Pentre Fest 2020

Pentre Fest 2020

McLean’s Pub, Pentre Deeside

21st & 22nd February 2020

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

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.

Mike West

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!

OMV

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.

Luke Appleton

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.

Pentre Fest on Facebook.

N.E.W Metal Productions on Facebook.

Goodfor Audio Entertainment on Facebook

Mcleans Pub Live on Facebook.

Sweet – Gig Review

Sweet + Novatines

Wednesday 11th December 2019

Buckley Tivoli

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.

Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

Hollywood Vampires + The Darkness + The Damned

Sunday 17th June 2017

Manchester Arena

It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester.  Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show.  It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.

First off the bat, our old chums The Damned!  This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records.  However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd.  And in such a huge venue.

Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance.  The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there.  I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.

Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years.  Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start.  Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…

Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke  who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game.  Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.

The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991!  Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro.  Fantastic.  There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.

Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly.  The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well.  From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.

I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot  their lines and The Damned get a gold star.

You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on.  However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed.  Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned.  Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.

Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger.  Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.

The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well.  Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are.  Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock.  For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.

I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless.  At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.

There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front.  This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).

And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase.  The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up.  Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy?  Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?

Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point.  Yes, they can play – and they can write, too.  It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.

The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade.  Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently.  It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.

Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly.  He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.

It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as  accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage.  It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is.  Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.

Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax.  Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang.  He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.

In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride.  Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun.  It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band.  Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it.  Which is what it’s all about, right?

The Crippens – Gig Review

The Crippens + Emissaries of Syn + Ballpein + Soulless System + Abominate + Spam Javelin

Saturday 19th May 2018

The Tivoli, Buckley

Six bands spanning a range of punk, hardcore, thrash and death metal – all for £7.50?  You count Platinum Al in, guv’nor!  Anticipating a night of good ol’ fashioned face melting tunes I was off to the Tivoli in Buckley for what seemed the first time in absolute yonks.

As I bounded into the Tiv and was drawn like a magnet straight to the bar, our first band of the evening – Spam Javelin – had started playing.  They play fast, loud and fun hardcore punk, with a dose of well placed humour.  I was very impressed by Spam Javelin’s set and need to check them out again.  Recommended and a good start to the night!

Up next were Abominate, who’s music was essentially a revved up a chainsaw thrown into a pit of acid vipers.  It’s full on death/thrash metal and by ‘eck, it is good.  Intense and with a crafty helping of heavy, crunching sludge to boot – Abominate are a force of nature and very superb indeed.

Local band Soulless System were up next.  Their sound is heavy, grinding and brutal thrash – though their set seems dogged by sound issues tonight.  It perhaps doesn’t help that they don’t use a live drummer.  It’s a shame as the band can obviously play and have some very tasty riffs.  Get these boys a drummer and sort the sound and they’ll light it up.

Then what happened?  Oh yeah, Ballpein played and smashed my face in.  Repeatedly.  Amazing band, full on hardcore punk with a metallic edge: if you want exciting, fast songs and brutal riffage this is the band for you.  Ballpein are also amazingly good on stage, confident and having fun as they grind out their (not very) delicate ballads about serial killers.

Another North Wales crew, Emissaries of Syn, played next – attacking with their blend of crusty grinding noise.  EOS are relentless and played a non stop set of mind warping punk thrash goodness.  Great stuff and again, confidently played on the big Tiv stage.  I’ll keep an eye open for more.

Finally, our revered headliners took to the stage and belted out some classic hardcore punk.  Once they were Doctor and, now they’re just The Crippens, but this reformed bunch of maniacs disguised as musicians are back and slaying all before them.  A great set, I have never before witnessed such a mesmerising gang of misfits in the wild.  Perhaps a tear escaped as I reminisced about long ago 80’s skate rock.  Whatever, I am SO glad I got to see this band live.

And that was it, another great night at the Tivoli.  Well done to the bands who played; thanks to the Tiv for being brave enough to put on something a bit different; and full marks to Knoxy who organised this and helped raise some funds for mental health care in the process.  A legend.

 

You can find all the bands above on Facebook, it’s easy.

The Tivoli website is here. 

Scorpion Child – Gig Review

Scorpion Child + Jared James Nichols + The Bad Flowers

Tuesday 1st November 2016

The Live Rooms, Chester

Almost a year to the day since I last saw the mighty Scorpion Child rocking out, and in the same venue too.  This time the crowd numbers are down, but hell – it was a bleak Tuesday evening.  No excuse though – people should have been at the Live Rooms for this gig.

I just managed to catch the end of the first set, by UK band The Bad Flowers.  This three piece were all power and chunky riffs – think Motorhead menace with some ZZ Top rock in there.  Very appetising and well worth keeping an eye on.

Next up was Jared James Nichols, with his two bandmates, bringing us our second three piece of the night.  This American band play a fine blend of bluesy hard rock, delivered with a confident, killer attack.  Mountain were a fair comparison – they rocked out a crunching “Mississippi Queen” just to prove it.  Quality entertainment with a boogie groove!

The last time I saw Scorpion Child, they were here on tour with Crobot (another superb band).  Now with their second album – the extremely brilliant Acid Roulette – firmly under their belt, I was keen to witness these new rock’n’roll superstars-to-be again.

Scorpion Child deliver music that is well schooled in the classics of the past – Zeppelin, Sabbath, Purple.  And like those bands they’re able to deliver monster rockers like “Liqour” and “She Sings, I Kill” along with some superbly epic moments that build beautifully (“Survives” and “Acid Roulette”).

There’s also a thinly disguised darkness about the bands sound, not exactly doomy but much more in the vein of 80’s bands like the Mission and the Sisters of Mercy.  At their most bombastic, Scorpion Child are reminiscent of The Cult (from whence they claimed their name).  Apologies for endless musical comparisons – but this band really have some classic style that merits a bigger fan base.  Throw in some Danzig and Soundgarden and you’ve got a list of some of my favourite bands.

A great deal of the set is from the new album, showing justified confidence on the bands part.  Songs like “My Woman in Black” and “I Might Be Your Man” are thundering hard rock compositions that are classics in the making.

A great gig, shame about the low attendance (and the lack of merch!) – but brilliantly infectious modern hard rock.  I’m off for fish’n’chips.

The Scorpion Child website is here.

You can find Scorpion Child, Jared James Nichols and the Bad Flowers on Facebook.

The Live Rooms website is here.

 scorpion-child

Public Image Ltd – Gig Review

PIL

Public Image Ltd + The Hexmen

Saturday 26th September 2015

The Tivoli, Buckley

Well it’s been an amazing couple of weeks for gigs.  And what’s that?  Public Image Ltd playing up the road at the Buckley Tivoli?  Featuring the living legend that is John Lydon?  There’s absolutely no way this extravaganza can be missed!

It was England vs Wales in the Rugby World Cup that night, and the Tiv had decided to show the game on a large projector screen above the stage.  A bizarre idea but it worked out OK – happily Wales won.  Had they lost that could’ve put a right downer on the evening.

Support band The Hexmen are a non-stop R’n’B party.  And by R’nB I mean as in Rhythm and Blues, not as in Kanye West.  They’re a solid band with an unmissable skill in abstract between song banter.  Solid rhythm section, stellar guitar and soaring harmonica.  Pretty damn good.  They appear to play in these parts quite often, so check ’em out.

The Tiv was packed out for Public Image Ltd.  I think most of the punters were in a daze, unbelieving that the band would actually appear.  But lo and behold PiL did appear – the real PiL, not a tribute act featuring some Johnny Rotten wannabe.  The reception was warm, but the crowd really revved up when the third song in the set turned out to be the masterpiece that is “This Is Not a Love Song”.

There was a fair mix of tracks old and new, with “Death Disco” and “Warrior” standing out from the well known singles.  I’ve not got the new album yet (hangs head in shame), but the tracks of that and This is PiL (got that one) were all extremely impressive.  The massive bass groove of Scott Firth and precision drums of Bruce Smith created a throbbing tribal rhythm that brought these songs to life.

Lydon himself seemed to be having a good time, for the most part.  I couldn’t always tell.  He definitely got stuck in and delivered some quite stunning vocals.  His style is almost operatic; combined with his commanding presence at the front of the stage we are given a captivating performance.

I should also mention guitar maestro and all round talented bloke Lu Edmonds – he played a blazing gig.  I have no idea how he made all those sounds.  It was very hard to believe that there were only four people on stage.

The encore provides the songs “Public Image” and “Rise”, two fantastic songs that the audience were thrilled with.  I still remember seeing “Rise” performed on Top of the Pops when I were a lad.  That was my first experience of PiL.  The other kids thought Lydon was weird; I thought he looked cool.  It’s a perfect end to the chapter.

Oh, and I WILL go and buy the new album – promise.

The Public Image Ltd website is here.

The Hexmen website is here.

The Tivoli website is here.

The Circus of Horrors

The Circus of Horrors

Saturday 29th November 2014

Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Are you prepared for a spectacle unlike any other?  For a night of the bizarre, the strange and the wickedly beautiful?  Are you ready for the Night of the Zombie?

That’s exactly what we got when the Circus of Horrors visited Llandudno recently.

Mrs Platinum Al and I had witnessed this macabre event a couple of years previously.  This would be our second show, and at the same venue – as part of an early Christmas present for Mrs PA. 10428001_852015048175960_3585830705782720595_n

The Circus of Horrors is a mutation of live music, daredevil performers, freak show and burlesque.  This touring Frankenstein regularly travels across the UK bringing a touch of good old fashioned weirdness to many an unsuspecting, sedate town.

Dr Haze is the ring master, and his duties as compere are augmented by leading the live rock band through their pretty much non stop attack.  It’s a full on, guitar driven heavy rock attack that features both original numbers and some covers.  All delivered by a well honed band  who constantly deliver an energetic set.

The acts themselves are varied, including awe inspiring trapeze work and gravity defying gymnastics.  The Kenyan Warriors leap about, creating shapes with a precision that seems unbelievable.  There’s a girl in a bottle (who reveals herself as a saucy nun on this occasion); performers hanging and twisting from ropes without any net what so ever; fire eating and (my personal favourite) knife throwing.

Hannibal Helmurto is a mohawked sword swallower, amazing the audience with his skills.  Of course, the good Doktor Haze barks out his commentary, explaining how Hannibal will attempt the impossible.  I found myself not believing that Helmurto would be able to accomplish what he did; and I was relieved when he succeeded without slicing himself open.  There are some moments when the audience really doubt that the acts will be able to accomplish their feats – making the whole experience more vivid.

There are beautiful women on stage, not just as set dressing but belting out lead vocals or performing incredibly nimble contortions.  Then of course there’s the Mongolian Laughing Boy, occupying the opposite end of the eye candy spectrum, bringing gross out humour to the proceedings.

There are many acts, far too many to list here.  Suffice to say that though this is the second time I’ve seen the Circus of Horrors, there has been more than enough variety (and different acts) to keep the viewer intrigued (or shocked!).

My only criticism this time would be that the Night of the Zombie theme could’ve been fleshed out (!) a little more, but this didn’t distract from the show.

A fantastic evening – full of amazement, laughs and chills.  You literally won’t believe your eyes.  Keep those peepers peeled though, the Circus of Horrors picks up the tour again in the New Year – and you really don’t want to miss it!

Now I’m off to practice my knife throwing skills…