The third and final day of the 2019 Rock And Blues Custom Show had come around in a flash and looking at the line up had all the hallmarks of being another great day. After yesterdays predominantly New Wave of Classic Rock line up, today was a real mixture, some more NWOCR, some legends of the British music scene and some real surprises but above all it looked like it was going to be fun (again) and full of top quality music.
What it wasn’t full of, was nice weather. How we all love to talk about the British weather, but I can honestly say in the 3 days of this years show, if we had had some snow, then I think we would have had all four seasons in less than 72 hours. Apart from a few hours respite late afternoon all it did today was rain and boy how did it rain. You could only feel sorry for those bands that were scheduled to play on the outdoor stage. Not only was the stage going to be incredibly wet and cold but were any of the festival goers going to brave the conditions to actually watch them.
Fortunately first up for me was a great fun band to kickstart the days proceedings on the main stage. The Outlaw Orchestra are fast building a reputation for their entertaining live sets that are full of banter, witty lyrics and musicianship of a very high calibre. Having missed their set at Ramblin Man last week I was not going to miss them this week for anything as they are a band that have consistently caught my eye and ear this year. Their Southern / Country rock sound has fun written all over it but they are more than that. They blend so many different musical styles to create their own unique sound and draw big crowds because they are so thoroughly entertaining with it.
Unfortunately today we were not going to get the full Outlaw Orchestra experience as frontman Dave Roux tells us that Double Bass player Alex Barter has been unable to make the gig. That didn’t however stop Roux, drummer Ryan Smith and Banjo / Lap Steel player Pete Briley putting on a thoroughly engrossing early afternoon show.
As I said, fun is definitely the order of the day with the Outlaw Orchestra and I fail to see how anybody could not have enjoyed their enthralling 11 track set. With a set list made up of songs about weed and whiskey, the spice of life according to Roux they entertained a healthy and constantly swelling crowd with tracks such as See You In Hell, Ship Faced, Send Some Whiskey Home, Too Much Willie Nelson and Whiskey Drinking Liar. The Beatles classic Come Together, done Southern/Country/Bluegrass style was not something I expected today but what a great version it was and when they finished with Country High which included a little nod to Aerosmith at the start, I was in heaven. Just an absolutely brilliant way to start the day and another band ticked off the list to see but definitely one I will be going to see again. If the Outlaw Orchestra come your way, get yourself a ticket as you will have one hell of a night with them.
By the time Sons of Liberty came on stage, the weather had definitely worsened. I wasn’t however, going to let that stop me from taking in as much of their set as I could before the notepad and camera got too wet, especially as after their set there was a gap in the music for the Bike and Custom Award show.
Hitting the stage with a swirl of guitars and resplendent in Stetsons and cowboy boots the Sons Of Liberty let rip with their hard edged Southern Rock to a small but willing crowd. It really was a shame that more people did not brave the horrid weather to take their set in as they rocked the Derbyshire countryside and the weather was not going to stop them putting on one hell of a show. Opening tracks Brotherhood and Dixie Whiskey were each taken from one of the two ep’s the band have out, and showed straight away that even though they are British they have Southern Rock in their veins and the passion, desire and talent to take it to the masses this side of the pond. Rich Man Poor Man, Up Shit Creek and Free Man followed and I assume these will be on the album that they are currently recording and means that fans will be in for a real treat when that product comes out.
At this point, the weather got the best of me and I ducked back under cover to get myself dried out. I can only hope that Sons of Liberty bring their brand of Southern Rock to the South East of England soon so I can catch them again, in better conditions and hopefully a longer set. They really deserve to be playing on bigger stages in front of bigger crowds and hopefully with the album release that will take them a few more steps up the ladder.
So with a pre-arranged period of quiet for the Rock and Blues Custom Show Bike and Custom Awards ceremony I took the opportunity to take in some of the great refreshments available and schedule in a couple of interviews. Firstly, with Kim Jennett and Myke Gray, who I have been a fan of since his Jagged Edge days and then the legend that is Pete Way. Those interviews will be available soon on the website. By the time I had finished the first of those interviews, Diamond Head had taken to the stage and were almost through their set. However and purely by chance I did get to see them play Am I Evil to a packed marquee. It was a mass sing-a-long moment and got one of the best responses to any song played over the three days. Just a pure class moment that fell so conveniently for me.
With interviews out of the way and luckily the sun had come out very briefly as one of those was conducted outside I had a little wait before one of the most eagerly anticipated performances of the weekend. I also knew that to cover everything I needed to that this was going to involve some stage hopping as Myke Gray with Kim Jennett were on the outside stage at 8pm and the Pete Way Band on the main stage at 8,15pm. That did at least mean, that for a few minutes I could get in the dry as the weather worsened even more but nothing and I mean nothing was going to stop me from watching that set on the outdoor stage. Myke Gray and his music have been such a big part of the soundtrack to my life and in Kim Jennett he has found one of the best female vocalists and performers I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Myke has built himself a great little band to accompany him and Kim. He has secured the talents of Colin Parkinson (Temple of One and ex-Inglorious) on bass, Glenn Quinn on guitar and Rich Smith on drums. Tonight the band all take to the stage for an instrumental introduction that builds the anticipation for the arrival of the hurricane force frontwoman that is Kim Jennett. They whip straight into Stand Up for Rock & Roll and you can’t not take your eyes off Miss Jennett. She is everywhere, clapping, dancing, smiling and singing with such force I swear the angels could have heard her in heaven. When I first had the pleasure of seeing her sing for Myke at Hard Rock Hell last November she took my breath away with her vocal performance and on stage presence and she has got even better.
Let Me Be The One, a Kim Jennett track and Skin’s House of Love follow and this gives her a chance to show what a versatile singer she is as well. Over the years Myke has worked with some fabulous vocalists and Neville McDonald still remains one of my favourites but hearing Kim sing songs that he sang so brilliantly sends a shiver down my spine. Between her and Myke they have taken them to a new level. At this point I had to run off to photograph the Pete Way Band but made a hasty return as the band finished playing Counts for Nothing. Next up was one of my favourite ever Skin songs, the wonderful Take Me Down To The River. You can see the appreciation of the talent that he has beside him as Myke watches and listens to some of her vocal parts and gives a visible nod of approval.
When you see two talents like this on the same stage, and I am taking nothing away from the rest of the band here, it gives you the feeling of being in the presence of greatness and I truly believe that that is what these two dynamic forces are and are creating. Look But Don’t Touch, the immensely powerful and emotional Tower of Strength (my favourite Skin song) and Shine Your Light bring the Skin songs to a conclusion. To hear and see such a big crowd gather around the stage in such atrocious conditions and sing every word to every song back to the band is a joy to behold and shows that the saying “class is permanent, form is temporary” can be in a way applied to music as well as sport. These songs are not just timeless for me they appear to be that for a lot of very wet people in Derbyshire tonight.
Myke appears to be having such fun up there as well, he is interacting with the crowd, with photographers and just ripping the guitar parts like his life depended on it. Unbroken, another Kim Jennett song is an absolute masterpiece and sees her out in the crowd singing within the fans, to the fans. The lady knows how to woo her audience and she has got this crowd right where she wants them. Take Me Home finishes the set in style and sees the band leave the stage to well deserved rapturous applause and cheers. Apparently it had been raining for the last hour, but I had had so much fun watching that performance, I just didn’t care. Surely arena’s and stadiums beckon for Myke Gray, Kim Jennett and the band on that performance and the quality of the songs they have to play now and with what is undoubtedly to come in the future!
A bit like Myke Gray’s set, I caught the Pete Way Band in two parts. A few songs at the start and then a few songs at the end, which ended up being the culmination of the set with a few classic UFO numbers. I had had the pleasure of interviewing Pete Way before he went onstage and he was really looking forward to entertaining the Rock and Blues crowd tonight and had put together a set that covered his career for them to enjoy. Opening up with You and Me and then going into American Kid from his Amphetamine album gave the set a solid start but throwing in Shoot Shoot as the 3rd track really got the crowd going. The band looked like they were really up for this tonight as I left to go back out to Myke Gray and I was cursing the unfortunate but essential stage clash.
A cheeky look at the set list on stage told me that the bulk of the set that I missed came from Pete’s solo career, Drinking Tonight, Narcotics and Heartache were titles I noted and I think there were some Waysted tunes thrown in as well, possibly Crazy ‘Bout the Stuff and Heaven Tonight. Anyway on my return I found an absolutely rammed arena who were lapping up this set from the legendary ex-UFO bassist as they kicked back in with a storming version of Too Hot to Handle. I seemed to have arrived just in time as Mr Way pulled out his bass very briefly to play the intro to Doctor Doctor before going back to his vocal job. When you have a back catalogue like this that you can pull on, you are surely on to a winner and that seemed to be the case tonight as the tent was filled with the sounds of a packed audience singing along to this classic tune.
I think it is fair to say that tonight the Pete Way Band could do no wrong. This was their audience and they were satisfying their every whim so closing out with Only You Can Rock Me meant it was party time in the tent. There were air drummers, air guitarists and wannabe vocalists everywhere and rightly so as this is a song of great calibre that deserves to be heard and sung-a-long to whenever possible. It was a great finish to a set that I had only seen part of but from what I witnessed everybody seemed to love it.
That just left one band to be heard at the 2019 Rock and Blues Custom Show and I will admit, a band that I am not at all familiar with apart from a handful of tracks. If I did have any concerns they were so short lived I have forgotten about them as they played a sublime, almost majestic set to close the weekend out. Gary Stringer (vocals), Jesse Wood (guitar) and Jack Bessant (bass) took to the stage to a huge roar and kicked their set off with the wonderful Just For Love from their 2018 comeback album Revelation. Singer was immediately interacting with the throng of media in the pit below him as he prowled the very front edge of the stage, crouching down and looking straight into the waiting camera lenses. I have to say I was taken aback by the strength of his voice and the undoubted talent within the band as they took us all the way back to their 1995 album Replenish with 2nd track Naked. Bassist Bessant is a whirl of hair as the band rip into Stone For Your Love and he and Stringer interact well together in front of the drum riser.
After that sensational start, they drop the tempo slightly with the almost jazzy / bluesy I Would Have Left You, Consideration and then the emotional I’ve Got Something To Say which sees the frontman don an acoustic guitar. The tightly packed marquee is absolutely loving this and all I can say is what an inspired choice by the Rock and Blues organisers to choose Reef to finish their 35th anniversary celebrations. Lone Rider, which I adored follows and then they kick into some dirty, dark, blues rock with Higher Vibration. This is an absolutely compelling set so far and if they have done nothing else tonight they have picked up two new fans, me and my 19 year old daughter who is still frantically scrambling notes down for me.
What better way to “celebrate” the mid point of their set than with their massive hit Place Your Hands from their 1996 album Glow. Was every hand in the room in the air, I think it was. Was every voice singing along, I think they were. To show how they have somewhat changed as a band, Revelation, the title track from their latest album comes next and is a full on, almost AC/DC inspired rocker that has the whole crowd doing just that, rocking. New Bird, Don’t You Like It, Lucky Number and Come Back Brighter take us towards the end of the night but not before Precious Metal, the last song to be recorded on their Revelation album is treated to yet another mighty roar from the crowd.
This has been a set that has been chilled in places, full on rocky in others but altogether superb. In fact the whole weekend has been pretty similar. I have been so impressed with the festival, how friendly and welcoming everybody was, from the organisers, the attendees and the vendors and traders. I will definitely be back again, if they will have me.
It was now full on party time in the marquee as Reef brought their set and the weekend to a triumphant finish with the brilliantly funky Summers In Bloom and then they were briefly gone. Not for long though as they came back on stage for two encore tracks. The first, a magnificent version of The Faces 1971 hit Stay With Me that was just drawdroppingly good and showed once again what a high calibre band they are. They left us with Yer Old, which saw frontman Gary Stringer out in the crowd shaking hands and high fiving as many people as he possibly could. From my position in the VIP viewing area it was impossible not to see the joy on his face as he interacted with the fans who had so obviously enjoyed the 90 minutes that had just gone before them. Just a magnificent way for a wonderful weekend to finish.
So that was my first ever Rock and Blues Custom Show done and dusted. It was still bloody raining and the exit road was like a mud slide. Some helpful advice from one of the Outlaws got me out with no real hassle and I hope everybody else managed the same when they left on the Sunday as the rain carried on through the night. I had an absolute blast and so did everybody else I spoke to, from staff, bikers, traders and band members. This show will now be firmly on my schedule for every year and I for one cannot wait to see and hear what is instore at Rock and Blues 2020.
Review & Photography by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic