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.