Not that many bands make it over the Tamar into Cornwall. The “Rockin by the River” lineups are slowly changing that and there is a growing scene based in St Austell at the Band Club. Cornwall Rocks, a three day festival featuring some of the leading lights in the New Wave of Classic Rock scene, alongside some established classic acts, at a caravan park certainly looked to raise the bar!
Arriving Friday lunchtime, check in was quick and easy and after unpacking I headed over to the venue. My initial impressions were very positive, with a decent size stage, bar, food service and various merch stalls all in close proximity.
The days were split into two sessions of three bands each, and it fell to Black Whiskey to open the show with a set that defined the NWoCR genre. Clearly influenced by the past with bluesy guitars (Kev Ingles) and soulful vocals (Simon Gordon), but with a modern song writing twist they certainly did a cracking job! Set highlights for me were set opener “Cheat the Hangman” and closer (and also album title track) “Heavy Train”.
No sooner had the energy been created than it had to take a change of direction as Killit lined up for an acoustic set (due to their drummer being refused a visa to cross the Tamar). It is difficult to review a band who have so much life on stage when they scale it back to perform acoustically like this, and whilst songs such as “Love is the Chemical” and “Shut it Down” are still toe tappers of the finest order, there was palpable disappointment that we didn’t get the full Killit experience.
Ending the morning session were Sons of Liberty (add UK if you want to find them on Facebook). Little did we know when they took to the stage just how big a part they were due to play in the weekend. The first of the bands to really make me (and the whole auditorium to be honest) sit up and take notice, they tore into ”It’s my Bad” and bought the Deep South to the South West. Fronted by the ridiculously visual Rob Cooksley their set was an absolute rip roarer of growled vocals, guitar harmonies (Fred Hale and Andy Muse) and driving rhythms (Steve Byrne and Mark Thomas). “Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”, “Marvin Popcorn Sutton” (with the dirtiest guitar line of the weekend) and the rhythm led stomper “Start It Up”, amongst others, made this the set of the morning. The sheer number of photos I took of their set was a clear reflection of how much I enjoyed their music.
Opening the afternoon were a band that frustrate the bejesus out of me because they should be utterly massive – Departed.
With Mark Pascall (returning from his Cats in Space slot) they have one of the best frontmen in any band around at the moment, and in Ben Brookland (ex of The Treatment) a guitarist of serious skill and quality. Theirs is a set of seriously classy rock music. What do you need in a rock band? A vocalist who has power and range along with a huge on stage persona? Check! A guitarist who can rip out licks in his sleep and looks like he is loving every second of the set? Check! A rhythm section that carry things along at pace and provide a tight framework for the other two to hang their theatrics on? Check! It is clear that I am not the only one who thinks this way. The crowd reaction is up there with the best of the weekend as they lap up songs like “Pretty Little Thing”, “All the Way” and a rabble rousing version of “Tie Your Mother Down”.
Penultimate act of the day with the task of warming up the crowd for the headliners were Vega. A really class act they impressed massively with a huge layered sound. Led by the charismatic Nick Workman on vocals, theirs was one of the few sets to add keyboards into the mix (James Martin) and it thickened the sound up impressively. Add in two guitarists ripping out licks (Tom Martin and Marcus Thurston) and a rhythm section with restraint in terms of theatrics but no shortage of power (Tom Martin, bass and Martin Hutchison, drums) and you have a band who can really define modern melodic rock. I failed to get a setlist unfortunately, but check out “Every Little Monster” and “Kiss of Life” to get a great introduction to their tuneful anthems.
Finally to the headliners of the first day – The Quireboys.
Weirdly this was the first time I had ever seen them live but bloody hell they were good! Showing that to truly rock and roll, you don’t need gimmicks, just a tight band of musicians and a charismatic singer, their set had me in raptures. Clearly Spike had been enjoying the bar but his chat with the crowd was hilarious and his reaction to finding a bottle of water in front of him own stage absolutely priceless. The entire set was simply superb. The crowd loved every second but when a band can finish a gig with a run of songs that reads “Hey You”, “Sweet Mary Ann”, “7 O’clock” “I Don’t Love You” and “Sex Party” the earlier part of the set fades in your mind in favour of the sheer party that erupted.
My comment on Facebook immediately afterwards was “Fuck Me! How good are The Quireboys?” And I can’t sum their set up any better a week later. Just wonderful!
Review – Rob & Danni Wilkins and images – Rob Wilkins
Day two – here
Day three – here