On a bleak Friday night, Spring King brought a burst of summer to Stoke-on-Trent.
Upon entering the stage, the Manchester-based band demanded that the crowd form a pit. And as drummer, lead-singer Tarek Musa connected with the first beat to ‘Detroit’, the tone for the night was set.
Joy flowed through the room, an infectious energy radiating from those dancing on the frontline. Fast-paced drumbeats, backed-up by speedy guitar riffs, the song’s anthemic “Don’t let me down…” chorus was chanted with ferocity. The crowd was theirs in an instant.
The band first rose to prominence in 2015, being the inaugural play on Zane Lowe’s Apple Beats 1 show – and more recently could be heard on the FIFA 17 playlist.
But they are more than a series of casual anecdotes; greater than their flurry of Radio One singles.
With undeniable pop-hooks playing out over huge garage-rock riffs, Spring King are the ideal band for a burgeoning indie kid. Producing a feverish atmosphere, their music strikes a similar chord to The Pigeon Detectives.
Though, ‘I’m Ready For War’ and ‘It’s So Dark’ encapsulated a band striving for balance. A balance between their pop-hook sensibilities and Musa’s surging drums.
Both songs opened with hard-hitting intros — more vibrant and fresh-sounding than their counterparts on the band’s 2016 debut LP, ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ — whilst retaining their best indie-pop attributes.
‘Ready for War’ continued to walk in Detroit’s footsteps, with its frenetic vocal and crashing guitar riffs. The crowd gleefully lapped up the increased intensity, lending a celebratory feel to The Sugarmill.
‘It’s So Dark’, with its Tame-Impala-like riff ebbing away in the background, was underpinned by Musa’s stop-start drums. With the baying crowd clapping along intently, in the mind’s eye, it projected images of sold-out-arena singalongs.
After ‘Demons’, another guitar-laden track, cemented Spring King’s ambitions for a harder exterior, Musa introduced ‘City’.
A crowd-favourite, the song etched a wry smile across Musa’s face, as he knew what was to come. Showcasing the best of this drummer-led project, its chorus directly confronted the audience.
“Who am I? What does it matter?” spoke to a crowd, new to their own frustrations. Spring King lured their fans in with these one-line-wonders. Yet, they stay for the songs’ deeper meanings and urgent sound.
A blend of Jack White’s drums and Cage The Elephant’s scrappy vocals then merged together for ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, culminating in another barrier-squashing-singalong, before Spring King finally paused for breath with ‘Take Me Away’.
A slacker-indie riff consumed the room, combined with looping drums and Musa’s calming vocals. It formed a hazy respite, giving the room a Sunday-night-festival vibe. An arms-around-shoulders mentality took hold, as the audience were given time to reflect.
Yet, moments later, Spring King were in full flow once more. Frist with ‘Better Man’, then with new song, ‘Animal’, a track the band say will feature on their upcoming album.
‘Animal’ seemed to be a clear statement of intent from Spring King, reminiscent of the band’s earliest work. Although, Spring King have achieved much in such a brief time, it played like a band with something to prove.
With the crowd clamouring for more, Spring King responded with two of their more energetic tracks, ‘Who Are You?’ and ‘Let’s Ride’.
‘Who Are You?’ — of FIFA 17 fame — brought an obligatory large reaction. Racing toward its chorus from the outset, the bridge lyrics of “Tonight, I just wanna be somebody else” provided more fuel to those making their first inroads into indie music.
‘Let’s Ride’, a blur of garage-rock and post-punk ingredients, is a true staple of Spring King’s set and was a signal that the night was nearing the end. As always, the best were saved until the end.
‘Coming After You’, drenched in its B-Town-basslines, and melodic rhythm, provided a breezy intermission before the feel-good double-header of ‘Mumma’ and ‘Rectifier’.
With minutes remaining, the crowd seemed to savour every moment. A party atmosphere ensued as the Circa-Waves-style chorus of ‘Mumma’ rang through the jubilant crowd. Clear elation beset upon the crowd as Spring King cultivated a festival feeling throughout The Sugarmill.
The crowning moment being Musa wearing a pair of sunglasses thrown from the crowd before playing the band’s final song of the night. A drumbeat reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys, it was a fitting way to close the night’s headline set, as Spring King sought to exert every ounce of energy from this willing crowd for the final time.
Only when outside, as the winter air hit, did the festival end.