Now into its fifth year the Noize Level Critical Festival has undergone a change of name to “Rockin For The Children”; this is due to organiser David Tonge (aka Big D from the Noize Level Critical radio show) adding a second very worthy charity to raise awareness and funds for. The Festival now raises much needed funds for Rock Against Child Pornography and Abuse UK and Awareness for Autism, ALL profits are split equally between the two charities. More about the profits later, now onto the event!
This was my first time at this event (although I have been to the Maze before) and I was very impressed with the setup. After collecting my pass on the door I was immediately made to feel very welcome and introduced to the team. The venue isn’t massive, meaning that for the second year running this festival sold out well in advance, but because it’s so well-organised you never feel cramped although it did get very sweaty despite the freezing weather outside!
Opening band this year were Demon Speed, fronted by AJ from New Generation Superstars. With a stand-in bass player as the regular guy has been stolen by Tigertailz they were fast, loud and just a little bit sleazy. It’s hard to make out song titles if you’re not familiar with the material but there was one song that I think was called “Killing Me” that I particularly liked. Good start to the weekend, and it set the tone for the whole event which leaned towards the punkier side of rock this year.
They were followed by Anonymous, a last-minute replacement for Defy All Reason who were unfortunately unable to perform due to ongoing health issues. Hailing from Uttoxeter they are very young and play a sort of doomy alt metal style that I really couldn’t pigeonhole. It will be interesting to watch them develop I think.
Psychobabylon are not so young, but they are very very good. Their set included a cover of The Cult’s “Little Devil” which was quite apt as singer Rusty has something of the Astbury look about him. Musically they were very tight and professional, with a fast punky edge to them. They really got the crowd warmed up well.
Next band up were one I was really looking forward to, Heartbreak Remedy. This was their first gig as a three-piece since ex-guitarist Callum’s departure at the beginning of this year, so I was curious to see if Luke would be able to fill two pairs of shoes (although I was asked not to remind him of that as they didn’t want to pay him any extra!) Happy to report that for me at least I think they work better as a trio as their usual blues-based rock seemed to have a slightly harder edge to it and they seemed just a little more together than last time I had seen them. Matty Penn’s voice continues to improve and he and Luke have slipped some rather nice synchronised guitar moves into the mix, whilst Stephen continues to provide a driving beat from behind the drums. The potential new single was debuted and proved to be another catchy, rather funky little number. As a taster, it makes me keen to hear what else they will come up with for the next album.
Final band of the afternoon session Millsyeck only just made it, having travelled down from Scotland and got stuck in traffic meaning they missed their earlier appointed slot. They played tuneful alt metal which was marred a little at the beginning by some technical issues, but once they got going all was good and again they had lots of people up and moving.
Despite a 45-minute break, the location of The Maze meant that by the time I had nipped out to check into my nearby hotel and grab some food I missed some of evening openers Theia‘s set which was a shame as I like them a lot too. They were joined on stage this time by stage manager and soundman Keiran on guitar, which gave them a fuller sound and worked very well. There were a couple of songs from the recently-released debut album “Take The Pill” which sounded pretty good, and the set closed with their standard party anthem “Whoop-De-Fucking-Do”, a riotous romp that had everyone singing along and the band bouncing around the dancefloor with them!
My first thought as Wigan’s Bigfoot took to the stage was that actually, the stage wasn’t big enough for them. Not because they are mostly tall blokes but more that they have so much fire and energy that they just seemed to fill the entire room let alone the stage. In fact singer Anthony is such a human dynamo that despite not being one of the tall blokes he sometimes seems to fill the room all by himself! The music is catchy, riff-driven classic rock and has the whole crowd singing, dancing and partying. Even the slower acoustic-led ballad has everyone moving to it and the finale, including a medley of famous riffs over which Anthony’s singing is almost scat, turns into a sort of jam with the crowd. Amazing stuff, this band are destined for much bigger things in the future I hope.
Skarlett Riot by contrast, although a very good band, don’t really do it for me. Their songs are good and they play very well, singer and occasional guitarist Chloe has a great voice and a lot of stage presence and by a couple of songs in she had the audience in the palm of her hand. Their style of rock is a little more modern, with a sharp sound and some interesting songs so I think on this one you would be better off with the opinion of my friend Dave who said they were “fookin’ superb yeah!”
When Bad Touch hit the stage I thought that said stage wasn’t really big enough for them either, and they were oh so loud. I found it hard to write anything coherent about their set as by now the venue was absolutely rammed, very very hot and as they are one of my favourite bands on the circuit at the moment I kept forgetting to make notes as I sang along and danced – oops! I did note that they played several old favourite songs: Halfway Home, Down, Preacher, Motherload, Good On Me as well as a new one Made To Break which had some lovely slidey guitar in it and hopefully is a sign of good things to come on their next album. The crowd loved them, I loved them and I think the only complaint when they finally came off stage was that they could easily have played for a lot longer.
I had thought that Bad Touch were the penultimate band of the evening but no, turns out there was a surprise in store for us in the form of a quick debut from The Main Grains, a new band featuring John JJ Watt (who has been very much involved in the organisation of the event this year and done a cracking job) and one Danny McCormack, known to most as the original bass player from The Wildhearts. They also had a punk feel to the tunes and put me in mind of a modern-day Ramones only with more tuneful vocals! The set was short but very sweet, it was good to see Danny back on a stage again and if tonight was any guide then this will be a band not to miss when they come to a town near you later this year.
Saturday night was closed by a stonking set from the NLC All-Stars, a sort of live rock karaoke featuring many of the artists who had appeared earlier in the day and even a song from event organiser Big D. It was fun, it was funny and we partied on down for all we were worth before heading off to our various beds to try and get at least a little bit of sleep before starting all over again the following day. To be continued……..!