So Sunday is here, the 3rd and unfortunately the last day of Les-Fest 3, easily one of the best, if not the best outdoor festival I’ve attended. Perfect location, food was of high quality and reasonably priced, accommodation was second to none, the bar was also reasonably priced and Les-Fest 3 was family friendly with quite a few young children there, most of which were obviously wearing ear defenders.
Opening act Defy All Reason drew a fair sized crowd for 11am and even though I was born a mere 15 miles from their Wrexham beginnings, this was the first time I had seen them and was blown away by their heavy rock with lashings of Southern rock tinges and their heavy Nickelback riffs and harmonies, fronted by the imposing figure of Gavin Jones, looking a lot like James Hetfield and even sounding a bit like him. Their 6 song set included a riff heavy cover of ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ and the pick of their own material was a song off their new 4 track E.P ‘Every Second Counts’ called ‘Behind Those Eyes’, the slowest song of the set and a huge rock ballad with an emotional vocal. Debut album is due soon!
Next up and once again, a band I had never seen before and was left with my jaw on the floor was The King Lot. It’s hard to believe the band has only been together just over a year after forming in West Lothian. They looked like they meant business before they started playing, all more or less clad in black and wearing shades. I’m a big fan of guitar feedback and their set was full of it from guitarist Michael Fairbairn. Their songs were all AC/DC type huge riffs and early Cult like rhythms. Vocalist Mr.Sweeney had a commanding stage presence with Steven Tyler like panache and delivery. Highlights from their 7 song set were ‘One Of These Days’ which highlighted the Cult influences with some crashing Billy Duffy like chords and ‘Until My Dying Day’, a gritty ballad with killer 3 way harmonies. The King Lot were definitely one of my favourite bands of the weekend.
Things got a lot more trashy now as another trio hit the stage like early Wildhearts, all splayed legs and sense of humour. Said band are Aberdeen based Gutter Godz with lead vocalist/guitarist Jon Davie trading insults with bassist/backing vocalist Kev McLean. The only way I could describe them on the day was sleaze rock full of fuzzed up riffs. Proof of this was ‘All I Wanna Do Is Rock And Roll’, a huge rock anthem with classic T Rex style riffing, ‘Girl’ with it’s almost 1960’s rock and roll riffs but with a punk edge to them and ‘Burn The House Down’ with it’s ‘Beautiful Rhythm’ drum beats from Jonny Kennedy with a ‘Children Of The Grave’ like main guitar riff and a shredding guitar solo. A band I’m definitely looking forward to seeing again.
Next up were North West of the UK based band Signed In Crimson fronted by Micki Consiglio, one of the best vocalists I’ve heard all weekend. Their guitar heavy alt rock reminded me of a UK version of now defunct US band Human Waste Project with Micki’s voice sounding uncannily to that of Aimee Echo. Their set opened with the stop/start riffing of ‘Just Maybe’ with a sumptuous powerful/melodic vocal. Their 7 song set closed with ‘Fame Drug’, it’s main riff sounding like ‘Thunderstruck’ making it their heaviest song of today but my highlight was ‘The More That You Scream’. Like a heavier No Doubt it has the word epic written all over it with Micki delivering an emotional vocal.
Sheffield based Spill Sixteen provided a bit of eye candy for the ladies with their vocalist Stevie looking a lot like M Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold. After their 7 song set the phrase that came to mind was ” A wall of sound of garage rock” as they certainly crank it up like early Guns And Roses which was proven by set opener ‘Doing It Tonight’ with it’s Slash type riffs and fills. ‘By You’ was a hard hitter based on a big Keith Richards style main riff. Midway through the set was a furious run through of ‘Hammer To Fall’ with the high notes and harmonies nailed but highlight for me was set closer ‘One Way To Go’ coming over like a souped up ‘Day Tripper. Another killer set from a band I’d not seen until Les-Fest 3.
I saw Captain Horizon earlier this year in Nottingham and eagerly awaited their set. The Tool like intro of set opener ‘The Light’ went into a Jesus Lizard type groove which strangely enough draws comparisons with their vocalist David Yow and Steve Whittington from Captain Horizon with his vocal style and numerous forays into the crowd. It really is hard to pin a label on Captain Horizon as every song has it’s own quirky style making them more like jams. This point is proven by next number ‘Shadows And Vampires’ with The Edge like chords and fills from guitarist Joshua Watson who is ably backed up by the off kilter drumming of James Merrix and fluid bass lines from Alex Thomson who also is no stranger to venturing out in the crowd. Formed in Birmingham in 2008 their set was based on their debut album ‘The Lights Of Distorted Science’ but a new song called ‘The Dark’ closed their 8 song set. Once again the U2 influences were there over Chilli Peppers groovy bass lines delivered with a Doors like looseness. Yet another highlight of my weekend.
Another twin guitar heavy band were next, Fireroad from Aberdare in South Wales and filled the marquee with a no frills, ballsy delivery. Lead by the permanently smiling Richard Jones they plugged in and went straight into set opener ‘I Got Sound’. It’s bluegrass style intro lead into crashing AC/DC style riffing. Without any pause they went straight into ‘Minute’ reminding me of a heavy Tom Petty, especially on the vocal delivery with a foot tapping arpeggio riff running through the song. Other highlights of their 8 song set were ‘Bones’, it’s sparse riffing akin to Stereophonics era ‘Word Gets Around’ and ‘Knock It Away’ with the guitars weaving in and out like early The Strokes. Fantastic set played to a full, appreciative crowd.
The quality of the bands just keep on coming as 5 piece band Bournemouth based Voodoo Vegas came on with a front man who you could immediately tell was born to be onstage. He is Lawrence Case who uncannily looks like a cross between Axl Rose and Sebastian Bach, can sing like them but does not have the egos. ‘Out There’ opened their 7 song set based on their debut album ‘The Rise Of Jimmy Silver’. The song rode along on a 70’s Aerosmith groove which laid a solid rock foundation for the rest of the set which was followed by ‘Mary Jane’, a much more hard rocker with some tasty wah wah guitar from Nick Brown while 2nd guitarist Merylina Hamilton kept hammering the backing riffs out. Following a lengthy intro rap by Lawrence, ‘Mary Jane’ coarsed along on a lazy ‘Giving The Dog A Bone’ like riff by AC/DC with Lawrence adding some nice rhythm and blues like harmonica to the song. Favourite song of mine was set closer ‘King Without A Crown’. The guitar riffs alternated between Lynyrd Skynyrd chicken scratch ones to hammer blow ones featuring a massive chorus and a high energy finish with a lung shredding vocal throughout.
So, it was off to the acoustic stage to see the headlining set by Pat McManus who I have not seen since 1983 when he played in Mama’s Boys so expectations were high and they were surpassed by an over 2hrs set varying from acoustic/electric guitars, violin and even a bouzuki playing a mixture of acoustic, blues and rock music. The 18 song set was a masterclass of the guitar which seemed to fly by but magic moments were ‘Walking In The Shadow Of Giants’ which had tinges of country and western with Pat playing bouzuki. ‘Return Of The G Man’ was a very poignant solo acoustic song as it is a tribute to the late great Rory Gallagher with Pat quoting some of his song titles in the verses, very touching. Another tribute to a sorely missed guitarist was ‘Belfast Boy’ dedicated to Gary Moore. It’s piercing minute long electric guitar intro went into heavy Celtic rock. It was getting near the end of the set so a 3 song adrenaline rush finish was the classic Mama’s Boys number ‘Needle In The Groove’ played on a white flying V guitar followed by 2 cover songs. A heavy take on ‘Oh Well’ by Fleetwood Mac and a boogie workout on ‘La Grange’ by ZZ Top. I managed to speak to Pat after his set and you could not wish to meet such a well spoken artist with no ego whatsoever!
The uphill trudge to the main stage meant that I missed the beginning of High Wycombe based band The Wild Lies but I was very impressed with their brand of flashy hard rock bringing to mind early UFO and Tesla with lead vocalist at time sounding very much like Tesla’s Jeff Keith.
Another band I was looking forward to seeing was next to hit the boards. Massive Wagon’s 11 song set was lapped up by a packed out marquee, kicking off with ‘Rising Tides’ off their latest album ‘Fight The System’ the heavy duty riffing brought to mind the rock and roll side of AC/DC with vocalist Baz Mills throwing in a few Angus Young duck walks across the stage. The set was based mainly on the new album, 3 off debut release ‘Fire It Up’ and a rip roaring cover of ‘Nutbush City Limits’ for the encore. Set highlight for me was always going to be ‘Fight The System’, easily the best emotional hard rock song I’ve heard many years and has classic stamped all over it but other standouts were ‘Buck’ and ‘SWT’ which showed Rolling Stones influences. Guitarists Adam Thistlewaite and Carl Cochrane filled the room with huge riffs and catchy solos backed up by a heavy rhythm section of Bowz Bouskill and Alex Thistlewaite pounding the drums.
So penultimate band Falling Red were up next and got me eating my second helping of humble pie at Les-Fest 3. I saw them open up for Anvil in Manchester about a year ago and came away unimpressed but it must have been a bad night as they destroyed here. Easily the loudest band I’ve heard all weekend. They worked the stage and the crowd from the off with an 8 song set of snarling glam/punk, musically coming over like the heavier side of KISS and Motley Crue but delivered like Amen. 6 were off current album ‘Empire Of The Damned’ with ‘Come On Down’ being from their last EP and a thrashy and trashy run through of ‘Rebel Yell’ that had fists pumping for the chorus.
Headlining act The Dirty Youth were not the heaviest band on Sunday but their blend of pop suss with big guitars made them worthy headliners. Formed in 2007 in South Wales they delivered a ballsy set albeit a very short one and had to be asked to come back to play an encore to a crowd who would have felt very let down if they had not returned. Song of the set for me was ‘Bury Me Next To Elvis’ which highlighted their ability to write commercially guitar heavy songs.
So that was Les-Fest 3 and now counting the days/months to Les-Fest 4. I would like to thank Dave Ritchie and Fede Valls for putting the festival on, the hard working staff behind the scenes, all the bands I managed to talk to for their help with my review and especially to my Planet Mosh colleagues as it would not have been possible to do this without you.