Bethan Shuff

One studio, seven episodes, twenty one acts and one massive crew family later, The Honey Box season one is almost, I said almost, over.

The Honey Box is a unique live music experience, streamed live from King Street Studios once a month in front of an intimate audience. Bottlecraft are on hand to provide you with refreshing craft beers (or Capri-Suns) while three of Staffordshire and Cheshire’s incredibly talented musicians and bands take to the stages of King Street Studios each episode to perform three songs each.

The buzz of the first ever episode consumed everyone that walked through the door; Ben McManus and Leah Hamer chatting away to everyone and letting the first audience of The Honey Box know how it’s all going to go down; Pete Herbert and Russ Coppock of PH Productions running about between camera crew members; Chris Wilson describing the differences between an IPA and a lager.

Episode One saw politically-fuelled rapper Mumbo Jimbo joined for one track by fellow exit Pupils member Average Joe, speaking poetically yet powerfully, making grime accessible. Mumbo Jimbo was met by the sweet electronic sounds of Berlin-born Macious, who has been welcomed with open arms into the Stoke music scene, the crowd mesmerised by his hands pressing buttons and creating trance-inducing beats. Headlining the show was the country-rock vibes of 3-piece The Kings Pistol, celebrating their new album Songs from the Ghost Road and chatting about the importance and sentimental value of vinyl.

Episode Two saw a sea of festive jumpers, just one week before Christmas Day. Everyone was in high holiday spirits and raring to get into the show. This episode saw country singer, and first female artist on the show Narn, followed by the relaxed and mellow electronic creations from Lost Russle with precariously balanced synths atop of upturned mugs. Headlining was Nixon Tate and The Honey Club, who had thrown five singles at us in 2016 and we couldn’t wait to hear some of them live on The Honey Box. It wasn’t just The Honey Box that had a buzz around it though (pardon the pun); the nominations for The Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire were also slowly getting announced, with the nominees for Best Music Video being announced live on air and a couple of nominees in the audience who didn’t have a clue! The Honey Box is always full of fun surprises. 

In Episode Three, Jay Johnson mesmerised Ben Mcmanus with his impressive pedal board and looper skills. ‘He’s like a one man army, it’s like there’s a thousand of him. Behind this curtain there are 15 other Jay Johnson’s all with pedals and stuff’ Ben tells us. However, there aren’t 15 other Jay’s behind the curtain, just the one Jay who can sing with the power and energy of 15 other people. The delicate voice of Rachel Ferguson captivated the room; you could have heard a pin drop and daren’t move in case it disrupted the beauty of the moment. Finally was some smooth soul from the boys at Malthouse, teasing us with Out With The Old, taken from their new EP Extracts of the Soul. It was like we were no longer at King Street Studios, but at a funky little bar in New Orleans; the band have the ability to completely take you to another place with their music.

February’s show, Episode Four, was a Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire special, less than a week before the event. It featured three nominated artists including Megan Dixon-Hood, nominated for Best Solo Act, John Dhali, up against Megan for the title of Best Solo Act as well as Best Music Video, and Alter Eden up against John for Best Music Video as well as Best Rock Band. Megan took home Best Single last year for Early Morning Riser, and there’s no questioning why, with her ethereal vocals over her powerful piano. John Dhali makes the soul of everyone he meets smile, taking sunshine wherever he goes; winning Best Solo Act two years running and taking the title of Best Music Video for Only One at the Music Awards 2017, The Honey Box showed everyone why he deserved to be nominated. Alter Eden headlined the fourth episode, and were the heaviest act to feature on the show so far. Stage presence and performance is a top priority for the band, with frontman Nick Pilgrim even bringing in a step to enhance his performance so he could bounce around a bit more. There’s a reason they ended up winning Best Rock Band.

Five shows in and the excitement of the Music Awards wearing off, we all needed our Honey Box fix to bring us back on a high, and it did exactly that. Best Young Act winner, 17-year-old Vidorra got behind his Mac and decks to show the intimate Honey Box audience and the viewers of the world wide web just how much talent he has at such a young age. Julia Mosley, former vocalist of Reagal, is going solo with just her piano and powerful Kate Bush-esque vocals, enchanting the viewers with her confidence, passion and impressive vocal range. Best Act boys Psyence squeezed themselves into the stage space for a Cold Blooded Killer performance. Psyence always give 110% in their shows, blowing up a generator at last years’ Lymelight festival and tearing up The Exchange at their EP launch; whilst The Honey Box audience may be a little more reserved than Psyence’s usual crowd, everyone fell in love with their psychedelic guitars and trippy synths.

Best Urban Act, Blazer, told us all about his beats in Episode Six, flowing his tongue twisting lyrics with ease over beats he and his friends have crafted. Country singer Samantha Lloyd with her signature red guitar serenaded us with upbeat country pop, a song of heartbreak and a teaser of a new EP that she’s currently working on. Headlining Episode Six was everyone’s favourite powerhouse duo Indigo. Despite there being only two of them, the boys know how to make a noise that will rattle your core with their contagious riffs, thunderous drums and energetic vocals. Devil’s Treasure will be forever stuck in your head, along with their latest release Power of the Sea.

Episode Seven, held in May, hosted folk/pop acoustic artist Chris Reale, whose soft voice and descriptive lyrics likened him a little to Ed Sheeran, but yet remained worlds apart in his individual and unique style. Prior to this episode of The Honey Box, I had seen 18-year-old Emily Kate perform a lot of covers, but not too many originals, so to hear her own material on the show was a refreshing experience as she performed three tracks from her new EP Bag of Dreams. Her gentle vocals floating over softly picked guitar strings create an atmosphere so haunting and make the hairs on your arms stand on end. With the largest of smiles on her face that no-one would have been able to wipe off was Sheena Bratt with her band Venus Rising. As they played jolly and upbeat tracks, Sheena couldn’t help but dance her way through the songs, tapping away as she sung with enthusiasm and excitement.

On July 2nd, The Honey Box will hold its eighth and final episode of Season One before a short break as Season Two plans get hatched. On the bill we have not three, but four incredible local acts for you, including rapper and freestyler L.F.E, who will also be releasing his debut EP in July. Episode Eight will also feature the wonderful Emily Jones, also releasing an EP in July entitled A Cut To The Quick, consisting of fiery, angsty tracks about bitchy girls, no-good boys and growing up. Onyda is another lovely lady on the line-up, who played Glastonbury festival this year as well as releasing a cracking single Young and Stupid earlier in June. Headlining the season finale is the mighty King Kula. After rebranding themselves from Lost Soul Experiment to King Kula, the band underwent a sound revamp too, their latest release Strange Love is an interesting and swanky number, and if you haven’t seen the video for it yet, you need to. These four fantastic acts can be seen live, together, all in one room, for one hour only, streamed live on the internet with a limited number of tickets available to witness the magic live.

If you want to be a part of the season finale of The Honey Box, Stoke’s unique live music experience, grab a ticket.