Words by Francijn Suermondt / Photos (c) Erik De’Viking
There is nothing quite like whipping yourself into a mix of excitement and nervousness when getting ready to interview a member of a band you have listened to and loved for 30 years. Tesla were part of my teenage dirt-bag years, definitely part of the track to my courtship with my now husband and prevalent through the rest of my life to date, all the good times, bad times and times that have been VERY rock n roll indeed, have always had the boys from Sacramento playing in the background alongside Motley Crue and Poison.
After just having dried off from playing a muddy Download Festival two days before, Tesla were in the UK to ensure that all of their die-hard fans could hear some of their new ‘Shock’ album live, alongside their classics of course. They were also in London to play a secret gig in probably the most famous recording studio in the world, but to find out more on that you will have to read my interview with Frank Hannon!
support act ‘Flashfires’ have a very charismatic front man in the shape of Alex
Gonzato who reminded me of a sort of Michael Hutchence with a soupcon of Mark
Slaughter thrown in for good measure. The
band obviously have exceptional talent in writing great rock songs and stands
outs for me was ‘Circus Boy’ and the beautiful ‘Champagne On Mars’. A super set from the boys really set the
stage for the next support of ‘Wayward Sons’
of Toby Jepson and his gang of long-haired rockers ‘Wayward Sons’, all I can
say is I nearly choked on my coke when they came bounding on to the stage and
blasted us with ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ …WOWZER!
Rock n roll really is alive and kicking! The boys on the stage were obviously having
the time of their life and in return the crowd dutifully shook their hair and
wiggled their booties. With nine kick ass tunes played, each as uplifting and
magnificently executed as the last, Wayward Sons are mesmerising to watch and a
treat for any rockers ears. As soon as I
got back to my hotel I downloaded their album ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’ …. rather
shamed faced that I hadn’t done so when it was released in 2017! Can’t wait for what you have next for us …..
bring it on!
who has been to a gig that I have review with me and they will tell you, I
always scribble notes in a little pad in between having a little boogie. But
this is the FIRST time my notebook was made redundant. Not because I had
nothing to say, but I was too enthralled with watching the Californian kings of
down to earth hard rock ‘Tesla’ ramp it up right from the get go. Helping me to bring back memories and providing
plenty of new ones, this night was fast becoming one to remember. I had listened to ‘Shock’ recently, before
interviewing Dave Rude a couple of months ago and couldn’t wait to hear the new
tracks live and I was not disappointed.
the superb ‘Tied To The Tracks’ from ‘Shock’ the boys from Sacramento bounded
on to the stage to the cheering of the crowd, one of my favourites from the
album, this has a classic 70’s rock feel and is the perfect start to what was
to become the perfect set!
energy of Steven Tyler and the swinging hips of Mick Jagger, lead singer Jeff
Keith has always been the ultimate rock front man and tonight his beaming white
smile said it all as he sang with his trademark throaty vocals through new
offerings and classics such as ‘Modern Day Cowboy’, ‘Changes’ and, what I have
always felt to be the ultimate girl power song, ‘Little Suzi’.
and his mentor Frank Hannon, were blissfully bouncing off each other, in that
special way that only they know how, bringing guitar licks a plenty to those
songs well known and the Tesla trademark to those newer tracks from
‘Shock’. Plus, as they had been to
recently to ‘the most famous recording studio in the world ….. read my
interview’, there was the lovely touch of the boys playing a cover of
and Troy Luccketta, as always were the back bone and drive to this set with
pounding drumbeats from Troy and the grooving bass from Brian. From goose
bumps a plenty with the always gorgeous ‘Love Song’ to the superbly written and
executed new tracks such as ‘Taste Like’ from the new album, the boys were
clever in the mixing of much-loved classics and new treats.
fans the one question they would like to ask Tesla, the most common one by far
was ‘Why don’t you play in the UK more often?’ After experiencing this
wonderful evening I would like to echo that sentiment, we miss you and we want
to see more of you!!
rock fraternity just great! Any gig or
interview I am lucky enough to do I simply love because I adore rock n roll,
but because I am usually WAY over excited, I chatter and dance away and always
meet some incredibly nice and kind people….so to all of those at the gig who I
met, Tesla, the Duff Press team, the 02 staff and all the rockers that put up
with me, thank you and I hope to see you again one day!
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you must have become aware of the sensation that is The |Hu who went viral earlier this year through a Facebook post declaring ‘Mongolian Metal Music is incredible’. Since then they seem to have skyrocketed and are now on a UK tour which we were lucky enough to be able to catch at the very packed Underworld in Camden on Tuesday night.
We arrived early and decided to pop into The World’s End pub for a quick pint and that was a mistake. By the time we came out, there was already a large queue formed tailing around the venue all patiently waiting in the rain to be let in. Once we were in there and the crowd bulked out, it was amazing to see the kind of diverse fans this band had managed to pull into this tiny venue. There were old metalheads, bikers, young rockers, office bods and, not surprisingly, a large turnout from what appeared to be the Mongolian community wearing freshly purchased Hu tops.
I will have to mention the support because they had foregone booking a band and instead we had a DJ playing a full two hour set while we all waited patiently for The Hu to appear. Now we were lucky that in this instance, we had DJ Alex Milas, ex Editor-in-Chief for Metal Hammer playing tracks and to his credit, it was a very broad mix of some brilliant rock tracks but…when you are going to a gig, you expect live music. Standing around for two hours in front of an empty stage even with such good music playing is a bit of a stretch and I may have been yawning after about half an hour.
The Hu came onto the stage to huge cheers and whoops from all of us and wow they pack out the stage, not only do they have their four members there but they also have an additional four people on stage ranging from a modern day drum kit to traditional drums and electric guitars. The sound they bang out with this is incredible and well worth all those extra people to see.
Now we have only been introduced to three tracks by this band so far and thankfully they did not disappoint as the very first track played was ‘Shoog Shoog’ which has recently been released and is doing the rounds. They hardly needed to encourage the crowd to begin chanting Shoog Shoog and singing along with the chorus. Basically you think they sound great on the video? Try them live! You can feel this song bursting through you and the crowd bounced along to this very dance-able track. Special mention has to go to Jaya who is one of the throat singers and plays woodwind and Jew’s Harp as he really does act like a rock star and who managed to get the audience going and chanting throughout the set even with his limited English.
I think that I however, was here because I was desperate to hear what else they could do and if they would stand up to the hype? They have their debut album coming out in September and everyone is waiting to hear what the next song will be and if they are as good as they seem to promise.
I was not disappointed. They played a track called ‘The Same’ which with Jaya playing his woodwind gave an element of the Wild West their throat singing gives this such a different feel to all those screaming and/or singing you get with so many other bands nowadays. It is different, yes but it blends into the songs so completely and still gives out that deep power that you get from other vocalists belting out their songs loudly. This song is slow with that intense drumming from both of the guys at the back but it builds up with Gala and Jaya vocalising their lyrics together as a duo. The beat is what gets me but this is so clever – so many different levels and I can not emphasise enough how phenomenal they are live.
They may not be leaping all over the stage and throwing shapes (though maybe give Jaya a month or two and I think he could be jumping off the amps with ease) but they don’t need to. This is a band who can let their music speak for themselves – you don’t get bored, you just get drawn in more and more as they play each song.
So what is the final outcome of finally seeing The Hu live and hearing the songs that will be appearing on their forthcoming album? Buy it, steal it, borrow it and forget to give it back (then buy it of course) but just get your hands on it.
All the songs, one after the other are wonderfully written tracks that showcase an immense talent these guys have. Forget the fact they are Mongolian as yes, this is an integral part of who they are and their culture does show through but these songs are excellent on their own. It shows in their performance where they don’t need that showmanship to entertain the crowd – you can tell by how packed the venue was and how much people were cheering and chanting Hu Hu Hu (Jaya helped with this). They just need their music.
They are going to go big so try and catch them in these smaller venues while you can – I am glad I did!
Check out our recent interview and feature when the band performed an exclusive showcase at the Embassy of Mongolia to the UK in London:
Shoog Shoog The Same The Gereg The Song of Women The Legend of Mother Swan Uchirtal gurav Shireg Shireg Bli Biyley Yuve Yuve Yu Wolf Totem The Great Chinggis Khaan Black Thunder This is the Mongol
Debut album Gereg is available to pre-order now HERE:
Tonight, in the Voodoo Lounge, brings the highly anticipated Irish debut show for one of the most talked about bands in metal right now. Alien Weaponry, a 3-piece thrash metal outfit from Waipu, New Zealand touring their debut album ‘Tū’, have brought their blend of native Māori Te Reo lyrics mixed with a groove metal that packs some serious punch. DME Promotions have also provided two unbelievable Irish bands for support in Words That Burn and Dead Label so it’s gearing up to be a great night of metal.
Dundalk’s Words That Burn open up proceedings, having just recently released their new album ‘Pyres’, fusing rock and melodic metal together into an Irish rock and metal charts number 1 album. The whole set is dedicated to the albumand they open with A Mortal Call, a track that just keeps building in intensity with splashes of Machine Head and Slipknot. The synths at the start of Whitesmoke give it a bit of a †††(Crosses) feel before kicking back into the heavier spectrum. Fire In The Air, Deathgrip and Arise don’t let up and by the time they close out with Riptide those in the pit are well and truly warmed up. ‘Pyres’ is a cracking follow up to their debut album ‘Regret Is For The Dead’ and with a support slot for Beartooth coming up in The Academy shortly the momentum should just keep going and going.
Dead Label are further proof that the metal community in Ireland is providing some of the best in Europe right now. This is actually the first time I’m getting to catch them in their recently expanded guise of a four-piece as Mick Hynes, formerly of This Place Hell, has been recruited on guitar, adding an extra element to an already crushing sonic cocktail. Having previously supported the likes of Gojira, Machine Head and Fear Factory a lot is known of and expected from this set and they absolutely kill it. With Claire Percival on drums and Dan O’Grady on bass and vocals forming the backbone, Danny Hall and Mick Hynes can just let fly with auditory assault on guitars. The result leaves everyone in complete bafflement as to how Dead Label did not make it onto the bill of the recent Metallica show in Slane Castle. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet start with their new single Pure Chaos and work your way back through the albums ‘Throne of Bones’ and ‘Sense of Slaughter’ or vice versa, either which way you are in for a treat.
Following those two opening acts would be a gargantuan feat for most bands but such is the sense of confidence in the three teenagers of Alien Weaponry, the stage is theirs and they know it. Opening with a traditional haka, led by drummer Henry de Jong, to get themselves ready for the onslaught they segue perfectly into PC Bro warning of the pitfalls of social media with the refrain “Your life is a lie” getting the crowd chanting straight away. As Ethan Trembath and Lewis de Jong prowl the stage, with the bassist windmilling as if his life depends on it, they tear through their set with a track detailing having to deal with inner Rage, a song dedicated to a former teacher in Hypocrite and the misunderstandings between cultures and generations plaguing society in Urutaa. Chants of “Weaponry” fill the Voodoo Lounge, as and when the crowd can pause long enough for a breath, and even the brand-new track Blinded, alongside the latest single Ahi Kā, are greeted with rapturous enthusiasm which all bodes well for the next album. Next up is the track that properly shot them into the worldwide metal consciousness in Kai Tangata with the crowd trying their best to sing back to them in Māori, all the while conjuring up their own battle scene as bodies fly around the pit. Closing out the night with Raupatu, which has more than a nod to their inspirations in Lamb of God, and Rū Ana Te Whenua the band have proven to be worth the wait with a show that drew every ounce of energy from them and those in the pit. The Alien Weaponry Whānau is growing and there are exciting times ahead.
Check out our interview with the band in Dublin before the show here
Pictures (C): Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media & Krishan Singh
To go totally against what Morrissey believe, not everyday is like Sunday, not everyday is silent and grey. The exception to Morrissey’s viewpoint is the 2nd day at Camden Rocks 2019. The emphasis being 2nd day. Not only are we back in Camden on a Sunday but this is the first time the festival has extended over 2 days. This then is not your average Sunday. The weather is not grey but remains glorious and as for ‘silent’…. haha, come on, this is Camden Rocks, we’ve got another 200 bands playing…. so where to start??
[Krishan] After a good night’s sleep I was ready to take on Day 2 which starts at the Good Mixer with INDYA which to be honest is a new one on me.
[Adrian] – To view Natalie Indya West’s profile on Facebook, she beautifully summarises her style and approach to life as “Rock Musician & Songwriter in #Indya, Pink..Leopard..Sparkles..fluff..Glamour..heels & chaos”
That pretty much sums up the music, the show and the attitude this young woman brings to the stage. Bringing to the table new musicians as well, the band INDYA made short work of the crowd at The Good Mixer and thankfully I managed to avoid a guitar to the face this time.
[Krishan] The band, led by the amazing Natalie Indya West who is a really confident and intriguing performer, spent 30 minutes blasting out the songs with an impressive stage presence. The band is immaculate and it made for an enjoyable performance.
[Adrian] – if we’re going to showcase one song from the band, it has to be this one that sums up INDYA perfectly:
Next up were SWEET CRISIS. Sweet Crisis are amazing musicians who play a brand of blues rock that we don’t seem to hear anymore. Reminded me of early Black Crowes . The Blues have never sounded so good. Added to it were some real moments of pure ‘groove’. The sort of added extra that makes a band like Sweet Crisis really stand out and leave other blues musicians in their wake. Worryingly, they comment on the groove driven songs as ‘stuff we used to play’ which suggests they’ve moved closer to a complete blues outfit. My personal view [Adrian] is that the mix is what sets them apart. The world is too full of pure blues acts right now. Stand out from the crowd, keep mixing it up and give me those totally ‘groovy baby’ moments as they really work!
[Adrian] The Dr Marten’s Boot Room provided the venue for the next band. Never heard of them before but who can resist a band called Snak Dracula? A goodf call as well as the tunes, groove laden, slightly trippy, very unique come from a band that rarely get to perform together. Your support is needed to get these guys out on the road.
[Krishan]. Highly enjoyable set from Snak Dracula. Great energy and fun to watch . The band do not play together very often but you would not have realized that watching them. They were on point musically and had some really good songs. Very enjoyable.
[Krishan] Next up were JOANOVARC an all girl band with hard rock riffs and some cool songs . Never seen them before but found myself dancing and singing to their infectious songs.
[Adrian] putting a new line up out for the first time in front of the Camden crowd was a brave but ultimately successful move by the band. With an eponymous titled cracking new album out, the band have the sound, the attitude, the looks and oh boy… so much leather, to go the distance. They carry all of the swagger and grit of The Runaways and mix it with more than a little Suzi Quatro.
[Krishan] Next up a quick walk up the high street to the Electric Ballroom to see one of the bands that inspired my musical direction while I was growing up ” A”.Great set from A all the hits and had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Jason Perry is a great front man that keeps the crowd enthralled.
[Adrian] Normally Krishan and I agree on a lot. Especially where music is concerned as that’s how we first came to meet. ‘A’ are a band I loved when tracks like ‘Nothing’ and ‘Starbucks’ first came under the spotlight. I remember them being the band of the day when they supported Limp Bizkit at Finsbury Park several years ago. It’s great to see them back and performing again. They tour later in 2019 and I need to give them another go as this set at Camden Rocks just seemed to lack something. I can’t put my finger on it but something felt odd, amiss etc..
[Krishan]Next up Mad , Bad , Crazy but absolute fun from the highly charismatic Ryuketsu Blizzard .
[Adrian] After dipping a toe in the water yesterday, watching a full set from these mad bastards was an absolute must. There is no real way to describe the band , the music , the show other than “you had to be there”. Who else would imitate the actions involved in giving each of the band members a cavity search (up to the elbow) with the appropriate facial expressions from the recipients as if it was really happening? Who else would strip down to a mankini and be carried around the room on a giant cymbal by their band mates? Who else but RB might then crab walk back to the stage before continuing to play again?
What do they play? Punk rock at its best. No idea what they sing about but that’s probably bat-shit crazy as well. A definite highlight of the weekend.
[Krishan] Finally for me Need I say anymore but TOWERS OF LONDON absolutely killed it. Full of energy, charisma and fantastic Rock songs. Always great watching The Rev he really gives everything he has on stage. Highly entertaining . A highly enjoyable weekend already looking forward to 2020.
[Adrian] I make no secret of the amount of time I have for this band. Having spectacularly imploded after the release of the debut album, a decade later, fresher, wiser, inspired and making a movie called “F**K It Up” after the infamous song, the band put on a performance that others can only aspire to. The experience of what can and does go wrong in music has made them look at what works and they not present the good stuff and only the good stuff to the audiences. A packed crowd at Fest (venue) were up for it, the band were up for it, the end result… fantastique. A glass of celebratory beaujolais awaits.
[Adrian] With Krishan heading home thanks to work commitments the end of the festival fell to me and of the remaining acts ASH reminded me just why I fell in love with them in the 90s. An act that got me through the 90s when a lot of the music around at the time pushed me away, albums like ‘1977’ did everything to convince me to stick with it. ASH along with The Wildhearts, The Manic Street Preachers and others of their ilk were and still are what made music great in that era.
The Electric Ballroom proved to be the perfect venue for the band and although they have now gone back to the original 3 piece set up they started with, the energy with which they flew around the stage was like watching teenagers high on life.
Flagging somewhat after slogging my way around Camden for 2 days straight, the antidote to fatigue was FEROCIOUS DOG. Taking more than a slice from Levellers playbook, the band provided the necessary caffeine shots to re-energise everyone in the venue. At one point, with lead singer and guitarist Ken Bonsall standing on a bench at the side of the crowd playing whilst (I think) John Leonard went walkabout combined with a spot of crowd-surfing from the bar, the set was infectious, uplifting and just what was needed at 9pm at the end of a long weekend.
New album ‘Fake News and Propaganda’ is being taken on tour later this year. Check them out if you can.
And so to the last act (for me) of the day BIG BOY BLOATER & THE LIMITS.
A three piece blues act fronted by the man Jools Holland rates as the best blues musician in the country at the moment, the set and show is a little bit of blues, a little bit of rock and rock, a few drinks with your mates, a bit of cheeky banter and a whole lotta love both from band to crowd and back.
The perfect way to end the day, a heavier set than I’ve seen Bloat play for some time, less Chas n Dave and more crunchy riffs and it was just what the doctor ordered. As he drew to a close and I wandered home from Camden tired but upbeat, it was easy to take a moment to reflect on what organiser Chris McCormack has achieved over the last 10 years. From 40 bands and 4 venues on one day to 400 bands and 20+ venues over a full weekend, long may Camden Rocks continue. Full props to all of the staff and all of the techs who work the 20 odd venues for 12 hours straight on each day. A labour of love but ultimately rewarding and a huge success. It is without a doubt “THE” event for new music that can stand and shine alongside established favourites.
On a wet and blustery evening in Islington, London, the rock and metal faithful braved the weather to take part in a spectacular night of music. Not only was there a member of metal royalty in the house, but he brought his new super-group Deadland Ritual along with him for their UK debut.
The boys from Gin Annie opened a night that’ll go down in the musical history books. Putting on a headline performance, this band more than proved to the crowd why they were chosen to support Deadland Ritual on multiple dates. Premiering a new track, the band put on a rapid fire set that clearly recruited them a whole new legion of fans.
A very tight quintet, the lads from Wolverhampton have the swagger and attitude of a band fresh off the Sunset Strip in the late 80s, with a modern edge that is bound to appeal to rockers of all ages. Dave Foster has the stage presence of someone who’s been doing this all their life, and it’s clear the entire band is having fun on stage. As their set came to a close, the crowd were singing along loudly to ‘Born to Rock & Roll’, a rock anthem destined for the arenas. Great chemistry, presence, and talent. These guys are going to go far.
The Pete Way band were up next doing a number of classics including a number from his UFO days. The rather merry Way managed to belt out an ace performance despite it being one of the more eccentric performances of the night. Telling stories between songs, Way endeared himself to the crowd. Throughout the set, there was a lot of banter on stage between Pete and the band. Having managed to belt out a cracking cover of Zepp’s ‘Rock n Roll’, Way introduced the band and finished up with UFO’s ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’, which whipped the crowd up into a frenzy before the main event.
As the main event unfolded, Deadland Ritual took the stage in a shock of light and smoke and broke into Sabbath’s ‘Symptom of the Universe’, and their own track ‘Dimas’, before rounding up with ‘Neon Knights’. Geezer was in fine form, Steve Stevens was on point with the guitar, and Matt Sorum was on fire on the drums. The energetic front man had a lot to live up to fronting such a lineup, but he managed to pull it off.
Debuting a number of their own songs throughout the blistering and bombastic set, they also played through a number of covers from Black Sabbath, Velvet Revolver and Billy Idol. Some of the highlights of the set included ‘Slither’, ‘Sweet Leaf’, and ‘Rebel Yell’. The electrifying set also included solos by Steve Stevens and Geezer Butler, before the night was rounded out with ‘NIB’, ‘Down In Flames’, and finally ‘War Pigs’. As the night came to a close it was clear that Deadland Ritual are an incredibly tight and well put together band. Do yourself a favour and get out there and see this band as soon as you can!
Deadland Ritual Setlist
Symptom of the Universe (Black Sabbath cover)
Neon Knights (Black Sabbath cover)
City of Night
Slither (Velvet Revolver cover)
Fade and Disappear
Sweet Leaf (Black Sabbath cover)
Guitar Solo (Steve Stevens)
Rebel Yell (Billy Idol cover)
Broken and Bruised
Dead Before Sunrise
Bass Solo (Geezer Butler)
N.I.B. (Black Sabbath cover)
Down in Flames
War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
Erik De’Viking is a London based
freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its
forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover
and later preach about to the masses.
Pictures (C): Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media & Krishan Singh
10 years since Chris McCormack’s idea of putting on a local festival for local people, Camden Rocks has grown into something of a beast. 2019 saw some 400 bands play across 20 odd venues on both the Saturday and the Sunday with every genre imaginable catered for. A far cry away from 4 venues and around 40 bands in that first year.
Running up and down the strip really does deliver a buzz and whilst a lot of people may pick a venue and stick there, trawling through the bands in advance of the festival, finding some undiscovered wonder and tracking them down on the day to witness a memorable performance is what the festival is really about. So with pen, paper, cameras and a will to succeed we hauled around Camden for two days straight. Here are our views of Day 1.
[Adrian] Kick starting the day thanks to winning a well deserved fan vote saw COLLATERAL open proceedings at the Electric Ballroom. Truly the perfect band right now to get pulses racing and hearts pumping as well as any band 5 albums into their career with hundreds if not thousands of shows under their belt.
Collateral have done this with a handful of shows and a solitary 4 track e.p. to their name. Regularly playlisted on Planet Rock, the band effortlessly bring the sun, the shine and the energy not seen in a hard rock band for years. Instead of following the pack and trying to reproduce the classic rock vibe of the 70s, Collateral seek to remind us just what we are missing when Stadium Rock used to rule the roost. If ever a band have a chance to be the next Bon Jovi, it’s these guys. I could have gone home happy by the end of their set but I figured I should hang on for Krishan and see what else we could listen to instead…
[Krishan] A beautiful Saturday morning its 3am and I’m getting ready for work. Today is no ordinary Saturday later I’ll be in Camden for the annual Camden rocks festival.
[Krishan] The Sun is shining as I get off at Camden Underground Station and after getting my wristband we are off to the Underworld to see MUTANT MONSTER an all female Japanese Rock band. The band a three piece are energetic and charismatic as they blast out some really catchy songs that have the crowd singing along too. It may not be in English but they did seem to have the audience in the palm of their hands. What a great start. I can only hope that the day continues in this vein.
[Adrian] With a top recommendation from MGM colleague TG, we’re off to the Camden Assembly to take in a band that comfortably straddles hard rock, punk and pop. Think a modern Blondie, Runaways and maybe a dash of Slade thrown in for good measure.
[Krishan] Next it’s a sprint to the Camden Assembly to see BEXATRON led by Rebbecca Bex who are a four piece band from London. They blast onto the stage full of the Glam bluster of the 70s. Rebecca moves around the stage and stares longingly into every camera lens pointing at her. A great set of high octane Rock swagger. Highly enjoyable and full of Rock bravado.
Next it’s back to the Underworld to catch the highlight act of the weekend for me GINGER WILDHEART but first we capture the end of the terrific MEN THAT WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR NOTHING. Reminds me of old London 18th century Jack the Ripper setting and the banter on stage is both funny and compelling which to be honest held my attention more then the actual songs.
[Adrian] It has to be said that TMWWNBBFN (such a pain to type out in full!) sit wholly in their own space. It’s as if modern music went and tapped into Victorian Britain and the end result is what we witnessed in the Underworld. Truly original, the band carry a large following with the crowd knowing the words to every song. Laughter, banter, the expectation that Bill Sykes might appear with Bullseye at any moment and you had the first “what did I just see?” moment of the weekend.
[Krishan] Ginger Wildheart pulled a massive bunch of flowers out of his hat by playing the new Wildhearts album in its entirety Acoustically to the absolute amazement of the whole audience. An incredible set that includes goosebumps and tears of joy on my part. Just incredible.
[Adrian] Yep, I cried… I don’t care, this was something else. A true ‘I was there moment’. And you know what….. I was there! If you missed this, kick yourself and then turn round and invite a close friend or relative to kick you up the tailpipe just for good measure. An album that’s only been out a matter of weeks, played in full by the musician who openly admitted he wanted to play it in full with the The Wildhearts on their recent tour. Any fears that the crowd wouldn’t be up for it disappeared almost instantly and then the next 40 minutes saw each track in order sung word for word by the entire room. If this is the only time this happens then ‘WOW!’ , if not then people going to future gigs will be in for a treat!
[Krishan]Next we made a beeline for THE IDOL DEAD in the Good mixer an incredibly small venue for a band like The Idol Dead. Lots of punters were turned away for this one however the band delivered a storming set to a packed venue. They did everything in their power to be seen. Loved it .
[Adrian] Note to self… if you’re going to get up close and personal with one of the most energetic bands in the UK, expect to be smacked in the head by KC’s guitar as he throws everything into the performance.
I shall wear the dent as a badge of honour… a worthy memory of an fabulous show. Perhaps next time they play, the organisers might do the band a favour and give them a bigger venue that will take all of the fans that got turned away and allow The Idol Dead the space a show like theirs demands.
[Krishan] After a spot of food, RICH RAGANY AND THE DIGRESSIONS were next up. Another packed venue with a band that were both tight and had some amazing songs. Rich is an incredibly emotive performer but was equally challenged by the quality of musicianship around him. Highly entertaining.
[Adrian] We also dipped in to catch the tail end of RYUKETSU BLIZZARD in the Black Heart. The second ‘what did I just see?’ moment of the weekend this was punk rock at its core with lashings of Manga imagery to spice it up a bit, 15 minutes didn’t do the band justice so we made a note to check them out at Fest the following day when better lighting and space would guarantee the set we hoped for.
We rounded off the evening with a trip to the Electric Ballroom to see the amazing FRANK TURNER who delivered all his most popular songs to a rampant audience as a one man band. That one man can cause a room of over 1,000 to sing along to every single track, accompanied by just an acoustic guitar shows the power the man has over his fans.
It was a stunning performance that allowed the audience to sing a long to every word. A big surprise for the encore when he was joined on stage by Chris McCormack and the Virginmarys for a storming rendition of some famous Punk classics. A fantastic end to an incredible day – roll on Day 2
SETLIST – FRANK TURNER
Don’t Worry Recovery Long Live the Queen If Ever I Stray Back in the Day Little Changes Be More Kind Jinny Bingham’s Ghost The Opening Act of Spring I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous The Road The Way I Tend to Be 1933 Photosynthesis The Ballad of Me and My Friends The Next Storm I Still Believe Get Better Encore: Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols cover) (with The Virginmarys) Teenage Kicks (The Undertones cover) (with The Virginmarys) London Calling (The Clash cover) (with The Virginmarys) If The Kids Are United (Sham 69 cover) (with The Virginmarys)
“Please immediately exit the venue and seek shelter.
Once outside the gates please return to your vehicle.
Please do not run, push or shove.”
This mantra rang out across the grassy fields of the Epicenter Festival repeatedly as the patrons of the festival languidly trickled out by the thousands. Black clouds were slothfully pushing
our way quietly and coldly, looking ready to bring down the hammer of Thor’s wrath in a very real way.
But it didn’t begin this way.
The Epicenter Festival began with me doing a mad sprint across two large fields, through a very backed-up-with-traffic highway and the threat of arrest by a testosterone filled state trooper
as I tried desperately not to miss the narrow 20 minute interview window I had secured with the band Zeal And Ardor weeks before.
It’s a sunny Friday in Rockingham, NC and the opening day of the very first Epicenter Festival, boasting a lineup of both up and coming bands-such as the aforementioned Zeal and Ardor
and 70’s rock influenced Black Coffee-along with metal godfathers, Judas Priest, and the long-in-the-making return of the legendary Tool. Anticipation was high.
Even though John and I arrived an hour prior to the interview time, I was still doing a treasure hunt for the media tent five minutes prior and developing that gut feeling that no matter
how much effort was exerted, I would fail to achieve my goal. Finally, I see the media tent placard in the distance behind several fences and manage to claim my table at 12:15 just as Zeal and Ardor were finishing speaking
to another outlet in the tent. I felt like Indiana Jones narrowly missing a boulder.
As the guys settled in for our talk, I attempted to suppress the small amount of adrenaline still running through my limbs and went into interviewer mode to talk to founder/vocalist/guitarist,
Manuel Gagneux, and guitarist, Tiziano Volante.
My Global Mind: Sorry about being a little late, but I’m glad I caught you guys.
Manuel Gagneux: No problem, man.
MGM: So the recent album, Stanger Fruit, tell us what it’s about.
MG: Repression, rage, sadness. Also death!
MGM: Right. And based on the satanic lyrics, I think it’s safe to say you were all raised Catholic.
Tiziano Volante: Yes!
MGM: So many of the lyrical themes are spirituals that are-instead of being directed at God-directed at the devil.
MG: Well, black metal is about inverting things, and so I thought it was an interesting idea to do that. And there was this whole thing on 4chan that happened, but that’s a whole other
thing. (He is referring to the incident where a 4chan user suggested he combine “black metal and nigger music.”) Who cares? (Laughs).
MGM: Were you guys surprised at the way the first album, Devil Is Fine, blew up so quickly?
TV: Yeah, it was super weird. The band didn’t exist back then. I was playing in a band and we were blasting that song (Devil is Fine). I mean, I knew Manuel, but thought his music
was a Swiss scene type of thing. (They both laugh) Then articles were written and the hype just appeared.
MGM: So you never planned for this to be a band situation, Manuel?
MG: Nooooo, I never thought it would be played live. So here we are playing this massive festival two years in.
MGM: I mean to think of how far you guys have come by blending gospel and black metal, why do you think it’s connecting with people?
MG: I think there is a novelty to it. I mean, it’s kind of a gimmick and people like gimmicks, but gimmicks don’t really have longevity. We probably won’t be here next
MGM: Well, with most gimmicks you can usually pick up on whether someone is bullshitting you or not and I feel like you guys are being pretty genuine what you’re doing. Have you encountered any protesters at your shows?
TV: Not so far, which is still surprising.
MGM: That surprises me too. I figured you would’ve had at least one story of a guy trying to hit you with a cross.
MG: People have seen everything. Everything has already been protested, there’s no real surprise for people anymore.
TV: Especially traveling through the Bible belt, we found that people have been very welcoming.
MGM: Getting back to the record, one of the songs that really struck me on “Stranger Fruit” was a track called “The Fool”. That one sounds like it was lifted directly from the soundtrack of the horror movie, “Suspiria”. Why was that track put in there when so many of the rest of the songs are full of rage and spiritual angst?
MG: Kind of like a pallet cleanser, but also I like to just build a holistic atmosphere. Those are heavily inspired by a woman named Wendy Carlos, who did the music for films like “A
Clockwork Orange.” She used to be Walter Carlos and she transitioned in the 60’s-which is insane-and she kind of inspired that sound.
MGM: Wow, I had no idea. That’s a pretty unknown concept for that time. What are some other influences?
MG: Everything that Alan Womack has recorded, Darkthrone, Celtic Frost, all of those makeup boys! (laughs)
MGM: All of those happy Norwegian guys! Well, “Stranger Fruit” sounds a lot less devilish than “Devil is Fine”; it feels like a transition into something new. Do you think you’ll be spring boarding off of a lot of these ideas on the next record?
MG: We’re just experimenting at this point. I think to say we’re going in that direction or this direction would be incorrect.
TV: The next record is going into space.
MG: Yes! It will be in space. It will be very kazoo heavy.
TV: It will be a multi-verse of four EP’s, and then we will do a double album after that where all of the singles will be combined.
MG: It’s all going to be on mini-disc where you can download it on MySpace. It’s just something I wanted to do for a long time. (laughs)
MGM: Maybe even an eight track transfer possibly? And eventually just regress to the point of beating on a rock all the way back through human evolution?
MG: Yes! (They both laugh)
MGM: So is there anything special in store for your performance this afternoon?
MG: Shit, we’ve only got 30 minutes, man! I don’t think we’re going to be able to pull that off!
MGM: So no human sacrifices today?
TV: No, we’ll just do it with our music!
After the interview, we began the trek across the very level fields that hosted the Pine Stage, Sirius Octane Stage, Quarry Stage and the Monster Energy Stage. I only mention the level concert
field because when you compare this terrain to that of the Carolina Rebellion (which seemed like miles divided the stages from each other, in addition to the media tent being located on what felt like a mountain top) it made
seeing artists perform a very easy task.
The festival felt as if it were warming up it’s engine as we closed in on the Pine Stage to watch Black Coffee perform. These guys have a reverential hard-on for the sound of 70’s
rock: they tore across the stage with unbuttoned shirts, mountains of breeze styled rock hair, and side burns that were groomed to tickle the inside of a woman’s thighs. They infected the crowd with their energy, jumping,
bending and screaming through their unfortunately short set of hard pounding tunes, such as “Away” and “I Barely Know Her”. When they bowed from the stage, it’s safe to say they left everyone
Walking away from the stage, I get a text from a member of the band, Skillet. This is one of the things that never gets old as a music journalist: getting personal communication from bands you’ve listened to for years, and feeling the high school version of yourself shitting their pants. Very cool feeling.
The band was running ahead of schedule and wanted to see if I could speak with them a little earlier than we planned, so we hustled back to the tent to sit down with Skillet singer, John
MGM: Hey, John, good to meet you.
JC: You as well.
MGM: So you guys are coming out with a new album in August, what is it called?
JC: Boo-yah! Man, look at your hat. (He pinches the brim of my Australian outback hat.)
MGM: Hell, yeah!
JC: That way if it rains, you’ll be fine. Or if you have to go into a tomb to steal something! I love it man. You look like you can throw open the saloon doors and clear the place
MGM: All I need is my peace maker, and I’ve got you handled, baby!
JC: (laughs) For people who aren’t watching, they’re probably like “just do the interview man!” Yeah, we got a new record coming out it’s called “Victorious” on August 2 and preorders went on sale just three days ago. So I’m on top of the world. When you’re releasing a new album it feels like you’re about to have a baby, like” It’s a boy!” Because when you make records, you make 50 songs for the record, then you demo 30 of them, and you always have songs that you love, but they don’t make the record. Then you take 10 songs of the 12 songs and you have to go back and make those songs sound better, so they don’t sound like crap. So now it’s finally here and, man, we want to get this music out. I’m pumped.
MGM: I imagine it’s like having an argument in a marriage, trying to get which song everyone agrees should be on the record.
JC: So I was listening to a “Thriller” retrospective with Quincy Jones, and I remember he told Michael Jackson when they were making “Thriller”, that when it comes
to the songs “You have to kill your babies.” Of course, when he says it, it sounds awesome. And I know that a horrible way to say it, but that’s how it feels.
MGM: Right, I would imagine so. Now tell me a little bit about the new baby, “Legendary”. I watched the video several times and it has a pretty deep meaning.
JC: It’s kind of the story of what’s happened for the last three years since the last record came out. We’ve toured all over the world it was pretty cool. And with songs, there’s always a deep meaning and a shallow meaning. So the shallow meaning is this: your life is short and you got to make it count for something. Don’t let other people tell you who you are, don’t be a victim. You’re in control of your life. A deeper meaning is that we all say we want to be legendary, but the truth is that we’re all going to die. We’re not here for all that long. I mean, once you turn 40 years old, 60 isn’t that old anymore! (Laughs) Not that I know!
MGM: Me neither!
JC: Yeah, and then you have your kids, and then they turn into teenagers and you’re like: “Holy moly, this has gone fast!” So we’re really not here all that long.
We’re not destined to be legendary, you’re destined to die. That’s the way it’s going to be, so you’ve got to make your life count for something. Be proud of who you are, don’t let other
people tell you who you are. Something I drew on personally when writing the song, is the chorus of the song says: “Never going to keep me down, still the one standing now.” That line comes from the fact that
I still can’t believe that I’m still in a band after 22 years, and I still can’t believe people are listening! There are people who still say to us:
“You guys have got to stop admitting that you’re a Christian band, nobody wants to know that.”
“You can’t do Christian interviews.”
“You can’t have girls in the band!”
“You can’t have keyboards!”
“You’re not heavy enough!”
“You’re too heavy!”
“You’ve got to do all this!”
And I’m just like: I just want everyone to shut up. All the critics to shut up and let me do me, you know? We’re still standing. We have a gold record and we didn’t need
you telling us who to be and so that’s a little bit of a stick-it-to-the-man to the haters. You have to learn in this business who to listen to and who not to. And even if they have good intentions you have to say “I
appreciate it, but no.”
MGM: So, not to brag, but I was one of the OG fans that bought your self titled album in the 90s from a Zondervan bookstore-
JC: (Laughs) No way!
HV: Yeah, man! (Singing) My beautiful robe! And one of things that I’ve noticed over the years from the beginning until now, is that your sound has changed-in my estimation-to a much
heavier sound than the way you were at the beginning. Which goes back to what you feel is the appropriate sound for Skillet. In particular, on the album “Alien Youth”, the song ‘Eating Me Away’ seemed
to jump forward into a much heavier sensibility.
JC: That’s interesting. You know, it’s funny, because literally three minutes ago I was doing another interview and somebody said a lot of people feel that the last record wasn’t
heavy like the old stuff used to be. And I just said-not three minutes ago-exactly what I’m about to say now: it’s so subjective. Everybody has an opinion and some people go “That stuff was heavier back
then.” And some people go: “Well, it’s so heavy now.” And I never have any idea! People will ask: “What’s the new record like?” And I’m stammering, saying “I don’t
know?! (Laughs) I hope you like it!” To me, the newer stuff has more of an identifiable sound and I think we found a lane. To me, Skillet has not been scared to change and change with the times. You know, I think skillet
is hard rock, but it’s also an electronic, and it’s also very digital in some ways. And there’s a lot of crossover between say, a Skillet record and perhaps Skrillex, or Nine Inch Nails, or even some newer
beats. So I think we kind of all put that together and it kind of gives us this lane to where we are going to do very current music. We have a lot of fans that don’t really like Metal and don’t like hard rock
but they like Skillet. And sometimes we have a bleed over from the younger, alternative fan bases, so I never know. But I just want make music that is hopefully fresh and new. And most importantly that the fans like! (Laughs)
MGM: Yeah, you don’t want to leave them in a Metallica/Lou Reed “Lulu” situation.
JC: Yeah, you got to keep those fans happy, man.
MGM: Well, it’s great that you guys been able to do this for as long as you have been able to. For me personally, I’m a Christian who has always loved heavy metal, but I always was annoyed by of a lot the preachiness of many mainstream Christian bands. It seems like you guys have been able to get your message across without blatant proselytizing.
JC: Well, thank you and I agree with you. Everybody has their own kind of idea about what it means to be a Christian band. For me I always thought music should bring people together. I just
said Nine Inch Nails, that’s a great example. I don’t agree with everything that I assume Trent Resznor believes-I don’t know him personally-but I like the music because I believe him. To me it’s good
art. And it’s genuine. He’s writing what he feels, and believes, and when I hear it, I go “Yeah, I believe him.” I believe that he believes that, and it feels real to me. So I think the same thing for
a Christian band. I don’t think everybody who listens to Skillet needs to be religious by any means. Sex, drugs and rock’n roll is the mantra of this music, and I always felt that phrase was sort of the antithesis
to what rock’n roll is about. To me, it wasn’t about sex and drugs, it was about the music. So, if all of a sudden it has to be about sex, to me the music has now been-and I’m trying to think of an inoffensive
way of saying this-bastardized. That’s not what it’s about; it’s about the music. Metallica? I have no idea if they sing about sex and drugs, I just thought they were singing about dragons and the bell tolling!
Remember the video for ‘One’? I just always thought they were singing about stuff that was cool, and it never crossed my mind that it would be something I would disagree with on a philosophical or theological
level. So for me it’s not about partying. Now I will say some of my favorite bands happen to sing about sex and drugs all the time! Motley Crue? A party rock band, one of my favorite bands of all time and it would be
hard to imagine them without that. But I love that! AC/DC. I never really knew anything that they were singing about until I got older and I was like “Oh wow, every other song is a euphemism for sex!” But it was
MGM: Right, that’s an interesting way to put it. Tell me, what time are you guys going to be playing today?
JC: Uh, I should know this! Oh, 6:15. I can’t remember if Korn or Rob zombie are going to be playing later, but I’ll take either one!
MGM: I’m curious to see Korn again. I haven’t seen them in 20 years, back when they were playing in a club touring on their self-titled album.
JC: Oh wow, that was early on.
MGM: Yeah, it was a wild show! I got my ass handed to me in the pit. It hurt. No bueno.
JC: You know, I think people that didn’t grow up in the 90s don’t really understand what rock and metal was like in the 90s. It was a whole different anger and angst. It’s
funny, I love culture studies and so what I see where our culture is at today with young millennial’s is they seem to be more like: “Life doesn’t really matter, so let’s party and make it awesome!”
Generation X was more like: “Life doesn’t really matter, so let’s blow it up!” You know, like ‘Fight Club’! Like you said, in the mid 90s if you went to a concert and someone didn’t
get hurt, it wasn’t really a rock show. It was a dark period. And not to get too deep on this, but we are seeing a resurgence of suicide rates like we saw in the 90s. Where people are going “Life is amazing! Everything
is wonderful! Everything is awesome!” Isn’t it funny that in the end it’s about realizing our own futility and that you’re not actually going to live forever. Which is what my song “Legendary”
is all about! (Laughs)
HV: Ha! There you go! Good full circle.
JC: So go listen to “Legendary” and buy the new Skillet record!
HV: John, thank you for your time, brother.
JC: Absolutely, thank you, man.
Exiting the media tent, clouds began painting the sky with a non-threatening off-white color and sprinkling the crowd with a fine mist of rain-nothing really off putting, just a mild nuisance, but not enough to diminish the ever-thickening crowd of festivalgoers. We settled to the left of the Monster Energy stage to watch the unusual set by murder-folk artist, Amigo the Devil.
Standing alone with an acoustic guitar and looking dwarfed by the massive PA’s and unused stage lighting, Amigo strolled through his bi-polar set of catchy and wildly off-putting songs,
such as “Cocaine and Abel”, “I Hope Your Husband Dies” and the impressively gory “Perfect Wife”. Among all of these brooding tunes, however, Amigo brought a healthy sense of levity to the
proceedings with self-deprecating stage banter by calling himself “Bargain Bin Dave Grohl” and asking the crowd “I know what you’re thinking: who the fuck brings a banjo to a rock festival?” His
humor and bleak subject matter won over all in attendance with a perfect sweet and sour presentation.
Strolling across the festival grounds, we grabbed a Jack and Coke from the Jack Daniels kiosk, and as we took our first sips of tasty adult beverages, an insane energy came bursting from the Quarry stage. Hyro The Hero took to the stage, grabbed the audience by the throat and didn’t let go. You could feel them putting every bit of fury of a 2 hour set into 30 lean minutes of music. Sporting a bandana wrapped around his forehead, Hyro looked like Tupac resurrected and mad as hell about being dead. Guitars spun, bodies flailed about, pits formed and mayhem was fully in control.
After Hyro the Hero’s fire died down, and many people were forced to recover from what they just witnessed, Zeal and Ardor took to the Monster stage.
Their set was great and they sounded almost identical to the way they sound on their records. And after speaking with both members earlier-who were engaging, happy friendly guys-it was off-putting
to see them wearing scowls, black robes and barking hymns to the devil. I recognize that even though they admit that what they do is a gimmick, they do a helluva job selling it.
They punched through a nice mixture of tunes, performing the title tracks of both of their albums, as well as the high energy and angry songs, “Row Row” and “Baphomet”.
Two members, Denis Wagner and Marc Obrist, were dedicated to solely providing the evil-monk chanting, giving the songs a much more sinister sound. The longer they played, the creepier their set was, and even in late afternoon
light, you certainly got the feeling that something ominous was lurking in the crowd.
Rain continued to sprinkle the crowd lightly for about a half an hour, but the mild threat of a storm was put to rest as we walked to catch the set for Meshuggah.
It was unfortunate that they were trapped on a stage so small. Their high level technical brutality really requires room to breathe and it was like watching a lion being kept in a Toyota
Prius. This issue aside, the Meshuggah boys really delivered, hammering out a classic, but predictable, set with songs like “Bleed”, “Future Breed Machine” and “Violent Sleep of Reason”.
Everything was lean and mean in their performance, with not an ounce of fat on its body. The crowd knew time was of the essence and pits were opening immediately in all directions to fully make the most of the briefly living
monster that Meshuggah brought to life.
As twilight descended, we ate some overpriced wood fired pizza and moved over to the Quarry stage, where Evanescence began to play their energetic set.
I’ve never been a fan of their music. It always seemed to me like the soundtrack to a safe-space protest on a party college campus; but, I will always allow a band to win me over with
their live performance. Hell, I thought for the longest time that Baroness was the definition of self-important, posture metal, until I saw the dedication to their craft on stage and was immediately hooked in. Now, I’m
not remotely comparing Evanescence to Baroness, but I will give them the same chance to prove themselves live.
Vocalist Amy Lee emerged onto the stage with vibe of an opera singer, permeating the air with performance grandstanding as she began belting out a set of their best known tunes. She and
the rest of the band, moved, spiraled, cried out and held hands outstretched towards the sky and proved themselves to be experienced showmen. They have done this for 20 years, and it showed in the precision with which they
played. I couldn’t help but notice that Lee was a bit heavier than what I remembered her being. However, it quickly dawned on me that the image of her in my mind was the album cover from 1999, and that I had added several
wrinkles and quite a few pounds to my frame since that time as well.
They ended with their massive hit, “Bring Me to Life” and by then the crowd was eating from the palm of her hand, as everyone sang the chorus right along with her. I’m still not a fan of their tunes, but I will happily watch them perform again if they swing by.
Now, I have had the good fortune to have seen Rob Zombie perform many times over the years, and that son of a bitch knows a thing or two about presentation. I still love all of White Zombie’s music, but Rob’s solo stuff has no filter and has become a depressing parody of itself the longer it has dragged on. “The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser”? Okay, dude.
No matter. Fire, blood, fire, explosions and also FIRE! blows up real good on his stage and the music very much becomes incidental to the spectacle of good showmanship. I was about three drinks deep ten minutes into his set and didn’t even pay attention to what songs he played. He growled, guitars were played, drums were beaten and I just absorbed the swaying crowd and the larger than life presentation of horror and psychedelia that burst from the stage. Who gives a shit what song he was playing? And it’s probably because Zombie’s set was such a banger, that I found Machine Gun Kelly’s set to be a bit of a bore.
Kelly is another artist that I was curious about in terms of live performance, but the Rob Zombie hangover really made it hard for me to enjoy. Kelly sprinted up and down the stage with
his lean frame and dealt with a mostly receptive crowd, and even with the exception of the occasional “Boo!” and “Poser!” being screamed out, he seemed to be enjoying himself on stage. The problem was
that he seemed to be in a constant state of self promotion, reminding the audience to buy his record or to go watch the recent Netflix film, “The Dirt”, in which he plays drummer Tommy Lee of Motley Crue. I understand
the need to Always-Be-Closing, but this is rock n’ roll…and this type of self-promotion will always come across as tacky. So I think I may need to give the guy another chance at another concert one day, where I am
not so affected by the performance thunder of a veteran like Zombie.
As the night was coming to a close, Korn took to the Monster stage and found a thick, lively happy crowd ready and waiting to be pummeled by their down-tuned heavy rock.
When I last saw them perform in the mid-90’s, it was an energetic, lively ball of fire to witness. They were lean, hungry and angry. I am still a big fan of their debut album, and
I will never forget that show and what they brought to the stage that night. So it was very frustrating to see that same band 20 years on but lacking any of the same hungry energy that made them amazing in the first place.
Vocalist Jon Davis, walked around the stage with an impressive gut and dull sounding vocal delivery, looking fat and happy.
And good for him. Good for all of them. They caught lightning in a bottle and have been able to carve out a successful life with music they created and that so many fans have been blessed to enjoy. It just makes it a little hard to take their pained posturing on songs like “Rotting in Vain” seriously. I know they are older and it is unfair to expect the same energy of a 20 year old from a 45 year old, but tell that to AC/DC, Motorhead or even Lamb of God. These guys are very comfortable and it shows. But they still do give fans what they want by playing lively renditions of “Blind”, “I Did My Time” and still busting out the bagpipes on “Shoots and Ladders”. (They also still play “Y’all Want a Single”, unfortunately. Man, seriously, fuck that song. ) They closed out the night with “Freak on a Leash”, much to the crowds enthusiastic approval and thus the first day of the first Epicenter Festival came to a roaring and successful close.
It was a wet and windy
evening in London tonight, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit, as the queue
stretched around the block for the final night of the ‘Rockin’ The Blues’ Tour. As the Forum filled up with gig goers
ready for an amazing night of blues-rock featuring the talents of Kris Barras,
Jonny Lang, and the legendary Walter Trout, it was clear it we were going to be
in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
Kicking off the proceedings was the indomitable Paul Anthony of Planet Rock, a staunch supporter of the UK music scene, and host of PR’s very successful morning show. Up first was the UK blue-rock scenes rising star, Kris Barras. Kris is always a joy to behold. Full of energy and backed by an extremely tight band, he always delivers. Playing through a rapid-fire set of fan favourites including ‘Propane’, and ‘Watching Over Me’ which was played in tribute to his late father. He also wowed the crowd with a blistering cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock N Roll’ before closing out his set with ‘Hail Mary’.
With the crowd suitably fired up, Paul Anthony returned to the stage once more to introduce the legendary Walter Trout. Fired up and back performing with a new lease on life since his near death experience five years ago, Trout gave us a master-class in the blues and stage craft. Playing through tracks off latest album Survivor Blues as well as a selection of songs across his extensive back-catalogue, he opened up to the audience about the experiences that he and his family endured with the failure of his liver, and his comeback which culminated in the Battle Scars album. Having to learn to effectively live again, Walter not only had to learn how to speak, but also play the guitar again. He truly is a blues survivor.
As his set expanded, he told the background stories for the various songs off Survivor Blues that the band were performing. From six-fingered Hound Dog, who couldn’t control his finger, so he did what any sensible bluesman would do – he got drunk on Jack and cut his finger off with a straight razor; something that Walter referred to as “Bluesman Health Care”, to Floyd Lee, writer of Walter’s current single, ‘Red Sun’ which has been getting a lot of airplay recently. Floyd never achieved any success and it was a proud moment for Walter to let the bluesman know that he was finally going to get something back on that song at long last.
Taking to the stage one
last time, Paul Anthony introduces the final act of the night. The fiery Jonny
Lang. Bridging the age gap between Kris and Walter, Jonny’s style is a mixture
of blues-rock, soul, and funk with an intensity that shines through in
incredible display of contortions he puts his body through. As if his body
cannot contain all the joy and emotion that playing provides him, he could give
Joe Cocker a run for his money, which is incredible to think as he does this
without missing a lick or a note on his guitar. Performing an emotional and
passionate set, Jonny Lang displayed why he’s still one of the best blues
musicians on offer today.
As Jonny’s set came to a close, all three musicians returned to the stage for an “All Star Jam”. This two-song encore featured a mix of all three bands with Kris, Walter, and Jonny trading guitar riffs and sharing the guitar-playing as each of them took a turn in the spotlight backed up by the others. If the earlier performances were an introduction, than this was certainly the main event and it was clear from the crowd reaction that everyone would have been happy to see a full set from this amazing trio. Finishing off with ‘Going Down’, Andrew Elt joined the stage to show off his powerful vocal prowess. It was clear watching the performers that they had a great love and respect for each other, and their on-stage chemistry just added to what was already a brilliant night. I doubt we’ll be lucky enough to see this constellation working together again, but if we do, there is no doubt it’ll be one hell of a show.
Written by: Erik De’Viking
Erik De’Viking is a London based
freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its
forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover
and later preach about to the masses.
It’s an early Saturday
morning in June, and the first fingers of summer are in full grip. As I make my
way to the tube, I’m confronted by hordes of crazed BTS fans on their way to
Wembley. Clearly they don’t know the best gig in town this weekend is Camden
Rocks! It’s going to be a hot weekend for more than one reason, with 400 bands
lighting up stages all throughout the London punk rock Mecca. As ever with big
festivals, the hardest decision is who to see, especially when there’s bound to
be conflicts or other factors like how long it’ll take to get to each venue to
I have always liked Camden, and despite the local council’s best efforts to gentrify the area, it remains true to itself at its core. Careworn and a bit rough around the edges, with shop after shop selling a variety of goods mixed in among clubs, bars, cafes, tattoo parlours, etc. Camden very much marches to the best of its own drum. Always busy, today it feels as though Camden will burst at the seams.
First band of the day are Collateral. What can I say about these boys from Kent that hasn’t already said. An amazing band with bright future ahead. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them a few times now and they just go from strength to strength, with frontman Angelo Tristan embodying one of the rock-gods of old.
The Black Orchids put on a languid set of grunge infused songs. A great live band, the quartet quickly drew a crowd as their set expanded into the hour.
The lead singer of Sleaze has the stage presence of Jagger crossed with Iggy Pop. With a modern punk rock vibe, they rocked the Dr Martens stage for a rapid fire bombastic set.
Up next are The Milk Teeth. With a drummer with enough swing (and crazy) to please Ginger Baker, this trio gave an energetic performance with dual vocals, dirty guitar riffs, and chugging bass lines.
Honourable mention to
glam rockers Duchess who are hamming it up on the Gabbeto stage. With a 70s
sound and the looks to match, they’ve been one of the more unique bands of the
Then we have Bang Bang Romeo rocking out Dingwalls. The venue is packed to the rafters and it’s clear that everyone is ready for a great time. As the band came out on stage the crowd briefly fell silent before letting out a deafening cheer as the amazing vocal talents of Anastasia Walker took centre stage. With a voice that could give Janis, Aretha, and Adele a run for their money, this was one of the stand out performances of the day. This incredible singer presented a powerful performance only match by her incredible vocal range. I strongly suggest you check them out; these guys are going to go far!
Now at the Black Heart, The Black Futures put on an industrial electronic hard rock / metal performance, complete with a mini light show, flag-waving costumed sidekicks, and a big sound.
Wheatus have come to rock the electric ballroom playing a set of fan favourites. Breaking with a traditional set, the band took requests from the audience, which was met with thunderous applause. As the set stretched on, everyone partied like it was 2000 all over again. Of course ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and ‘A Little Respect‘ featured in the set. The venue was so jam-packed that there was a queue outside well into their performance.
Honourable mention to the Angelic Upstarts, who put on a hardcore punk set full of all the anti establishment angst you could throw a stick at. They really got the crowd going ahead of the New Model Army.
New Model Army put on a genre-bending performance in the Underworld, with a career spanning collection of songs that had the assembled crowd bouncing off the floor and each other throughout their set.
Closing out the night at Gabeto, veteran rockers the Quireboys brought their current acoustic tour to London. As ever Spike’s vocals, charisma, and excellent stage presence supported by his excellent band made for a fun evening of fan favourites as we all partied into the night.
It’s a hot Sunday morning as I make my way back to Camden for another action-packed day of music. Due to the number of conflicts that I came across when trying to put my itinerary together for the day, I opted for to take it easy and keep things fairly central for the most part.
Up first were REWS, who put on a great alt-rock set at the Dr Martens stage, with a laid back vibe that made a great start to the day.
For the majority of the day I decided to set down at Gabeto. A great small venue, the selection of bands on today was great. First up for me was JOANOVARC who put on an electrifying set with all the hard rock pomp of a band from the good old days. With the room fully packed, the crowd were singing and dancing along. The bombastic quartet put on one of the standout performances of the day. Do not miss these guys. An amazing cover of ‘Freebird‘ which had the crowd going mental. This was also the debut of the new lineup, which has definitely taken the band to the next level.
In next are The Luka state put on a raucous alt-rock set which was full of energy. With a horde of uber fans screaming wildly, the volume in the room hit peak as the killer set came to close.
John J Presley provided a chilled out vibe as the set took us into the evening. With his haunting vocals, accompanied by his excellent guitar playing backed by vintage keys, this was one of the more unique sets of the day.
Daxx & Roxane took the stage and dialled everything up to 11. Putting on a headline show, they rocked out the Gabeto stage with the prowess of a stadium band. This was one of the stand-out performances of the day and I urge you strongly to check these guys out if you haven’t already. With a superb live sound, this band is destined for greatness.
Hands Off Gretel played an incredibly energetic and electric set at the Camden Assembly that had the crowd bouncing and dancing with such force that it felt like the floor was going to give way. This grungy alt-rock band with a punk attitude was one of the stand-out performances of the weekend for me. With a tight sound, great look, and undeniably strong stage presence, this very professional band is ready for the arenas. Their sound is so big and fresh that the room could not contain it and their music was drawing passers by in from outside. By the time their bombastic set had finished, there were people standing on the stairs up to the room trying desperately to get close enough to see the band perform. That is no small feat in this day and age. I cannot recommend enough checking this band out as soon as you can. You will not be disappointed!
One of the things that really stood out for me at Camden Rocks was the strong female presence throughout the bands, be that as a musician in the band, or the singer fronting it. It was great to see (and hear), and I hope it reflects the changing attitudes towards women in music that have been accelerating these past few years. As the weekend came to a close I can’t help but wonder what the promoters will do to top the weekend next year. With such a broad range of excellent bands, that is a lot to live up to year after year, but somehow they always manage. A testament to the live music scene in the UK despite the growing numbers of venues that are sadly shutting down every year. If you want to keep seeing events like this and the great talent it promotes, please get out there and support your local venues. As for those of you who’ve never been to Camden Rocks and wonder whether it really is for you, then make sure you come out next year. You will not be disappointed, as there is something for everyone on offer. All in all Camden Rocks 2019 was another massive success and I cannot wait until next year!
While you’re here, enjoy the full gallery from this incredible weekend of live music!
Written by: Erik De’Viking
Erik De’Viking is a London based
freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its
forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover
and later preach about to the masses.
Live Photos and Video Production: Julius Richardson
Friday Nights, what to do on Friday Nights? Well if you we’re fortunate enough to be in Huntsville, Alabama on the 24th of May at Sidetracks Music Hall, then you would of witness a great night of Rock and Roll!!!
For those that weren’t there, I will attempt to entice you to be next time and support not only local acts, but great up and coming national bands that are gems to witness and see live in the flesh.
One of those bands is Nashville based, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Since their early beginnings in 2009, main man Tyler Bryant (TB) has been climbing more steadfast than a stair master. Riding the big success of their self title sophomore record, the guys have had a chance to tour all over the world. While that in itself is a great feat, what’s even better was opening for such legends as AC/DC and Guns N Roses; and that is only the tip of the iceberg for these young cats.
I had a chance to talk to Tyler before the show at Sidetracks as we discussed life on the road, intentions of hitting more dates back here in the states, new album “Truth and Lies” that comes out on June 28th on Snakefarm Records and much more. Check out the video interview below!!! and don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel.
After we set the ground rules for what The Shakedown is, what they have attained already and where they want to be, it’s time for the show to start.
If you recall our last write up at Sidetracks when Black Stone Cherry came to town last year, we pointed out the slight let down of the fanfare that came out that night, and yes mind you it was a Tuesday work night it still let a lot to be desired. Those guys deserved a little better turn out. But I digress.
This was The Shakedown’s first time hitting Huntsville, and while the turnout was small, again we acknowledge the venue is small to begin with, I thought the energy was there for those lucky enough to see them perform live. It sure as heck wasn’t missing from the band. You know a band is hungry when no matter the crowd size, they play each song with as much conviction as if they we’re relatively unknown.
Opening band The Georgia Thunderbolts took the stage first, and despite not being familiar with them personally, they put in a good show. Lead vocalist TJ Lyle has a pretty good range, and their brand of Southern Rock went well with the early crowd. If you get a chance to check out these guys, I suggest you go. Good young band that carries that Southern pride and influence in their music.
After their fiery set wined down, it was time for Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown to take flight. From our own reach throughout the world, we have been thankful to have checked out TB before in the UK on few dates which included small venues to festivals like Ramblin’ Man Fair. Our UK operations master had made the comment how much of a great live act they really are, and yes Adrian you we’re right on the money there mate.
What a way to start the night off then with a thundering new track of their up coming 3rd studio album titled “Drive Me Mad“, what a frenetic jump starter, the drums are bombastic, and TB rips it with a wicked tight riff.
Next comes “On To The Next“, first single off “Truth and Lies”, another memorable catch and hook chorus sees this single play very well with the locals. Very cool vibe on this one, if you have seen the video, sounds even better live. TB promised us we hear new material tonight, and he was right. It just so happened that earlier this day, we got the presser for their second single off “Truth and Lies”, in “Shock & Awe” and also saw their video premier; consider yourself lucky Huntsville you heard it being played here first. A very artistic touch on the video, and a deep sludge driven riff carries this tune throughout the new record. Cool tune to hear live, the whole band is tight here, check out the interview with more details on how the idea behind the video came about, you’ll be surprised to know that those scary mask aren’t that scary at all…
The Shakedown are relentless this night, with their blues roots very noticeable in some of their music, saying that, they have also managed to evolve and progress with each record. Some of the fans favorites get more playing time in Huntsvegas, tunes like “Ramblin’ Bones”, “Weak n Weepin”, and “Don’t Mind The Blood” all add to their potent set this Friday Rock night!!!
I asked TB before the show if any cover tunes we’re going to be played this night, he once again was true to his word as they closed the night with a cover from one of his heroes in Tom Petty and “You Wreck Me”, or as the band put it on the setlist “Whatever TF We Feel Like”.
What a great night of Rock. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you are not jumping on board with some of these great new Rock acts, you are doing yourself and these young and hungry bands a disservice. The whole band has great chemistry live, from the pounding battery assault of drummer Caleb Crosby, to the professionalism and cunning guitar riffage of guitarist Graham Whitford (yes son of legend Aerosmith Brad Whitford), to the obvious talent that is Tyler Bryant. Everything just clicks here and is easy to see why they have had such success on the road and why they are building a steady fan base and strong back catalog. You tally that up with being respected by it’s peers and compared to some of the best new Rock bands in the circuit today, Rival Sons, The Struts, etc, you can’t go wrong. Please check out these guys out live, you won’t regret it!!! Ohh and Tyler, next time lunch is on us okay? Rock On brothers!!! See you on the road!!!