The View From… Stoke-On-Trent

Dan Grose is a student in the dubious confines of Stoke-On-Trent, a grimy town now more famous for its extreme right-wing politicians and absence of job prospects than its music scene.

It’s also my home town  – one that I left years ago – and I was interested to hear what was happening there now, and what an outsider thought. Dan spies the glint of treasure in the Potteries’ slag heap

Nestled just inside the North West Staffordshire border, Stoke-On-Trent is often regarded as the ugly, deformed cousin of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham when it comes to music.

Yet beauty lies beneath the surface, and there is considerably more to the scene than meets the eye. Boasting a rich and diverse musical history, there are many strings to Stoke’s bow to this day.

One of the thriving hubs of Northern Soul in the late 70′s and playing host to the likes of Led Zepplin in the early 80′s, there is still plenty alive in the current decade.

One thing you will get in abundance is passion. Travel to any gig with a local contingent and you will find a crowd full of enthusiasm and energy. Playing host to some of the best up and coming bands the country has to offer, The Sugarmill is the home of the Stoke music scene.

At a four hundred capacity it is by no means the biggest venue in the world, yet when packed to the rafters there are few to rival it’s atmosphere.

Swing across the town centre and you will find the rather dishevelled but undeniably charming Underground. Reportedly one of Pete Doherty‘s favourite UK venues, it holds few and boasts one of the stickiest floors you are likely to find. But again, much like the ‘Mill, fill it with a few hundred locals and a loud band and you’ve got yourself an evening.

Although very few local acts are on the brink of prominence, the quality and enthusiasm of many cannot be faulted. Travel to either of the aforementioned venues to see an established band and you are guaranteed to witness one if not two promising local support acts.

Often guitar driven – it seems to be a northern favourite – they regularly command a better crowd reaction than the main event.

A prime example are The Control; short, snappy and roguishly charming they are supporting the beleaguered Automatic later this month. With astute lyrics and catchy melodies they have already flirted with 6 Music and, no doubt, will command more respect than the headliners.

Yet diversity is also present amongst the endless supply of Indie bands, and none more so than the very talented Daniel J. Nixon. Stripped down acoustic at it’s best, Nixon regularly inhabits the Sugarmill whilst playing various venues across the North West. Blessed with a voice to melt the heart, his live shows are captivating and popular amongst the locals.

And as if that is not enough, the city’s history still thrives beneath the surface, with Northern Soul nights regularly happening across the area. Far from being sedate jaunts down memory lane, they remain the chaotic all – nighters they always were, attracting seasoned fans and young enthusiasts alike.

Yes, Stoke-on-Trent, may not have the pedigree or chiselled bone structure of it’s Northern relatives, but you cannot fault it for endeavour and substance alike. For passion, enthusiasm and commitment, you could do a lot worse than the Potteries.

5 thoughts on “The View From… Stoke-On-Trent

  1. I live in Stoke and it’s the barometer for rock and roll – we booed the Kooks offstage at The Sugarmill. If you can get a crowd going in Stoke, you can make it but standards are high. No one knows their music like a Stokie. Looking forward to seeing Twisted Wheel on 15th October!

  2. As a fellow Stokie, I wholeheartedly approve of this kind of behaviour. I dream of the day I can boo the Kooks off at The Sugarmill.

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  5. Hello. Can anyone help me? I am looking for a band based in stoke, i believe they produce a type of alternative-metal esque rock sound and are fronted by a beautiful, yet diminutive girl with ever changing hair colour? i know its pretty vague but i would be most appreciative of any information and would of course love to repay any help in anyway possible.

    If anyone can help please email me onceofthesun@hotmail.co.uk

    Kind regards

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