Saturday 7th February 2015
one of our featured bands
7th February at Sumo
with Alpha State, Joe Smith and Stating The Obvious.
A good line-up of acts had been assembled for tonight’s show at Sumo, by Paul Collins of Wakeup Promotions. The room downstairs does not seem to have changed since I was last there. A cold but clear night saw a fair number of people turn out for the gig.
On stage first were two of the musicians from Leicester hard-rock, heavy metal, progressive metal band Alpha State. Their first song opened with an intricate guitar part. On stage: Matt Hicken on guitar and Wayne Cooper on vocals. Normally they play as a four-piece electric band. I had a look round the room while these guys were playing. Most people were talking to each other; not sure how many were actually listening to the stage.
Joe Smith came to the stage with his guitar and pedals. Joe used to be in a Leicester band that I liked a lot: White Ashes. It was a popular young indie band in its day. The band split up when Joe went to Bristol, where he graduated from the Bristol Institute for Modern Music.
Now back in Leicester, Joe is performing as a solo artist; his set tonight included pieces with a range of musical styles. Using the pedals and loops he managed to create a sound that resembled that of a full band, as a backing for his vocals. He is a skilled musician who has been around for quite a while, having started playing when he was a teenager.
The earliest reference I could find to White Ashes was on Wednesday 8th July, when I wrote
Young Leicester band White Ashes played an inspirational set. The 16 year olds were playing their first ever gig and did it so well they walked off with the night’s prize, coming first in the public vote. Their set of rocky indie songs went down well with their substantial crowd of fans. Lead vocalist Joe Walker pushed the songs along with a good wedge of confidence and the band certainly had some catchy beats to enjoy. [Arts in Leicester magazine, 2009]
They had been performing at a competition for bands.
White Ashes got a brief mention Tuesday 25th August 2009, in the Arts in Leicester archive:
White Ashes played first – a young band who played extraordinarily well and had a nice bouncy attractive set of songs. Members of the Heroes were in the audience to check them out and said they liked what they heard – so that was good. [Arts in Leicester Magazine]
Later the same year, this appeared:
White Ashes is one of Leicester’s young bands and, although there are many good ones, this indie/pop punk foursome has achieved much acclaim from the other bands, of all ages, and are now in demand at the best gigs. Great vocals from Joe Walker (and including a singing drummer), tight playing and thrilling songs make a White Ashes set entertaining and enjoyable. A dedicated bunch of teenagers, they often can be seen in the audience at gigs, seeing what the bigger bands are doing. [Arts in Leicester magazine]
Then, In October, reporter Thomas Spinks saw them playing at The Charlotte and he said:
The first band to rock the Charlotte was White Ashes. They played a good set and played a variety of their songs. The guitarist showed the crowd his skills and played wholeheartedly and really enjoying the moment. However the one thing I feel let White Ashes down was that the singer seemed a bit off and seemed to struggle holding notes. However I’m sure they will fix this minor problem as they go. [Arts in Leicester Magazine]
White Ashes appeared in the pages of the magazine fairly regularly from 2009 through to 2011. One of the members of that band is now the lead singer of tonight’s headline band: Linear.
The first full band to take to the stage at Sumo tonight was Stating The Obvious. Another group that I have seen many times before. Their three vocalists provided a strong layer to the music, lead by their vocalist Jack Peet. One good thing about this band is that they have an extended vocal layer throughout any of the songs. In fact, I saw them on 9th January when they played at The Shed. I noted:
Each time I see them they get better. A young band that is still a bit raw, there is no mistaking the talent that they display and they have a sense of what makes a line-up of good songs. Bassist Ciaran Maloy also sings. [Music in Leicester]
STO also played at the gig headlined by Velocity on 18th December; I said:
From the very first bars of their very first song, Stating The Obvious made an immediate impact. A band with two good front singers and plenty of vocal layering, they started with a really good song, Greenday’s American Idiot. Once they had started they kept the momentum going and went on to cover a number of hit songs. Good playing, engaging delivery, appealing music – they hit the nail right on the head. [Music in Leicester]
I like bands that sing. Their set tonight was lively and engaging and they played with verve and commitment. Not just a covers band, they played some of their own songs, these being particularly good. If there was one thing that they failed to do it was to draw the crowd up to the front of the stage; there was a large gap between them and the audience which they could have attempted to rectify – it does make a difference. STO’s cover of The Beatles Come Together provided a pleasant opportunity to see how they would tackle a very well-known song; it was a respectable rendition of this classic song. A good band that played and performed well.
Linear is a band that I have seen many times before; on Tuesday 10th April 2012 at Sumo, I saw them said:
Linear was sensational. Amazing vocals from Jack Franklin tightly backed by the other four musicians in a series of dramatic songs that were tingling. A posse of fans gathered in front of the stage to support them, listening to a set of tracks that were dynamic and that glittered with clever orchestration. For their second song they played a cover but even this was good. Real passion and on-stage movement added up to irresistible music. This band will go a long way. [Arts in Leicester magazine, 2012]
Writing about another of their appearances, in the same year, I said:
The young Leicester five piece Linear featured the vocals of Jack Franklin, who is (or was) the bassist with local band White Ashes. They kicked off their set with a vibrant song, the first of three original compositions, in which Jack demonstrated his impressive singing abilities. Tonight was Linear’s second ever gig; bear in mind that several of the band member have already played extensively in other bands, so they are not short of a few flying hours of live experience, some of them having played since they were 14. Their three original songs were remarkable in that they have carved out a style of music which was distinctively their own, arguably new wave, assuredly shoegaze and definitely alt rock. In a slow and heavily atmospheric ballad, Jack’s impressive vocals were demonstrated, giving the songs lots of expressive impact and in which the guitarists were able to shine. It made them stand out. Because they are a new band they capped their three original songs with three covers, one of which was Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Good, a favourite of newbie bands and they delivered an acceptable rendition of this rock classic. Playing their covers with verve and energy, they showed themselves to be accomplished musicians. [Arts in Leicester magazine]
Linear played at the Original Bands Showcase in 2012; our reviewer said:
As soon as they were introduced, the fans started to scream and cheer. It meant that the band got off to a rousing start, even though they had to bide their time through six previous acts before they could get on stage and do their stuff. Not easy; but someone has to play last. Linear appeared at their first round heat on 10th March. That night the line-up was particularly strong, so it was good that they got called back tonight for another chance to impress the judges. Front man Jack Franklin has a particularly fine voice. Tonight he showed us what he can do with it, putting in an astonishing performance. Whilst many of tonight’s artists got up and sang, Jack demonstrated the next step above that: performance and with a passion and intensity that is rare amongst young bands, if not most bands that inhabit the Leicester music scene. Likened by some to The Smiths and by others to Nirvana, Linear has not chosen its genre. What is clear from their original songs is that they know where they want to be musically even though the five band members all have widely different tastes. What makes them stand out is their knack of writing original songs that sound iconic. That is different from just cloning your sound from recognisable bands. The band were fully engaged in the music; while Jack was giving up his astonishing performance at the front, the others were watching each, working together, feeding off each other, checking their timing with each other, being cool and collective. Calm is not what they are about but they do have a rawness which is exhilarating; they have a rough edge that beats off some of the smoother, slicker bands that went on before them. With their highly excited fan base cheering them on and moshing at the front, there was a magic about what they did tonight. That is what made them stand out; they can raise the hairs on the back of your neck, they can make your spine tingle. That is what makes them special. [Arts in Leicester magazine 2012]
On Friday 4th May 2012, Kevin Gaughan, reporting on the second semi-final of the OBS wrote:
There’s something curiously addictive about this band. Their music makes very good use of Jack’s unique singing style and, done well, as it was here, it just made me want more. Jack told me, after the set, that he had had a really good time, the sound was good and he used the fact that he can’t see the audience to put him in his own world where he’s singing on his own. [Arts in Leicester Magazine]
So, you see, I came to tonight’s performance with a history of previous experiences. What stands out about Linear is that they have developed their own characteristic sound. Their songs were by no means short on colour and atmosphere. Jack is the lead singer; his voice has an instantly recognisable style. They all delivered a vibrant and compelling set of songs; Mention the name Linear to people around the scene and most will remark along the lines “a very good band.”