two years, Mark was nonetheless visibly hyped for the show. Once Dead Rabbit had gone through their soundcheck, however, Mark was a changed man, realising just how much he had missed this life, and was now even more hyped up for Dead Rabbit's debut.
And what a show it was. It was like he had never been away, prancing around on stage, climbing the speakers, rumbling through the crowd. Mark Mason is back and it's a joy to behold. The band performing a seamless set, a tightness and professionalism you don't expect from a band playing their first show. A moment of sheer enjoyment for me personally came with the performance of Fever Noir, a song from The Black Mirrors days which, after three years, still makes me shiver when Mark begins singing 'Your body aches, do you feel it now? Your lips quake, do you feel it now?' But don't let this take away from Dead Rabbit, their new songs are original and as eerie as you can expect from Stoke-on-Trent's nihilistic master. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are everything for Dead Rabbit, and it is evident they are only just beginning in what will no doubt be a takeover of your soul. Mark's possessed exit straight from the stage, cutting up the crowd, is simply another reminder of how much passion he puts into his music.
From new beginnings to fond farewells, Callaghan came to The Exchange with teary eyes. Their last ever performance as Callaghan, the three-piece came with a clear aim: make this last show one to remember. And that they certainly did, with even Bass Man Bass wore a white shirt, something which amongst friends is obviously an unusual thing. Grant Foster was on top of his game, hitting perfect notes with his gruff, raw voice whilst performing challenging guitar solo's in a way which can only leave you envious of his talent. Stand out track of the night for myself goes to Esme, and it while it's a big shame to see a talented band such as Callaghan come to an end, we are left with no doubts that each member will be back very soon with more tricks up their sleeve, in fact drummer Daniel Aubrey already has tricks up his sleeve, while Grant Foster is already demonstrating some of his tricks with Gray Wolf Records, which actually put out the Shimmer Trap EP as its own debut release.
Performing only their third local show, with their debut being at the Music Awards of Staffordshire & Cheshire, and their second being a sell-out headline, 10O'ClockChemical have forced themselves to the forefront of Stoke's music scene in just six months, gathering a tonne of fans and respect along the way. Tonight's performance was a testament to this, performing to a full and energetic crowd who were bedazzled by the bands UV effective T-shirts and face paints. With strong songs such as It's War, the band took things up a gear at the end of their set by inviting Shimmer Trap singer onto the stage, and together they performed Take Me Away, a song they had written together specifically for the night, and was easily one of if not the most loved song of the whole show.
But the time was now finally upon us, the band we had all been waiting for. Shimmer Trap's EP KEMOSABE is a talented mix of psych-indie music, hard hitting from the off, and the boys' set tonight was all of this and more. Ploughing through popular songs like Psychosis and New Wave, the crowd were buzzing from start to finish. And so to were the band, clearly loving every second of their headline performance.
With all EP's gone before they even went on stage, their job was already done, but Shimmer Trap wanted their crowd to take something memorable home with them: the feeling that they had witnessed something special, and they achieved this in fine fashion. Jamie Cartlidge, sweating from his efforts in front of the incredible UV spray painted back drop, the band looked every bit the finished article, but there's something in their eyes that tells you they're only just hitting second gear.