The crowds were thin at first at The Tivoli in Buckley, North Wales, for this evening’s entertainment – but that changed soon enough. Happily, the situation started to develop during the opening set, meaning that support band Red or Dead were able to play to fair sized crowd.
I say happily, ‘cos Red or Dead deserved to play to a decent size audience. Hailing from a bit further up the road in Conwy, the fourpiece are an accomplished group of musicians who are obviously inspired by classic 70’s punk, such as The Clash. Very impressive, with catchy tunes and a message, Red or Dead easily grabbed my attention and refused to hand it back. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, there’s a variety in sound and musicianship that hinted at an even wider repertoire – some research reveals they often play acoustic sets, which sounds very tempting.
Anti Nowhere League shouldn’t really require any introduction. I became aware of these deviants thanks to their association with The Damned many years ago, tales of debauchery spreading ahead of them like a bushfire. Now with just head lunatic Animal remaining in the band, he’s backed by a great, well tenured group of musicians who can really deliver on the band’s legacy, performing it with the respect – and ferocity – it deserves.
Hit singles aren’t really the order here, but of course ANL give us their wonderfully raucous treatment of “Streets of London” (yes, that one) in a set riddled with classics. That songs infamous B-side, the still unbelievably filthy “So What” makes an appearance too, earlier than I’d expected, complete with a concise history lesson from Animal, covering police raids and the later Metallica renaissance. The song still raises a smile and rocks like a nun on a washing machine.
The whole band play brilliantly, the result being a set that was even better than expected. For the uninitiated, Anti Nowhere League live in the corner of punk that’s largely UK Subs with a big, fat dollop of Motorhead. From “I Hate People”, “Let’s Break the Law”, a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” (my Mother-in-Law wouldn’t dig it) and through to “We Are The League”, song after song is fast and furious with never a dud.
As anticipated, the audience loved it and the atmosphere in the Tiv was one not to be missed. Classic punk rock from Anti Nowhere League, who gave us quality tunes performed with the zeal and attitude it deserved. So glad I was there.
A weekend of full on metal and hard rock, Pentre Fest is a highlight of my musical calendar. Held at McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales over two days, the event always showcases some of the best bands from around a vast area of the UK.
This year I missed Friday’s gig as I was otherwise engaged. However, I was raring to go for Day 2, and a whole load of awesome music. Here’s my review for Ever Metal, covering everything I could of that day’s entertainment.
Day 2 at Pentre fest – you could say I was a bit excited to get going. The ever-reliable Edd Case was performing in the marquee outside as I arrived, so I missed a chunk of his set sadly, as I paid my hard earned coin to get in and neck my first ale. Luckily, Edd did another slot of his excellent acoustic performance later on, so I got to catch him then. I think he was filling in for some band called Trashatouille, who couldn’t be arsed to turn up and attempt to play their own acoustic effort.
First band on the indoor main stage was Scarfoot, and they made a hell of an impression. A three-piece band, they add an extra edge to their already formidable musicianship with the use of a 12 string guitar or a Dobro. This gives the band a huge, Zep-epic and individual sound. They all play with a convincing passion and were absolutely enthralling. I’d never seen them before, but had caught singer/guitarist Oliver Carins last year doing a solo acoustic set. Next time, these guys need to be higher up the bill! Scarfoot also blazed all over the acoustic stage later on, with a similarly massive sounding set, even without the drums.
Next on the second stage: a World Exclusive Live Debut! Frank Williams in his first official live gig, though sadly not billed asVictim of Damp. Frank is a Pentre Fest die hard, an unsung hero who has supported the event and pitched in with Fozzie and Beany from the beginning. This afternoon, Frank graced us with some acoustic covers (nice bit of Floyd) and banter, then introduced some comrades to help with humorous originals such as ‘Beany’s Car is Full of Shit’. Excellent crowd participation helped Frank’s set gallop home as a pedigree winner.
It really wouldn’t be Pentre Fest without these guys. With a line-up change – or should I say, addition – in the shape of new vocalist, Gaz (who used to be the drummer. Come on, keep up!). This latest incarnation of Lullaby for a Unicorn was a refreshed and fun stallion, rather than a lame pony. There’s a little work to do to settle the new line-up in, but it was the same boisterous energy as ever as the Unicorn boys turned Pentre into a beautiful, rainbow adorned meadow. Or blood-soaked battle field of metal mayhem, you choose.
Scarfoot was next on the second stage. I’ve already covered that, go back and read it again.
Despite a tech issue with the bass throwing a wangler with the first song, The Human Condition kept their shit together and provided another surprise. I had done no research whatsoever and didn’t know what to expect. By Odin’s beard, The Human Condition are a megalithic, doom metal colossus! Doom in the vein of Candlemass, or think Geoff Tate screaming for Trouble. Riffs are drip fed, leaving the audience begging for each new note. Add the most powerful live vocals I’ve heard in eons, and you have a force of biblical proportions. I bought a CD. You should check them out NOW.
Back to the Second stage for an acoustic Pelugion set – but we’ll get to them later.
A melodic deathcore band from Manchester way, Portrayal of Ruinn isn’t quite my thing on paper, but fucking awesome live. Possibly the most energetic band on stage at Pentre Fest all day, their combination of gutsy, nasty metal and bouncy, yet ferocious vocals proved a winner. They also know how to pace their set brilliantly – a few mellow sections lull the crowd into a comfy security blanket, only to have it ripped maliciously away. It’s the audio equivalent of a Video Nasty psycho killer – you’re never safe, Portrayal of Ruinn will never stop – and they will get you in the end!
Reading back my notes here, and I can’t make a thing out of them. All I can fathom is that I REALLY liked this band: “Syncolima = great!” is about all I’ve got. They were excellent. Some kind of biker/stoner super heavy rock, they have groove aplenty and massive fuzzed out riffs. This three-piece from Mansfield, Notts were unmissable. New album “Wavelengths” is out soon, you’d be wise to watch out for it.
Wait a minute – it’s that bloke from Bad Earth doing an acoustic set! Yes, it’s Steve from one of Pentre Fest’s favourite bands, backed with the other two ‘orrible ‘erberts, Karl and Ben (so semi acoustic, then?). The Bad Earth songs translate surprisingly well to the stripped-down sound, though they can’t compare to the full force fury of the full trio amped up and going for it. But then, what could? A great set that also included some cruel (ie hilarious) comedy signage behind Steve’s head, it also delivered a much needed bongo workout that was otherwise sadly lacking this year.
Mind. Blown. Thank the trident of Posiedon, King Kraken travelled up from South Wales (a right old trek) to play Pentre Fest, and I’m so glad they did. The Kraken are a huge, boisterous metal machine with crushing riffs and awash with an almost psychedelic lead guitar. My favourite band of the day, despite fierce competition – I made off with some booty from the merch desk and toasted their performance with a tankard of ale. Please check this band out, you will not regret it. Magnificent!
Last year, one man electronica fiend Leatherback was first on the Pentre Fest main stage. This year, it’s a second stage headlining slot, which worked well. Nine Inch Nails comparisons are obvious, but relevant when there’s a cover of a Reznor classic included. Leatherback ripped through a roaring set that went down extremely well with the lively crowd, even though it was freezing outside – receiving a well-deserved, enthusiastic reception.
Pelugion had performed an excellent acoustic set on the second stage earlier, which seems to have been a great way for them to warm up for their main stage appearance. I’ve seen these guys before at Pentre Fest and they never disappoint. Skull smashing mega riffs, born from Sabbath and with a dose of Alice in Chains and early Soundgarden – a stoner/alt metal monster – is what you can expect. These guys are super professional, but with grit and determination that keeps the performance compelling.
Headliners on the final day of Pentre Fest, The K*nts drove over five hours from down Essex way to entertain us. With hits such as that Christmas favourite ‘Boris Johnson is a F*cking C*nt’ and ‘F*ck the Tories’, we knew we were in for a treat. Hilariously, the Green Room reserved for the bands had been double booked with a meeting for a local Masonic Lodge. I wonder how The K*nts and this bunch of blazer-and-badge wearing eighty-year-olds got along back stage. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up. It’s like Phoenix Nights on crack.
A strange choice to headline a metal festival for some, never the less The K*nts put on a top show and had the audience on their side before the first song was even finished. Delightfully obscene, but with a political edge that helps retain a tiny bit of highbrow cred too, it’s like Sham 69 with Tourette’s. Most of the song titles are unrepeatable for a family website like Ever Metal, but let’s just say that The K*nts and their filthy brand of punk rock and humour were a mad but genius way to finish Pentre Fest off. And it probably will be finished off, if those old Masonic dudes have anything to say about it.
Oh, and yeah – Fuck the Tories.
It was my absolute pleasure to cover Pentre Fest for Ever Metal again this year. Huge thanks to the bands, the audience, and the staff at McLean’s for putting this on. And finally, thanks to Fozzy and Beany for daring to dream it up and make it happen.
I just wish Pentre Fest could be every weekend. Or once a month, at least.
The atmosphere in the Buckley Tivoli was lively and positive, as the crowd gathered in anticipation of the evening’s entertainment. One of the biggest and best audiences I’ve seen for a long while were waiting for an appearance by 80s ska legends: Bad Manners. There was definitely a feel-good factor in the air, and not just because it was Friday night.
I missed the first support, but arrive just as 50 Hertz took to the stage. A local band, they performed a set comprised of originals and covers, including well known songs by The Jam and Sex Pistols. They sounded note perfect, and knew how to warm the audience up and keep them interested, ready for the headliners. A rousing cover of Ten Pole Tudor’s “Swords of a Thousand Men” was a highlight and justifiably went down very well.
Bad Manners are an eight piece band, comprising three man brass section along with the standard guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. The band enter the stage and launch right into a fabulous rhythm, the audience begin moving along. The unmistakeable Buster Bloodvessel joins the musicians before long to rapturous applause, and the celebration begins.
Starting with a killer rendition of “This is Ska”, the band are tight and clearly enjoying every note. Seeing Buster on stage, I can’t help but be reminded of those classic Top of the Pops appearances from “when I were a lad”. He’s slightly less animated nowadays, of course – but the joyous two-tone tunes can do most of the work for him. And the band aren’t shy, merrily bopping along without any rest.
It’s so easy to move to the music – call it dancing if you will, I’m not sure in my case – as the irresistible pull of “Special Brew”, “Lip Up Fatty” and “Walking in the Sunshine” keep the crowd entranced. When the band hit a groove, they let it breathe and keep the audience captivated.
With a final encore of “Can Can”, it’s all over – and I don’t think there can be a single complaint from anyone in the Tiv tonight. The band could have played all night and we’d have asked for more. Bad Manners don’t rely on nostalgia and don’t rest on their laurels; they rely on creating a wonderful, fun night of music for all ages.
Happy New Year! And here we go, full throttle into 2023!
2022 was not an easy year for your old pal, Platinum Al. But the Virtual Hot Tub soldiered on regardless, never giving up despite the odds. NEVER SAY DIE. And in the end, the year 2022 was a successful one for this blog, with site views up approx. 2% on the year before.
Not a massive improvement, I’ll grant you – but I’ll take all the good news I can get. I certainly didn’t expect to finish the year with those stats, just the opposite.
So what were the most successful blog posts on the Virtual Hot tub in 2022? What articles brought in the hordes of avid readers? What did YOU want to read?
Here’s the traditional review of the Top 10 blog posts by number of views. In reverse order, countdown style, of course…
In the number one spot, a visit to Chester’s Comic Con! A summer afternoon, loads of merch and dozens of cool cosplayers made this article the most successful of the year!
Events back on the menu has, unsurprisingly, dominated the results this year. They were all great fun, and well worth the visit. In contrast to the results from last year, where events were (understandably) under represented.
It’s also gratifying to see some skateboards and toys being appreciated, too.
This year, we look to return to a “new normal” in our post pandemic world. But with a Cost of Living Crisis, Brexit still unleashing it’s mayhem, and the same gang of inept cowards and liars in charge, we still have plenty of obstacles ahead.
Never the less, we at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub remain vigilant – bringing you the best entertainment. Thanks for being with us in 2022. Stay tuned for ever more greatness in 2023!
February 2022 saw the long awaited return of Pentre Fest. After falling victim to the pandemic, this local metal festival was revived and came back harder than ever. Two days of metal/rock, hosted in McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales – I was over joyed to revisit this fantastic event.
Friday evening was headlined by Raised by Owls, with appearances by In Depths and my old mates Ryuko, amongst others (see the reviews below).
Saturday saw the largest audience ever at Pentre Fest, not surprising considering the legendary Blaze Bayley was headlining. Add performances from Absolva, Cadence Noir, Reaper, plus many more and it all equalled a spectacular day’s entertainment.
Despite a few of the advertised artists having to drop off due to the plague, there was a legit feast of music of various hard rockin’ types, spread over two stages. It was so good to be back: a feeling everyone seemed to share, bands and gig goers alike.
You can read the full review on the Ever Metal website here. Just for the hell of it, here are the bands that I reviewed personally.
The first band I caught this year was Navnlos, so that was a pretty good start! These guys deliver some heavy groove metal, powerful and relentless. I also detected something of a nasty grunge element, like Tad jamming Pantera songs in Venom’s garage. Navnlos feature evil riffs, primal rhythms and ogre like vocals – it’s the sound of a rampaging army of berserkers storming your tea party. Bloody great way to kick things off!
Some may have wondered how a psychobilly band would go down at a metal festival. Well, turns out that Hellfire Devilles fitted in snugger than Tommy Lee’s underpants. A raucous, rock’n’roll three-piece trading in high energy, foot on the gas music – these guys wrought crazy voodoo all over the outside stage. Thumping drums, frantic guitar and slapping upright bass – along with monster movie lyrics – the set was an absolute joy. This was freaky tiki, cocktail chaos a go-go: Killerbilly has arrived! Do not miss Hellfire Devilles if you get chance to see them. Main stage next time, please.
Although happily installed as Pentre Fest regulars, Bad Earth have had anything but a comfortable couple of years. With the band reduced to just founder member Geordie at one point, the addition of new members Karl and Ben has reinvigorated this band beyond belief. Big, fast, dirty, non-stop biker rock that would make my old mate Lemmy very proud indeed, Bad Earth played brilliantly and performed a highlight set. The term “power trio” does not do justice here: more like “annihilation trio”. I wore my Bad Earth t-shirt ‘cos I’m a fanboy, you can fuck objective journalism sky high.
My first experience of these guys and they were intense, with a capital “fucking hell mate, who just punched my teeth out?”. Originally slated to appear earlier, Wrath of Man were delayed due to a horde of Visigoths on the A55 (Bad Earth moved their own set to accommodate). The Wrath encapsulate a steaming metal cauldron of brutal riff and thrashy ferocity, topped with growling vocals that suddenly bloom into melodically sung choruses. Uncompromising, surprising and you should check them out, like now.
RIFF OVERLOAD! Quick, pals – jump on Al’s Master Charger fun bus, we’re starting a club for MC fanboys and I’ve saved you all a seat! I’d listened to Master Charger before, but never seen them live – and oh, what beauty I did behold. Sludgier than a dirty bath, doomier than the Goat of Mendes, we sold our souls for Master Charger and they gave us a blinding set of fuzzy, scuzzy rock. Seriously supreme, this trio destroyed all before them – afterward, I destroyed their merch table because yes, I bought bloody everything! I’m not pissing about, Master Charger were AMAZING.
And that’s it. More soon, I hope. As always, major respect to Fozzy, Beany and crew for making this happen. Please check out the bands above and share the love.
It had been a good 18 months since I last attended a gig, and leaving the house to join a throng of fans enjoying live music seemed like a very strange proposition. I’d actually forgotten all about the concert, as tickets had been booked long before lockdown. Heading up to the Tiv was both exciting and, if I’m honest, a little unnerving.
On entering the venue, it was just like old times: a great vibe as the crowd drank and awaited the bands. As life was getting back to normal, the Goths had crept from the shadows near and far, ready to witness Fields of the Nephilim.
The support band, The Faces of Sarah, were already attempting to breathe life into the evening. Unfortunately, and unusually for the Tiv, they could hardly be heard. I wasn’t too far away, but could barely make out the sound of the instruments. The guitarist looked to be going for it, throwing shapes like a crazed gibbon, but to no avail. The dual lead vocals were extremely impressive, however the poor sound made them come across like an AOR outfit.
Had my old copy of the Usborne Book of Goths been on my person, I could’ve ticked off several obvious dark rock tropes from the moment Fields of the Nephilim took the stage. There was so much dry ice the band could barely be seen, just a group of grey silhouettes in dusty cowboy hats. They begin in true over the top, cinematic style with “The Harmonica Man”. Atmosphere is poured on with no restraint.
And that’s exactly what I paid my money for: I wanted the full experience without any subtlety, and by God, that’s what the audience got.
FOTN erupted into “Preacher Man” and we all loved it. There’s no onstage frontman/audience banter (till the very end) and that, again, is just how I expected it. The songs bounce along like little Goth demons knowing Halloween isn’t far away.
“Moonchild” was an obvious highlight, with its slow, moody intro leading into the searing guitar and rumbling bass. The whole set is all treat, no tricks – I got the feeling that this is exactly how FOTN would’ve performed 30 years ago. The whole set is absolutely note perfect and full of every excess that the audience could devour.
I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy live music. This evening was a fantastic reminder of what we’ve been missing – can’t wait for more.
In February last year, I interviewed Chester based punk/grunge band Ryuko at Pentre Fest. Due to numerous unavoidable issues – not least this blasted pandemic – the piece was unfinished till recently. Not long ago, this post finally appeared on Ever Metal, and I thought I’d republish it here too. Enjoy!
“Grandpa, what’s a gig?”
“Well son, a gig was what we used to call a band playing live music, in front of an audience.”
“What, people watching musicians play their instruments? Crazy!”
“I know it seems like a strange idea to you youngsters, but it used to be a fantastic experience. Actually being able to gather with friends and strangers to enjoy hearing music. It was another world.”
That’s what the situation seems like right now: no gigs, no gatherings for entertainment – the old days sometimes feel like a lifetime ago. At least it seemed a whole different world back in February 2020, before the pandemic, when I caught up with Chester based band Ryuko at Pentre Fest.
The three piece – comprising The Bobfather (guitars/vocals), Captain Andy (bass) and MattMan (drums) were something of an anomaly at the metal-centric Pentre Fest. Not that Ryuko don’t rock out, but their brand of punky, alternative rock was a little different from the other bands on show. I found their style of honest, yet far from pretentious rock’n’roll refreshing and it added a vital tone to the proceedings.
Post gig, I caught up with the band to pose some questions and contemplate the meaning of life.
First off, the cliched yet crucial discussion on influences:
Bob: It’s weird, ‘cos we’ve got influences from all over. If you listen to one of our sets, it has stages: it starts off punky, then it goes alternative rock. Then it goes a little metal/grungy, then back to punk at the end.
Matt: Drop D then back to punk! I’m a huge fan of Motorhead and Metallica, the list goes on, so me being the drummer, I was always doing these thrash beats. To go from that to stepping into this, this was more fun to me. I really enjoy myself when I’m behind the kit with these guys.
Bob: When I write the songs, I listen to quite a broad variety of music, so I think that becomes apparent in my songs. I don’t like to write the same song twice. As far as when I started out, I would say when I was a teenager, I first started listening to Nirvana, Carter USM. I also drew influences from a lot of electro – The Prodigy and stuff like that – so sometimes I’d try and work out how to play dance songs on a guitar. And then that would give me the influence to write more interesting songs. I like to try and fuse a bunch of different genres together, make it more interesting.
Andy: I listen to a lot of Neil Young, I think he’s a very diverse artist. He’s done folk, he’s also done electric stuff.
How do you promote yourselves?
Matt: I’m more into social media than these guys are. We’re promoting ourselves on Facebook, we’re gonna make a new YouTube account. That’s kind of going up and down at the moment…
Bob: We don’t know how to work it!
Where does the name Ryuko come from?
Bob: I’m really into anime and all things Japanese, Japanese music… At the time I was watching an anime called Kill la Kill. The main character is called Ryuko Matoi and I just thought it was a really cool name. Some really fun facts: Ryuko is one of the least popular names in Japan. It basically means “rebirth”, start over. So I thought, we’re starting again, it’s a really cool name.
Andy: Well it’s not a cool name in Japan, is it?
Bob: It’s cool to me! I think it’s cool!
Andy: I do wish we’d chosen a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce.
Bob: People can never say it.
Your cover of the Madness classic “Baggy Trousers” tonight was a surprising choice, but great!
Matt: We decided to spruce that up to make it ours. The original is completely different to how I play it, I add extra little bits just to make it more funky.
Do you feel you’ve got the right band dynamic between the three of you?
Bob: We’re pretty good as we are. More people add more complications cos you’ve got to think – are they free; do they drive, are they going to be available…
Matt: I’ve got a son, he’s 9, we discuss upcoming gigs before we agree to it. If I’ve got my son and he comes along with us, if he’s allowed in the venue we play – he’s got his little ear defenders, he just sits in the corner and watches us or plays his game.
Bob: I’ve got three jobs…
Sounds like a positive environment to work in.
It’s got to be positive, if it’s not it just doesn’t work. If no-one’s happy, nothing gets done.
So, what’s next? What are your plans?
Bob: World domination! One step at a time…
Andy: We’ve been working on re-doing our EP, we’ve been recording on and off. Recording, playing as many gigs as we can.
And there you have it: an enjoyable chat with the gentlemen of Ryuko. Make sure you check them out live, as and when we can return to the experience of live music. If grungy, punky alt rock with some metallic crunch is your thing, then Ryuko will be just the antidote you need in these dreary times.
With apologies to Ryuko, who have waited months for this interview to see the light of day.
Check out Ryuko on Bandcamp and Facebook. Plus you can follow this link to listen to the interview on YouTube – yes, you can admire my fantastic interviewing skills for real!
Well, that was a mad old year, wasn’t it? 2020 was more like a bizarre disaster movie than the regular fun ride that we’re used to. A pandemic made hermits of us all; working from home became the new normal for many and travel and events ceased to exist. A year from hell for most of us, though it’s far from over yet.
Here at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, we’ve aimed to soldier on and bring you the very best in blogging entertainment. Be it music, skateboards, toys or tat, whatever nonsense I could investigate was delivered with all the expected wit and style.
As is customary at this time, let’s take a look back at the top ten most popular blog posts of last year. Calling it “The Best of 2020” seems somewhat incongruous, but let’s roll with it for traditions sake.
There was a distinct lack of live music in 2020 (Obviously), but quite a few album reviews for my old pals at Ever Metal. This review of Swedish doom metal band Firebreather’s album was the most read at the Virtual Hot Tub.
Yes, the most popular was this food blog, which benefitted from a genuine traditional recipe, and an idea to recreate a Greek holiday vibe with ingredients from the local supermarket.
As travel wasn’t happening this year for most of us, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Greek recipe blog came out on top. It was written as an ode to holidays and Mediterranean sunshine, something that wasn’t a possibility for many last year. I hope you found some nostalgic comfort from this post.
Usually my annual Top 10 has featured a load of comic con events – or similar – at the top of the list. Those events didn’t happen this year, so the Top 10 has a very different flavour. Who knows what 2021 will bring us?
Whatever the strange pan-dimensional cross flux of crazy brings us next, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog. Please remember to pop by Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub as soon as you can!
I’m sure everyone who was there will agree that this year’s Pentre Fest was the best yet. The bands were fantastic; the were more people; the vibe was magnificent.
Held at McLean’s in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales, this festival features underground, unsigned rock and metal from near and far.
I attended the full two days this year, and saw most of the acts performing. I only wrote up a few though, so if you want to read the full review, visit the Ever Metal website here.
There were many highlights. Witchtripper had been on my “must see” list for a while – they didn’t disappoint. Old favourites Impavidus and Lullaby for a Unicorn were superb as always. Cry for Mercy, Stormrider and Womenowar were some of the newly viewed bands that I was very impressed by.
The whole weekend was unmissable and I was genuinely sad when it was all over. A brilliant, positive experience – well done to Fozzy, Beany, Frank and all the McLean’s staff.
You have to be there next year!
Ryuko presented a couple of surprises on Friday night’s acoustic stage. First off, they were fully plugged in and electric. Second, they play more of an alternative rock sound, which was something of a contrast to the majority of other Pentre Fest bands. Readers may not be aware, though, that I am in fact King of Grunge, with my 90’s credentials well proven. Ryuko’s set included some melody and even jangly pop along with heavier riffs, which was an enjoyable diversion in a Dinosaur Jr/Nirvana style. Well performed, Ryuko just need to test their audience further and throw in additional surprises in either a “Negative Creep” or “About a Girl” vein.
Rhiannon and Rachel
Sadly Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year. One such example was on the acoustic stage, where half of duo Rhiannon and Rachel was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform. But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage. Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing, she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort. Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven. A beautiful singing voice that even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” – making it sound good for the first time ever.
If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you. I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul. Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost. A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can. Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet? If not, there’s a headline for us there!
On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas. Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy. Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them. Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs. OMV were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they actually were going to pistol whip the audience into submission. The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.
A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage. In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020. Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge. Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers. Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure! A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.
Son of Boar
They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests. And from the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special. I wasn’t wrong. These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness; they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch. The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb. I even bought a t-shirt.
What could be better at this time of year than a bit of proper, 1970’s glam rock? Sweet never had a world conquering Crimbo hit like Slade, but they did have a ton of mega singles that are totally inextricable from the days of seventies glam. After missing the band when they played Buckley Tivoli last year, I wanted to make sure I was there this time around.
Support band The Novatines seemed like a decent hard rock proposition, however I arrived late and missed the bulk of their set. Worthwhile checking out another time though.
Andy Scott is the only remaining member from this version of Sweet’s classic line-up. He’s a local lad – well, Wrexham is just a few miles away – so it’s nice to see him and the band on near enough home ground. Andy Scott is also a bona fide rock god: his guitar playing is exceptional; the trademark high pitched backing vocals are ball-squeezingly present and correct; his banter funny and his charisma epic. He’s the real deal.
The rest of the band are a fine bunch of musicians, and together they smash out both the bubblegum pop hits and the rockier tracks. It’s this combination of pop sensibilities and rock skills that have made Sweet inspirational for generations of music fans.
Starting off with one of my absolute favourite tracks, “Action”, it’s clear that this is going to be a night of delivering the goods. The set features all the obvious gems: “Hellraiser”, “The Six Teens”, “Sweet F.A.”, “Wig Wam Bam” and “Little Willy” before closing with another personal fave, “Fox on the Run”.
Everything is performed brilliantly, and the audience clearly love every second. It’s also nice to note that I’m in the younger age range at this particular gig!
Finally, the band return for an encore of “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz” – two songs that are really no surprise, but could not be left out. No way, Jose – there’s have been a blitz at the Tivoli Ballrooms had they been omitted.
So a rare Wednesday night out at a gig for me, but well worth the effort. Some may find Sweet too lightweight in an era that gave us Alice Cooper and Bowie; I thoroughly enjoyed it. A solid band of fantastic musicians performing well loved (and under rated) songs.
This is one Sweet I’d like a second helping of. I’ve definitely got a Sweet tooth. And so on.