Canadian rockers Sumo Cyco are back over in the UK on there ‘No Sleep! No Surrender!’ tour.
It was around the end of last year when I was looking back at my 2017 photos and posting a few favourites on Instagram, that I posted one of Sumo Cyco as it was certainly one of my favourite gigs of the year. On that photo I had a comment from one of the band members saying that they should be back in the UK at some point in 2018, maybe March, so I was looking forward to them coming back.
One day I woke up and saw that they had announced a new UK tour for March 2018, the No Sleep! No Surrender! tour. On first glance I thought I’d be able to get to three of the shows, but a slight mixup with one of the dates then meant I could only get to two of them. Some tours miss out big areas of the UK when they come from abroad, but with gigs in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Southampton, Bridgend, to name just a few, they have a pretty large area of the UK covered so that most people don’t have to travel too far to catch a gig on this tour. The tour kicked off in Chester on 14th March, and while I couldn’t get to that one, the following night they were playing at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes, and I made the journey down the M1 from Leicester to be there.
For this tour, they had support from Skarlett Riot on each date, with a few other gigs adding local supports as well. They also did something a bit special for people who purchased VIP tickets on this tour, along with the usual meet and greet before the gig, signed photo, and photo with the band, which is pretty standard for VIP access, they put on an intimate acoustic pre-show performance. Some bands have being there for soundcheck as part of their VIP package, but to go with their latest release, which is a live acoustic EP, I think this was a good option and one that I’m sure was taken up by many of their fans.
Doors opened for people who didn’t purchase the VIP package at 7.45pm and I made my way into the venue to try and get close to the front. Knowing this venue and how it’s setup, I know they do have a photo pit barrier they can use for certain shows, but most times it isn’t there and you have to try and be early to get a decent space. Even when I’m trying t get to near the front to take a few photos, I always try to be considerate of others, and at The Craufurd Arms there are a couple of little areas you can stand in where you are close enough to the stage but don’t get in anyone’s way, so I headed for that area first.
The first band on, Skarlett Riot, were meant to go on at 8.30pm, so I stood around chatting to a few people who were there and another photographer who was also shooting the show. Before I knew it, the band were setting up, placing their set lists on stage (which I always try to take a photo of so I can reference it later on), and then the lights went down as they were about to come on.
With a shorter set than the headliners, Skarlett Riot played 8 songs, with most of these coming from their latest album ‘Regenerate’. Heading out onto the stage and opening up with ‘Break’, the crowd warmed to them very quickly and were rocking out with them in no time. I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Skarlett Riot before they were listed as support for this tour, but I have heard a bit of their music between then and going along to the shows, and I’m definitely a new fan who will be looking out for any more gigs they play that I can go along to. Some really good songs played and a great choice for support.
Towards the end of their set they took the opportunity to gather all the crowd together and had a group photo taken, and seeing it uploaded on their Facebook page later on, I could see myself down the front with my camera. Those type of photos I always like, whether I’m the one taking them or I can spot myself in them later on.
Their set finished with them playing ‘Warrior’ to what was now a packed, cheering crowd who I would say were probably more there to see Sumo Cyco as the headliners but appreciate good quality bands when they see them, and Skarlett Riot are definitely that. A little bit of a break between the acts for breakdown and then setup of equipment, and it was almost time for what everyone had come for, Sumo Cyco were standing at the side of the stage, ready to go on.
With a setlist of 16 tracks, going on for over an hour, the crowd were in for a treat. Kicking things off with a track from their latest album ‘Opus Mar’, which has recently had a video release, Sumo Cyco came onto the stage to perform ‘Sleep Tight.
With two albums under their belts, and various other releases which they can pull from, there is a vast amount of songs they could have performed. Most of the tracks came from their two albums, ‘Lost In Cyco City’ and ‘Opus Mar’, with a couple of older tracks thrown in for the OG fans. With 15 of the 16 songs performed being originals, they did throw in one cover, which was their version of Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’. All of the songs had the crowd jumping, dancing and singing along, which is how any Sumo Cyco gig should be. With the energy on stage really filtering out into the audience, it was a special night.
It was about half way through their set when Sever made her way out into the audience, with the help of guitarist Matt, whose shoulders she was on top of, they performed for a bit in the crowd, and that just epitomises Sumo Cycos connection with their fans. With VIP access before a gig, going into the crowd during, and staying after the show to talk and have photos taken, they love their fans, and the feeling is mutual.
Before we knew it, it was almost time for the show to be over, but it finished on a high with them playing crowd favourite ‘Move Mountains’ followed by their latest single ‘Undefeated’, which I’m sure will be played for years to come as it is such a good track and has a really cool video to go with it.
Over an hour of just pure enjoyment in a hot and sweaty venue with Sumo Cyco on stage, what more could you ask for on a Thursday evening.
After the show the bands stayed and chatted to their fans while stood over at the merch table. When the VIP packages were announced, some people thought this would no longer be a thing and you’d have to get a VIP ticket to even meet the band, but that’s not the case, the VIP experience is just something a little extra. They are such great people both on and off stage, it’s a pleasure to meet and talk to them after any shows.
This was their second night of the ‘No Sleep! No Surrender!’ tour, and with another 10 shows to follow this, anyone going along is in for a treat.
The next week I was again on the road, heading to another Sumo Cyco show, this time up in Manchester at Rebellion in Manchester.
Last year when I first saw Sumo Cyco, it was because I’d heard good thing about them but they were also on a gig with a band I like, Eva Plays Dead, and since that day I’ve been a massive fan of theirs. For this tour I wanted to do at least two dates, especially as one of the dates I could get to was at the same venue as I saw them the previous year, so wanted to see them perform in a different venue. The only real possibility for me, due to work and travel distance, was to go to the Manchester show.
I arrived at the show a bit earlier than I had planned to, but that just meant I had to wait around outside for a bit longer. That really is one of the advantages of certain venues which have a separate music room, so you can come inside, have a few drinks, sit down and chat before then going into the room where the show takes place. It definitely is an advantage when the weather is a bit cold, like it was this evening, but what’s an extra half hour wait outside when the gig is as good as this was.
I went inside and immediately saw that there was no photo pit to take photos from, and in that situation I have to make a call on whether I think the show will be a busy one or not. If I think it’ll be a bit quite I can be more relaxed, walking round a bit and knowing I should still be able to get to a few decent locations when the gig starts. However, as was the case this night, if I think it’s going to be a busy one, I try to think where might be the best place for me to take photos in and get there early, with the possibility that that is the only place I take photos from.
What I normally do is take photos of the support bands from that spot, thinking that if I was to move around I may not be able to get back into the place that I was in originally. Then when the main act is on stage, start off where I am standing and then try to move around a bit, knowing that if any other locations don’t work, at least I have some photos from the first place. But if I can get decent shots from other places, then it adds to the variety of images.
I thought that as most of my photos were taken from stage left at the previous show, I’d head over to stage right for this show and get some different photos. However, that didn’t quite go to plan as both Skarlett Riot and Sumo Cyco also switched the placement of their band members on stage, so while I got a different angle compared to the last show, it was of the same person, if that makes any sense.
This gig was different from the last in that there was a third band on the lineup, kicking off the night were Leeds based band, Pulverise. I hadn’t heard of these before, but I really enjoyed their set. Their set wasn’t too long, but that’s expected of an opening band, but the songs they did perform were well received and got the crowd moving. At times there was crowd interaction, with band members going into the crowd and having a general ‘which group of people can make the most noise’ contest. Overall, a great start to the night and a band I’ll keep a look out for if they are ever playing a gig more local to me.
Just a quick note about the lighting, not going into too much detail here. Whenever I’m going to a venue I haven’t been to before, I try to have look online at photos of the place, either showing the actual lighting or photos of bands that have played there and then I try to work out how good the lighting is. I work with whatever happens on the night, but it’s better to be prepared and know what you’re going to be faced with. From the looks of it, the lighting setup seemed good, but for the first band I struggled a bit due to there being a lot of light either side of the stage, but not much on the middle of the stage, which was where the main singer was. I had hoped that, as sometimes happens, the ‘good’ lighting gets saved for the main bands, and when Skarlett Riot went on stage to start with a very similar lighting setup, I thought I’d struggle throughout the night. However, after a couple of songs the lighting changed, with what seemed like 4 lights being turned on to light up centre stage, and from that point I really liked the lighting in this venue.
So, next up, and main support for the evening and whole tour, Skarlett Riot. The setlist was the same as the one used in Milton Keynes, and I guess for the whole of the tour, but that didn’t matter to me. When the songs are as good as theirs, you can never get bored hearing them again. Another fantastic performance from them, and I’m sure they’ll be headlining their own sold out tour in the not too distant future.
I looked around a bit and noticed that the place was pretty much full now, so I’d made the right decision to get to the front of the stage early. I noticed a few people I know, but not wanting to move away, thought I’d be able to talk to them later on.
The lights went down and as the band walked across the stage, the music started to come out the speakers and we were underway for what would be around an hour and twenty minutes of rocking out to Sumo Cyco.
Again, they had the same setlist as they did in Milton Keynes, but I could listen to them play the same songs again and again, so that didn’t bother me. There were a few differences later on, and one of the great things about Sumo Cyco is that there is so much interaction between the band on stage and their fans watching, that every gig is unique.
After a couple of songs, Sever had to switch mics, not sure what the issue was but she went from a wireless mic to a wired mic, which I thought may have stopped her going into the crowd, but no. Later on, she was back up on Matts shoulders in the crowd singing away, and the crowd loved it as always.
Getting back on the stage, they mentioned that they perform one cover in their show, and they’ve been performing ‘New Rules’, but they gave the audience a choice, they could either hear that, or their cover of Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Give It Away’. With an overwhelming cheer for ‘Give It Away’, the crowd had spoken and that’s what they played. While you don’t want to play too many covers, especially when you have so many good songs of your own to choose from, it’s nice to throw one in every now and again, and the way they allow the crowd to pick which one they play is a nice touch.
Sixteen songs later and we were at the end of the show. They finished with their latest single ‘Undefeated’, which doesn’t appear on any of their albums, and if this is a sign of what’s to come from album number 3, I can’t wait.
I did end up moving around a bit to take some photos, after a few songs of standing where I started I thought I’d move and noticed that there were a few places I could go to take photos. An interesting feature of the venue is that there is a kind of gap towards the corners of the stage closest to the audience, so I could get in there to take some photos, and also get towards the back of the stage to capture a perspective which isn’t commonly available at most venues.
After the show, as always, the band members from all three bands stayed around at the merch table to chat and take photos with their fans. It’s that personal connection between band members and fans which really allows the fans to feel valued and they’re not just someone they want money from. So many bands will have someone else on merch stand duty and you never see them after the gig is done, but this feels so much more organic and personal.
I ended up purchasing a t-shirt, and while I won’t wear it that much (not that I don’t like it, I just mainly wear plain t-shirts) I will certainly wear it to other Sumo Cyco gigs, and it’s a way of giving back to a band that has recently become one of my favourite bands to listen to and see live.
One final quick note, Sumo Cyco’s main photographer, Francesca Ludikar, had come over for a few gigs on this tour and she is such an amazing photographer that I had to meet her and mention that before I left. Go check out her work, most of the Sumo Cyco photos are done by her.
Well, that’s it for another year. Sumo Cyco still have five more dates of this tour, but I cannot get to any of them unfortunately. Hopefully they’ll be touring again over in the UK before too long and when they do, I’m sure I’ll be going along to at least one of their shows. I also look forward to any new music/videos that get released as ‘Lost in Cyco City’ and ‘Opus Mar’ are constantly being played on my iPhone.