Sunday dawned sunny but cold as we all trooped back up the hill for the second day of this fine little festival.
The Spangle Corps kicked things off, a young band playing in a sort of punk/rap/rock crossover style. There was a lot of energy and jumping up and down, and I was impressed at their exuberance although I did think the vocals were a bit too low in the mix.
They were followed by the discovery of the weekend, Outcry. Led by androgynous frontman James who looked a little like the bastard offspring of Ziggy Stardust and Freddie Mercury, their set was melodic, catchy and accessible. I even managed to pick up on a couple of song titles I was so impressed, and have been tracking them down since I got home so I can pick up a copy of their current EP. The thing that really makes this band however is James’ incredible voice. He has both range and power, and has a bluesy style with a bit of a rasp to it – think Janis Joplin but over modern rock and you would be close to their sound. I loved them, and can’t wait to see them again!
This gave the next band a problem – how do you follow that? Well Modern Day Dukes certainly gave it a good go. This was their first gig – I think they had been called something else previously and maybe had a line-up change too. The music was quite primal and basic and they weren’t really to my taste but I was obviously in the minority as the rest of the crowd were loving them. They gained some brownie points back as the guitarist was wearing a Wildhearts tshirt (yes I am that shallow!) and finished off with a cover of Hanoi Rocks’ song “Taxi Driver” which they absolutely killed.
Next came the Midnight Dogs, a band I knew by reputation but hadn’t seen before. They are definitely a party band, rock with a touch of ska and a nod towards punk. The songs were catchy and easy to pick up on and sing along to. They reminded me of what we used to call RnB (before the term got hijacked in modern times) or pub rock back in the late 70s. Lots of fun, lots of laughs, good times.
The final afternoon band was Silverjet, another outfit who have recently undergone a line-up change and are now a trio. They played slower-paced rock with a commercial, almost country twang to it. The songs were catchy and the vocals were excellent, although they did go a bit Quo-ish towards the end of the set – I still can’t decide if this was a good or bad thing!
Another 45-minute break then ensued, which caused a bit of a problem. The Maze is a great little venue, but it’s a bit out of town and at 4.30pm on a Sunday afternoon there is literally nothing and nowhere to go for food. The places that are nearby are not open, the places that are open are not nearby. A takeaway was eventually found but of course it was found by everyone and the queue got quite long. The upshot was that by the time I got back to the Maze, I had managed to miss the Senton Bombs completely, damn. I’m told by a random chap I asked in the bar who had come with the Midnight Dogs that they “were really good, and owned the stage” but unfortunately can’t confirm this myself! I think it would make a huge difference next year if maybe a catering van of some description could be persuaded to come and park up within walking distance of the venue.
I didn’t miss the New Generation Superstars though. Well they are pretty hard to miss to be honest! Loud, brash and fun I really struggled to get a photo of them due to the press of the crowd near the stage. They play fast sleazy rock and they play it well. They also had a couple of dancers on stage (who I think are called Hell On High Heels) to add to the spectacle. For the final song JJ from the Main Grains joined them on guitar, AJ headed into the audience and they powered through a riotous version of Blitzkreig Bop. Irresistible.
I was really looking forward to the next band Estrella, who had travelled down from Scotland and are one of my favourites. You can tell what to expect straight away as you look at the audience, the front few rows are females as far as you can see…… This is because this band write big, bold anthems with happy singalong choruses, soaring guitars, danceable beats and fist-pumping lyrics. It may also be because they are a good-looking bunch of course! Anyhow the set started with Leo’s customary drum intro, scaled down a little for both time and stagesize purposes but still an impressive way to open the show. Much flying hair, standing on boxes and throwing shapes ensued as they ran through songs such as Let’s Do It (because where else in rock are you going to find someone slotting in a quick Showaddywaddy?), Whatever You Want, We Will Go On and finished with the totally brilliant Here I Am. A small technical hitch occurred when Luke broke a string and had to get his untuned spare guitar out, but he soon made up for it with a blistering virtuoso solo on the new axe! This chap certainly knows how to get a tune out of a guitar, whether that’s standing on stage, on his knees in the audience or playing with his teeth somewhere in between. Yes the moves are rehearsed, yes the songs are polished but that’s all part of the show and a damn fine show it is too. A quick picture with the crowd and they were gone, until next time of course.
The Idol Dead are a totally different kettle of fish. Just as polished in their own quirky way they hit the stage in a flurry of bright green and before you know it there is a party going on as they bring us their own brand of spiky rock. The front of the stage isn’t so much a mosh pit as a bounce pit and the band run through their ever-popular repertoire whilst swinging from the lights, having the crowd join in and basically turning the whole room into a seething sweaty dead-fest. These guys certainly know how to catch and hold an audience, and as they blitzed from song to song I have rarely seen such an involved response from those watching.
The weekend was closed by Cumbria’s Falling Red, another band who really know how to party. Old favourite songs were mixed with a couple of new ones from the album that they are about to head into the studio to record, and based on this performance it’s going to be a cracker. They always throw in a cover song and at the moment the choice is Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”. At first I thought this was an odd choice for them but they are really making it their own and it seemed to attract the attention and liking of some of the crowd who had been a little less responsive til that point. The set closed with old favourite “If You Ain’t Down With The Rock” with it’s callback chant of “You Can Fuck Right Off!” and we all thought that finally we could get out of the sweatbox and into cooler air.
But no, despite having performed their own set in a room that was rapidly beginning to resemble a furnace they went straight into a set of covers featuring guest singers from throughout the day, finishing with a rousing version of Rebel Yell ably belted out by Polly Phluid from The Idol Dead. Not sure how anyone else felt but I actually enjoyed this a little more than the previous night’s similar All-Stars set. More for the choice of songs than the calibre of the performance but there was also an end-of-term joyousness in the air that couldn’t help but make you smile.
So that was that for another year, aww. But I am pleased to be able to report that the weekend raised over £4000 in total for the charities involved, which is an amazing achievement. Next year’s festival is already in planning for 29th-30th April, bands have been announced and tickets are available – check out the facebook page for more information here but do it quick because it WILL sell out, and you really don’t want to miss out! I
It just remains to say thanks again to all the organisers and staff who worked so hard, all the bands and performers and all the punters who gave this event such a special intimate atmosphere. See you next year!