Joe Thompson opens for the Sherry Counsellors

Saturday 28th April 2018 saw one of the most special line-ups descend on The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent.

Was there a huge nationwide headliner? No. Was it sold out? No. Was it a showcase of how pure hidden talent lies within our communities and how local music can be celebrated? Absolutely!

First up on stage was Milton Keynes artist and Staffordshire University student, Joe Thompson. With a delicate set mixed with the right amount of original song writing and classic covers, Joe engaged and grabbed the audience. He looked nervous to start with, understandable, but with every guitar stroke and every flicker of the strobe, his confidence grew with the ever-growing crowd pouring in.

Dedicating songs to loyal fans, blending tracks seamlessly into Green Day homages and sending shivers down people’s spines with every prolonged vocal note, Joe Thompson embraced the opportunity of being on such a big stage.

As a musician, Joe is a prime example of how budding song writers are all around us, waiting for that opportunity to share their creativity. I’m sure those who witnessed this remarkable set, including the vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University, would agree.

You can check out his popular track, ‘Busker’s Song’ when he performed it for our live ICM TV session!

Second up was the energetic King’s Pistol, showing extraordinary blues talent as a three piece, interesting and intricate yet also undeniably explosive. The third and final support act came from youngsters, Learn to Lie, a budding alt-rock ensemble who showed a promising future in this toxic industry.

Last up and ready to steal the show was the Sherry Counsellors. Opening up with, ‘Aveline’ and ‘The Hunter’, the crowd was already, as one gig-goer said, “in the palm of their hands”. The local 5-piece then used this opportunity to play some new material, ‘Love Can Kill You’, ‘Starlight’ and a song which the frontman described as, “one which will blow your mind”, ‘The Wolf’.

The energy kept on going with the bassist taking a wireless endeavour into the jumping crowd for the increasing tempo of ‘Twisting Me Round’. Bringing tears to the eyes of gig-goers during, ‘Daddies Girl’ and creating an encapsulating atmosphere of euphoric singing during ‘Sunshine Symphony’ and ‘Elixir’

Towards the end of their set, I then realised what an incredible experience this is. The pinnacle of local talent. Music communities and an independent music venue showcasing togetherness on a Saturday night.

I was watching a unbelievable drummer, a daring bassist, two vocalists with spine-tingling harmonies and a lead guitarist that seriously knows how to play guitar. A crowd filled with music fans, friends and family enjoying an experience often bewildering to many that is hidden in venues and people you see every day.

It’s easy to forget this now and then, but sometimes the best gigs aren’t the ones where you paid £70 to go see your favourite international artist in a jam-packed stadium. It’s the ones that remind you of how music and culture starts on a local level and celebrates this fact.

Saturday 28th April 2018 saw the Sherry Counsellors headline The Sugarmill. Described before the gig as local legends. It is a privilege and honour to say with experience, I completely agree.



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