With some trepidation we opened the doors on Sunday, but there were no worries. The M5 was flowing sweetly and we were on track for an on time start.
Opening what was, in my opinion before and certainly most people’s afterwards, the strongest of the three days were Western Sand from Bournemouth. As opening bands go they more than punched their weight! With a delicious Southern Rock sound the four piece dragged many from their post Sunday lunch snoozes with a cracking set. Two absolute stand outs were a cover of “Mississippi Queen” where the individual skill and musicianship of Tyler Hains, Jimmy Bradshaw, Findlay Hotchkiss and especially drummer Nathan J. Kay were showcased as each took a moment in the spotlight, and “Broken Bones” which was absolutely immense.
Following them, in what should have been a mid afternoon filler slot, were local rising stars Ethyrfield. Rising? Jesus Christ these guys are heading upwards like a launch from Cape Carnaveral! Mouths hung open as the three youngsters showed that following some impressive gigs over the last twelve months they have developed some incredible musical skill. I mean, it shouldn’t be possible to cover a Rush song like “Tom Sawyer” and make it look as if it is a walk in the park, but when you see that they are all in their teens it shows a musical maturity that is quite frankly mind boggling. They showcased new songs where their style has clearly developed and matured, not quite so grunge and a little more “prog” in its widest sense, and their stage craft has also matured immensely.
Their set went down a storm with not just the crowd but many of the other bands there referencing them during their sets. If I had one ask of them, it would be to keep developing that visual impact on stage. A trio leaves a lot of space in the middle and as those stages get bigger so will the space. Occasionally using instrumental passages to move away from the microphones will only add to their already astounding live presence.
I almost felt sorry for Voodoo Vegas having to follow Ethyrfield on stage, as many of the crowd seemed a little exhausted and in need of afternoon naps, having rocked out so much. But they accepted the challenge so well that my reviewing partner described them as her band of the session, and spent her beer money on merch! Led by the tuneful and powerful vocals of Lawrence Case (winner of the tallest performer of the weekend awards!), backed by twin guitars from Merylina Hamilton and Jon Dawson, there was certainly a more melodic and accessible vibe to their set.
Several times during their set they referenced difficulties in their past with the underhand pledge music and then their manager. “Puppet” was the stand out track for me. It is grungy but also melodic, with some super twin guitar licks. Look out for new album “Feeling So Good” as the tracks featured from it more than excited me.
After the short break for food (or alcohol in most cases) we were almost bodily ripped from our seats and carried to the front as Collateral exploded on to the stage.
Before the event they were one of the bands I was most looking forward to and I wasn’t remotely disappointed as they exploded onto the stage in a blur of hair and melody. Opening with “Mr Big Shot” we were whisked from Cornwall to California with sweet harmonies and sassy riffs. Angelo Tristan, long coat swirling is born to do what he does, backed up by Todd Winger’s lead lines and Jack Bentley Smith’s bass. Ben Atkinson behind them pounds out some rhythms that shake the bones. One observation from the weekend was the age of the crowd and Collateral are the sort of band that can change that and keep those of the same generation as Ethyrfield interested in rock.
The set finished with “Lullaby” and “Midnight Queen”, two songs that would grace any top down drive down a sun drenched coast. Only it didn’t. Nobody was going anywhere until, they had an encore. This presented something of a challenge as Angelo said, only having one EP so far! A quick chat and we had a rousing “Bon Jovi encore which highlighted how mature Collateral’s sound is. Probably the highlight of my co-reviewer (and wife)’s weekend was Angelo singing the chorus at her. I do believe she blushed rather red!
I had never heard of Stray, which is rather shameful as they have been around for pretty much as long as I have been alive! Of the bands on the Sunday bill they were the one where I expected a bit of a break. No way! There is something totally “rock and roll” about watching musicians who have devoted their whole lives to music and the combination of languid skill, banter and great songs won me over.
Del Bromham had the crowd in stitches with his talk about the fact that his knob had been in the upright position all night and that was rare so it was going to stay there, and other humorous asides and the band ripped into every song with smiles and easy style. The style is bluesy rock and together with guitarist Pete Dyer, bassist Colin Kempster and Keyboard player Simon Rinaldo they sounded lush and full but also had a punky edge. One song played had not been heard since 1974 and I swear looking at some of the guitars they were played on the same instruments then! Drummer Karl Randall at the back effortlessly kept things motoring along, and by the end of their set I had a very big smile on my face.
Finally, it was time. Massive Wagons had played twice before over the weekend. Travelling from Inverness on Friday all the way to Cornwall. They were clearly going to be tired and ready to get themselves home right? Not a fucking chance!
“Rock n Roll Preacher” blasted out to welcome them on stage, the band launched into “Back to the Stack”, the floor filled instantly and then there was Baz, manic and bouncing like a child that had missed their ritalin. There are few bands that deserve the success they are enjoying as much as the Wagons. It would have been easy to hold back for a small crowd but they played as if they were headlining a festival.
“Tokyo” and then “Billy Balloon Head” (A song that greets me every time I turn on the radio in the car with “Helloooooooooo”). I don’t know whether to take photos, sing, jump, rock like a loon or smile like a goon so I do all of them at the same time. I won’t list every song (although not doing “China Plates”? Guys, c’mon!), but the setlist now is strong from start to finish.
The band are tight and there isn’t a pause as we fly along. It is sweaty. It is loud and God it is fun! In no time at all we are approaching the end. How do Wagons send us home? “Fee Fi Fo Fum” and “Cum on Feel the Noize”! If anyone had a drop of energy left by the time they started those two it was drained from them and a sticky puddle on the floor by the time the last notes died away.
Looking back on a wonderful weekend there are a few things that need to change to make the weekend successful enough to become a regular fixture. Social media use in particular to build attendance numbers would help massively. Making the chair and table areas so ridiculed by Diamond Head VIP another thought.
That apart though it was a wonderful weekend of diverse rock music and some of the moments will stay with me for a very long time.
Here’s to next year. Come and join us!
Review – Rob & Danni Wilkins
Images – Rob Wilkins
Day one – here
Day two – here