Cancer On The Rocks was a great day out, to say the least, in the normally quiet Cheshire town of Nantwich. Local boy Rick Palin, managing director of Skyfire International and owner of Firebrand Radio handpicked ten fantastic rock and blues bands to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Research after losing his father to this terrible disease last year.
First up all the way from Surrey were The Asif Outlaws, fronted by the instantly likeable Asif Ali, matched by the quips from bassist Dave Holdstock. Sax appeal was added by saxophonist Jackie Taylor as the set veered from folk to straight ahead rock. Opener ‘Down The River’ brought to mind Ian Dury And The Blockheads mainly for the saxophone parts but also the humour in the lyrics. Other highlights were the biting folk rhythms of ‘Believe’ and not even a broken guitar string during ‘Dissonance’ could slow them down as they came back in with their heaviest song of the set ‘She’ll Eat Your Heart Out’. My set highlight was ‘Children Of The Sun’, its laid back grooves that weaved around the sax was topped off by Asif’s haunting Neil Young tinged lead vocal. Their set ended all too soon with the sax dominated boogie of ‘Goat’s Cheese’.
Things were about to get heavier as Liverpool hard rockers Fugitive came on and I had to blink to make sure lead vocalist Michael Angel was not really Ritchie Blackmore! Opener ‘Slave To Love’ was all gritty heavy metal quickly followed by ‘Light It Up’ that had a bobbling ‘No More Tears’ bass line that shifted from a heavy ballad to powerful dynamics when the main riff kicked in. ‘The Weekend’ was heavy AOR in the vein of Night Ranger, proven by the catchy hooks and vocals. ‘A Lot To Lose’ was their heaviest song as the band hammered it along as a fiery lead guitar solo cut in midway. ‘Kiss My Heart Goodbye’ was a lighters in the air ballad with a lung busting vocal from Michael. ‘Race The Rain’ was like a ballsier ‘Love Walked In’ and they closed with the heavy riffer ‘I’ll Be There’ featuring another full on vocal.
Any cobwebs we had left from the night before were blown away by the boundless energy of Corvus as they opened up with the adrenaline rush Foos like bluster of ‘All I Need’ with lead vocalist Ciaran Jmaes belting out the lyrics with aplomb backed with fiery guitar lines from John Clews. ‘Hero’ can only be described as heroic with shimmering alt rock hooks, twin leads midway and a drum heavy finish from Marcin Glogowski. ‘Just Like Heaven’ was made even more powerful with John providing a second vocal throughout. Powerful dynamics and a lung busting lead vocal in ‘Turn To Stone’ was not an ELO cover but a delivery of Pearl Jam at their heaviest. Sure fire hooks, melodies and a full on guitar solo made ‘When You Love Someone’ my set highlight as they ended all too soon with ‘Chasing Miracles’, full of intense guitar fills from John once again.
There is a quote on the web page of the Big Wolf Band stating that “Brit rock blues is in safe hands” and that point was proven as guitarist Jonathan Earp peeled off the first of many riveting licks during opener ‘Heaven Got The Blues’, all Cream like virtuosity from all band members, especially keyboardist Paul Brambani. My notes where kept to a minimum due to their captivating set but other highlights were ‘Just Can’t Find You’ with mesmerizing guitar work throughout a laid back blues delivery. Hendrix likes jams blew my mind during ‘Rolling With Thunder’ that preceded an early Dire Straits mood in ‘Darkest Of My Days’ and they shifted into a higher guitar with the foot tapping ‘Love That Hurts’ as their set ended with the thunderous rhythms of ‘Hot Blooded Woman’, flowing along in the vein of ‘Don’t Believe A Word’.
The diversity of the line up was highlighted by The Milk Men, not a Benny Hill tribute band but a high octane early Dr.Feelgood tinged quartet who strode on suited and booted and brought the party atmosphere to Nantwich! ‘Shoot The Lights’ was a pedal to the floor opener with the ball of energy that was lead vocalist Jamie Smy getting the crowd in the palm of his hand. Other highlights were the laid back bar room boogie grooves in ‘Rag N Bone Man’ which segued into the infectious riffing from Adam Norsworthy in ‘Make Mine A Double’. ‘The Operator’ was a catchy slice of power pop beefed up by a midway guitar solo followed by the upbeat breezy shuffle and huge choruses in of ‘Pocket Full Of Pennies’. ‘Real Good Looking’ had a Roy Orbison vibe but my favourite was ‘She Don’t Like Rock N Roll’, bass guitar dominated by Lloyd Green backed by some AC/DC power chords.
The heaviness of the bill returned with London based quartet Superfecta. Frontman Rob Negrini seemed to be on a mission to cover every inch of the stage during opener ‘Nothing Remains’ with some Clutch like garage rock as Carl Highman’s Rickenbacker bass guitar had the glasses rattling on tables and the Civic Halls foundations were shook by the lumbering grunge grooves of ‘She’s A Star’ featuring some tasty wah-wah guitar work from Danum Todd. The quirky rhythms in ‘Sidewalk Blues’ were blown away by the Monster Magnet like turbocharger that was ‘The Abyss’ but my stand outs were the one two sucker punch pairing of the slow burning, crushing epic ‘Ghosts’ and the drum driven riffathon ‘Whiplash’.
Weapon UK, still cocked and loaded since their formation in 1980 with original founding members Danny Hynes and Jeff Summers defying trends and spread their melodic NWOBHM songs here in Nantwich. Joined by Tony Forsythe and stand in drummer Mauricio Chamucero who tested the tenacity of his kit with a superhuman display. Their set was based heavily on current album Rising From The Ashes, opening up with a pairing from it, the pure heavy metal of ‘Ride The Mariah’, given touches of melody with Jeff and Tony providing backing vocals to Danny’s captivating lead vocal and the catchy hard rock with huge choruses in ‘Fountain Of Paradise’.Other set highlights were the demolition ball power of the main riff from Jeff during ‘Warrior’ that was matched by another powerhouse delivery from Danny. Jeff riffed hard again during the potent ‘Ready 4 U’ with a big snare heavy chorus. ‘It’s A Mad Mad World’ still sounds as fresh as when I heard it over thirty five years ago purely for the infectious chorus. ‘Blood Soaked Rock’ lived up to its title as the set ended on a high with the stone cold adrenaline rush of ‘Set The Stage Alight’ and a gritty cover of ‘The Rocker’ which Phil would be proud of!
Power and panache would be an apt description to describe the set performed by The Room. ‘Flesh And Bone’ was, in a word, progtastic! It filled the room (no pun intended) with lush grooves and touches of ‘Market Square Heroes’ as lead vocalist Martin Wilson enchanted us with a dramatic delivery topped off by a stunning guitar solo from Steve Anderson. ‘Full Circle’ made me think that they could be the UK answer to Opeth as they showed their heavier side. They saved their heaviest song till last with the drum heavy ‘The Hunter’ but my highlight was the emotional vocal delivery from Steve in ‘Screaming Through The Noise’ whose son had been affected by cancer. The emotion in his performance was there for all to see.
Now it was time for some hard hitting rock and roll courtesy of Boneyard Dog, fronted by the iron lungs of Rob Mancini who looked like he was born to be onstage. Their 1970’s rock vibe was nailed by opener ‘Mother Lode’ .His rock star swagger was matched by the monstrous guitar tone from Athan Lyssa Kazakis. Other highlights were the heavy blues masterclass of ‘Kingdom Company’ followed by the powerful Southern Rock balladry of ‘Bluesbound Train’. They managed to squeeze in another ballad ‘Lonely Road’ which got huge applause and final number was really all about the guitar riffs and fills in the ballsy ‘Fire Down Below’.
Last up were the hugely entertaining House Of X. Formerly known as X-UFO due to three of the four members being in UFO and one ex Michael Schenker Group member. The only notes I took were song titles as there was far too much headbanging to do, point proven by opener ‘Let It Roll’, the first of many UFO songs played. A vintage gem called ‘Highway Lady’ show just how prolific UFO were in penning hook laden heavy rock with lead vocalist and all round comedian Danny Peyronel who at one point during the show introduced drummer Clive Edwards as “A national institution” due to it being his 65th birthday the day before. Other highlights that whizzed by were a thunderous ‘Lights Out’ with Clive and bassist Rocky Newton locking in tight to allow guitarist Laurence Archer to head off into orbit with full on guitar heroics. One of their own songs ‘No More Tequila’ shows they are not just a retro band and a brand new album called One is due for release in 2018. A nifty run through of ‘Doctor Doctor’ was the appetizer to the feast that was ‘Rock Bottom’ which caused serious headbangers hair and neck problems for me the next day as Laurence once again took the reigns for some blistering fret burning. Plans are already being drawn up for a 2019 event.