King Creature/Daxx and Roxane/Ethyrfield
“The Yard” – Roseland, Cornwall
Saturday 5th September 2020
22nd February 2020.
That was the last time I enjoyed live music.
At the time I had no idea that the world, as we knew it, was about to change. I had a diary full of gigs and a summer full of festivals. One by one, they bowed to the inevitable and cancelled or postponed as the virus restrictions took hold.
Fast forward (or slow forward, as the weeks dragged by!) to late August and I began to hear whispers. Cornish Metal monsters King Creature were planning a gig in September. A real one. With an audience! Beer! Support bands! Merch stands! Live music!
I HAD to be a part of that!
So it was that I found myself driving down to the most rural of rural Cornwall on a late summer Saturday. Alongside my usual kit of cameras, lenses, and batteries I was equipped with industrial-strength hand gel, a medical-grade mask, and layers that could be removed and washed/burned as appropriate if others weren’t as COVID conscious as I.
I had nothing to fear.
Arriving at “The Yard” (the venue now has it’s own Facebook page!) I was met by a hi-viz clad steward who directed me towards a colleague showing where to park. Further stewards were marshalling a queue, distancing wonderfully observed, snaking towards the box office. Once at that point, yet another steward gave a squirt of hand gel, and a comprehensive form to fill in before I was allowed to hand over my £25 and take possession of wrist band, unique t-shirt, and King Creature facemask.
The time allocated for “check-in” was very generous to prevent overcrowding and so whilst waiting for the gates to open I took the time to enjoy possibly (well no, undoubtedly) the best food I have ever had at a gig courtesy of “Sam’s”. A menu including scallops, lobster, and what seemed to be half a cow in a bap filled out the new t-shirt and several pints of “Sam’s” and “Eden”, enjoyed at well-spaced tables went down well as the atmosphere built.
The gates opened and people started to drift into The Yard itself. Basically a large builders yard, the venue had been marked out into a grid with each square more than socially distant from its neighbours and filled with groups of four in their respective bubbles. A one-way system ensured free but safe movement between square and toilets/bar. Discrete security were dotted around and subtly intervened if anyone got overexcited and forgot the rules (out of over 150 people, I saw them have to intervene twice!).
“The General” himself, Jules Chenoweth, owner of The Yard took to the stage to introduce the first band, raising a laugh when he ruefully told the crowd that, “They said it couldn’t be done – well they were wrong! They said it wouldn’t be financially viable – and they were right!” Then finally, that sound of a lead being plugged into a guitar, the hum of feedback, and Ethyrfield ripped into their set.
I have seen these guys play several times now and each time it just gets better and better. Described by Aaron Buchanan as “a young Alice in Chains” after playing with them at the Livewire venue in Saltash, their sound has now opened out as their technical ability has blossomed. Far more “prog” but still edgy and deliciously heavy the young trio draw you in with wonderfully intricate musicianship.
In the past, I have felt that they needed a little more stagecraft, but today they showed that as confidence grows, showmanship follows, particularly in the case of bassist Zach Cornish who throws some tortured shapes whilst laying down insanely complex and tuneful bass lines. Behind them, drummer Dan Aston never takes the opportunity to play simple fills where there are opportunities to draw far more light and shade out of his kit. Making up the trio guitarist Ben Cornish fills out the sound with both powerful chords and searing lead lines such that often you wonder how three people can create such a layered soundscape – dare I say very reminiscent of Rush?
A new and previously unheard song, “Remembering” showed how fast Ethyrfield are developing beautifully.
The filling in the South West sandwich were Swiss Londoners Daxx and Roxane. If ever you wanted a band to bring the party to remind you what you had missed this year it has to be these guys. Whenever I watch them, I find my face hurting simply from smiling so much at their energetic and lively set of down and dirty rock and roll.
Front and centre, Cédric Pfister, providing both bass and vocals, almost appears to be the quiet one of the band purely due to the antics of Simon Golaz and in particular Cal Wymann either side of him. I say either side. During their set, Wymann might be found anywhere from behind the drummer, to sitting on the stage apron, to balancing on the edge of the stage, to leaping at full speed over a still playing Golaz. His energy levels are insane and yet, all the time, he doesn’t miss a note. Drummer Luca Senaldi gets more animated as, despite the autumn chill he soon sheds his shirt and keeps the tempo flowing.
Over the summer the band released their latest, self-titled album, and much of the set is based around material from it with “Strange Woman”, “Dawn”, “Heal”, “Without You” and “Fast Lane” all sounding superb. Mix in some favourite oldies and a barnstorming version of “Superstition” and it was a set that more than prepared the way for the headliners and built the anticipation.
Out of nowhere clouds appeared (on a day with ZERO chance of rain) and umbrellas went up. Surely rain wouldn’t stop play? The sky looked dark and The General looked to the heavens and made a decision. Delay? Play in the rain? Nah, “Hell’s Bells” rang out from the PA and it was clear the decision was to simply blast a hole in the clouds with volume.
Drummer Jack Bassett stood at his kit, raised his arms and roared, fists were raised all around the arena in answer and The Creature rampaged into “Live Forever”. What a way to open a set!
The new album, “Set the World on Fire” is imminent, and given the chance to play it live the band take every opportunity. This is going to be an album that leaves NOTHING on the table. The new stuff sounds simply immense!
Dave Kellaway, filling the entire stage with a brooding, intense frontman style, growls out the lyrics as he drives each song forward, backed by a huge, and I mean HUGE drum sound from Bassett. Flanking him, Matt Vincent and Dave Evans trade the most glorious of guitar licks. One of the things I love about the band is the differing styles of these two guitarists. They aren’t rhythm and lead, they are two lead guitarists each capable of stripping the skin from your face when they let rip. Nowhere is this better shown than what was, for me, the highlight of the set, new song “Wisdom Told”. When I first heard this song I was blown away. It is incredibly emotional and I wondered how it would translate to a live setting. I cannot exaggerate how much it was the highlight of the day for me. Watching the raw emotion on the face of Kellaway as he sang, often with his eyes screwed tight shut. Then the guitar solos. Music is about more than just a sequence of notes. It is about an emotional reaction and between them, Evans and Vincent take the crowd to another place full of memories with some of the best playing I have heard in a long time. As the song came to an end there was a huge ovation, but then, silence. Both crowd and band seemed to stop and draw breath and you could have heard a pin drop. I have been to many gigs, but that silence was something truly special and memorable. A deep breath and back into the fire as the set rolled on with “Storm”, “Lowlife”, “Wrath”, “Falling Down Again” and “Power” before sending the crowds home with “No Getting Out Alive”
If I were to write a checklist of what I want from a gig, this had it all. Contrasting bands that kept my interest and energy. Superb organisation (and not once did I feel at risk the entire day). Great food and beer. Plus moments that will be memories for years to come. The team at the yard are hoping to make this a regular and very unique venue for rock gigs, so find their Facebook page and give them a like.