Sunday openers at SOS Festival were Hells Addiction, another band that have recently come up on my radar under the “one to watch” banner. Catchy classic rock with a big twin guitar sound and some fine vocals in the style of a Gillan or Plant give this band a growing reputation which is well-deserved. New album “Broken” featured heavily in the set and is available from the band now. Standout song for me was one called “Alcohol” – the camera and notepad got put away and I had to have a little bounce along to it. Good stuff.
They were followed by Promethium, another trad metal band in the vein of early Maiden with a couple of songs vying for prog status just in terms of the length of them. They weren’t bad at all, and went down well with the crowd.
First up on the acoustic stage today was Kye Jones, a dreadlocked earnest type singing protest songs which sounds a bit right-on and dull but was actually very entertaining and showed a lot of talent. Turns out he is from my home town too, who knew?
Back to the main stage and we had Diggeth, another Dutch band. They are a power trio who play heavy blues with low-down buzzy fuzzy notes. Quite hard to pigeonhole or compare but they sounded OK to me. Seems they were a bit marmite, I spoke to some people there who really loved them and some who let’s say weren’t so keen!
Harriet then took over the acoustic stage for a couple of sets. She is from Derby and has a look of Stevie Nicks about her (I bet she’s sick of hearing that one) and a strong, powerful voice that still manages to have a touch of wistfulness about it. She played both original songs and covers, and I was impressed enough to add her EP to my growing collection from the weekend too.
Gang were next on the main stage, a French band whose singer wore a rather awful Hawaiian shirt in apparent homage to SOS and Rocksector mainstay Mark Appleton. They are another trad metal band that could easily fall under the NWOBHM banner – apart for them not being British of course! When they first came on I confess I was a bit bored, and was thinking “oh no not another band of Priestalikes playing metal-by-numbers” but as the set went on I warmed to them. Their songs were well put together and by the time they went off (after a little dancing to the muppet show theme, erm….) I was more kind of thinking “actually you can’t have too much metal and this is OK, it really is.”
After another set from Harriet where she aced her own version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” we had Twisted Illusion on the main stage. I remember seeing them here last year, and writing in my review that I was impressed by their talent but oh boy they were so young. So them coming on to “The Young Ones” seemed rather apt! Anyway, since last year they have changed drummers, lost one guitarist but gained two to replace him and discovered that the bass player can sing too so now a 6-piece featuring drums, bass, keyboards and no less than 3 guitars their sound is rich and full and veers in a strong prog direction, reminding me of early Rush in places. There are lots of fiddly time changes, the vocals feature both harmonies and counterpoint and the overall impression is of a polish and professionalism that belies how young they still actually are. This is definitely a band to watch, if they continue to develop and improve as much as they have in the last 12 months I can see a bright musical future ahead for them.
Over on the acoustic stage we then had Asylum City Zoo, a band I hadn’t heard of before who did an outstanding version of Slipknot’s “Snuff” as well as some of their own songs. I suspect from looking at them that their usual sound is pretty far removed from what we saw today but based on this performance and their second set that included a cover of Alice In Chains’ “Rooster” it seems I am beginning to develop a strong liking for very intense metal done acoustically.
In my notes about Control The Storm I have jotted down that I don’t know anything about them but they sound continental. I am now hanging my head in shame as a quick google reveals that they are from Bristol! Another female fronted band but not quite so operatic, just melodic fast singalong metal that reminds me of Amaranthe. Turns out the band have only really been together in their current format for a couple of weeks yet despite this they gave a comfortable performance and worked well on stage, apart from when singer Soheila broke her shoes! This is another band whose songs fit the description epic and although I couldn’t make out the lyrics I suspect there may have been a wizard or two in there and I’m sure it was a bad weekend to be a dragon in Prestwich because of the risk of slaying!
They were followed on the main stage by one of my current favourite bands on the live circuit, Bigfoot. My review of them will also be more of a puff-piece than a documentary as for the majority I was down at the front dancing and singing along like a good’un. This is because Bigfoot have a clutch of well-crafted catchy rock songs to their name, and they take full advantage of their writing talent to get out and have a damn good time on stage. Vocalist Ant is a powerhouse, bouncing about all over the place as he belts out the words, guitarist Mick got the “cool as” points for managing to have a fan on stage strategically positioned to blow back his hair, other guitarist Sam glares and gurns at the crowd and throws some lovely shapes, bass player Matt is also in bounce mode and the whole thing is somehow kept together by a strong beat from drummer Tom. They drew the biggest crowd of the weekend so far, who gave them a well-deserved and rapturous reception. They have recently signed a deal with Frontiers records and will be starting work on their first full album very soon. Watch this space, as their name suggests I suspect it’s going to be a monster! There was some strong competition this year but for me I think Bigfoot get the Band of The Weekend award.
So how do you follow Bigfoot? Well in the immortal words of Monty Python “and now for something completely different”; that something being the pop-punk jollity provided by the Idol Dead. This is a band who are brash and in your face whilst still managing to entertain, you find yourself singing along to the choruses and punching the air without ever meaning to and somehow when it’s all over you just feel ever so slightly happier than you did before. Joined on stage for set closer I.D.O.L by one of their youngest fans Shea Quinn they managed to make everyone smile and to be honest making people smile is what they do best.
For a change of pace, over on the acoustic stage we then had vocalist Gemma Fox who may be known to some of you as the singer with Collibus. She has a powerful voice with good range and again some interesting original songs to share that work well stripped down to just her and a guitar.
Back on the main stage Massive Wagons hit the stage at a run with their last single “Tokyo”, taken from the recently released album “Welcome to The World”. Wagons are another high-energy band who go balls-out to entertain you. Once they get started they just don’t stop, the stage and the audience is a mass of flying hair and sweat and they are one of those bands where you don’t just feel like you are watching the gig, it’s more like being part of an experience. Lauren “The Rock Fairy” Hutchinson joined them on stage to help with the vocals on “Shit Sweat Death”, another fast-paced stormer from the recent album, and the songs just kept on hitting you until suddenly it was “Red Dress” with its AC/DC rhythm and “Fee Fi Fo Fum” with its chirpy chorus and it was all over too soon. Awesome set from an awesome band, I wasn’t sure how anyone could follow that either to be honest.
So the set from Chris and Luke Appleton over on the acoustic stage was actually a bit of a relief, being slower-paced and more melodic. These are two brothers from Manchester who appear to be able to share a stage without hating each other, and they work very well together although the genial Belgian Wiz Wizzard who often plays with them but is unfortunately very ill at the moment was much missed. Get well soon Wizz we are all rooting for you! They opened with Absolva’s “Never A Good Day To Die.” I actually preferred it to the full metal version I’d seen on Friday night. I know, I know…… Vocals were shared, with Luke taking the lead on a couple of songs from his band Iced Earth, and they did a very good cover of Sabbath’s “Children of The Sea”. As I mentioned earlier, not everyone can carry off a song made famous by the late, great Ronnie James Dio but Chris did a fine job of it whilst also managing to play some pretty complicated guitar licks for us. Just to prove that I’m completely wrong about the Dio thing Luke then took over vocals again for Dio’s “Last In Line” and again managed to do a fine job of it. A couple of songs from Chris’s recent solo acoustic album, a couple more Absolva ones and a rousing singalong of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” followed, then finally the Appletons were joined on stage by Gemma Fox for a slow and soulful version of Ozzy’s “Mama I’m Coming Home” to the delight of the crowd.
Knock Out Kaine are another favourite of mine but for personal reasons they are due to take a bit of time out shortly so this was to be one of their last live performances before their break. They therefore decided to do something a bit special and played the whole of last year’s “Rise Of The Electric Jester” album from start to finish, something they had never done before. They opened therefore with their usual swagger and style and “16 Grams of Heart Attack”, with frontman Dean Foxx pouting and posing to the max and the rest of the band trying their hardest to match him in energy, and proceeded to run through the whole album, including a couple of songs (“Diamond Blue” being one) that they had never played before. They always put on a good show but as the set went on I noticed that the crowd was visibly thinning again. I wonder if it was a transport issue and people were rushing out for the last tram? Anyway, whatever the reason Dean is a bit of an applause vampire and as the numbers reduced he seemed to lose some of his former sparkle. I don’t know, maybe it was just me, maybe it was a symptom of their upcoming hiatus, maybe it was the lack of crowd feedback but I have seen KOK put in some killer live performances and while this one wasn’t bad by any means I was a little disappointed. Once the album had been played they went on to do an old favourite “One More For The Road” which has a riff that I adore, their now standard cover of “Copperhead Road” and then another oldie “Time After Time”, finishing with the title track from their recent EP “Cruel Britannia”.
So that was it, SOS Festival was over for another year. After 3 solid days I was a bit rocked out but I’d seen some fantastic performances and although not all the music was to my taste there wasn’t a single “bad” band on the bill. Sterling effort as usual from Lynne, Mark and the rest of their crew and I’m already looking forward to next year. See you there?