First of all an apology and correction, if you have read yesterday’s review you will need to know that actually Garage Days are Austrian and Fireforce are Belgian so your man from Nick Hellefort was correct, they WERE “ze Germans”! After yesterday’s full metal onslaught I approached today with some trepidation – while my musical taste is quite wide I am not the world’s biggest metalhead and I think if you watch band after band who all play a similar genre (whatever it happens to be) you can get a bit rocked out and possibly not appreciate the finer points of some of the bands who play later in the day. Thankfully today gave us a much more varied platter of musical styles, and also threw up the discovery of the weekend and band of the weekend, for me anyway.
First band up today had travelled all the way from Argentina. They were Fear Me December, a female-fronted hard rock band with some catchy songs that are almost poppy in places. Bass player and singer Victoria’s voice is surprisingly low-pitched, but retained an element of power that made the music accessible. At times I would even describe them as a bit gothy. They already have an EP out, which they played a couple of songs from, and they are also about to go into the studio to record their first album so showcased a couple more tracks that will feature on that. My one criticism of them would be that I felt they need a little more stage time. Good as they were, they were struggling to engage and keep the attention of the audience between songs and I really do feel that they need to get out there and learn how to do that.
In contrast, the first act on the acoustic stage was Charlotte Hackett, a modest young lady with a guitar and a breathy, almost ethereal vocal style. She played a couple of her own songs, a cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and closed the second set with a well-executed cover of Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, much to the delight of the crowd.
Sister Rose on the main stage were a very traditional hard rock band with a sound straight out of the very early 80s. The vocals were high and Halford-y, the guitar was strong and the rhythm was solid. I liked them.
The next main stage act turned out to be my discovery of the weekend. They were Chasing Dragons, a female-fronted alt. rock band from Leeds with an absolutely brilliant singer. They reminded me a lot of the Black Veil Brides, both in sound and look, they had that hard-rock-with-a-twist of goth thing going on. The songs were catchy yet at the same time complicated, with many timechanges and some really hard riffing. They played their latest single which is shortly due for release, a song called “Mutiny”, and singer Laurie (or Tank as she is often known) had the crowd right on side by now, everybody was moving to the music, singing and clapping along, heads nodding in unison. It’s not often you see a new band and just stand with your mouth open going “Wow” but today Chasing Dragons were that band.
Sansara then took to the stage, another band that are more hard rock than outright metal. Again the songs have hooks and draw you in without you even realising it. Guitarist Sam is something of a virtuoso, playing so hard that he had to stop and re-tune a couple of times – not surprising as he was up and down those frets so much that I thought he was going to wear them out! The tunes remind me in places of some of Slash’s solo stuff, guitar-driven but with a solid feel and excellent vocals. I was going to write down some song titles that I particularly liked, but was too busy dancing! They finished with what sounded to me like a speeded-up version of Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades” – I mean come on, who else would speed up Motorhead? Maybe Sam should be re-named “Fast Sam”…….
Back to the acoustic stage and a real treat, we had Chris Appleton along with his brother Luke and Wizz. Chris released an acoustic solo album “Restless” recently which Luke and Wizz both guested on so to have all 3 on the same stage it was inevitable that a lot of the songs from it would be played. Harmony vocals were spot on, and Chris’s acoustic soloing has a hint of Spanish style about it that I really liked. There were a couple of standout songs, one called “Crazyhead” which really rocked and one which I believe is or will be a single called “Tomorrow”. They were good enough that I went straight over to merch after the first set and bought the album. The second set was more of the same, and finished with a unique cover of AC/DC’s “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be” which just happens to be my favourite AC/DC song – thanks guys!
Next main stage band were Black Whiskey, another traditional UK hard rock band. There were no new-fangled time changes here, this band play driving 4/4 beats with soaring vocals and howling guitars over them and they do it well. The bass player must have been gutted though, he had a very nice 6-string bass but had been out-stringed by Mr Beardy on Friday!
They were followed by Ten By Ten, another local Manchester band. They were today’s first proper “metal” band, with a sound a bit like you would imagine a speeded-up Sabbath would sound like. Again they went down really well with the crowd who were having a good old bounce.
We had a short interval at this point as a young lad called Sam, aged 11, who had been growing his hair since he was 5 was introduced to us. Turns out he was going to have it all chopped off for charity! The charity involved is the Princess Trust, who provide wigs for children with cancer. After a final headbang to Slayer Luke Appleton did the honours and cut a foot of hair off. In total over £800 was raised for the charity and Sam’s hair will also be used in a wig so well done Sam!
On with the music and the main stage now played host to my band of the weekend, Knock Out Kaine. They started with a blast, straight into “16 Grams of Heart Attack” a hard rocking song that you just can’t help but bounce to. Frontman Dean Foxx was really on form, posing and posturing away like mad, screaming and spitting some of the lyrics to the next few songs. Another highlight was a track from their first album called “Backstreet Romeo” which features a bit of an acoustic strumalong from Dean but also throws out powerchords aplenty and is on the verge of being describable as an anthem. The music was funky, bright and fun while still maintaining a hard edge and the crowd were lapping it up. A couple of the songs I had seen them play before, including the final one “Little Crystal”, seemed to be faster than usual. I’m not sure if this was to try and impress the more metal crowd or just because they wanted to get finished and into the bar…….
Another young lady then took to the acoustic stage with just a guitar. She was Liz Owen and she played a little more complicated guitar and sang with a folky, more powerful tone. She also did some quieter more soulful stuff to, and all in all was pretty impressive.
The female theme continued with Skarlett Riot on the main stage. This band is the epitome of disaffected yoof, all ripped black jeans (or tights in the case of singer Chloe!) and floppy fringes and attitude. The band is tight and they power through their set at a rate of knots. No soppy love songs here, but plenty of singalong choruses and powerful rock songs.
Next up we have Tysondog. Now Tysondog are Old Skool, they have been around for a while and it tells in the quality of their playing. With song titles like “Into The Void” and “Don’t let The Bastards Grind You Down” and even “Shadow Of The Beast” you kind of know what you are going to get. This band aren’t so much in your face as punch you in the face, they are hard and brutal and kind of epic and despite the knockout you still want to come back for more – I thought they were great. Did make me smile that energetic as they were singer Clutch had to sit down for a breather every now and again though, I know exactly how he felt!
It should have been time for headliners Furyon now but sadly they were stuck on a motorway somewhere so something had to be improvised – turned out that ¾ of Knock Out Kaine were still in the bar, but their guitarist had gone home so with Chris Appleton bravely stepping into the breach we had an impromptu extra acoustic set instead. Kind of a cross between a set and a jam session really as Chris didn’t know any KOK songs but after improvising his way through a slower more ballsy version of “Backstreet Romeo” you would never guess that he had never played a note with them before today. Dean was able to keep up a constant stream of banter that kept the crowd amused and engaged and as well as another KOK song (described as a big fat sweaty hairy ballad!) we also got covers of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin”, Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road”, Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” and finally with the band re-christened Knock Off Kaine a version of “Freebird” that left us all with tears (of laughter) in our eyes. Knock Out Kaine went back to the bar and the rest of us wandered over to the main stage to have a look at Furyon who, after 10 hours, had finally made it!
They were worth waiting for as well, a powerful band with shades of Maiden and a hard, edgy sound overlaid by powerful vocals with an impressive range. Difficult to make out song titles but there were some fast and thrashy songs and some slower, more doomy ones. Sadly the delay meant a chunk of the crowd who were reliant on public transport had had to leave by now but those that were left gave them an enthusiastic reception. There were heads banging and horns flying and fists pumping and all the usual stuff you would expect when seeing a great band play a great set.
So that was the SOS Festival. Thanks again to the organisers and sponsors for putting on a great show with music for everyone at a ridiculously low price. Some bands have already been booked and revealed for next year and all I can say is – see you there?