Alma Smash Headliner

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September 13th || Bethan Shuff

When hearing who was on the bill for ALMA’s single launch, I was so excited. Four of Stoke-on-Trent’s talented young bands all in one place for a measly £5 – what more can you ask for? That’s the price of a pint at most gigs. Can you imagine how gutted I was when I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it? Luckily for you (and me), I did make it and I’m here to tell you all about it.

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First on was Spoil Sport, Stoke’s only girl band. By girl band I don’t mean Girls Aloud or The Saturdays. These four fierce females have got attitude, sass and grunge; the best kind of girl band. I’ve seen the girl’s play as a three piece before, but I was excited to see them in their full form. Some technical difficulties prior to starting disappointed the girls, who wanted to make a sharp and hard-hitting first impression to their audience – an audience that was the largest I’ve seen for an opening band, which speaks volumes about Spoil Sport. Agatha’s dark, moody vocals with slow, deep basslines set the grungey mood for the evening. Tiff and Fliss’ guitars bounce off one another to create melancholic melodies, whilst Meg’s drums keep everything together. I’m A Bitch and a cover of Miley CyrusWrecking Ball were amongst the set, and due to finishing ahead of schedule, Tiff, Agatha and Fliss performed a fun, relaxed cover of Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana. The vibes I get from Spoil Sport are so empowering and it’s so refreshing to have a female-only line-up in our male-dominated music scene. If there’s one thing we need more of, it’s fiery females like these guys.

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‘Hello, we’re Nirvana UK’ Sam Bloor laughed as The Overcast took to the stage and set up their gear. The Overcast don’t just turn up at a gig and play, these guys put on a show and perform. The amount of energy Jim Carter expends exhausts me just watching him; his stage presence is second to none as he moves from each side of the stage with a voice so powerful I don’t know how his lungs don’t collapse. The relationship between the band members is obvious; these four friends are just doing what they love and doing it bloody well. Sam Bloor’s backing vocals compliment Jim’s perfectly and his guitar tones are filthy. Nick Farr’s quick fingers make easy work of the intricate bass lines and he still manages to bounce around like it’s nothing. Each member puts their everything into every track, I mean, the photos of Dan Cartlidge’s drum face will tell you that much. Smother, a single from The Overcast’s upcoming EP found itself on the set list, and is set to be released at the end of the month; it went down a treat with the ever-growing crowd and you’re going to love it too.

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 Plastic took the main support slot, returning to Stoke as a five piece after Connor Hamilton joined the line-up last month. During the set Connor showed why Plastic took him on, he played the bands catalogue with ease, as though he’d been there from the start and he makes a cracking addition to the sound. Plastic is another band whose performance is on another level – hair is flicked and bodies shaken, it’s as though the music has possessed Matt Awbery as he stares into the souls of the audience, spits and rolls around in the crowd. It’s a set I won’t be forgetting any time soon. One thing I loved about the band that it wasn’t all about the frontman – don’t get me wrong, Matt has an incredibly solid persona, but the band took it in turns to chat into the mic and have a laugh with each other so we got a feel for their personalities. ‘This is I’ve Been Floating, it’s about taking a load of drugs’ Matt introduces a wavey psychedelic intro with slow and floaty guitars; it takes a dark turn and a vortex of heavy guitars and thunderous drums comes crashing down on you. Plastic have some big plans in the pipeline for the end of the year; the biggest thing they’ve ever done. Keep your eyes and ears open.

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It was finally time for ALMA to head up on stage, coming in through the side door like pro’s. The floor of The Exchange was packed to capacity with no room for movement as ALMA alone had sold over 100 tickets. ALMA have had a few line-up changes in the past, but this one is strong. The band have found their sound and are killing it. Plug In/Plug Out was released last week, and further releases will follow in its footsteps getting bigger and better. That doesn’t mean that the band are neglecting their old works though. Tracks like Help Me and Taken For A Fool have had a re-vamp for their live performances and still fit in nicely with the new single as ALMA experiment with different tones and effects. Sam Fieldhouse has really developed his own style and Ross Litherland’s guitar slots into place and fixes everything together. I can honestly say that James Whitehurst is one of Stoke’s best drummers for his age, watching his hands fly through complicated combinations, solos and unusual time signatures is mesmerising. Jack Kennedy is your typical cheeky chap, having a laugh with his mates in the crowd and giving us what we wanted. Between the original songs we were presented with a rocked up cover of Rhythm of the Night, where Jack invited a few audience members onto the stage with him. Chants of ‘Pacifier! Pacifier! Pacifier!’ from the crowd were too loud to ignore, and so ALMA finished their set with the Catfish and The Bottlemen track. Sweaty and exhausted, the band left the stage, leaving behind an exhilarating buzz as teenagers piled out into the smoking area to congratulate the lads.

ALMA are heading somewhere big, and plan on taking their music out of Stoke and making themselves known around the UK, but know ‘Stoke will always take preference.’ You can listen to Plug In/Plug Out here: