Review By Woody, Photos by Rich Ward
These unsigned showcases happen quite regularly at smaller venues with varying degrees of success but it’s great to see one of my favourite venues taking a risk and supporting not just local bands but original music at a time when live music venues heavily rely on covers bands to keep their heads above water financially. Also it’s great for bands to get the opportunity to play at a venue the quality and size of The Robin, all these bands play the toilet circuit and are no strangers to live performances but sometimes if you play that circuit music fans and journos can seem to be very dismissive automatically declaring them as pub bands. So you do have to tip your hat to the promoter for organising a show like this which not only gives the bands a proper stage to perform on but the potential to reach a larger audience and garner some respect from casual music fans.
It’s never easy been first band on but I was really impressed with Mallen, these female fronted alternative rockers are a tight and well practiced live unit. They did seem a little tentative and nervous at times, but as vocalist Kelly Jane points out very early on, this is the biggest stage they have played on yet so this is totally understandable. However, this didn’t affect how they came across as their music really did do the talking for them. Obviously they had brought along some of their established fans as had all the bands and got a great crowd reaction all round – which from a neutral’s point of view who had very little knowledge of any of the bands playing tonight added a little bit of enjoyable atmosphere to the night.
They have a monster sound full of big riffs from guitarist Dann Pritchard, and the rhythm section of Dean Ellis and Thomas Crowfoot makes their songs pack a punch and give their sound a driven energy. They have a strong Americanised modern rock sound which should appeal to fans of the likes of Shinedown for example. There is some grunge influences in there too most notably in Kelly Jane’s vocal style and it adds a little bit of a dark tone to their music. Her voice really put me in mind of someone and I could just not put my finger on it but I’d be surprised if she didn’t quote Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) amongst her favourite singers. I was really impressed with their songs and I think given the right opportunities they have a lot of potential to expand their fan base dramatically, they have the songs they just need to you to hear them!
I was particularly impressed with ‘Rise To Fly’ in which I think Kelly Jane gave her best vocal performance sounding at times a little bit like Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries) giving this song a stronger alt-rock vibe. They also played ‘Welcome To The Edge’, ‘Pull The Trigger’ and ‘Your Enemy’ amongst others. They are definitely a band to watch out for they come across very professionally and the word amateur would be totally insulting to them, it seems we have some great musical talent right under our noses here in the Black Country.
Robin Taylor is a hard one to review as his music style isn’t one that I enjoy. He plays acoustic driven pop and indeed he performs solo tonight and there is no denying his talent as a singer and a guitarist. That said though his songs just don’t reach me or excite me and his laconic stage banter and presence didn’t endear me to him either. He did have a strong following tonight and it was great to see people enjoying his music and getting involved.
Not really for me to be honest his style is over the top popular at the moment and I can imagine the average Telegraph / Guardian reader getting all moist about him. If you think Mumford and Sons and Ed Sheeran are the dog’s bollocks then you’ll get Robin Taylor.
Another Black Country band, Stone Broken, are next and these guys are rapidly gaining new fans and a reputation as a solid live act, and after the first song it was easy to hear why. With a good number of hardcore fans providing some noise it made for an enjoyable set. They have an Americanised modern rock sound which makes you think of bands like Nickelback and Creed, powerful, energetic and exciting. Vocalist Rich has a deep booming vocal which gives their songs a massive impact and along with some of the monumental riffs from guitarist Chris they play stadium sized anthemic rockers. Also these guys were easy to warm to as performers cause they all seemed to be enjoying every moment of their time on stage; they all were wearing massive smiles for their entire set.
It’s not often you see a female drummer but Robyn was a powerhouse and the drum solo was greeted by loud cheers which she responded to with a huge smile. These guys obviously love what they do and they have the songs to really make a dent and carve out a long career given the right opportunities. Impressive songs belted out by a well oiled rock machine, what’s not to love! If these guys don’t hit the big time someone needs a good kicking!
I didn’t catch a lot of the song titles and like everyone I watched tonight I knew very little about them, but it’s always great discovering bands like this and been totally blown away by the strength of their music and their professional performance. It always makes you think how the hell was I not aware of this lot before. I expect big things from these guys!
The first word that came to my mind following the last note of Sister Shotgun’s headline set was Explosive! They attacked the stage with so much energy it was really surprising and unexpected from a band of their stature, but it was clear from the outset that these guys were here to entertain. Lots of hair flying from all the band members who are pumped to the max and interacting with each other constantly – I think lead singer Chloe Ozwell may have clashed heads with Guitarist Niall Wills during the first song. They put on a great show and like all the bands tonight really deserve this time on the Robin stage.
I was totally awestruck by these guys, totally amazing to watch with songs packed full of energy and melody. The ultra melodic guitar intro to second song ‘No Hope’ really bolstered my interest in their sound and I found their highly melodic style of metal really exciting and enjoyable. They are a full on metal band but their heavy use of backing and harmony vocals makes them very melodic and quite a few of their tunes have an eighties stadium rock structure which of course is right up my alley.
Front woman Chloe Ozwell is a total fire cracker and it’s very hard not to find yourself staring at her and being mesmerised by her magnificent performance not just visually but more importantly vocally. She has a very versatile voice and uses it maximum effect in different ways on various songs. Chloe has a very melodious vocal and isn’t stereotypical of the style of music they perform which gives them a real edge and can also give the band musical genre crossover appeal. She really throws her all into her stage act and dresses to impress.
These guys have a very confident stage presence and they like to build a lot of energy by making their performance have as much impact as their songs. It makes for a lasting impression and without doubt had me labelling them band of the night immediately following their set. For a heavy band they do squeeze a lot of melody into their powerful songs, I was really struck by some of the melodic guitar parts from both guitarist’s Martyn Bullock and Niall Wills which gives the band a commercial edge. The confident and thunderous performance of bass man Michael Wood who was great at getting the crowd worked up and involved and explosive drummer Adam Yeardley made for an all round fantastic band performance. I’m confident Sister Shotgun will continue to grow and build on their established fan base, I loved them and they can add me to their growing circle of fan minions.
As a massive melodic rock fan the easiest way for non genre bands to win me over live is if they do a cover then they should choose an AOR classic. Sister Shotgun did a wonderful metalized version of Don Henley’s ‘Boys Of Summer’ which I really enjoyed and of course put them firmly in my good books. Although it was probably ‘Riots’ that I enjoyed the most with its metal meets glam rock n roll energy. They also played ‘Scarlet Visions’, ‘Dirty Mind’, ‘Silhouettes’ and the powerful ballad ‘For The Love Of Hate’. They closed by inviting the guys from Stone Broken and Mallen on stage to join them as they run through a quick blast of Guns N Roses classic ‘Paradise City’.
Overall it was a fantastic evening of music which I really enjoyed and was impressed by. I really hope nights like this can happen again at The Robin, so big thanks to The Robin for taking a risk and the promoter for assembling a great quartet of acts for our entertainment. We’ll have more of this please!!!