It's the final night of three for the Kerrang! Breakthrough 2011 Midlands Tour, and four of the region's brightest bands have landed in Wolverhampton - with Matt Stocks in tow - to tear the Slade Rooms a new one.
First up it's Redditch's finest New Killer Shoes, who have had somewhat of a meteoric rise over the last twelve months - and they're showing little signs of slowing down. They tear through their set list with the infectious energy we've come to expect from them, quickly warming up the crowd and winning over a lot of new fans. Final track 'Work in Progress' is becoming something of a live favourite - in just a few minutes it runs the full gamut of NKS's sound, from kick-arse punk rock to inciteful ska-tinged brit rock. With their EP coming out next month, this lot are definitely my one to watch in 2012.
Max Raptor waste no time in carrying on the punk rock momentum initiated by NKS. I don't think I'm over-egging the pudding to say that Max Raptor are quite probably the best rock band the Midlands has to offer at the moment. Their songs - like their performance - are storming, full of attitude and yet as catchy as fuck without pandering to pop sensibilities. They're as close to a combination of Billy Talent and Cancer Bats as the UK has produced to date, and their post-hardcore punk sound is one that works superbly in a live environment. Front-man Wil even manages to whip up the only true mosh pit of the night during 'The King Is Dead', piling over the barrier and joining in himself. Full marks for effort and entertainment. I'm writing my letter to Santa today and top of my wish list is a double-header tour for 2012 featuring tonight's first two bands.
Octane OK's arrival on stage - which is a real shame given the quality of the first two bands on the bill - but these four lads are the young idols on the scene, and if there's always a dependable audience out there then it's the teenagers. And they provide the performance and the songs that their audience demands - the kind of pop-soaked rock that performs the job of luring teenage girls away from Justin Bieber and endearing them to the roar of loud guitars, and for that role alone they should be applauded. It's all upbeat emotive stuff, with sing-a-long choruses, and the crowd laps it up. There's nothing to stop this lot having real success over the next few years - personally I'd like to see them increasing the rock to pop quotient, but then my teenage years are far behind me (unfortunately).
No Americana definitely win the award for most entertaining roadie of the night, and by the time the headliners hit the stage the crowd is ready to rock again. As a band they have come a long way in the last couple of years, with their sound maturing nicely - and they've certainly upped the stakes when it comes to their stagecraft. Musically it's still nothing that we haven't really heard before, but what they do they do really well and they're starting to put together a strong set of excellent songs. They definitely go down well with the audience at the Slade Rooms tonight. My only bugbear with them now really is that name. With such a devisive moniker you'd expect there to be a real 'Britishness' about the band - but still most of their styling and sound seems to be derived from across the pond. Maybe they should ditch the Gibsons and start playing Burns?
All in all, a great night of Midlands-based rock acts in Wolverhampton - even if I personally would have jiggled the running order a little... It's good to see Kerrang Radio doing their bit to support local music, and long may it carry on.
View the full set of shots from the night in the Flickr slideshow below: