Another year and another sold out Rockwich Festival to review but this year we are at the Witton Albion Social Club, Northwich. It’s a very welcome change of venue and an acoustic evening of bands on Saturday preceded an electric day of thirteen bands in twelve hours today organized by Prometheus Promotions.
Proceedings got underway powerfully as Coventry based Black Star Bullet cleared away any early morning cobwebs with set opener ‘Storm’, a slide guitar drenched rocker backed by cowbell (“more cowbell”) and a raucous lead vocal from Trev Goddard. A switch of vocalists saw Andy Tite deliver ‘8.50am’ with an Alice Cooper like snarl followed by the gritty sleaze of ‘Starbreaker’. Other highlights were the laid back Southern rock blues of ‘Look It In The Eye’ that ended with a riff heavy outro and ‘Catch The Bus’ accelerated along faster than AC/DC’s ‘Rock N Roll Train’!
A fair trek from South Wales based The Autumn Killers play only their second gig with this hefty six song set. A new band to me who had the odds stacked against them as they were down a guitarist but the trio rose above it as opener ‘Mother Of The Monkeys’ was muscular alt rock and that vibe continued with the edgy (The Edge) guitar lines of ‘Wait A Minute’. A rocking cover of ‘Cruel Summer’ was dedicated by frontman Robert Phillip John Reece to “Theresa May and Boris Johnson”. My set highlight was ‘Rise’ which hit hard like On Parole era Motorhead and they ended with the tour de force vocal of their debut single ‘When Angels Lie’.
I’ve seen Sister Rose many times and they always rise to the occasion. The four cheeky chappies from Ramsbottom claim that “If you invite us to your party, we’ll drink all your beer and eat all your vol au vents”! Their seven song set featured heavily off latest album No Cause For Distraction with five played from it. They took no prisoners from the off with ‘Seven’ but strangely enough today after all the times I’ve heard it, I was hearing touches of ‘Green Manalishi’ in the hooks. Lead vocalist Chris Berry showed his prowess during the heavy riffing from Craig ‘Clanger’ Fearnley during ‘Long Dark Days’ and he held some long notes with aplomb on the chugging ‘World Stops Turning’ but he turned into a banshee for set closer ‘Bullet’ that preceded ‘Lost My Soul’, their heaviest song of the day so far.
Takeaway Thieves destroyed Rockwich today with their nuclear powered fueled set and it was Neil Hunter’s, their rhythm guitarists 50th birthday today . Every band member is a spotlight stealer, especially the feather headbanded Peter McLoughlin and bass player Adam Hall who seemed intent on going through the roof of the venue! ‘I Wish You Were Dead’ was a vitriolic opener and they eased us back into our seats with the poptastic suss of ‘Stardust’. A brand new song ‘Snakes And Daggers’ was a full on freak out as the power packed power ballad ‘Stranger In This Town’ saw a fretboard burning solo from Ben Gibson. A foot to the floor delivery and lung stripping vocals saw ‘Hot Cat’ up the ante and they kept the bit between their teeth for a race to the finish line sprint for ‘Slippin N Slidin’. Of course the final song and my set highlight was the aptly titled ‘This Is Rock And Roll’, nicely dedicated to “Steve and Katie Rox”.
I saw The Howling Tides play an impressive acoustic set at Rockwich last year so today it was time for them to rock out! The Uttoxeter quartet opened with ‘Cut Your Losses’ that saw the rich, bluesy vocals from Rob Baynes hug everyone in the venue. Musical earworms flew through ‘Running Blind’ and the sultry blues of ‘Thalia’ smoked so much, it could of set off the fire alarms as it heavied up with a blazing guitar solo from Hayden Kirk. ‘Cheap Painkiller’ was all hypnotizing grooves as a Layne Staley like croon dominated ‘Blue Moon’ as set closer ‘He Told Me’ had more hooks than a fishing tackle shop.
Dublin based Samarkind not only blew Stonedeaf Festival away yesterday, they decided to do the same thing at Rockwich today. Their raunchy blues shook the room as the stratospheric vocals of David Paul Byrne surprisingly didn’t shatter any glasses. The mans vocal range was beyond compare as he raged for six gripping songs. Opener ‘Black Rain’ was almost heavy rockabilly with the vocals taking it off the scale. Guitar heroics from Michael Kulbaka throughout the swamp grass grooves drove along ‘Sun Stroke My Heart’ and ‘Skinny Rivers’ had a lengthy musical free for all throughout with a neat Gillan/Blackmore like trade off midway. A good old fashioned wail from David dominated ‘Thru That Door’ as ‘Good Man Call’ was my set highlight as an emotional rollercoaster ride of a vocal was utterly compelling with a blink and you’ll miss it piece of ‘Child In Time’ in the outro. They ended with the Doors like freak out of ‘Fire And Blood’ with a few bars of ‘Heaven And Hell’ thrown in for good measure.
Guaranteed festival party starters Theia stepped up, fronted by the Duracell bunny energy of Kyle Lamley and his father Keith was throwing a few shapes in the crowd to! Set opener ‘Just Go’ was aptly titled as they tore into mountain moving riffing, followed just as tough by ‘Paper The House’. ‘Signed, Sealed, Cemented’ blasted out with a riff so dirty it really needed a shower. ‘Some Days’ was a full on headbanger way back from their debut album and this was turning out to be the heaviest set I’ve seen them play as ‘Throw Me A Bone’ was a bottom heavy floor shaker. Their set, as always could only end on one song as they raised the roof with the feel good rock and roll of ‘WDFD’!
Another lengthy trek came from West Lothian trio The King Lot fronted by the ever smiling Jason Sweeney. Their bouncy set featured heavily on latest album A World Without Evil. ‘We Stand Together’ hit hard, all melody with muscle, it was a powerful opener and an early highlight was the stone cold classic ‘As They Burn’ featuring some hefty drumming from CK Gillon. ‘All I Want’ had choruses to die for, as did ‘Damaged Girls’. The title track of the new album was a sure fire crowd pleaser and ‘One Of These Days’ was so AORtastic, they could have been the Scottish answer to Cheap Trick! Their heaviest opus today came courteous of ‘Hearts On Fire’ that raised the temperature of an already sweltering venue.
It was time for a change of pace as Manchester based Gorilla Riot delivered the blues via the silky vocals from the barefooted Arjun Bhishma. Set opener ‘Kerosene Blues’ smouldered sedately as the grooves of ‘Most Wanted’ kept to that pace. Other spotlight stealers were ‘Ain’t No Use Being Good’ as it brought some sultry, upbeat funk to the table. The set started to flex its muscles as ‘Last Hymn’ was a lengthy epic with the main riff being hammered out in a stoner vibe. ‘Beat Your Bite’ was country tinged hard rock and they closed with the hypnotic rhythms and throaty growled vocals of ‘Dirty’ as their three guitar line up came into effect here.
Girl power came to Rockwich with the punk tinged rock of Tequila Mockingbyrd, fronted by the lean mean rock and roll machine Gill Montgomery. A go for the throat start saw ‘Money Tree’ blaze a fiery trail as ‘Never Go Home’ brought to mind a grittier The Runaways. Other trailblazers included the bright and breezy power pop of ‘Enjoy The Ride’ with added guitar overload midway. ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’ was a sheer adrenaline rush and the stage seemed to rise due to the drum assault from Josie O’ Toole (playing her first set of the day) throughout ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’. ‘Jagerbomb’ was a raucous thrashout, as was the 100% no bullshit thrashout of ‘Everything I Learned, I Learned From Rock And Roll’. ‘Good Time’ lived up to its title with big choruses and hook laden riffing and they just about to managed to squeeze their anthem ‘I Smell Like Rock And Roll’ in their allotted forty furious minutes.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Leicester based Skam and their set today was like reuniting with an old friend. ‘Bring The Rain’ hit hard, all bass guitar bombast from Matt Gilmore, biting riffs from frontman Steve Hill and kit smashing drums from Neal Hill. That heaviness popped up again during the wrecking ball dynamics of ‘The Wire’. Brand new track ‘Wake Up’ hit harder than a pub car park fight, matched in ferocity by the over the top charge of ‘Take It Or Leave It’. The aggressive tones of ‘Holy City’, introduced as “An oldie but goldie” and they came to a crushing end with the pounding ‘No Lies’.
This was to be my first time seeing Massive and they certainly lived up to their name, coming over like a thunderous, hairier Rose Tattoo! Fronted by the ball of energy Brad Marr who opened up with “We’re from Melbourne, Australia and we play rock and roll”. The band walk it like they talk it and pulled no punches with their nine song set played at eleven volume! So what do you expect from an Aussie band? Riffs of course and if we wanted riffs, we got em as ‘Long Time Coming’ flew by. ‘Lacey’ was a shit kicking hoedown and ‘Bring Down The City’ was sheer lowdown barroom boogie. At this point it was time to stop taking notes and just lap up the music until they closed with the knockout punches from foot to the floor turbochargers ‘One By One’ and ‘Ghost’. The spirit of rock and roll came today from Tequila Mockingbyrd drummer Josie O’ Toole who played drums for Massive, learning the set in only a few hours!
Final band from an exhausting day were Cannock trio Wolf Jaw, fronted by my guitar hero of the day, Tom Leighton. They certainly put the power in power trio with Dale Tonks on bass guitar and Karl Selickis on drums. They tore into opener ‘Thunder Child’ all kicking, howling and screaming like early Wolfmother and a monstrous ‘I Ain’t Ready’ opened up tired eyes. These wolves certainly howled in ‘Hear Me’. Seismic is the only way to describe ‘I Lose My Mind’. When the band locked in during ‘Secrets’, it’s a force of nature. ‘Piece Of Me’ was one of three newies played which boded well for an upcoming album as ‘Let’s Misbehave’ was the closest they got to a ballad but it was still a skullcrusher. ‘Can You Feel It’ had a heart wrenching lead vocal and the second new song ‘The Fighter’ had a main riff that draws you in from the off and doesn’t let go. ‘Lions Blood’ was a full on facemelter, the pride of their set (every pun intended). ‘Beast’ was the last new one, introduced by Tom as “The heaviest song we’ve ever wrote” and it proved that point with a vitriolic vocal and a barrage of riffing and they closed with ‘City Lights’, one last dose of aural battery!
This was to be my most enjoyable Rockwich so far and it’s thrown down the gauntlet for 2020! Special thanks go to Richard Ross from Thunderbolt Photography for the use of his live pics.