Stoke’s music scene is backing Walter Kocays all the way to Glastonbury Festival 2024

Words by Lee Barber, The Underground Venue Manager, Co-Producer of The Honey Box and Honey Box Hive project lead

Explicitly, I’ve told people for years now of the immense talent that is Caleb Allport, his natural ability to make each and any genre his own, and finally it seems the lad is getting his just rewards, with the announcement that his latest project, Walter Kocays, is to be performing live at Glastonbury 2024.

Caleb’s folksy alter ego blossomed from the murky depths of Stoke’s music scene after the musician and promoter found himself in a battle with his mental health, of which Caleb himself eventually found the confidence to post about online, explaining the difficulties he had been facing, and recently told me more of how he found the strength to turn everything around.

Walter Kocays

“The project started during one of the lowest points in my life. The only way I can describe it is that I’d suffered a mental breakdown: I didn’t sleep, I was terrified of going out of the house, It was a challenge to lift my head up and watch the tele. In all honesty, I didn’t want to live anymore. A friend of mine implored me to stay creative throughout. Even on the days I didn’t want to or felt that I couldn’t. I took this advice and began to learn cover songs that mean most to me: Old Man by Neil Young, Run by Stephen Fretwell, Something to Talk About by Badly Drawn Boy and Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lead Belly (famously covered by Nirvana). I thought to myself that maybe I could aim to play some cover gigs in local pubs and that will be my way of getting back into live performance I then developed the confidence to write some of my own songs – the first being my debut single, Observe, Don’t Try. I then threw myself in the deep end and turned up to an open mic in Manchester. I remember performing and shortly after, noticing that for the first time in months, my brain had switched off; stopped making noise. This was a gift from the heavens. From that moment on, I knew I was on the right path. I started to dream. My dreams have kept me going ever since.”

Prior to Walter Kocays, Caleb had long established himself in the local scene. I’m not one for getting out the big red book and offering out celeb life stories, but here we go anyway. A little over ten years ago, Cal was boasting regular slots at The Underground and The Mill with his first band The Current, where he played bass and did some backing vocals. They even supported Catfish & The Bottlemen at The Full Moon (RIP) in Newcastle, amongst other top drawer support slots. These Towns almost weren’t made for personalities such as Caleb Allport, his talent and demeanour so grandiose it was evident from the get-go he was destined for greater things, and to see things really beginning to fall into place makes this old local music lover humble. While The Current was a bunch of best mates finding their way through their first band together, and having an absolute blast, Cal’s second project Release brought with it a political edge, with the punk outfit grabbing the Best Single award at the inaugural Music Awards of Staffordshire & Cheshire, whilst also becoming a firm favourite in the local scene.

Going Back To The Old Routine was never something on the musicians mind, however, and Caleb brought out the hip hop vibes of Look Busy shortly before the pandemic hit, and delighted a sold out Underground venue with an intimate ‘sit down session’ during one of the lockdowns, complete with seating and face masks and arrows on the floor, but Caleb knew when to Let Go of this project, and progressed to the mature, humbling sounds of Walter Kocays, where we now find a hero in the making, readying to take his music to the world’s biggest stage, flying the flag for all of Stoke music.

When I asked Caleb about his reaction to the news that he would be performing at Glastonbury, he was about as humbling as can be expected from the popular song writer. “It feels like a joke to be honest. I’m waiting for the moment someone tells me they’re having me on. I’m just trying to remember that I’ve earnt this and I must embrace this full circle moment. It’s a great time to look back and reflect on the journey that’s got me here.”

Adele Rhead

Caleb stands before us as living proof of the musical talent we have in these forgotten lands of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle under Lyme, with his announcement of a Glastonbury performance coming just a week after Formal Sppeedwear’s EP release on Melodic Records, Camens’ debut album officially charting, Your City Festival, and Kira Mac’s sold out, homecoming show following a huge tour. Add into the mix Lissy Taylor winning a battle of the bands at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, where Macclesfield’s Queen Cult were the other finalists, and we’re beginning to look like a powerhouse music scene in the UK. 

I’m not so sure about a Lo-Tide, but Walter Kocays is certainly making waves, and is about to step out into that glorious ocean, and without a doubt the whole of the local scene is right behind you.

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