Ben Hough || August 17th
The day arrived for Release's headline show at The Sugarmill. Release haven't been in Stoke since they last played at The Sugarmill supporting Idles in May, so the crowd anticipated for another adrenaline packed performance by Release with support from ALMA, Postal and a Bonsai acoustic set. As the barriers went up, the crowd packed in.
First to the stage was Bonsai's lovable front man Chris Hough to play a few songs on an acoustic guitar. As he sits on the stage, he introduces the first song of the night. A cover of Run by Stephen Fretwell which is more commonly known for the theme song of Gavin and Stacey. People stop to listen as his voice fills the room. Chris then plays a few songs that he has written himself. Songs like 'Flowers on the shelf' really show his love and passion for his own work. The guitar playing from Chris wasn't perfect but it wasn't an issue as his strong vocals and thoughtful lyrics were the main attention of his performance. After three songs, Chris invites Bonsai's guitarists Joe Hough and Richard Brown to join him on stage. Brown's usual Fender Stratocaster is replaced with an acoustic whilst Joe plays lead work on his electric gweet. The next song played was 'Fruit Shoot', a song brought out by Bonsai earlier this year as a full band. The tune did miss its funky bassline and complex drum beat but Brown and Joe played tight enough to bring a full sound. Bonsai are hoping to release an E.P later in the year which includes all 4 songs they played. Songs such as 'Yesterdays Tomorrow', had a slow intro with soothing vocal melodies before the song progresses into a powerful chorus outro. I can see this one being popular amongst the fans. Bonsai will return as a full band to the Sugarmill on the 2nd September to Headline a charity event set up for Musicians Against Homelessness.
Next on was Indie Grunge Band Postal for their second live show. The four lads were slightly nervous before playing but they soon found their element. Cam Livesey is their lead vocalist who has an alternative tone to his voice, influenced by American punk rock. Tom Waters is their only guitarist. He plays clean bar chords with a nice distortion sound to fill out the chorus. Bass heavy riffs are the pinnacle of Postal's sound, provided by Dave Paxton. Tom Clarke, otherwise known as Gavin, keeps the band tight from the back. The bass drum of Clarke's kit complements Paxton's rhythms on the bass as he navigates the fretboard. In the third song, titled 'Jon Jones' Livesey's vocals a sometimes hard to comprehend but the tone of his voice shows potential for great things in the future. As soon as this band get more confidence behind them, they could go a long way in the local music scene. Gavin drops his drum sticks towards the end of the tune but revives himself quickly and to the untrained ear, it was unnoticeable. Postal played a cover of The Clash's 'Should I stay or Should I Go' accurate to the original record. This cover suited the style of Postal and was sang well by Livesey. My personal favourite was their recently brought demo, Chemical Dive (find it on soundcloud). This song was played very tightly as the crowd sang back the leading vocal line. Watch out for more Postal this year as they make their way on to the scene.
The notorious boys from ALMA were up next. After a spell of local headline gigs, they return to The Sugarmill as main support for Release. Their electric indie rock sound livens up crowd as the moshing starts. Jack Kennedy sings and plays bass guitar with style and confidence. James Whitehurst plays solid beats on the drums, their second song of the night was 'Taken for a Fool'- the song starts slowly with intricate licks from both guitarists, Ross Litherland and Sam Fieldhouse. The well-known chorus kicks in as the crowd sing back to Kennedy. Jack is one of Stokes finest young front-men but I think that his true potential is restricted by playing the bass guitar. Let's just say he is no Paul McCartney, but a real talent in the making. ALMA love to get the crowd involved. One thing they do particularly well is tease the audience by stopping, letting the guitars ring out, and kicking back in with plenty of overdrive provided by Litherland and Fieldhouse. The crowd loved it! 'Help me' is another one of ALMA's popular songs. After seeing this band several times, this is the best I've heard them play this song. Whitehurst stays tight throughout with no mistakes. He is the newest addition to ALMA's lineup and he's had a great impact so far. As Kennedy rolls up his sleeves, ALMA break into their final song. Fieldhouse's solo proves him as a great guitarist, his squealing guitar captivates the audience. ALMA's sound can be hard to pull off, but they certainly did tonight. Catch ALMA for their headline show at The Exchange on September 9th.
OI OI! Release are back where they belong. 2017 has been a great year for Release getting out of town. You can feel the excitement build up as the crowd awaits their performance. 'Donald Punk' is their opener and it has everything you can think of. Mayson Nicholson uses a slide to create a distinctive sound on the guitar. Jack Mitchell rocks the violin solo. Punk Rock with a violin, I know, I've never heard anything like this either. Then Tom Price sends an exhilarating drum fill to finish the song. What a Talent! 'C U Next Time' is a fast-paced song in all departments. Lead Vocalist, Caleb Allport, doesn’t stay still for a second. A great presence to add to their chaotic sound. Allport's vocals have just the right balance between punky and melodic. From watching this artist, I can tell one of his main influences is Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, but he gives it his own British twist with a distinctive tone. 'Publik Urination' was played with a pre-lude which proves there is a diverse nature about Release's set. The intro that everyone knows drops and the room packs with energy. When a band look like they enjoy their set, then so does the crowd. Release made a great example of this. Mitchell and his violin return to the stage for 'Ip Dip Dog Sh*t' which makes the sound even bigger. Allport ventures into the busy crowd but professionally, he remains in the zone.
Release had a great year in 2016 after bringing out their second E.P. Including songs like 'Back to the ol' Routine' which they had to play, along with 'Neat Seat'. These two songs, in contrast, display great vocal range and versatility from Allport. Nicholson uses a selection of loop and delay pedals to create a great noise. By this point in the set, his nipples are on display. Release also won single of the year at the 2016 Staffordshire and Cheshire Music Awards with their next song of the night, 'The Inevitable'. The crowd erupts as the violin melody comes in. The violin is such a beautiful instrument and Mitchell plays it with utter finesse, using his fingers to create harmonics. This is what makes Release so unique! Aaron Roden is a very technical bass player. He uses his musical head to work a synth and a backtrack into the mix. The last three songs of Release's set are expected to be a part of their third coming E.P this year. Their new song, 'Repetition Repetition' had a few technical difficulties, but it didn't stop them. They kicked into their next song, 'A Man Who Hated God' before finishing with 'Up in the Skies', my favourite song of the night. The vocal melody provided by Allport captures all kinds of emotions. I struggled to be constructive on Release's set on Friday night. From the beginning the boys were on top form. A great prospect with a unique sound and a truly amazing performance.