Last Sunday, I made the long trip up from the East Sussex coast to Bromsgrove near Birmingham for a far too short, but oh so thoroughly enjoyable trip to catch as much of the 3rd and final day of this years Breaking Bands Festival as I could, which was celebrating it’s 5th annual gathering. It had never been my intention to go this year as I knew I couldn’t do all 3 days but when it was suggested that I should go by one of the band members, and after a bit of persuasion (not a lot was needed to be fair) from a few others, I thought oh what the heck, seems like a good way to spend a Sunday.
Now, I have never been to Breaking Bands before, so I really didn’t know what to expect but I am so glad I made the effort. When I arrived I found a campsite, a large marquee with the outdoor stage in, the main stage inside the Sports and Social Club that was hosting the festival, some very good (and reasonably priced) food stalls and a proper bar, with proper bar prices, serving a good range of beers etc. That is not forgetting a handful of other stalls which I didn’t get chance to visit.
How can I forget the attending fans, who looked like they were all having a good time! I think there must have been at least 3 generations of rock fans there and even the youngsters, some, maybe aged 4 or 5 were even getting into the spirit, sitting on the grass with their big ear defenders on and watching the bands as they sent high quality rock music out into the sunny Bromsgrove air. The older generations could be found either in the marquee or in the main arena watching bands or sitting in the sun by their tents, just having a beer and a laugh together. To say this is a family friendly festival is an understatement and I have already thought that it might be the perfect venue for me to take my Grandson to next year for his 3rd birthday and introduce him to the world of rock music and gigs that has served me so well for the last 30 or so years.
As I said, this really was a flying visit. Arriving after 3pm and knowing I had to leave about 10pm it didn’t give me a chance to catch all the bands on offer and in the end I managed to only watch 5 properly. The quality of the new bands on offer to the festival goers was immense and by the time I arrived mid afternoon, I had already missed acoustic sets from Collateral, Pulverise and Colina Pearl, plus At The Sun and Transients on the Outdoor Stage and Quiet The Thief plus Ward XV on the main stage. I had to sadly leave before Trucker Diablo took to the main stage and also didn’t catch Seething Akira or The Midnight Dogs and only caught a couple of songs from the fabulous Absolva whilst I finished my pint before heading home. Absolva is definitely a band I will be looking to see very soon as they caught my ear, and eye as I said my goodbyes to my friends who were staying on for the rest of the night.
First up, I was lucky enough to catch most of a thoroughly entertaining set by Footprints In The Custard on the main stage. Missing the start as I was grabbing a much needed beer after the car journey I joined the band as they were ripping through Pony, what appeared to be the 5th song in their short but attention grabbing time on stage. Not knowing that much about this outrageous Mancunian 5 piece I entered the main arena to find lead singer Russ, bouncing around the stage, resplendent in a green frilly tutu and one of the guitarists (was it Whitty or was it Ross, I don’t know), creating some serious riffs and noise in a carefully placed (and worn) red mankini. Bassist Ian in dark tartan kilt, was right in front of me but fortunately, even when he had a foot on the monitor I managed to avoid seeing if he was wearing it like a true Scotsman would. Drummer Sladen seemed equally well attired although what in was difficult to tell, and some may say that was a stroke of luck.
With three albums, two ep’s and a couple of Christmas singles under their belt, the band, who definitely play some heavy and catchy tunes tore through an 11 track set, that included Party Metal, Gail Platter (Ready Steady Fuck) and Bouncy Bouncy. CLIT, complete with audience participation on the Jay and Silent Bob Commander of the C.L.I.T. spoken intro started the 2nd half of the set and was followed by Hanging with David Carradine, Willies are for Peeing, Merlin in Berlin and Raining Men. With all the songs about such important subject matter as drinking, smelly genitals and unusual sexual habits an escaping testicle out of the side of Russ’s boxers was no real surprise. The band, however are not just about outrageous lyrics and stage wear, they are very talented musicians and kept a packed arena entertained with their heavy, thrashy, guitar driven metal. For me it was the perfect way to start what was going to be an entertaining few hours and I can honestly say if you like heavy tunes, some outrageous behaviour and a bloody good laugh then go and see Footprints in the Custard when they drop into a venue near you.
Next up for me and a complete change of pace was a sublime and exquisite acoustic set from brothers Chris and Luke Appleton. This could possibly be seen as a warm up by this talented pair for the Absolva set due on the main stage later on in the evening but it was so completely different it deserves credit in it’s own right. I dare say for Luke, the Iced Earth bassist, playing an acoustic set in a marquee in the Midlands on a warm May evening is not something he would have envisaged doing whilst doing his day job. However, after the recent release of his superb acoustic album “Snake Eyes” and a recent acoustic tour for that album, he joined up with his brother to treat us to a really chilled set that brought the first part of that tour to a close.
What we got was, from what I can remember and believe a 6 song set that really showcased how talented this pairing are as they switched from their normal power / heavy metal stage time to the two guys, two acoustic guitars and two mic’s on stage tonight. Opening up with “How Does It Feel To Be Alive”, the title track from Luke’s 2018 EP, it was quickly apparent this was going to be a mesmerising time slot. I found myself fixated on the brothers playing as they made the sound from their acoustic guitars fill the evening air, so much so I completely forgot to make a note of the 2nd song in their set, oops! “Snake Eyes” the title track to Luke’s recent album was up next along with more delicate and attractive guitar work that was just so captivating to watch. This may have been an acoustic set but both brothers took the odd opportunity to get some ‘poses’ in as they entertained the crowd.
Once again I didn’t get the song title for track 4 but it led nicely into a singalong finish for the crowd as they were treated to “Watching Over Me”, an Iced Earth song that Chris got the crowd to join in on. After a failed attempt where he jokingly questioned their conviction and balls to sing it, they got stuck in on the next attempt to leave the brothers smiling from ear to ear. Set closer was “Mama I’m Coming Home” a cover of the Ozzy classic which Chris had included on his 2014 album Restless. Knowing how to build and finish a set is a massive part of playing live and with all the brothers experience they did it perfectly tonight. Two big, well known songs to finish with, gave them opportunity to get the crowd involved and made sure everybody left the marquee happy. Chris did take the opportunity given in this early evening slot to remind people that Absolva, their other act on show today were onstage later and by the looks of the packed main arena when they were on, I think most people were listening when he said it. Brilliant set and I hope to catch Luke Appleton in September when his Snake Eyes acoustic tour resumes.
Third band of this whistle stop visit was Trucker Tom Harte and Terry Crawford from Trucker Diablo with another superb set that brought the acoustic stage to a close for this years festival. What we got from this wonderfully talented duo was a truly captivating seven song acoustic set that really showcased what a tremendously talented songwriter and musician Harte is. Unfortunately I would not be about to catch the full band later on that night as I am sure they brought the festival to a close with a set of fist pumping, high energy rock and roll all the way from Northern Ireland, but I am so glad I had the chance to catch this short, at times melancholic but truly entertaining set from this duo.
Apologies again as I didn’t catch all the song titles, balancing out note writing and photo taking was becoming hard work, and I was relying on grabbing sneaky glimpses of set lists to help me out. I do know that they opened their set with “What About Us”, taken from Harte’s solo EP “Life Love and Everything Inbetween” and followed this with “Never Drinking Again”. It was clear that Harte and Crawford were having a ball on stage as they smiled at each other and interacted with a packed marquee. Terry Crawford was supplying a solid rhythm as he sat on his Ammoon Cajun hand drum which was perfect alongside Tom Harte’s powerful and emotional vocal display as he strummed away on his acoustic guitar.
“All of My Sins” followed before we were treated to a stripped to the bone acoustic version of “Other Side of the City”, the latest track to be released by Trucker Diablo. The crowd were really lapping this up and singing along at every opportunity. Two more songs, of which I didn’t get the names, possibly “Another Minute” and “Cry In The Rain”, although I am probably wrong followed before this enthralling set from Harte and Crawford, who are used to sharing stages with prestigious acts like the Foo Fighters, Black Stone Cherry and Airbourne to name but a few was brought to a close with one final song. Tom introduced the song by saying it reminded him of being 6 or 7 and having a Saturday afternoon bath at home before watching Baywatch….cue Pamela Anderson in a red swimsuit image in my head and bugger another song title forgotten. An all too short set but enjoyable and entertaining, that got me thoroughly engrossed. If only they could have played longer as the crowd
would have loved it, but at least they would get the chance to finish their festival with them on the main stage later on.
So, after a quick break to rehydrate and sample some of the cuisine on offer, I headed back into the marquee for the days next act and back to full on, plugged in rock and roll. What I wasn’t expecting, although I don’t know why, was to be completely blown away by the 8 song set from Cardiff based hard rockers Ravenbreed.
The band were already a few bars into opening track “Polaroid” as I walked into the marquee and I was immediately drawn to lead singer Zoey Emelia Allen who was patrolling the stage, like she owned it, in fact for the next 30 minutes or so, she did!. Formed in Cardiff in 2018 and with one 3 track EP under their belt, of which we got to hear all those songs tonight, the band are inspired by acts such as Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, Pantera and Guns n Roses. What they give you from that is some top notch hard rock that takes those influences and fuses them into a rip roaring modern sound. The rest of the band, Mikey Watkins on guitar, Ross Formosa on bass and Oli Watkins on drums provide the perfect sound for Zoey to let rip with her powerful vocal performance that is nothing but enthralling and just draws you in.
“Insult” and “Calling” are next up as the band entertain the crowd with their brand of melodic, catchy rock that is just full of huge riffs from Mikey’s guitar. The rhythm section of Ross and Oli are so solid and provide a thunderous back beat to the bands songs. This is real head nodding, foot tapping, hand clapping stuff and the band are taking their opportunity to sell themselves to the Breaking Bands crowd by the scruff of the neck.
The set is just flying by as the band rip through “Easy”, “Told You” and “All I Ever”. I have a quick look at the crowd and all eyes are on the stage. Zoey and her bandmates have got them in the palms of their hand and are not letting them go. As a rock fan, I love it when I find a band that wholeheartedly grabs me with their stage presence, musicianship and song quality and Ravenbreed did that and more today.
After a short respite, where Zoe spoke to the crowd with heartfelt warmth and sincerity it was back to the music and “Lonely” another track from their Hollowed EP. Kicking off with a swirling guitar intro it kicks into a real chugging rocker with a drumbeat that just hits you hard in the chest and keeps pounding away. Zoe starts the last song of the set, sat on the front of the stage, sipping on a well earned beer as Mikey, Ross and Oli kickstart the epic, anthemic “Falling Away”, the final song from the bands EP. Zoe sings the first part of this crackerjack of a tune from her lowly perch before joining the band on stage as the songs builds to a resounding finish that draws their set to a close. So many superlatives could be used to describe what I had just witnessed but the queue at the merch stand with people, me included, clamouring to buy the cd I think shows what the festival goers thought. Some 15 minutes later, the band were still at the stand, signing things, having photo’s taken and chatting to fans. That just about says enough in my opinion.
Here we go then, the last band of the night for me and none other than the fabulous Collateral, who had travelled up from Kent to play two sets today, an acoustic one
this morning, minus absent drummer Ben who was meandering up the motorway and then an all to brief 6 song, full on electric set that we were just about to witness. The well known phrase “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll” is so very very true, but these boys appear to have jumped on an elevator and hit the fast track button to get themselves there quickly. Already gaining ever increasing airplay on Planet Rock where Paul Anthony is championing their cause and playing to a packed Borderline club in London, the weekend before, they hit the stage with all the aplomb and swagger that many bands of much bigger standing would love to possess.
Tonight, they had the job of closing the outdoor stage at Breaking Bands 2019 so I guess you would say it was a headline performance and headliners are what Collateral are. Each and every band member pulls you in and holds your attention. Bassist Jack Bentley-Smith is like a fresh faced Nikki Sixx as he struts around the stage, bare chested and hair swirling about in the evening air and Ben Atkinson, the powerhouse on the drums that keeps driving the band as they storm through a fast paced 6 song set that leaves you clamouring for more. As a rhythm section they are tight, solid and so completely in tune with each other you would think they have been playing together for decades. Todd Winger is a six string maestro in the vein of the guitar gods of yesteryear. He can switch from delicate, intricate guitar to powerful riffs and breathtaking guitar solo’s at will and I am sure we will be talking about his playing for years to come. Then, there is Angelo Tristan, the enigmatic frontman whose baby Collateral is. He is an absolute dream as he jumps around and prowls the stage, making it hard not to watch his every move. Each and every one of them has star quality but as a four piece, they are surely headed for Superstardom, they are that good.
As I said, tonight, we were treated to a full on, 6 track set of up tempo, fast paced rockers, that kick started with the powerful “Big Shot”, if ever a song was written to kick start a set, then this is it. They then quickly drop in “Midnight Queen”, the song that almost started it all for them when Planet Rock decided to put it on regular rotation. The crowd are singing and dancing, the band are laughing and smiling and playing their hearts out, whilst Angelo is lapping up the adulation him and his trusty cohorts are rightly receiving tonight. “Going With the Wind” follows, which can be found on the bands “4 Shots” EP and the atmosphere is now really building as space in the crowd becomes a premium as everybody seems to want to catch a glimpse of the band who are providing a scintillating show in the marquee.
Halfway through the set and the marquee is rocking. “Merry-Go-Round” and “Promised Land” are the next two tracks we get treated to. Both of these songs are due to be on the bands debut album which is due after the summer and definitely see a heavier, more rockier approach. They are both greated to cheers and applause and many people singing along to the catchy choruses the band write so well. To finish what is an unfortunately way to short a set, is “Lullaby”, the second Collateral track that Planet Rock are giving airplay to. Another melodic, catchy rocker with hooks aplenty, it finishes their set perfectly.
It was probably the perfect set to bring the outdoor stage to a close and if the rest of those in attendance felt like me, then it was the most perfect natural high to keep you going long into the night, or in my case, long down the M40, M25 and then M20!
So that was that then, my first Breaking Bands Festival was over. I will definitely be back next year as I found the whole experience so enjoyable. The organisation was superb, the fans and the staff were so friendly, helpful and jovial and the bands that I saw were all worthy of the long day (and night) the trip involved. I will have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this fabulous weekend to each and every rock fan I know. Take your partners, take your kids and have a fabulous weekend in the Midlands with some great beer, good food and outstanding music.
Review & Photography by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic