Category Archives: Live music

Interview with Hawxx, 3 February 2019

You may not have heard of Hawxx.  I myself wasn’t familiar with them, until I saw them perform in support of Salvation Jayne at the ‘Lady Luck’ in Canterbury late last year.  This female foursome of raucous rockers reside in London and they’re ready to grab the music world by the short and curlies, taking no prisoners along the way.  They were happy to chat about their biggest influences, their clear love of all things foody and the fact that love really is a bitch.  Read on for more insights …

Queen of Rock: Why the name ‘HAWXX’?

Hannah: We love a bird of prey but Eagles was taken and XX symbolises the female chromosome.

Hawxx logo
QoR: Summarise your journey so far; who are HAWXX and how did you get here?

Anna: The band is made up of myself on vocals and guitar, Hannah on guitar and backing vocals, Iman on bass and backing vocals and Jessica on drums. We come from all over; I’m from Greece, Hannah is from Wales, Iman is from Bahrain and Jessica is from Sussex.

The band started at the beginning of 2018. I met Hannah when she was working at Alaska Studios in Waterloo. I lured her in for a jam and that’s where the band was born. Shortly after, we met Iman and then Jess. We’re really lucky that we all work so well together; we have such good chemistry, both musically and in terms of how absolutely insane we all are. We started off gigging as much as we could while writing songs along the way and in November, we ended up working with the amazing producer Larry Hibbit (Hundred Reasons, Marmozets, Nothing but Thieves) for our first single … and it’s about to drop!

QoR: What’s your creative process? Do you all write together? How do you find inspiration for new songs?

Anna: One of the things I love about the band is that there is a relaxed and open minded environment when it comes to writing songs – we all write together. Usually how it works is that one of us will bring an idea to rehearsal (whether that be a riff, bass line or even a fully formed song) and then we will take it on and carry it through to the end all together! In terms of inspiration, I think all our songs are very direct, [they are] about real life situations – whether personal or political. We have songs that span from giving the finger to institutionalised religion, the deterioration of the NHS, how love’s a bitch (COMING SOON!), when your mind gets trapped in dark places and not existing for anybody’s pleasure.

QoR: Tell us about the debut single, ‘Love’s A Bitch’

Anna: ‘Love’s A Bitch’ drops on February 14th as an anti-Valentines Day anthem. The track is about an all-or-nothing attitude to love and the fight to connect with those we love.  I wrote the lyrics to this song when I was in Mexico in 2017 and I was fighting with my boyfriend. I felt such a pull between wanting to get up and leave but also such strong love that I would do anything to fight for it and make it work, hence the chorus, “The dogs of love fight to the death.” By complete coincidence, a couple of days later I watched the movie ‘Amores Perros’, which means ‘Love’s a bitch’ – a film about love AND dog fighting! I knew that we had to call the track ‘Love’s A Bitch’.

QoR: Who are your musical idols and how did they influence you to write music?

Jess: My influences are endless! I’m really into the blues/rock and ‎psychedelic bands from the 60’s and 70’s. Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker are two of my drumming heroes. I also love Lightning Bolt and anything super creative and a bit mental!

Iman: Deftones for the overall sound, Bjork for her innovation, Ani DiFranco for her direct brashness.

Anna: Currently Anna Calvi – I’ve always resonated with her being a female guitarist and been in love with her music, but then I went to see her live in June and it changed my life. I’d never seen anybody with such power on stage before. Also Kate Tempest and Patti Smith.

Hannah: Metallica are probably my biggest influence as they were my gateway ‘drug’ into heavy music – I like the way they have different sounds, from thrash tracks to ballads, to the collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony … there’s more than one way to do ‘heavy’.

QoR: What’s been your biggest highlight so far?

Anna: Recording our debut single with Larry Hibbit was a great achievement. We couldn’t be happier with the choice of producer for our first single and we are so happy with how it’s sounding. We can’t wait to share it!!

Hannah: Also playing KOKO in Camden! Didn’t think we’d be able to do that in the first year of our career. It felt amazing to have that much space on stage and feel Jess’ double kicks in your chest! Also the absolutely massive stack of Domino’s Pizza waiting for us in the green room after.

Hawxx in live action
Photo © Aaron Thompson

QoR: Being an all female band, have you encountered issues with discrimination and prejudice?

Iman: I’ve been told, “I play bass with the skill and conviction of a man” (apparently female bassists lack conviction and skill).

Jess: I have also been told that I play like a man as a compliment!

Anna: I remember talking to a professional male musician about HAWXX right at the beginning and he said, “You’re an all female band? You’ve got to be careful with that though because it could come across as gimmicky.” When I pointed out that you wouldn’t say that about an all male band, there was a long pause and some head scratching, but we’ve been pretty pleased with how these moments have then turned into respect after we perform.

QoR: Whats the most important thing a band can do to kickstart their career?

Hannah: When you find out, can you tell us please?

QoR: If you had to pick one festival to perform at, which one would you choose?

Hawxx: Download.

QoR: If the world was ending one hour from now, how would you spend your last 60 minutes?

Hannah: Is it definitely ending? While hiding under a desk (as is the advice for earthquakes and nuclear threats), I’d try to remember all the survival knowledge I’ve gained from watching Bear Grylls and ‘Walking Dead’, in case I survived.

Iman: I would probably spend the last 60 minutes getting as high as possible whilst riding a Harley around the countryside at top speed … and I’d give my mum a hug.

Jess: I’d probably just eat lots of ice cream.

Anna: I’d quite like to jump on Iman’s Harley – it sounds fun, as long as we can stop at Spice Village in Tooting for a curry. We could pick up Jess on the way and bring a takeaway to your desk, Hannah.

QoR:  Couple of ‘quick fire’ questions …
Download or Bloodstock?

Hannah: Download, baby … wouldn’t kick Bloodstock out of bed though.

QoR: PowerPlay or Metal Hammer?

Hannah: I’m directly quoting from my neck tattoo … ‘PowerPlay all the way’.

QoR: Greta van Fleet or Rival Sons?

Iman: They can fight to the death for my vote.

QoR: Jager or Fireball?

Hannah: Fireball actually; I haven’t ruined it as a drink by being horrifically hungover after [drinking] it.

Jess: HAWXX tend to enjoy red wine and olives.

QoR: Cheese or chocolate?

Hannah: If I can’t have both then I won’t bother hiding under the desk and trying to survive five questions ago …

Hawxx
Photo © Adam Razvi

You can catch Hawxx at: –

Fighting Cocks, Kingston – 16 February
New Cross Inn, London – 17 February
Esquires, Bedford – 22 February
Lot 7 , Ashford – 28 February

Watch ‘The Death of Silence (Live)’ from Hawxx’ gig at The Monarch in Camden, 17 January 2019 © Dan Maguire, via YouTube

Thank you for reading!  

 

All text is the property of Vikkie Richmond, a.k.a Queen of Rock.  No part of this review must be reproduced, either in part or in full, without the express and explicit permission to do so.  Failure to observe this will result in a report to the relevant authorities for breach of intellectual property rights.

 

Live review: Diamond Head, New Cross Inn, 5/10/18

In the edgy corner of London that is New Cross, there sits a large, dark, seemingly well frequented establishment known as the ‘New Cross Inn’.  This is a venue that I hadn’t patronised before, what with it being a bit far away from the backwaters of Kent, however on this particular weekend, the New Cross Inn was playing host to the ‘Four Sticks Classic Rock Weekender’; with 20+ bands playing over three days for the bargain price of £40.  Alas, I was only able to attend the first night, but what an opener it was!

IMG_4871

My first band of the night was Neuronspoiler, a hard rocking native London quintet who took to the stage with some amazingly high vocals and a classic sound.  Judging from the moshing that was going on over in the corner, this band are building a bit of a following and they rocked a short but sweet set.

Four sticks neuronspoiler

Next up came my hometown compatriots, purveyors of fun rock and generally all round nice guys, Saints of Sin. Having not seen them for around four years, I was expecting a slightly different sort of set from them, but they didn’t disappoint and launched straight into ‘Welcome to the Circus‘, from the latest album of the same title.  Featuring such crowd-pleasers such as ‘Feed the Fire‘, ‘Animal‘ and ‘Wasted Nights‘, plus a random yet awesome cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’, the Saints put in a good, energetic performance and probably picked up yet more fans at the same time.  I said it years ago and I still maintain that they are ones to watch for the future.

Four sticks SOS 1

Penultimate band of the night fell to Northern dad rockers, Burnt Out Wreck.  Not having seen them before, in no way did I expect to hear the voice that came out of Gary Moat’s mouth, especially as I struggled to hear and understand what he was saying between songs.  They belted out track after track, including ‘Swallow‘, new single ‘Flames‘, ‘Pulling It Out‘ and ‘Rock Ain’t Dead‘; it certainly wasn’t as BOW finished with a passable cover of the classic ‘Highway to Hell‘.

Four sticks burnt out wreck 1

And so to the headliner, Diamond Head.  This was an eagerly awaited gig and I would say from the outset that each and every member of the band looked thrilled to be on the stage, even Brian Tatler in his understated way.  They kicked off a lengthy and somewhat sweaty set with ‘Shout at the Devil‘, swiftly following it up with ‘Borrowed Time‘ and ‘Dead Reckoning‘.

DH collage

Four sticks DH3

By that time I was flagging, although everybody else was loving it (some a bit too much, judging by some of the beer-soaked chaps sloshing the amber nectar over everyone in the second row) but the brutal songs just kept on coming (set list in picture above).

By the time they got three-quarters of the way through the set, the crowd nearly lost it when Rasmus announced they were going to play a rarely outed song from the “Canterbury” album, ‘Knight of the Swords‘ and they didn’t really get it back during ‘Lightning to the Nations‘.

Four Sticks DH1

By the time Rasmus started giving us the, “this man, Brian Tatler, wrote this song”,  speech, the crowd shouldn’t have still been standing, with the amount of ale they’d consumed, but they were more than ready for that song; as Brian took centre stage, spot-lit and menacing for the intro of ‘Am I Evil‘, the patrons of the New Cross Inn lost their shit all over again; perhaps not as energetic as they were at the start of the set, but they made up for it in enthusiasm and fine voice.

Basically, Diamond Head have still got it, in absolute spades.  They’re incredibly tight as a band, they know how to work together to engage the crowd and they rocked our asses off, as did the bands that played before them.  I wish we had been able to get back up to the Inn for the other two days of the Classic Rock Weekender, but I heard from colleagues that it was a blinder.  Well done to the promoters and well done to all of the bands and also the venue.  This is keeping rock music real and keeping it alive.  I’ll be there for the next one!

All photographs courtesy of @kriswhite a.k.a Dirty Rock Photography.  Thanks to Natalie Loren Conway of TAG Publicity.  Thank YOU for reading!

All text is the property of Vikkie Richmond, Queen of Rock.  Photographs are the property of Chris White, a.k.a. Dirty Rock Photography.  No part of this review must be reproduced, either in part or in full, without the express and explicit permission to do so.  Failure to observe this will result in a report to the relevant authorities for breach of intellectual property rights.

Review: Dendera, ‘Part One, Blood Red Sky’ (EP)

Dendera are a heavy metal outfit hailing from the South West of the UK, who have been producing their brand of caustic rock since their debut EP release in 2011.  Two blistering albums followed; 2013’s awesome “The Killing Floor” and 2015’s quality follow up, “Pillars of Creation”.

The band are no strangers to the live stage, indeed that is where their musical ability really shines; they have graced the same stages as rock royalty such as Saxon, UFO, Alestorm, Orange Goblin, Gloryhammer and Soulfly, to name but a few.  “Blood Red Sky” is the first instalment in a two-part set of EP’s.

Dendera Blood Red Sky

The first track on the EP is “The Awakening”, which came as a bit of a surprise.  Coming in at a mere one minute and forty four seconds, it is an instrumental bruiser which showcases some nice guitar work; it’s a solid introduction into what to expect for the rest of this five track offering.

The first track proper, “Final Warning” begins at a wicked pace and Ashley jumps in feet first with his distinct vocals almost straight away.  There are some sweet pinch harmonics hidden away in there and there is no let-up in energy all the way through.  The instrumental bridge is followed by some first class technical drumming and a blistering guitar solo.  It’s a shame when the track ends, really.

Title track “Blood Red Sky” showcases more of the same, galloping along at breakneck speed.  There are some mad vocals towards the end of this track and Ashley does have that knack of slipping into a range almost high enough to shatter crystal.  The penultimate song comes in the form of the manic “Age of Agony”, with some thought provoking, anger inducing lyrics, ending abruptly with the dying crash of a defiant cymbal.

All too soon, the last track comes around and “When All Is Lost” is a fitting end, a bruising chugfest of a song – almost eleven minutes long – that captures the essence of Dendera perfectly.  I particularly like the way the action is taken down several notches halfway through, before ramping back up for a semi-dramatic finish.

I believe that Dendera have passed into another league with this EP.  “Blood Red Sky” is not only unique; it is a masterclass in tight musical ability and dedication to the craft from some very talented people.  You can also hear the obvious progression for them as a band which has elevated them another notch on the ladder to rock glory, with a perfectly produced and formed record.

The only thing I’m disappointed about is that this is only four tracks, if you discount the short intro piece.  I wanted to hear more and I’m pretty sure with the form they appear to be in at present, Dendera could have produced a full length album, rather than releasing two EP’s at separate times.  That’s not a criticism, just a desire to see more of what they can do.

Dendera band & EP cover

Track list: –

  1. The Awakening
  2. Final Warning
  3. Blood Red Sky
  4. Age of Agony
  5. When All Is Lost

Blood Red Sky” is released 5 June on Metalbox Recordings – you can pre-order here

Band: –

  • Ashley Edison – Vocals
  • Stephen Main – Lead Guitar
  • David Stanton – Lead Guitar
  • Bradley Edison – Bass
  • Andy Finch – Drums

Media: –

Interview: Stone Broken – 26/02/17

I was lucky enough to catch up with rock’s hot new band, Stone Broken, before their set on the last day of Planet Rock’s Winter’s End Festival. Read on to find out what they think of Black Stone Cherry, their fans and their incredible journey so far. 

Stone Broken live 1Picture courtesy of Chris White, Dirty Rock Photography

Queen of Rock: We can’t pick up a magazine or turn on the radio these days without hearing about Stone Broken!  How have you suddenly taken the music world by storm?

Rich:  Well, we’ve been a band for about four years but in January 2016 we released our debut album, ‘All In Time‘.  About three months before that we released our first single from it and it took off from there.  Planet Rock have grabbed every single that we’ve had and they’ve run with it, it’s been phenomenal and that’s been one of the major players in the rise of us, really.  That’s then led on to other things and we got booked for bigger shows and festivals, so it’s been very organic.  We haven’t got a massive PR company behind us; we went in to it with the hope that someone might pick it up.

Chris:  We were hoping that word of mouth would do it.

Stone Broken, All In Time

QoR: Well, you’ve done that alright! People are certainly talking about you.  You mentioned festivals … any festival appearances that you’re allowed to talk about?

Rich:  We’ve been confirmed for Download and we’re doing Steelhouse Festival.  We’re also doing a couple of newer ones.  We’re doing Summer in the City, which we’re headlining and also Subterranean Festival in Cambridge.  We’re also doing Camden Rocks, but that’s all we can talk about. There are a few others that are in the pipeline and on the way, so do keep an eye out for those  (NOTE: Since the interview took place, they have also been confirmed for Ramblin’ Man, Helsfest and Warton Festivals).

QoR – Well, that will do to start with!  Have you been here at Winter’s End all weekend?

Rich:  We just got off tour with Glenn Hughes and we drove from the Netherlands directly to here on Friday.  We got in fairly late, but we caught most of Toseland and a little bit of Bernie [Marsden] as well. We’ve been trying to catch as many bands, but we came here to speak to fans and we just love talking!

QoR: I’ve seen lots of fan pics up on twitter, you seem really amenable to fans doing selfies.

Rich: At the end of the day, the fans are the people that help grow the band; if you didn’t have any fans, you wouldn’t be able to do any of this.  We try and give back as much as we can and it’s nothing to go and speak to people, it doesn’t cost us anything.  We get a lot of people say, “Thank you for letting us come up and have a chat with you, it’s been a great fifteen minutes” and I’m thinking to myself well no, we appreciate it.  We love speaking to the fans and it’s a two-way street.

QoR: That’s good to hear because a lot of bands don’t think like that. You said you’ve been touring with Glenn Hughes, which is massive.  What was that like?

All: It was amazing, yeah.

Kieron: He nicknamed us ‘kids’.

Chris: We called him Papa Glenn, although it changed to Uncle Glenn.

Rich:  As soon as we walked into the first show – it was Newcastle – and we had just loaded our gear into the venue and they were sound checking. He just turns around and he says, “Hi kids.” We all just waved, you know! He just said, glad to have you on board and that kind of set the tone for the whole tour.  He gave us a few pearls of wisdom and he’s a human being … he’s a legendary human being, but a human being and backstage you get to see that side of him.  There was emotional times because of things that had happened and there was some awesome times when he was just on point and had an amazing show.  Every show was amazing, but sometimes you could just feel the energy when he came off stage.  The one thing that he said a lot was music is the healer and love is the answer; he actually put that into his performance and it was brilliant.  It’s given us the knowledge and the tools to go and do more things like that – it was a masterclass of how to tour, going on the road with those guys and they looked after us.

Robyn: We all got on like a house on fire, didn’t we? Then there was the crew and everybody else, we just all had a great time.

Chris: You [was] having drum battles with Glenn’s drummer!

Robyn: Yeah! He was like, “You get on my kit and I’ll get on yours.” This lanky giant just sat behind my kit and was going for it! It was awesome, just crazy.

Rich: They would ask us for favours, like tools or spare guitar strings and vice versa. I had an issue with the neck on my guitar and their guitar tech just fixed it up.  It was great.

Stone Broken Robyn live

Robyn live at Winter’s End Fest, courtesy of Chris White, Dirty Rock Photography

QoR: You couldn’t ask for a better experience, by the sounds of it! You’ve had an EP and album out, is there any new stuff in the pipeline?

Rich: We’ve got another show with Black Star Riders and after that we’re locking ourselves out from the world and we’re nailing down the next album.  We’ve been road testing a few songs on the tour and they’ve gone down great, so that’s encouraging.  We’re probably at our creative peak at the moment; we’ve done six solid weeks of pure music, so we’re going to get back and harvest that creativity and create the new album.

QoR: What would be your favourite Stone Broken song to play live?

Robyn:Not Your Enemy’.

Chris:  Yeah, ‘Not Your Enemy’ for me.

Rich: Okay, I’ll go for a different one … I would say ‘Wait For You’ just because, especially at our own shows, I don’t have to sing the chorus – the audience just take over.

QoR: If you had to pick one or two tracks to introduce a new fan to your music, which would you pick?

Kieron:Wait For You’ and ‘Not Your Enemy’.

Robyn:Not your Enemy’ is right in your face; it’s what we’re all about.

Rich: It’s the first track on the album and there’s a reason we chose it.  It’s got a bit of everything.

QoR: Do you prefer playing live to being in the studio?

Rich:  I do, I love playing live because you just get the buzz off of the audience, especially when they’re hyped up; it’s like an adrenaline shot.

Kieron: Especially when you’re on tour, because you get to do it every night.

Robyn: We’ve had two days off here and already we want to get back on stage, we can’t wait.

Rich: So glad that we’re playing tonight!  Also, on the other side of that, I love seeing the record come together and in the studio, it’s the only place that you can actually see it all come together.

Chris: It’s completely different when you’re making a record, you get to try out new ideas.  Live, you have one take and if it doesn’t work, you don’t do it in the next show!

Rich:  To summarise that, I think we just love being in a band … we love every part of it.

QoR:  What inspires you when you’re writing?

Rich:  For me personally, its life, that’s the inspiration.  Everyone’s life is different which is why you get different bands, they’ve all had their own experiences.  I get inspired by listening to different kinds of music as well.  Lyrically, I’m inspired by different situations that I’ve either been in or that you can see happening elsewhere.  Even if you just want to get a message across; we’ve got a song called ‘Better’ and that’s all about being positive and just don’t let anything hold you back.  ‘This Life’ is again just about going out there and doing what you love doing.  I just draw on feelings, emotions and life.

QoR:  You were runners-up in the Planet Rock awards for Best New Band last year, sum up for us how that made you feel.

Chris: Shocked!  We knew we were being put forward, but we just thought we would be towards the back, but coming second …

Rich:  At first, we didn’t know that we were being nominated, so that was a shock in itself.  We put a few posts out to our fans saying that we had been nominated and – we have the best fans in the world – they just jumped on it, sharing it and that.  We all got up to listen to the results and they announced the third band and we thought we hadn’t got anything. When they said the runner-up was Stone Broken …

Robyn:  We couldn’t believe it.

Rich: It was such a mix of emotions, like ecstatic, surprised, shocked.

Kieron:  We still see ourselves as a small band, so for us to have that type of impact is mind-blowing.

Rich: We’ve had a lot of guys saying how good the exposure has been, but we haven’t caught up with it because we’re just doing it, but we’re landing bigger and better shows, so we know something is happening! Sometimes I do say to the guys to cast their minds back twelve months ago; did you think that we would be here having breakfast with Paul Anthony?  It’s mad and it’s crazy, but we love it.

QoR:  What has been the highlight of the Stone Broken journey so far?

Kieron:  Touring Europe, that was definitely a big highlight for me.

Chris:  Listening to your song on the radio without expecting it.

Rich: When you get put on to a lot of the unsigned shows, they tell you [when] you’re going to be played.  I was at work and I had a message come through telling me we’d just been played on Planet Rock and then more messages came through and I was like, ‘Oh my God’.  It’s one thing having your songs played on the radio and you’re aware of it, it’s another thing to have it just come on when you’re not expecting it.

Robyn:  the highlight for me is I’ve basically become friends with John Fred Young from Black Stone Cherry, well we all have, to be fair.  We played Ramblin’ Man last year and we met him, thanks to Paul Anthony and we met up with them again at Rockstock. I was literally stood right next to John Fred on stage and he was talking to me all through the set.  It was just amazing.

Rich:  They’re the most down to earth, humble guys.  They’re an inspiration to us because they’re probably the band that we’ve been able to get closest to at that level.  You just get so many different experiences, that you wouldn’t have if you weren’t in a band, so the highlight is just being able to do it.

QoR:  So, what’s next?

Robyn:  Writing the new album and then hitting festival season.

Rich:  We’ve got some things for the back-end of the year which aren’t finalised yet.

Chris:  It’s just keeping the foot on the pedal and going forward.

QoR:  What would be your ultimate, though?  If you had the chance to do anything or play with anyone, or go anywhere, what would it be?

Chris:  I think it’s the States, getting over to America.

Robyn:  Getting on the Carnival of Madness tour.

Rich:  That would be awesome, I mean even just to play a few of the festivals over there.

Robyn:  As a band, you want to play everywhere; you don’t want to leave anywhere out and you just want to go and travel the whole world and see everything.

Rich:  You know what, we just want to play shows.

Vikkie and Stone Broken

Chris, Rich, Me, Robyn and Kieron at Winter’s End Festival, Feb 2017

Stone Broken:

Catch the official ‘All In Time’ album commentary video here

Thanks to Peter Keevil of TMR Band Management and also to tour manager Fliss.

Interview: Alex from Damn Dice, 04.06.16 at the Buck’s Head, Camden

Damn Dice recently released their self-funded, debut album ‘The Great Unknown’.  Fresh from a triumphant tour with Black Rain, and today’s amazing Camden Rocks set at the Electric Ballroom, I caught up with vocalist Alex for a beer and a chat about the merits of physical CD’s versus downloads, festivals and wrestling …

damn-dice-band

Vikkie: You just played the Electric Ballroom for Camden Rocks Festival – how was it for you?  It sounded pretty good from where I was standing!

Alex:  It was amazing – I don’t think we expected such a turn out; you were there, you saw how busy it was.  That always spurs you on but we always try to give everything.

V: You always give 110% and you’re all about the live show.  When you have to take time out to record, do you enjoy it, or would you rather be out on stage?

A:  We enjoy it, definitely.  Of course, it’s good to play live but when you’re writing the songs and they come together, you get that excitement, like when you first join a band.  You want to play them live and people don’t know them but the recording and writing process is fun, not so much in the studio as there is a lot of waiting around, especially for me as I go last!  It’s a good experience.

damn-dice-live-2

V:  Where did you record ‘The Great Unknown’?

A:  We recorded at Angry Bee studios in Hackney, which is my home turf.

V:  It’s a fantastic album, quite different to the EP.  You all write together, so what influences do you draw upon?

A:  Most of the bulk of the music comes from Wallis and François (Fourmy, brothers) and then we get together to do the vocal stuff. I do the lyrics and most of the vocals.  I don’t think there’s one moment where you think ‘Oh yeah, I want to write about this’, but you just draw on things you’ve noticed, things that have happened, experiences that you’ve had.

V: I didn’t actually realise that Wallis and François are brothers – François designed the website, didn’t he?

A:  He did, he does all of the visual stuff; he’s a dab hand at Photoshop and he did the editing for the videos … he’s really good at that stuff!

V:  Talented!  So, in terms of a follow up to ‘The Great Unknown’, when might we expect a follow up?

A:  We hope to get the majority of it, at least the writing, done in the second half of this year.  As to the recording, we still have to find a way to realise that in terms of money.

V:  Do you find that it’s harder to reach people, as you aren’t signed to a record label?

A:  I don’t know … a record label, what can they do really, apart from chucking a whole load of money behind you and getting you in the magazines?  Otherwise it’s social media these days, isn’t it?  For example, if you are going to check out a band, you’re going to go to Facebook, Twitter …

V:  I found you through Twitter originally, there are some great bands to be discovered in that way!

A:  It’s easier to update.  It’s good to have the website because you can put a lot of stuff there, like a shop, information – obviously you can’t do that with 140 characters on Twitter!  You kind of need a website.

V:  You added your fifth member of the band – Diego – in August last year.  What was behind the decision to bring in another member?  Why go from a four piece to a five piece?

A:  Sound, basically.  What often happens is many of the songs have a key change in the solo and if you haven’t got a good bass sound, it’s difficult for the listener to hear what’s going on.  You might change key and the guitar player starts soloing and people think it’s in the wrong key or it sounds bad because you can’t hear the bass properly.  We decided to have another guitar player to give it that foundation.  When we recorded, we recorded a guitar track under the solos anyway, which is obviously not do-able live with one guitar player so we decided to bring [Diego] in to make sure we have the full sound that we needed for the live shows.

V:  Do you not find it hard, with four of you bouncing around on stage?

A:  It depends on the stage!  The Electric Ballroom is quite a big stage.  At the Barfly, you do knock into each other a bit.

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V:  If you had to pick two or three of your songs to introduce you to a new fan, who had never seen or heard you before, which would you pick?

A:  Maybe ‘What Now?’ because that’s one of the newer songs that we wrote and I think it represents the direction that we are going in more than the others.  I have a soft spot for ‘Caught In the Ride’ as it’s the first song that we wrote together and I love that song.

V:  We’re into festival season, Camden Rocks kicks off just before Download … haven’t seen you on the bill for Download?  Anything else lined up in Europe?

A:  Unfortunately not.  Maybe this is where labels and having outside representation can help you.  Contacting people directly … I feel like there’s a guy who sits there on his computer and gets 10,000 emails from unsigned bands … that’s how it feels.  Hopefully we will be doing that next year.

V:  Do you all take your turn at networking and keep an ear out for opportunities?

A:  We all actively contact people and get them to contact us.  We try as much as we can, of course, we have to.  If we’re not there, it’s not for want of trying!  We are going to have a bit of a break in August, though.  There are so many things to do and you can’t just concentrate on one thing.  When you are in the situation that we are, you have to do everything yourselves.  Contacting people, following up, promotion, social media, developing graphics and pictures, video … and all that goes with it.

V:  It’s a lot of work.  What’s next for Damn Dice though?  You’ve said that you’re going to have a break, you’ve hinted that you might possibly have a new album.

A:  We want to just gig as much as we can, just get out there.  I think the best thing you can do as a band is just play as much as you can.  Sometimes we might be spending money, on travelling and other stuff, but ultimately it’s an investment. You can’t just sit at home, you have to push your product, basically.

V:  I’m glad you said that, because so many bands do just sit at home, thinking that it’s too hard.  It’s totally the wrong attitude and it’s probably why so many bands just die on the wayside.

A:  You need to put the effort in.  When you’re a five piece band … we split everything.  We split costs, it’s not that bad, but the most important thing is getting out there to play because if no-one knows who you are, what’s the point?  Your Mum’s always going to be a fan, but you need more than that!

V: I had a question from a fan on twitter, which was, “Would you rather play at Madison Square Garden, do a film soundtrack, or open for Bruce Springsteen”?

A:  The Garden, definitely the Garden.  It’s iconic and I’m a big pro-wrestling fan and Madison Square Garden is the spiritual home of WrestleMania.

V:  So … you’re a wrestling fan, you play classical guitar and you have really bad eyesight … that’s what I’ve learned about you today!  Anything else you would like to put out there that people don’t know about you?

A:  I think that about covers it!

V:  Do you download music or do you like to have that physical CD in your hand?

A:  I download music.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a physical CD.  I have a lot of CD’s at home, but I listen through my computer – I don’t have a separate CD player and I definitely don’t have a record player.  I think there’s a generation who grew up not knowing physical music, so the concept of listening to an album probably doesn’t exist for a lot of young people. The dynamic has changed as well because if you go back to vinyl, you have two sides, a side-A and a side-B and the album was structured based on that idea so there would be certain songs faster or slower and arranged in a particular way.  When it went to CD with just a long stream of music that had a certain dynamic as well.  Now, I think people don’t listen to ‘albums’ from start to finish, they like this song and that song, so they will download those.

V:  So when you’re writing an album you don’t have in mind that you’ll start with a particular song …

A:  Yeah, we still do.  We put a lot of thought into the track listing.

V:  Do you have any messages for Damn Dice fans?

A:  Everyone that’s already a fan, thank you so much for supporting us.  The most important thing is support local music, get out to the gigs if you can.  You know if you like the music, buy it, because ultimately it helps.  If I like a band, I will buy their music because it’s a way of supporting the band.  If an album costs £10, I’m going to buy it; I’ve just bought two beers, which cost nearly £10 and I value music more than I value beer!  Support local bands, get out there because it does make a difference to the band.  When you see people there and they like the music it does make a difference to us, to the bands.  When I go to see a band that I like, it means a lot to me to see these guys.  £1 is not much to spend for a song that you like and every little helps.  Support your local scene and have fun.  We have fun, so we want to invite everyone else to have fun with us!

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You can find out more about Damn Dice via their websiteFacebook page or Twitter

Check out the videos for Rock (Like You Mean It)What Now? and my personal favourite, Driven

You can also check out the album of photos of Damn Dice at Camden Rocks Festival by Chris of Dirty Rock Photography here

Review – Altered Bridge, Chinnery’s, 23 September 2016

The whole world has heard of Alter Bridge, right? With their 5th album due, anticipation couldn’t really get any higher, after the 2014 smash hit ‘Fortress’.  So, if you have four competent musicians who are fervent AB fans, including a singer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Myles Kennedy (and sounds like him, too), it seems natural that they would form a tribute band. Enter Altered Bridge.

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Billed as ‘the UK’s first and only AB tribute band’, Altered Bridge hail from the south of England and before this gig, had performed as a band a grand total of two shows.  No pressure, then, when you are booked to play a legendary UK venue.

Just getting to Chinnery’s from Bournemouth was apparently a mission; traffic was hideous, but our fabulous foursome battled through and made it in good time.  There was no support band, so the beer was flowing and the tunes were playing to warm up what could be described as a bit of a scant crowd.  The die-hard rockers that did make it, however were most appreciative of Baz and Co’s efforts, as they kicked off their set with the stonking ‘Come to Life’, followed by the immense ‘Bleed It Dry’.  Anthem followed anthem in a very accomplished set, taking material from across the spectrum of AB albums.

Myles (Baz) looked the part, to be sure, although he seemed a tad nervous in places, especially when bantering with the crowd.

I wish there had been some more bodies there to soak up the atmosphere and make it a better gig for them, but there was definite appreciation from all corners of the room, especially when the epic track ‘Addicted to Pain’ popped up.

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The iconic ‘Blackbird’ was despatched with efficiency and then the rest of the band melted away, leaving Baz solo to pick up an acoustic for a beautiful version of ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Watch Over You’.

I particularly enjoyed ‘Isolation’ and the ever thoughtful ‘Ghost of Days Gone By’.  A big cheer erupted when Baz asked who had tickets to see our silky haired hero and his beloved band mates later this year, so I guess pretty much the whole room were counting down the days to an Alter Bridge gig in November.

So, basically you can’t go wrong if you love Alter Bridge; these guys know how to rock a room, they’re very competent, the ticket price was ridiculously cheap for musicians of this calibre and with more gigs under their collective belts, I can see them packing out bigger venues and possibly even attracting attention from the real thing. If I had any criticism at all, I would just say that Baz needs to load up the ends of the songs with some more vocals; occasionally he was content to just play rather than sing to the end.  He has a great voice – we want to hear more of it!

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Set list –

  • Come To Life
  • Bleed It Dry
  • Farther Than The Sun
  • Find The Real
  • White Knuckles
  • Addicted To Pain
  • Lover
  • Broken Wings
  • Cry of Achilles
  • Blackbird
  • Wonderful Life/Watch Over You (Acoustic)
  • Metalingus
  • Isolation
  • Rise Today
  • Ghost of Days Gone By
  • Open Your Eyes

Band –

  • Baz Edmondson – Vocals/guitar
  • Dave Beckwith – Lead guitar
  • Kris Venzi-James – Bass
  • Justin Young – Drums

You can watch the video for ‘Addicted to Pain’ at Chinnery’s – it’s a little bit dark! – here

Altered Bridge facebook

Altered Bridge Twitter

Thanks to Dirty Rock Photography for the pics – click the link to see the whole album!

Interview with Jay Buchanan, Rival Sons December 2014

(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON CULTNOISE.COM, 10.12.14)

It’s been a belter of a year for Californian rock and rollers Rival Sons.  With their fourth album, ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ released to critical acclaim and nominated for Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Best Album’, as well as numerous tour dates (including a triumphant performance at Download Festival), it seems as though their star is shining more brightly than ever.  We were honoured to be able to sit down with vocalist Jay Buchanan to talk about the recording process, life and the universe in general.

CultNoise: You’ve been touring Europe, now you’re on the UK leg.  How’s it been so far?

Jay Buchanan:  I’ve had terrible insomnia over the last two nights.  We flew in from Barcelona to go and do the Wembley show. Yesterday was our day off, but I had to travel to Bath to do some studio work for an artist, so I was gone all day. I got back last night and I couldn’t sleep.

CN: You mentioned Wembley – Rival Sons shared a bill with the legend that is Lenny Kravitz.  Did you enjoy it?

JB: It was great getting to finally play Wembley Arena, I’ve wanted to play there for a long time, so that was nice. You speak of Lenny Kravitz being a legend- I don’t know what it is, if it’s the colour of his skin, but the general regular rock and roll audience, they don’t talk about Lenny Kravitz when they talk about rock and roll, which seems pretty crazy to me.  That guy has fought really hard to keep rock and roll at the forefront, all the way from the late 80’s. I thought he gave a great show, but at the end of the day it’s just another show.

CN: Your latest album, ‘Great Western Valkyrie’, has been very well received. You’ve done four albums now, but suddenly Rival Sons seem to be everywhere.  What do you think it is about this album that has made that happen?

JB: I think that there are a couple of answers to that.  We’ve been touring relentlessly for almost four years now and it takes a while to really get your name out there. With our third record (second full length album – there was an EP in between), ‘Pressure and Time’, we were getting a lot of attention then and people were saying the same thing. The same happened with the record after that, ‘Head Down’, because at the same time you have the records, you have all of the touring.  The touring is going to beget its own growth, from person to person and word of mouth.  We just keep working and touring, and we make another record and people saw that. To me it makes perfect sense because it is true, we are much further along with this record than we were with the previous one.

If you’re asking about the quality of the record itself, I think that it’s our best; I think that it’s our most cohesive sounding record, thematically and sound-wise, I think it’s good.  I’ve heard people say that it’s slick production which is crazy, because we do all of our records the same way.  With GWV we gave ourselves two additional weeks, but that was just two more weeks of doing the same thing that we always did.  There was no greater benefit to being in there for an extra two weeks, other than having time to write more songs that you can decide to throw away and not put on the record.  I was really excited about the prospect of having longer to do it, but the whole process is such a hair-raising and gut-wrenching experience for me. I have to write around the clock, twenty-four-seven, so I’m always at work whenever we’re in the studio, writing and helping to arrange things that the other guys are writing – everyone is putting songs together. There’s no rest and it’s constant- you’re in the hot seat. I think it took a toll on me personally, but the record itself I think is something special.

People have worked really hard to call us a ‘classic’ rock band, not even in a pejorative sense, but dismissing us as a 70’s Led Zeppelin style.  The further that we’re able to purvey our own style, I believe that people will understand that we have no concern of that. I most of all couldn’t care less about the 70’s, or even rock and roll for that matter.  My love affair is with this band and what we’re capable of doing.

CN: Is it your favourite record?  It’s a lot more mature and tighter musically than the previous albums and it’s evidently a progression.

JB: I wouldn’t even trust myself to answer because every time, you have to go through different stages when you’re making the record, typically.  You’re scratching your head, asking “Is this going to be any good?”  Time passes and you’re able to step away from it and you appreciate it for a little bit; you listen to it again and you don’t really like it.  You listen to it a little while later and you’re like, “Man, that’s the best record.” I think they all have their own charm, I don’t know that I like this one best.

CN: How have things changed for you since GWV came out?  Do people treat you any differently?

JB: Sometimes it takes longer to get from the bus to the venue, because people want to take pictures and have you sign things. I used to go out and thank the audience after our shows, and when we were on a smaller scale it was easier, but I’ve chosen to no longer do that, just because of the viciousness that can happen out there – people just being too selfish and not remembering that you’re a person, like, giving you one compliment and following it with two critiques. I don’t really care, but people get liquored up and they’ll get that shameful sense of self-entitlement.

Overall, I don’t think it’s that big of a change.  When we’re out on the road, it’s a very insular environment, because we’re on the bus, we’re travelling, trying to get caught up on some sleep and then we’re at the venue, giving interviews and talking to people about ourselves.  Then we have sound check and a little bit of time to maybe walk around the city, but there’s no Rival Sons ‘mania’ going on.  Things at home, they stay the same – in an experiment, your home would be considered your control [environment], the constant.  We certainly haven’t gotten rich doing this, there’s not a lot of money to be made in music in general.

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CN: It’s not about the money though, is it?

JB: When you have a family, something has to be about money. They get hungry, they need food and shelter, you have to pay bills. As much as we musicians are supposed to be selfless martyrs that are in it for the art, whilst everyone else does a nine to five job, if we care about money we’re selling out. I think that people have a very skewed sense of what that is because we’re humans and we have families.

When you have a family and you’re gone all the time, you need to make some serious money, but I figure at some point it will come along for us and I’ll do something as crazy as owning a home!  I’ll be making music until I’m dead.

CN: Rival Sons are often categorised as a ‘Southern’ rock band, do you think the genre is over-saturated?

JB: People also say we’re ‘classic’ rock, which doesn’t make sense because we’re not ‘classic’ – we’re barely even six years old as a band, so we’re literally not classic rock – a band has to be around for a couple of decades at least. The ‘Southern’ rock thing I really don’t understand, that really throws me every time. We’ll get that more here, because here if you hear a slide guitar, it’s like “Ooh, the South”. In America, ‘Southern’ rock is like Lynyrd Skynyrd and that kind of stuff.  I definitely don’t see us as Southern rock.

CN: Maybe people say ‘classic’ rock because of comparisons you mentioned earlier and the influence of the 70’s era in your music, e.g. Led Zeppelin?

JB: We’re dominated by guitar solos and rock and roll guitar riffs, that’s the type of band we are. I understand that people would draw that because it’s uncommon for people to actually play rock and roll. I do understand when people look at us and think it’s kind of a throwback, because we’re actually making our records and playing live on the records and trying to capture that energy.  When we play live, we do it for real.

CN: What made you decide to sign with Earache Records?

JB: Earache Records pursued us and it was very surprising because, at that time, the only bands that they had on their label were metal and death metal, that’s it. There were no other rock and roll bands so we looked at the opportunity, like, I don’t know… how we fit into this world of death metal, but they want to work with us really bad and they were very persistent about courting us.

CN: I think it was quite a visionary move on their part, really?

JB: I think so, it was a great idea – how maverick can you be, we’re going to be the only rock and roll band that isn’t metal. We figured we would get good attention and good effort and that was the truth, they were very attentive. Now they’ve signed a couple of other bands that aren’t metal. I think they do a good job.

CN: Do you have any advice for new, up-and-coming bands?

JB: You had better be sure that you’re in it for the right reasons because you’re never going to be done paying your dues. You better be sure that this is what you want to do, because it’s going to be a really long, hard road. You have to do it for the art first and then once you have a family, although the art comes first, you have to make sure that you can be smart enough to not be taken advantage of. The arts used to be a great treasure, but the world is very unkind to artists in general.

For these young bands just getting started, just be sure that the calling better be wired deep inside you, because I’ve seen people that didn’t stay the course – they burn out and make very bad decisions, or when they’re not consumed with the art, they’ll turn to things like drinking too much, or drugs, and just get burned out or die. Make sure this is what you need to do and make sure that you’re good at it.

CN: That’s good advice.  If the world was to end here in one hour, how would you spend your last sixty minutes?

JB: I’d probably try to call home and say goodbye. I would probably spend it in prayer and meditation, preparing to leave my body, just being at peace with it. We’ve never been faced with anything remotely like that so I would like to prepare, have a good journey and leave under the best circumstances.

CN: Much has been made about the ‘state’ of the music industry.  Where do you see it going?

JB: People need to keep themselves occupied talking about something. If they’re not talking about how great something is, they’re talking about how bad something is; if something has been around long enough they get sentimental on how legendary and great it is and then there’s a scandal. People talk shit, period. Where are things going to go? We play rock and roll – rock music in general could fall off a cliff and die, if it were up to me. If it isn’t based on the blues, I can’t think of one good ‘rock’ band that I like – it has to be rock and roll. ‘Rock’ is just not my cup of tea at all, but at the same time, that rock music is making other people happy; if it’s going to bring joy into people’s lives, cool. Everybody likes something different.

The state of the industry… it is changing at such a rapid rate that the model is changing, it’s in flux and I don’t know when it’s going to level out. It surprises me to be in a successful band that is starting to do well – we haven’t ‘made’ it, but I feel like we’re on a trajectory, if we keep doing this then we’ll be able to make something of ourselves.

Technology is changing at such a rapid pace in the availability of music and I think this is a really interesting time, where the power is taken away from the industry and is placed in the hands of everyone. When I talk about feeling a little bit disillusioned, we work really hard to make these songs and the only time we’re going to see a penny is if people come to see us play live. At the same time, look how beautiful it is that everyone is given a greater chance and it’s no longer in the hands of a few record labels and distributors.

CN: If you could share a stage with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

JB: Probably my dad and my brother, just jamming at home. I miss my family a lot, my mom sings and my sister sings, everybody plays instruments- we get together. In the living room we pull out the amps, the drum kit and microphones and we just get down and have a good time. I can’t think of anyone out there that I would love to share the stage with more than just sitting and watching them do something.

I think about the great vocalists that I hear out there, someone like Leonard Cohen.  Do I want to collaborate with Leonard Cohen? No, he’s Leonard Cohen and I wouldn’t feel the need to sit in with him, because that’s him. I’ve got a lot of respect for the people that I have a lot of respect for.

CN: Finally, what are Rival Sons plans for 2015?

JB: It’s going to be just like this:  We’re going to tour, hopefully we can make our next record- it depends how long we have to sit on GWV, but I want to make another record. I feel like this is a good band, we have an interesting cocktail of personalities and skills sets and I want to know what we’re capable of being.

Live, this is a great band, but creatively we need to give ourselves more fuel for the stage and also we need to see if we can reach whatever potential that we’re capable of, to see if we can turn into a band that transcends or becomes more of ourselves. I really just want us to get better; I want us to write more songs. That’s more important than dominating the world – how good are we and how good can we get?  It’s so much fun.

Vikkie and Rival Sons, Pie and Vinyl

 

www.rivalsons.com

www.twitter.com/rivalsons

Review of Ramblin’ Man Fair, 23-24 July 2016, Mote Park, Maidstone

It’s certainly a novelty for the sun to be shining on a festival weekend, but Saturday 23 July dawned bright and full of the promise of a sultry smasher.  Having secured guest VIP passes, we took our time getting to the site at Mote Park, enjoying the feel of the sun on our backs as we walked from the train station at Maidstone.

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Much has been said about the queues to get in on the Saturday, but we only had to queue for 10 minutes or so before we were in; breathing in the familiar smell of BBQ meat and hearing the background noise of a sound check still taking place … walking into that field felt like coming home.

The Fair had four stages, set across a fairly large piece of the park; the main stage, the Outlaw Country stage (which became the Blues stage on the Sunday), the Prog in the Park stage and the Rising stage.  I already knew who I wanted to see across both days, thanks to the Ramblin’ Man app (much better, it must be said, than some other festivals), so we kicked back in the VIP bar for an hour or so, enjoying some people watching.

The Dead Daisies kicked things off for me on the main stage with their blend of 70’s and modern rock, opening a shining set with ‘Midnight Moses’.  Next track, a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Evil’ went down a storm, with people actually getting out of their folding camping chairs to take a get better look. The title track of the new album, ‘Make Some Noise‘ came next, followed by a great cover of John Fogarty’s ‘Fortunate Son’.  A competent, funky performance from this supergroup earned them much applause when their set finished – well worth buying tickets to see them tour with The Answer later this year (8/10).

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The Dead Daisies, Main stage

Next up on the Outlaw country stage were Arizona four-piece Hogjaw; their set kicked some English butt and they played a short but very sweet set to a packed tent, kicking off with the frenetic ‘Rollin Thunder’.  Just as the crowd was getting into it, they slowed it right down with ‘This Whiskey’, before ramping up the pace with ‘Gitsum’.  I couldn’t actually get into the tent to see them, but Hogjaw rocked the very appreciative crowd and they’re my hot tip of the weekend (8/10).

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Hogjaw, Outlaw Country stage

I stayed where I was to listen to Whiskey Myers; I don’t know any of the track names as I’d not come across them before, but they sounded pretty good; a cool, mellow, bluesy sounding band.  Another one to watch, I think (7/10).

At this point it was so hot that I flaked out on the grass and sent my colleague from Dirty Rock Photography to buy lunch.  This meant that I missed Terrorvision, although I could still hear them and see them on the big screens.  I have a special place in my heart for these chaps as much of the soundtrack to my misspent youth came via their albums’Formaldehyde’ and ‘How To Make Friends and Influence People’.  They romped through classics like ‘Alice …’, ‘Pretend Best Friend’ and ‘Oblivion’.  I rocked out as much as I could whilst grazing on a yummy, but somewhat overpriced, ostrich burger (8/10).

All I can say about old school old timers, Europe, is that they didn’t disappoint the predominantly middle-aged audience.  Wheeling out and dusting off such classics as ‘Rock The Night’, ‘Superstitious’ and ‘Cherokee’, the crowd was lapping it up.  The set ended, of course, with the obligatory crowd-pleaser ‘The Final Countdown’.  Cue lots of 40-somethings plugging in their air guitars and moshing with imaginary hair for one of the most anthemic songs of our time (8.5/10)… all I really remember is Joey Tempest’s stunningly white teeth blocking out the sun from the big screens.  Can someone please get me the number for his dentist?!

The rest of Saturday passed in a bit of a blur, with sterling sets from Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, who capped off a virtually perfect day of rock in the sunshine.

 

Sunday turned out to be another beautiful day, although thankfully there was a miniscule amount of cloud cover which kept me from getting sunburned for a second time (and yes, I was using sunscreen!).  First act up for me on the main stage was old school, unashamedly southern The Kentucky Headhunters.  I knew about this band purely for the Black Stone Cherry connection, but I had never heard any of their music before.  Consisting of four mature, long-haired gents, this band absolutely smashed it out of the park, garnering appreciation from all four corners of a somewhat drowsy site.   I mean, who else comes out to play the drums with what looked like a fully stuffed raccoon sitting atop their snowy white locks?  These guys rocked it up with tracks from their not inconsiderable back catalogue, including ‘Walking With The Wolf’ and Freddie King’s ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’.  They played tracks from their latest album ‘Meet Me in Bluesland’, giving a touching tribute to the late almost-family member and fellow musician, Johnnie Johnson.

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The Kentucky Headhunters, Main stage

I’d already departed for the next band when I heard the crowd singing along to the Beatles’ ‘Hey, Jude’; I was gutted to find out later that BSC’s Ben Wells had made an appearance on stage with the Headhunters.  Overall, this was an outstanding set from a band that have only just made it to the UK; I think the Ramblin’ Man crowd made them suitably welcome (9/10).

Over on the Rising Stage, however, it was time for Illustr8tors (formerly BlackWolf) to kick off an energetic, if slightly tentative set.  I believe it was the first time that this band have played since their ‘rebrand’ and they eased into it, looking more comfortable as they dispatched each song, including new offering ‘Something Biblical’ and new single ‘Your Animal’.  Sounding sharp, singer Scott and co pulled in a decent sized crowd and pulled off a quietly triumphant debut appearance (8/10).  Look out for them touring later this year with the excellent Toseland.

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Illustr8tors, Rising stage

I stayed at the Rising Stage, although I could hear the most excellent Irish rockers, The Answer over on the main stage.  I was waiting for Dirty Thrills, a long time favourite of mine (you can find the interview I did with them here), although we had already been treated to an impromptu acoustic performance over in the VIP area a couple of hours beforehand.  As it happened, due to circumstance, I only managed to catch one song, filled with energy and attitude, with a pride-inducing large crowd gathered from the first note. I think it’s fair to say that Dirty Thrills are definitely on the up (8/10).

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Dirty Thrills, Rising stage

It was with great impatience that I weaved my way nearly to the front of the crowd over at main stage for The Cadillac Three; this is a band who I discovered a couple of years ago through Classic Rock Mag, but never had the opportunity to see.  Wearing shades and baseball caps, looking achingly cool and effortless up there on that huge stage, TC3 kicked off a sublime set with the sultry ‘Peace Love and Dixie’ from the EP of the same name. Such immense blues/country/rock tracks as ‘Tennessee Mojo’, ‘I’m Southern’ and ‘Back It Up’ showcased fantastic musicianship and genuine love for playing live (9.5). They had a fantastic and well deserved reaction from the crowd and I’m seriously excited for their tour later this year – I would highly recommend that you get tickets.

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The Cadillac Three, Main stage

I was in two minds about seeing Thunder; I’ve seen them so many times and they always put on a good show, so I settled for sitting at the edge of the VIP area and watching them on the big screens.  There were newer songs in the set, but also they rolled out absolute classics such as ‘Higher Ground’, ‘Backstreet Symphony’ and ‘Love Walked In’, finishing with the banging ‘Dirty Love’.  The issues they had with the sound didn’t seem to dampen the atmosphere and once again their set was competent and accomplished (7/10).

So far, so epic.  A fantastic weekend of music, beer, friends and the most glorious sunshine.  How on earth could an already amazing memorable two days get any better?  Well, it turns out it just needed three little words … Black. Stone. Cherry. I believe this was my fourth BSC gig and the third time I’ve seen them at a festival, although this was the first time they have headlined a UK festival.  The anticipation was almost palpable as Chris, Ben, John Fred and Jon took to the stage with an explosion of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’.

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Black Stone Cherry, Main stage

Going straight into ‘Me and Mary Jane’, with the crowd knowing the words and singing along, the whole band were on superb form and sounding note perfect.  The energetic ‘Blind Man’ followed and ‘Rain Wizard’ drew a most favourable response from the assembled fans.  Chris took the opportunity to introduce the band, before launching into the epic ‘Soul Machine’ followed by a very competent cover of George Thorogood’s ‘Bad to the Bone’.  ‘Soulcreek’, ‘Maybe Someday’ and ‘Rescue Me’ followed, leading to an emotional rendition of ‘It’s In My Blood’, with Chris leading the audience in a repeat of the chorus of the track, having shared some confidences about depression and his personal struggles with thousands of people as if he was talking alone to his best mate.  I have to confess that I did shed a few tears during ‘Things My Father Said’; as I recently marked the two-year anniversary of my Dad’s death it was a rather poignant moment for me. Thankfully the pace picked up after that  with the marvellous ‘Cheaper To Drink Alone’ – the first live performance of that track.

Last two songs were the crowd pleasing ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Blame It on The Boom Boom’, which finished an epic and highly emotive set.  The reflective, beautiful track ‘The Rambler’ – closing song on the new album ‘Kentucky‘ – kicked off a three song encore;  the anthemic ‘Lonely Train’ leading to a final and fitting tribute to late Motorhead front-man Lemmy with ‘Ace of Spades’.  I think BSC can be forgiven for getting emotional on what was, frankly, a triumphant and engaging first headline festival appearance.  Many people present had not seen them before and I’m 100% sure that they made a lot of new fans based on the performance they gave (10/10).

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Black Stone Cherry, Main stage

We couldn’t have asked for a better finish to a festival that, despite some teething problems (more toilets and please, please give the stewards better information about queuing to get in next year!) is rapidly rising to challenge other, bigger festivals in the UK for the title of the best.  This was only the second year of Ramblin’ Man and I was blown away by the nice atmosphere and the overall laid back attitude that pervaded the site across the two days.  I already have my ticket for next year so I hope to see you there!

Thank you to Chris at Dirty Rock Photography for the fab photos!

 

Footage of Illustr8tors – https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemusicjourno%2Fvideos%2F1257576554283347%2F&show_text=1&width=560” target=”_blank”>Illustr8tors

Footage of Dirty Thrills – https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemusicjourno%2Fvideos%2F1257606827613653%2F&show_text=1&width=560” target=”_blank”>Dirty Thrills

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Download Festival, 10-12 June 2016

Yet again, the rain came, the mud grew ankle deep and tents got washed away in the campsites.  The traffic queues for the day ticket holders were appalling and people moaned about the line up.  I’m not entirely sure why we still put ourselves through it every year, but it’s like some sort of addiction; Download just has to be done.  It’s one of those quintessentially British things, like having to wait in a queue (don’t mention the toilets), or stoically paying a fiver for a pint …

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Anyhow, as I have always said, it is ALL about the music.  Except … it really wasn’t.  Last year, I didn’t review the festival because we had an exceptionally good time with friends and it was all about networking and enjoying the social side.  This year, we didn’t really see any friends, we didn’t see many bands, but … well, it was still good.  The Mockney and I sunbathed, we had a really good laugh and I made some new friends.  I will tell you about the bands that we did see … but here are some numbers to ease you in gently.

Number of …

  • Miles to get there and back – 404
  • Trips between the campsite and car park – 8 in total
  • Hours that it took to put the new tent up – 2
  • Beers consumed whilst trying to put said tent up – 6
  • Bands that cancelled their performance – 3
  • Bands that I wanted to see – 32
  • Bands that we actually saw – 11
  • Pints of lager/beer/cider consumed – Somewhere between too many and not enough
  • Decent nights’ sleep – 0
  • Pounds spent on mediocre, nutritionally bad food – approx. £65
  • Times we have been to Download – 7 between us (10 if you count ‘Monsters of Rock’ back in the day)
  • Times we got rained on – oh, please – I’m still trying to dry out now. Standard.
  • Episodes of tent springing a leak – 0 (thanks, Go Outdoors!)

Phew.  Now, let’s get to the serious bit …

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RavenEye on the Zippo Encore stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

First band to be seen on Friday was RavenEye (7/10), kicking things off on the Zippo Encore stage.  This was their first time at Download and many people hadn’t seen them before, hence the singer advising, “We can pop this cherry together”.  They seemed nervy to start with, but soon got into the swing of things, with a big groove and an appreciative audience.  A swift beer stop and a trek over to the undercover Maverick stage saw us in front of Zoax (8/10), fresh from an appearance at last weekend’s Camden Rocks Fest.  I can’t remember if it was raining at this point, but even if it had been, this band still would have packed out the considerably sized tent.  Blatantly pleased to be there, they belted out quite a few bruisers but also slowed it down with new track ‘The Wave’ from the newly released, eponymously titled album.  A pleasing set, with Adam singing from the crowd, rather than in front of them.  They loved it and so did I.

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Zoax on the Maverick stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

Next up were The Wildhearts (10/10).  A band that is very close to my heart, one of my earliest memories of being a rocker is playing ‘Earth vs The Wildhearts’ to death.  Having seen Ginger play a very different set in Camden last week, it was a real pleasure to hear such songs as ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’, ‘TV Tan’, and ‘Suckerpunch’, as well as the ever awesome ‘Caffeine Bomb’, which was dedicated to the late, great Lemmy.  Energetic, musically tight and humble, The Wildhearts absolutely knocked it out of the park.

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The Wildhearts on the Maverick stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

With a few hours to kill and the rain not letting up, we spent a couple of hours chilling out undercover in the guest area before stopping at the Lemmy stage to see Rammstein (8/10).  I don’t have too much to say about their performance; if you have seen them before, you’ll know how compelling they are on the live stage.  Although they had some technical issues, they blasted through favourites such as ‘Reise, Reise’, ‘Seemann’ and ‘Du Hast’.  If you haven’t seen them, put it on your bucket list as everybody should see them at least once.  This was my first time and I wasn’t disappointed.

Saturday dawned with bright sunshine and a balmy temperature; we were slow to get going, so the first band we caught sight of was Inglorious (6/10) on the Encore stage.  They were one of the bands that I had marked as a must-see, but to be honest, I wasn’t that enamoured with their set.  To be fair to them, we were hungover and hungry; we also bumped into a friend, so I didn’t give 100% focus.

Turbowolf

Turbowolf on the Maverick stage, 11 June 2016

A band that did manage to keep my attention was Turbowolf (8/10) back at the Maverick stage.  I couldn’t tell you any of the songs they played, only that they gave 150% in a mad, whirlwind of a performance that went down extremely well.  I’ve seen these guys before, but they’re so good live – always worth catching if you can because they rock hard.  It’s worth it just for the keyboard action!

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Sixx:AM on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

Band of the day for me was Sixx:AM (9/10) on the main stage; the only reason they didn’t get a 10/10 is because I fail to see the relevance of two scantily dressed backing singers whose vocals we actually couldn’t hear.  Anyway, they smashed it out of the park with tracks such as ‘Rise’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’, also showcasing new songs from the recently released album, “Prayers For The Damned”.  Loved their set, can’t wait to get the new album and I hope that I get to see them again soon – outstanding.

It’s no secret that I am a massive Rival Sons (8/10) fan – I have seen them many times and I love their music.  However, much as I really wanted to give them top marks, I just can’t.  They looked sharp and they sounded almost perfect, but it appeared to be lacking something that I can’t put my finger on.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great set, with some real crowd pleasers such as ‘Electric Man’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Pressure and Time’ but … I wasn’t feeling it as much as I normally would. Perhaps it was because I haven’t yet got the new album, “Hollow Bones”, and they played a couple of songs from it, including the title track. Maybe I’d just had too much sun at that point. I can’t wait, however, to get my paws on that album and I look forward to seeing them with Black Sabbath on their farewell tour next year.

Rival Sons

Rival Sons on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016

Which brings me neatly on to the Saturday headliner.  After I had just caught Megadeth’s ‘Symphony of Destruction’, the clouds were darkening ominously once more.  We experienced what can only be described as a cloudburst shortly afterwards and changing into dry clothes didn’t cheer me up.  By the time Black Sabbath (9/10) exploded onto the stage, my mood was blacker than the sky.  Quite fitting,  then, that they should kick off with ‘Black Sabbath’.  That iconic intro ratcheted up the excitement levels in the crowd and the atmosphere in the arena was intense as Ozzy did his usual manic run from one side of the stage to the other.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016

They were clearly enjoying themselves as they cranked through a surprisingly short (only 15 songs), but nostalgic set.  The soggy crowd didn’t seem to mind the downpour, moshing along to classics such as ‘Snowblind’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Rat Salad’ and ‘Iron Man’.  The outpouring of affection for Birmingham’s most famous rockers almost  brought a tear to my eye, as they encored with ‘Paranoid’ and the arena erupted. We left at that point, but I believe that they ended a triumphant set with the introspective “Zeitgeist”, perhaps a strange choice.  Step up and pay your money, ladies and gents – ‘The End’ farewell tour tickets go on sale on Friday 17th June at 9am from Live Nation.

By the time Sunday limped around, we were pretty broken and quite looking forward to going home; having already packed the car, by 11 o’clock it was pouring down again and we were pretty miserable.  We did manage to catch The Raven Age (8/10).  They absolutely killed their set, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although I’m baffled as to why the singer kept disappearing every five minutes.  Hard, heavy and sweaty, every single member of this band played and sang their arses off and were rewarded with a very appreciative audience.  I’ll definitely catch them again if I have the chance.

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The Raven Age on the Maverick stage, 12 June 2016

Last band of the day for us was The Temperance Movement (9/10); a band who I have followed with interest over the last couple of years.  Having grown exponentially in fanbase and confidence, TTM played a blinding set on the Lemmy stage (last time I saw them, they played the Zippo Encore stage), it’s just a shame that there weren’t as many people watching them as there should have been (let’s not mention the day ticket traffic).  My favourite song, ‘Midnight Black’ had me dancing in the mud!

mud!

That’s it!  Bands I didn’t get to see, who I heard good things about included Skillet, Savage Messiah, Santa Cruz, Reigning Days, Juliette and the Licks, Cane Hill and of course, the mighty Disturbed.  Gutted I didn’t see them.  I also hear that a little band called Iron Maiden went over extremely well on Sunday evening …

I moaned about the mud and the severe lack of straw to soak it up, but I really do have to hand it to Andy Copping; the Download organisers continue to learn from things that have gone awry in the previous years and  tried to put it right.    I do think that the whole event could be moved to later in the year to try and avoid the ‘Drownload’ syndrome, but that’s a whole other article … I’ve already booked a hotel for next year so bring it on!

ASP at the Folkestone Harbour Festival, 16.08.15

The sun was shining, the goat curry was simmering, the beer and cider was flowing and the good people of Folkestone had dutifully turned out for the second day of the Folkestone Harbour Festival.

Held in the Old SeaCat Terminal right on the harbour, cheek by jowl with the lorry park, there was entertainment for the young and the young at heart. Folkestone Owl Rescue had brought some of their finest residents along; they basked in the summer sunshine, quite happy to be stroked and fussed over, and there were also  some vintage vehicles on display, courtesy of the Kent Classic and Sports Car Club.


There were rides for the little ones, the obligatory fire engine was present (which the kids were loving) and of course, a lovely, large marquee bar. Not to be outdone by the array of local ales on offer at just £1.50 a pint, the food stalls were vying for business; those who had worked up an appetite could choose from curried goat, chocolate churros, burgers, ice creams, hotdogs and more.  The focal point of the circle of entertainment was the music stage, sponsored by Pentland Homes and Academy FM.

My primary reason for standing in the sun with a Summer Fruits Strongbow (it’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it) was to see local Thanet band, ASP.  A four piece classic rock and contemporary covers band, ASP have recently been taking the area by storm, playing such great venues as the Churchill Tavern in Ramsgate, and the most excellent Globe in Hythe.

Following the fantastic 80’s cover band, the A-Tees (which might have seen me and my girls dancing behind the beer tent!), ASP took to the stage with the ever popular Status Quo track ‘Softer Ride’, a crowd pleaser if ever there was one. They romped through cover after infectious cover, including the beautifully executed ‘Coming Back to Life’ by Pink Floyd.  When the smoke machine obliterated the band during the Quo’s infamous ‘Rocking All Over The World’, they played bravely on, eventually emerging back out into the sunlight with not a note missed.

The iconic Free track ‘Wishing Well’ went down a storm with the diverse crowd before penultimate track ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’ segued neatly into a finale of Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’.

Much fun can be poked at covers bands these days, but ASP are a rare breed indeed; they cover songs from many different decades, including tracks by bands like Snow Patrol and even the much lauded guitarist, Rory Gallagher. Their style is all their own though, and they marked a triumphant ASP stamp on their 45 minute set.

ASP’s next gig is on 21 August at the Ypres Tavern, Sittingbourne. Check them out, they really do rock!

All in all, the Festival was everything that the organisers could have hoped for – I would have liked to have seen it maybe a little bigger but with the proceeds going to the very worthwhile cause of the RNLI, you can’t ask for a better way to while away a weekend in the sun and the organisers of the fest are to be congratulated on a job well done.

http://www.thebandasp.weebly.com
http://www.folkestoneharbourfestival.co.uk