Review: Rockin The Bowl – Sunday

After a slight delay in proceedings, psychobilly “Rock N’ Roll trashcan troubadours” The Dukes of Bordello get the party started at the most un-rock n’ roll time on a Sunday morning. Like The City Kids on Friday, The Dukes are better suited to a dark, sweaty club rather than a field at 11:30 am on a Sunday morning, but like The City Kids, they also manage to make it feel like it was 9 pm on a Friday night in a dark, sweaty club. Anyone compos mentis after recovering from the Amnesia scrumpy on offer at the well-stocked (and very reasonably priced) bar, were treated to a riotous set of good-time rock n’ roll that not only blew off the cobwebs but thanks to total bangers such as ‘Hellvis’ and ‘Down In The Gutter’ (think the B52’s with Marshall cabs and a zero-fucks given attitude) got the old bones moving and random bouts of bad-dancing were breaking out everywhere. Bloody marvellous.

Up next was undoubtedly the most poignant and gut-wrenching set of the weekend. London hard rock outfit Black Whiskey performed what looks like will be their last ever gig as founding member Kev Ingles sadly passed away last year, and today’s show had Sons Of Liberty guitarist Fred Hale stepping into the breach and pulling a double-shift to help ensure that Kev was given an almighty send-off. Playing a classic brand of hard rock, at times Black Whiskey gives off an air of a UFO-influence, and watching vocalist Simon Gordon during parts of ‘King Of The Blind’ and ‘Dry Bones’ sparks memories of the legend that is Phil Mogg. Today must have been very difficult for the guys in Black Whiskey, but they pushed through the pain barrier and delivered a fitting tribute to their much-missed friend and bandmate.

No sooner had Fred Hale left the stage, he was back on it, but this time with his cowboy hat on for a twin guitar-driven, rabble-rousing, rollicking set from Bristol-based Southern rockers Sons Of Liberty. By this time the hangovers were starting to abate thanks to several hairs of the dog – plural – and the timing was perfect for a set from The Sons that had there been any dust around then it would be getting kicked up. With frontman Rob Cooksley in fine form from the moment he stepped onto the stage in full preacher/snake oil salesman voodoo garb (Dr. John with a better accent), this was one of the strongest sets of the weekend and even though Cooksley joked that The Sons were “The oldest bastards you’ll see this weekend” the experience on display was there for all to see. Packing a wicked sense of humour into their music, Sons Of Liberty play with mile-wide smiles on their faces and this spreads to the audience. Impossible to resist ‘Up Shit Creek’, or ‘Damaged Reputation’ and ‘Beef Jerky Boogie’ (complete with Rob throwing packets of jerky into the crowd), but ‘Fire And Gasoline’ was the standout moment in a set of many: a raucous slice of AC/DC-fuelled boogie that featured Cooksley nailing some perfect high-pitched vocals. Have you ever caught the Robert Duvall/Sean Penn movie Colors? If not, search YouTube for the “two bulls” scene…Sons Of Liberty are the “papa bull” and everyone else is the “baby bull”.

And now for something completely different…country metal outfit Bootyard Bandits. Made up of some very experienced players, the Bandits play it for laughs, and it works, it really works. Perfect for that mid-afternoon slot where people’s attention might be turning to what they are having for scran later on, the five hombres from Wild West Worcester come on and for 40 minutes provide a welcome respite from the outside world. Like Steel Panther – but with less make-up and no wigs – CJ Handsome (vocals/guitar) Bamm-Bamm (drums) Two Puds (bass) Big Mac (banjo/guitar) and Joey Bones (guitar) know that their job is to entertain, and that’s exactly what they do. Parents with young children in the crowd flash knowing smiles at each other once ‘M.I.L.F.’ kicks in, and burst into laughter during ‘Country Music’ (where the emphasis is on the first syllable of the first word) and leave their sprogs wondering what they are laughing at. It’s good, clean, wholesome fun unless your kids know what ‘Shirt Potatoes’ actually means…and why would they? Joking aside, these guys have many miles under their collective belts and can certainly play, and if you can survive opening for Alestorm then you can survive anything. Check your inhibitions at the door and let the Bandits cure you of what ails ya.

Collateral has been one of the busiest acts out there since lockdown was lifted and gigs returned, and it shows. Purring like a finely tuned Rolls Royce engine, and now extended to a six-piece, the band makes good use of the larger stage as they set about the task of making sure that if anyone was unfamiliar with them, by the final strains of their set, they were new converts to the Collateral cause. It’s frontman Angelo Tristan’s birthday today and maybe it’s because of that, or the relaxed atmosphere in the bowl, but today Collateral seems more natural onstage, lot’s of playfulness between the band members which is great to see, and it’s almost as if they are having a private party and everyone is invited. Tristan is a fantastic frontman and is clearly having a blast on stage romping through arena-ready moments like ‘Mr. Big Shot’ and ‘Midnight Queen’, and with some stunning lead guitar work from the always-reliable Todd Winger, Collateral knock it out of the park (bowl) and leave with the adulation of the audience ringing in their ears and a few hundred new converts tucked into their pockets.

With SKAM forced to pull out of the weekend due to the dreaded positive Covid result, Hertfordshire hard rockers The Wicked Jackals answered the SOS from the festival organisers and hot-footed it up the M1 for an early evening primetime slot. With nothing at all to lose, the four-piece took the chance offered to them and ran with it, and are probably still running with it now – in particular, lead guitarist Marty Venus who enjoyed going walkabout through the crowd with his trusty axe. With it being such a substantial slot, the band padded out their set with a handful of covers (‘Nutbush City Limits’, ‘Blind In Texas’) slotting in alongside original bangers like ‘Ain’t Gonna Change’ and ‘Victory Or Death’, but regardless of cover or original, the band were on fire and pulled off a belting performance full of pent-up energy that was all the more impressive considering how little preparation they would have had.

Like Collateral earlier, Hollowstar have also been busy since gigs returned, and you can currently catch the quartet on the road with fellow NWOCR favourites Mason Hill, but tonight finds them playing main warm-up to Sunday’s headliner Massive Wagons. With a handful of gigs on said Mason Hill tour already under their belts, Hollowstar have been able to blood new guitarist Carl Ledger relatively quickly and he seems to have slotted into the line-up seamlessly, forming quite a partnership with lead guitarist Phil Haines. Ledger is also the victim of some good-natured banter from Hollowstar frontman Joe Bonson who loves pointing out Ledger’s resemblance to Kris Barras but without most of Barras’ muscles. Setlist wise, it’s much the same as the set you will encounter if you have a ticket for one of the remaining dates on the tour which has been extended into October due to demand; ‘Let You Down’ is a power-packed groove-monster, ‘Overrated’ struts with the best of them, and ‘All I Gotta Say’ is chockful of soaring hooks and killer melodies. The most powerful moment of the set was Bonson introducing the always-emotional ‘Good Man Gone’ with a dedication to Phil Haines’ late father who recently passed away, how Phil managed to compose himself enough to perform his emotive guitar solo is beyond me, and many of the crowd were visibly struggling with dust blowing into their eyes. Catch Hollowstar with Mason Hill until October 9th, tour dates here.

For Massive Wagons, this was the culmination of years of slogging their guts out up and down the motorway networks of the UK and having to get up for work the next morning. This was the reward for every mile in a cramped van, and every moment away from family and loved ones. This was the biggest Massive Wagons production to date, this was Massive Wagons with pyro! The first sign that tonight’s show was going to be something special came a week earlier with an email letting all media know that there would be no backstage access from one hour before Wagons came on. Then the RTB social media team posted a word of warning on Sunday morning to those who were camping that they might hear loud explosions coming from the stage area and not to worry as it wasn’t Wagons frontman Baz Mills trying out a bazooka, it was simply a test in preparation for the evening. Photographers were given explicit instructions of where to be before the show started and were to be escorted straight back out after shooting their allotted track…just in case they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up looking like Wile E Coyote after the Roadrunner fooled him yet again. And as soon as it was dark, the familiar strains of ‘Thunderstruck’ kicked in, and it was “showtime!”.

‘Thunderstruck’ gives way to the regular Noddy Holder intro, the curtain drops, and the crowd is met with the familiar sight of Baz Mills leading the charge straight into ‘In It Together’. The stage is set up so that drummer Alex Thistlethwaite and bassist Bowzer are on a raised level, while Mills, and guitarists Adam Thistlethwaite (complete with customary Flying V) and Stevie Holl are able to prowl freely along the front of the stage, pausing to use the carefully placed boxes to raise themselves up so that those at the back get a flash of the Wagons. Explosions go off, strobes explode to life, and roman candle fireworks ignite – and that’s just the opening song! The whirling dervish known as Baz Mills is in fine form conducting the mayhem in front of him as ‘China Plates’ (love, love, love the Scorpions shoutout!) and ‘Pressure’ come and go in what seems like a blink of an eye, such is the relentless pace of the set. Pyro provides some welcome heat from the drizzle, and Massive Wagons really suit this larger production. It’s obvious that they have invested so much into keeping the wheels rolling and moving up a notch at every opportunity rather than standing still.

With Don Valley Bowl being in a built-up area, there is an early curfew, so Baz keeps the chit-chat to a minimum, instead, he lets the music do the talking as ‘Hallescrewya’, ‘Nails’, ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’, and ‘Nails’ lead into a balls-to-the-wall climax which begins with the telephone ringing for ‘The Curry Song’ before riotous renditions of ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Back To The Stack’ send the crowd home with a smile across their chops and confetti in their hair.

The growth within the band is noticeable from the off; the stagecraft has ramped up a gear or two, Stevie Holl is much more involved – as a guitarist and also as a backing vocalist, but the main area of growth is in the performance of Baz Mills. Yes, he still is more energetic than ten of your average frontmen combined, but he has added control and restraint to his repertoire, meaning that his vocals are stronger than before and reach the back of the bowl with ease, especially noticeable on older tracks such as ‘The Day We Fell’ and the hard-to-resist ‘Ratio’. It’s clear that the band has been working hard during the enforced break from gigs, and rather than going 100mph for the entire set, they are wisely pacing themselves now that gigs are getting bigger, and longer. And now that Baz has the smell of flames and cordite in his nostrils, life will never be the same, just imagine these guys with an unlimited budget, eh?

 

Steel City Stage:

With the early curfew and a call-off due to Covid, the second stage only featured three sets…from two bands. Up first, and pulling a double-shift was the Eddie Huntly Band. Local boys led by accomplished guitarist/vocalist Eddie Huntly, the five-piece brought a heady mix of blues and funk to the tent and provided something different than what had gone before them over the course of the weekend. Check out ‘Revenge Of The Funkmeister’ and you will probably find yourself parting with some cash over the old interweb. No rest for Huntly though as once he unplugged his electric for the main set, he was gracious enough to break out the acoustic for a short set to keep the music going for the punters.

Sandwiched in between Hollowstar and Massive Wagons were Chesterfield’s finest – Yesterday’s Gone. A little bit of Southern-fried rock, with some hard blues-rock thrown in, Yesterday’s Gone had that tent a-rocking. Full-on from the first minute to the last, they pummeled the crowd and already had quite a substantial audience before the rain started and many sought out shelter. Led by frontman Rob Walker, and fuelled by copious amounts of twin-guitar, the band steamroller through meaty moments like ‘This Is Rock N Roll’ and ‘Break Me’, and prove to be arguably the discovery of the weekend. New EP ‘Set In Stone’ is out now, do check it out.

 

Friday review, here, with Saturday’s review, here.

Special mention has to go to all the RTB team who put together an incredible event under extraordinary circumstances, with such an ideal location for anyone coming from either the North or the South, hopefully, Rockin The Bowl can go from strength to strength and become a regular fixture on the busy festival circuit. Also, how about a round of applause for Dundee’s most famous export since Lorraine Kelly – Pete K Mally. The man put in one hell of a shift keeping everyone informed with what was going on, as well as introducing the acts, and keeping the gags going in between acts. Would be interesting to know what his step count was for the weekend? Good work fella!

Review – Dave S

Images – Dave Jamieson

 

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