Thursday, 23 January 2014

Preview: Independent Venue Week - The Sugarmill

Colin Greenwood knows a fair few things about independent venues - Radiohead quite literally grew out of the proverbial toilet circuit circa-1990. One of the big questions regarding these small independent venues is 'can they survive?' With larger, sponsored venues grabbing the majority of touring artists in cities across the UK, independent venues have suffered both financially, and artistically. Independent Venue Week is a brilliant idea to flush the chain... so to speak. It's akin to Record Store Day in terms of its authenticity, and as important for venues as BBC Introducing is for up and coming artists.

Stoke-on-Trent's The Sugarmill is one of the lucky 18 venues selected by the Independent Venue Week ambassadors and directors. Each venue will host a range of talent ranging from the unknown to the up and coming. The Sugarmill will feature local, and further afield artists on Wednesday 29 January, at just £6 on the door - a price within reason considering the five artists in question.

There's déjà vu in the air as local lads Moral Panics take the stage at The Sugarmill once more. The Stoke-y quartet play a variety of indie rock / pop in the style of atmospherical reverberators The XX and borderline mathematicians Foals. They're a developing quartet, but that's not to say Moral Panics are going to create wonders with what they have in the tank. They still have a long way to go before becoming established on the UK circuit. If anything, Moral Panics need to step away from the blatantly obvious we listen to Foals indie-something craze. It comes across somewhat unoriginal, though that's not to say Moral Panics sound bad - they're far from it. Moral Panics are definitely an act that can excite, and will no doubt be one of the more compelling acts on the night. 

Like Moral Panics, quintet The Ruby Dukes hail from Stoke. This psychedelic rock / alternative rock quintet recently took home the 'Best Local Music Act' award at the Six Towns Radio Awards. It's an achievement in itself being presented with an award by one of Stoke's local radio stations, but to win it so early into their inception as The Ruby Dukes is something else. Resident Stoke-y and writer here at MRD Matthew Clewley was at the awards, and he told me good things about The Ruby Dukes. Their live set will be one not to be missed on the night.

Nothing But Thieves separate the local acts with a bit of easy going alternative rock from Southend-on-Sea. This quartet has something more than the indie / alternative sound that seeps through from time to time. Nothing But Thieves sound like the answer to the question brought on when The Wombats started to peel off into nothingness. These boys play slow, accessible alternative music for the attentive listener.

Stoke / Leek hybrid Delamere complete the support acts with a lighter, more revealing sound than the previous four acts summarised above. Instead of powering forward like Moral Panics or taking it slow like Nothing But Thieves, Delamere sort of sit on the fence. They're not the most aggressive of alternative artists, but they're also not one for a relaxing Sunday evening. Swirling guitars obscure the reverberated vocals, which have potential for being a hit in the underground scene in the Midlands. There's some definite potential here, so if you're heading down on Wednesday, keep your ears peeled for Delamere.

Headlining The Sugarmill's leg of Independent Venue Week is an artist that was picked by BBC Introducing to play Glastonbury 2013, Camp Stag. They already have a healthy amount of festival experience and exposure under their belts going in to 2014, and this headline slot can only boost their fanbase in the Staffordshire area. Surprisingly, Camp Stag have the smallest social media presence out of the artists listed above - strange considering their BBC Introducing exposure and BBC 6 Music play time. Camp Stag are for fans of The National, with those who have an ear for tidy electronic instrumentals and resilient structures.
~Eddie Gibson