Words and Pictures Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
Another festival, that, thanks to glut of bands being available because, well, “no gigs for 18 months”, has expanded from a Version 1.0 single-day affair to a full Version 2.5 running from Friday to Sunday. The Friday night warm up saw Cats in Space headline an evening of great acts including personal favourites Daxx & Roxane alongside The City Kids, Bastette, Liberty Lies and The Outlaw Orchestra, the latter of which seems to be making somewhat of a name in the country and southern rock circles.
Saturday September 11th
Our weekend (or mine at least) began on the Saturday morning with a 4-odd hour drive up the A1 from Kent to Sheffield. My accommodation for the weekend was to be a little pub near the venue itself called the ‘Noose and Gibbet’. It’s one of those ‘olde worlde’ atmosphere pubs, but this one has real history to it, with beams dating back to the 1700s… and tales relating to the infamous Spence Broughton, who was hanged for his part in the robbery of a mail boy who was delivering mail locally. The execution took place just a few yards from the pub, via a ‘noose’ and then his body was placed on a ‘gibbet’ for all to see! Lovely eh? Who says we don’t have some fascinating history to go hand in hand with a family orientated rock festival?
To the matter in hand however. With so many bands and so little time afforded to us, the Saturday line up began just before I arrived with Lowdrive getting things warmed up for the eager crowd in the fresh morning sun. Shortly after they had played, my first band of the weekend commenced with the new line up of JoanOvArc taking to the stage. With Ellie Daymond on drums and Keira Kenworthy on bass now joining mainstay lead guitarist Shelley Walker, the biggest change was the introduction of Hazel Jade Rogers as the new lead vocalist, replacing Laura Ozholl front and centre.
The new line up works well, Rogers is clearly comfortable in the driving seat and her tight leather outfit, accentuated with a pair of wicked coloured sunglasses gave the band a snappy look and edge. Kudos as ever to Ellie who drums like the Muppets’ Animal on speed!
One neat touch at the festival which saw bands like Firegarden play on the Steel City Stage whilst the main Mikey Lawless (the bass player from Falling Red who sadly lost his battle with cancer in January 2020) Stage was prepped for the next act. Firegarden were good fun but serious questions have to be asked about their bassist’s dodgy footwear!
Back on the mainstage, a band looking to make the jump to the next level, Florence Black ticked all of the right boxes with a solid performance that ably supports the release of their debut album (that seems to have taken an age to arrive) Weight Of The World. At times it has felt a though the band were truly carrying the weight of the world on their backs as the struggle to get this album out has definitely felt like a case of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’. It is however here and now the weight has been lifted and the world is a better place for it. One to watch in 2021 and beyond.
For the first time, despite multiple opportunities to see them previously, I finally get to write about Empyre. “You need to watch them”, “you missed them again !?!”, “you don’t know what you’re missing” and so on from so many. Well calm yourselves folks because having seen them I can safely say I’m hanging my head in shame. A great show and a front man that reminds me very much of Richard Ashcroft. Henrik Steenholdt has got that pure rock star cool vibe going on when he’s onstage and he also knows he looks and sounds good, as do the rest of the band. Dark and moody and a great mid afternoon set to mix things up a bit.
The afternoon continued with a stunning set from Hell’s Addiction, definitely providing a highlight of the day for me with yet again another energetic front man in the shape of Ben Sargent helping the band push up and away from the many, many generic and faceless bands that are spread thickly over the road like black ice in winter. You don’t want to come across them but sometimes you have no choice but to carefully navigate to get past the spot before reaching the correct destination and that destination is Hell’s Addiction.
With Bad Touch and Gin Annie reminding us just why they constantly sit high on festival bills, their music being slick, loud, engaging and the sort of thing to keep the most ardent festival goer happy whatever the weather, it fell to the little-known Shanghai Treason on the Steel City Stage to provide the most unexpected highlight of the day, if not the entire weekend.
Shanghai Treason, a Celtic Punk inspired band from Sheffield/Barnsley, haven’t been playing together long, even less when you factor in Coivid. Somehow, they managed to bag a support slot for Buzzcocks in Manchester, put out some original music of their own and the end result is \ was nothing short of spectacular.
The music is energetic shambolic Celtic pop punk, very much in the style of Dropkick Murphys or Ferocious Dog. Sam Christie is a born frontman and oozes the style and charm that’s absolutely required for a band like Shanghai Treason. Guitars, bass, drums, banjo, accordion, it all got used during the short (way too short) set from the band but they did what they set out to do and convince everyone in the packed tent that they needed to see the band again to truly experience Shanghai Treason in all their glory. Band of the weekend and no mistake!
Festival Photo Gallery
Having grinned my way through Shanghai Treason and thoroughly enjoyed the ever-reliable Gin Annie and Bad Touch, all that remained was for the Queen of Metal, Doro Pesch to arrive and preside over the strong audience of rockers.
An interesting choice when looking at the lower acts on the bill as Doro definitely ticks the ‘metal’ box, hence the moniker she’s carried for the past few decades. The rest of the bill, more hard and classic rock than a metal line up so the question was ‘would it work?’
In part yes. There’s no doubting that most of the tracks in a Doro set-list are stone cold metal classics. I personally had a blast, jumping and singing along to ‘East Meets West’, ‘I Rule The Ruins’, ‘All For Metal’ and of course the classic, that she could play a dozen times in succession and I’d still go home happy, ‘All We Are’. Others next to me, muttered about how it just wasn’t doing anything for them and how they’d be off before the end of the set.
Well, they missed out. The encore included a special guest appearance from Saxon’s Paul Quinn. Then it got a bit surreal. We have on stage a German metal legend, a member of one of Britain’s greatest metal bands in Saxon who then decided to play a cover of…. Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking The Law’. Doro + Saxon = Priest…. Go figure.
Still… I’m not complaining, the version Doro did with Udo Dirkschneider is a blinder as well and this version set the night on fire as well.
As Doro finished and I returned to the pub with a gibbet hanging outside to remind us that highway robbery is a bad thing (Motorway Service Stations take note please!) preparations began for the next and final day of the festival.
Our review of Pt 2 is here: