Download Festival

DL2015

Sunday 14th June 2015

Over the years I’ve been to Reading, Leeds and Rewind Festivals – even Chester Rocks.  Though I’ve never been to a full on outdoors Hard Rock/Metal festival, much to my regret.  Thus when the opportunity arose to get my rockin’ self to Download, the epicentre of all heavy rock fests, I seized the chance with gloved fist.  And then did the devil horn salute.

Due to time and financial constraints, it would only be a one day escapade with my buddies Ben the Swede and Coben.  Sadly this would mean missing such favourites as Faith No More, Clutch, Judas Priest, COC and many more.  But never mind – the gods of rock threw down their gauntlet and we would charge into the melee.

After a right old slog from the car to the main gates, we eventually entered the stadium like gladiators – ready for the first spectacle of the day.  The first band we saw were Tremonti, who I’d never heard of before.  Halfway through their set, the band were actually heavier than I thought and I enjoyed what I heard.  Worth further investigation.

At this point the heavens opened and the rain poured.  No matter – we were already making our way to the third stage to catch a “secret” set from The Darkness.  It was packed – everyone had the same idea, or at least decided this was better than drowning.  The set began with a monstrous riff that went on forever and did a good job of pumping the crowd up.  This intro enabled singer Justin Hawkins to make his way from the back to the stage, in true over the top style.  The Darkness then delivered a raucous set that roared at the sky – opener “Barbarian” accompanied by a load of Vikings on stage was great.  The hit singles “Growing on Me” and closer “I Believe in a Ting Called Love” were real crowd pleasers.  “Black Shuck” was my personal favourite, in a set that became the first true event of the day.  Not a secret, but surprisingly good. 2015-06-14 16.51.05

The next event was witnessing one of my all time heroes, the one and only Mr Billy Idol, live in concert for the first time.  I’ve been a fan of Billy for years.  In all honesty, many of his songs are too pop for this audience; so hits like “Hot in the City” and “Catch My Fall” (both personal faves) are sadly omitted.  However, with old pal Steve Stevens providing the guitar onslaught there’s plenty of rock to be had.  “Dancing with Myself”, “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” all provide quality entertainment and I have to admit that I was thrilled to see this old warrior in action.  A great warm up for the rest of the evening.

Now with four stages and dozens of acts spread across the Download field, the only down side is making tough choices on who to watch if bands clash.  Especially as “a quick trip across the field” becomes a gruelling endurance test when it’s uphill in a muddy hell.  The first major casualty of the day was Eagles of Death Metal, whom I love dearly and have never seen live.

2015-06-14 17.19.04But I made a choice to see L7 instead of Slash, and boy am I glad I did.  Recently reformed, the four grungettes of L7 played a fantastic set.  The sound was great on the second stage, perhaps because I was closer?  Either way, “Andres”, “Fuel My Fire” and “Shitlist” were truly great.  Though “Everglade” was absolutely bonkers.  The riff that kills!  L7 are heavy!  I smiled a lot.  “Pretend We’re Dead” wasn’t bad either.  Fuck it, band of the day!

I caught the last four and a half songs by Slash.  He was pretty cool, but no L7.  “Anastasia” is a great song, and I have to say that Myles Kennedy has an awesome voice.  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” were both better with Kennedy and without Axl’s screeching.  Can I count this as having seen Guns’n’Roses live, as there’s only Axl left in that band?  Why the hell not!

Next up on the main stage was Motley Crue.  I wasn’t a fan of the Crue back in their heyday, other than one or two songs.  I’ve grown to appreciate them over the last fifteen years or so, much like I’ve grown to love Priest and Maiden.  Now on their final tour, the show promised to be big.  Motley Crue didn’t disappoint, delivering a punch in the face set that was one of the best of the day.  They played their cards right, delivering all the hits: “Wildside”, “Primal Scream”, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Shout at the Devil” were superb.  The only less than impressive moment was an unnecessary, but well intentioned, cover of “Anarchy in the UK”. 2015-06-14 20.21.35

There was spectacle in abundance – sexy backing singers in tiny shorts; flames that were hot enough to give me a Hollywood sun tan from a hundred feet away; dear old Vince Neil looking less than svelte.  “Girls Girls Girls” and “Kick Start My Heart” both built the set to a red hot climax.  “Home Sweet Home” was a fitting encore, ending a triumphant appearance.

And so last up we have head-liners Kiss. A band I’ve loved ever since I fist saw adverts for their t-shirts in old 1970’s Marvel comics – though I had no idea if they were rock stars, superheroes, or what.  I’d never seen Kiss before so this was something to look forward to.  Full make up, all the pyro – I was hungry for the experience.

Kiss explode into “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce” – songs that lesser bands would have saved for the encore.  The show is a visual feast; lights, huge screens, explosions all attack the senses and create Las Vegas in the English Midlands.  I get to hear my two absolute total favourite Kiss songs ever – “I Love It Loud” and “Calling Dr. Love”.  That was me happy right there. 2015-06-14 21.14.07

The Kiss set did wander a little bit though.  Obviously gearing their songs to a heavier crowd, we get three songs in a row from “Creatures of the Night” – their heaviest album.  The songs “Creatures of the Night” and “War Machine” are great, but not top of the Kiss list.  Plus there’s newer numbers “Psycho Circus” and “Hell or Hallelujah” which are just OK.

A little too much solo spot indulgence was my cue to take a comfort break.  On the way back, I dived in to catch Suicidal Tendencies on the smallest stage.  I only saw five songs, but ST were incredible.  “I Shot the Devil” and “War Inside My Head” tore the place apart.  I couldn’t make out all of Mike Muir’s between song banter, but he was fired up and intense as hell.  Hearing “Possessed to Skate” was an unforgettable moment.  Muir dedicated to everyone who skates – thanks Mike – and it took me back to loving ST back in my early skate days.  Absolutely mental punk thrash, I need to see Suicidal Tendencies again.

Returning to the main stage area, I caught the last few Kiss songs and was very impressed with what I’d seen.  Minor gripes aside, it was a privilege to see the band and experience a Kiss show first hand.

So there you have it.  Download 2015 was hampered by bad weather, and a poor layout that abandoned stupid amusement rides in the middle where the bar (and another toilet) should have been.  Yet despite being forced mercilessly to choose between too many bands, I got to see some great rock’n’roll and enjoyed a cool, fun atmosphere.  Oh yeah, and the festival staff were pleasant and friendly.  On the whole a good job.

Chester Rocks 2014

Chester Rocks

Saturday 7th June 2014

Chester Racecourse

I went to the first Chester Rocks festival at the Racecourse back in 2011.  The main reason for this was to see the living legend, Godfather of Punk, Iggy Pop.  With the Stooges, no less.  Performing songs from (one of the greatest albums of all time) “Raw Power”!  That was not to be missed, not when Sir Iggy and pals were playing so close to home.  Also playing on the day were attractions such as Feeder and Leftfield – so a bargain of a day out right on my doorstep.

That was the “rock” (as in “Chester Rocks”) day.  The previous day had seen a pop theme with McFly, The Saturdays, Sugababes and some geezer called Taio Cruz (is that how you spell it?  How the flip do you say it??!).  Our rock day saw glorious weather and a fun day out, and the consensus was that this event would be a great annual fixture, should we see more of the same in the future.

Alas, Chester is a city (small C) with no culture.  No cinema, no theatre, few options for live music.  Culture, in Chester, is thousands of drunken, vomiting Hollyoaks wannabes watching horses run round a field.  And so, alas, Chester opted to jettison the “rock” for the far more lucrative teeny bopper pop market.  Chasing the dollar won out, though Rocks was retained as a (somewhat inappropriate) name. CR1

This year, I was lucky enough to be offered a couple of free tickets for the Saturday, and happily snapped them up.  Although none of the bands were favourites, it was a chance to enjoy a day out and see some live music.  So why not?

The featured acts – three big name bands, plus local support – were all on the big main stage on the field.  Quite an impressive place for the smaller bands to play.  The only negative was looking to be the weather – a thunder storm that morning with more forecast for that evening.

The first band I caught were local Chester band The Suns.  I’d never seen them before, but had heard some good words in advance.  I was expecting some friendly, straight forward Indie, but they were very different.  Taking to the stage in black suits, with a vocalist with a massive beard, they actually sounded more like a rockabilly band.  Oh wait – I get it!  Sun Records – The Suns?  Bloody marvellous!  The rumours are true, The Suns are fantastic.  Full of swagger and charm, they’re like The Hives if they’d been formed in 1956 by Elvis, Cash and Perkins.  Catch them soon.  Band of the day and no mistake.

Next up were The Fallows, another local band.  Coincidently, I had seen this band before at my previous visit to Chester Rocks.  Back in 2011, Shaun Ryder had disgraced himself with an incompetent, puked-up set of utter shit.  I wandered off to see a Battle of the Bands in another area, where I found The Fallows making Ryder look like a lager chimp.  Four years later and The Fallows are on this huge main stage.  They’re still great.  The singer has obviously been to Indie School, where he majored in Richard Ashcroft; but fair does he’s got the balls to superstar it up, way up there.  There are hints of U2 and The Verve, and the rumbling bass helps make this set another success. CR2

Purge are next.  Never heard of ’em, but they had to be on soon, judging by the number of punters wearing their t-shirts.  They brought the whole fan club.  Hailing from Manchester,   these guys are more of an early RHCP/Primus hybrid.  Bring the funk!  Good fun, these boys have tons of confidence and are worth keeping an eye on.

Before Purge’s set began, we had a fine example of the type of punter Chester Rocks attracts.  Purge fans were waving a huge, home made blanket banner – and a group behind who had their view obscured were unhappy.  So riled were they, they barged in and grabbed the banner down and made off with it, in an eruption of petulant self-righteousness.  Obviously they don’t go to gigs much.  Can’t see?  Move.  It’s a big fucking field.

The main bands of the evening were The Hoosiers, The Feeling and Razorlight.  Can’t say I’m familiar with any of them.  It’s light weight, inoffensive Indie pop – though it all seems to blur into one another.  A couple of songs I recognised from DFS adverts.  They’re all enjoyable and nice enough.  I don’t really want to say a bad word about any of the bands, as despite the rain, it’s a jolly day.  I won’t be buying their music, but for a free evenings entertainment I ain’t complaining.

Just think how cool it could have been though.  From Iggy Pop to Hollyoaks.  Where next?

Electric Eel Shock – Gig Review

Electric Eel Shock + Saltwater Injection

Thursday 1st May 2014

The Compass, Chester

Finally – Chester is building up a few venues to see some live music.  Forget the joke that is Chester Rocks (LOLZ! etc), there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  On a quiet Thursday night at the start of May, that light was Electric Eel Shock.

The Compass is an older pub/venue just outside the City centre, now reborn with a new name.  I paid a measly £9 to get in and see three bands.  Have a few drinks, rock out on a school night.  What could be better?

The first band up were a local band in a pop punk vein.  I have loads of Descendents and SNFU albums, but that whole Sum 41 thing ain’t my scene.  The kids could play, but not on my shift.

Next up, we have another local band – Saltwater Injection.  A two piece, you may be fooled into thinking White Stripes, before the noise starts.  No chance – think more early Bleach-era Nirvana spitting out Black Flag covers, you’ll be more on the map.  A great set, these guys are worth keeping an eye out for – Hardcore punk and a nice line in political scorn as well!

Funny thing about The Compass – upstairs is pretty small.  And on this night at least, the back half of the room is closed off.  So when Electric Eel Shock erupt onto the stage, it’s like having three tiny Japanese Metal demons go bananas in your living room.  EES rock the place like they’re headlining Wembley Stadium – standing on monitors, waving the mic stands at the audience for sing alongs, throwing the horns.  And the drummer is naked except for a sock to cover the family jewels. EES

Musically, it’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal in the traditional sense – some Maiden, some Lizzy, some AC/DC, a little G’n’R; with a liberal dash of punk energy.  It’s all the classic rock bands you love in a new, crazy head-banging package.  The only song I’m familiar with (“Goodbye Peach”) is nowhere to be heard, but no matter – there’s plenty of new rocking anthems to meet and greet.

The set includes a few covers: Electric Eel Shock’s takes on “Paranoid” and The Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”; plus The Wurzels’ classic “I am a Cider Drinker”!  What the living fuck??!!  Believe me, this song works!

Electric Eel Shock deliver one of the most bonkers – and fun – gigs I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s full-on good time rock’n’roll.  The audience love it, the band love it.  Check out EES if you can, and if you’re in Chester – The Compass needs to be on your list of places to visit.

The Compass website is here.

Follow Electric Eel Shock on Facebook or follow them on Twitter: @eel_shock

And follow Saltwater Injection on Twitter: @SaltWaterInject