Review: Rockin by the River 2 – Saltash

Livewire, Saltash

Whilst this gig was advertised as number “2” in the series, in reality it was the third in the series of New Wave of Classic Rock (NWOCR) gigs to take place at this incredible youth venue in Saltash, just across the bridge into Cornwall.

Following the first (the nearly aborted but ultimately wildly successful Bad Touch/Aaron Buchanan, Daxx and Roxane, Ethyrfield tour) and the second (King Creature, Skam, Haxan, Ethyrfield and Circle of Crows) the third mini festival had a superb line up of Cornwall’s 50 Year Storm, Wales’ Ravenbreed, Oxford’s Hell’s Gazelles and the global twins of Tequila Mockingbyrd/ The Amorettes. All of the bands played for fuel money and proceeds went to help the youth charity based at the youth centre. A sign of how much respect the event is generating was seen in the fact that previous headliners, the mighty King Creature, acted as stage crew for this iteration!

50 Year StormKicking things off, one of many traditions the event is developing as young Rory is asked by compere Pete K Mally to start the show with a drum roll. A task he completed with a huge smile and masses of enthusiasm.

The first band of the evening, and in line with one of the aims of ensuring local bands get heard, were 50 Year Storm. The trio, consisting of Emma and Andy Limm along with Damon Morey have a sound that seems far bigger than should be expected. Layers of rich keyboards and guitars anchored by blue haired Emma’s drumming immediately gained a positive reaction from a pretty full crowd, including their own fan club at the front. “We the Brave” that opened their set was a particular favourite as was new single “Sweet Lou” with a massive vocal. Their set ended with one of the most optimistic stage dives I have ever seen when of the three people who might have been expected to support Morey (now down to his pants) only one seemed to react and performed a legendary self sacrifice to prevent him face planting the rather solid floor.

RavenbreedFollowing them on stage were Ravenbreed, the first of two bands to blow me away during the evening. I will be honest and say I had never really heard of them but from the moment Zoey Emelia Allen took the mic I was utterly transfixed. With a voice of extraordinary power and strength every line was given emotion to match their biographical nature. Songs such as “Insult” and “Lonely” came from the heart, and gave an indication of a journey that is only now starting to approach its ultimate destination.

Mikey Watkins and Ross Formosa handled the string duties and provided a crushing power whilst behind them Oli Watkins drumming was a backbone of steel. What impressed me the most though was the sheer stage presence of Zoey. Looking around I wasn’t the only one as the reception the band were getting grew more and more appreciative with every song. The highlight of their set though was “Falling Apart” where Allen cajoled the crowd into singing contrasting harmonies in one, tuneful choir. Absolutely magical.

Hell's GazellesThe second of the two bands to make my night did that in a totally different way. I had previously watched a quick video of Hell’s Gazelles on You Tube and told my wife and reviewing partner that singer Cole Bryant had a pretty impressive range. The band took to the stage, Cole and guitarist Nath Digman stripped to the waist, smashed into the first song and hit a note that I have no idea was possible. Then went higher.

This was what I have been looking for in the NWOCR scene since I found it. An element of energy and almost danger that I haven’t found elsewhere. No rehearsed moves. No choreography. Instead a singer who had no idea from one moment to the next what he might do or say, throwing himself at an audience whilst hitting notes that would make Justin Hawkins wince. He was everywhere. In the audience. Standing on a chair. Vaulting on and off stage several times a song. Even at one point waterboarding himself with a bottle of water. It wasn’t just the Cole show as the rest of the band were immensely powerful. Drummer Luke Evans in particular standing out. Without a doubt one of the most exciting live acts I have seen in a long time!

Finally to the co-headliners Tequila Mockingbyrd and The Amorettes, each doing a set with a short break between. Of the two sets I would say that The Amorettes set got the most reaction from me. There seemed to be more energy and a better sound but also the songs are that little bit more polished.

The AmorettesIt is fair to say that this hasn’t been uneasy time for either band, which has led to their current conjoined twins existence. Not long before the gig there was yet another disruption to the line up as bassist Jacinta Jaye announced her departure, meaning that the band is now down to one original Amorette and one Mockingbyrd. Completing the line up we had Laurie Buchanan (more animated with every gig and clearly loving the set up) and bassist Mart Trail (so oddly there were more members of The Cult Classics than either band actually on the line up!).

Both bands certainly know how to rock. Gill Montgomery snarls out the lyrics and couples them with a raw guitar sound and Josie O’Toole batters seven shades out of her kit in a way that confounds her diminutive stature. There are some cracking songs too. “”I Smell Rock n’ Roll” from the first set and “Everything I Learned” from the second for example are both sing along classics.

At the end of the day though, I felt that I needed to see what the two bands could do together other than have an artificial divide between the sets. I found it a more than enjoyable couple of sets, but wanted to see a stamp of personality in the mix that was a sign of where things can go if this line up, or something similar, makes a go of things in the long term.

Hopefully as contractual obligations start to recede and song writing time develops we will start to hear what might be possible, because it could be something really special.

Review and pics – Rob Wilkins

Find out more about Livewire Youth Music in Saltash here. 


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