‘Twas the bleak mid-winter, or at least it felt like it as I headed to North Kent from the Sussex coast to catch a line up that I have to say really excited me. Gallows Circus are big favourites of mine and are fast building a large and loyal following around Kent and now further afield as well. When you then add on the exceptional talents of Everyday Heroes, who I had heard nothing but good things about and found myself eagerly anticipating catching them live and headliners Hollowstar, who are fast building a reputation for being a “must see” live act, it was a bit of a no brainer to not go and catch all three in one night. So, after reorganising a few personal things, to make space in my diary I made sure I was there to take in what could only be a night of top notch entertainment.
Tonights musical ensemble was the first event hosted by The Rock Co-Operative. According to their Facebook page, The Rock Co-Operative is a group of rock music lovers and avid gig-goers who have joined together to put on gigs by our favourite new rock bands. They say “In these days when live music venues are struggling and closing down at a frightening rate, we understand the stress and strain, both financial and emotional, that small promoters suffer and as such, we feel that as a group, we can split both the promotion tasks and bear the inevitable financial losses that some of the gigs will bring. Our focus will be promoting bands in the New Wave Of Classic Rock genre, with gigs to be held at Leo’s Red Lion, Northfleet, Kent. Music promotion by fans, for fans.”
Fair play to them I say. We all know what a strange industry the music industry is, so anybody that wants to get stuck in and give these incredibly talented new bands a platform to reach out to new fans deserves all the support we as fans can give them. Having your base at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend is a bit of a plus as well. The venue, if you do not know it, has been hosting live music for over 40 years and has seen some of the UK’s great rock, metal and punk acts grace it’s stage. For these bands tonight, maybe they are starting a journey which will see them arrive at the same successful destination as some of those acts.
Gallows Circus got the night underway with a blistering set that created an electric atmosphere for the two bands following. There were Gallows tee-shirts a plenty in the crowd and lots of banter between frontman Ian Day and the faithful in the crowd. It was nice to see so many people getting to the venue early to catch the first band on and they were treated to yet another set of exquisite, dirty, bluesy rock from the local boys. Opening up with latest single “Shotgun With The Devil”, they tore through a nine song set that was captivating, entertaining and built to please both old fans and first time attendees. “Game On”, “Bones To Pick” and a breath taking version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” followed.
This was the third night in a row of playing live for the band with shows in Norwich and Manchester the previous two nights and recovery time was being much sought after tonights show. “Good For My Fever” led us into a brand new, as yet unrecorded track “Hell’s Whiskey” during which Ian Day’s faithful tambourine, which was already showing signs of battle weariness, broke into two, with one half flying off into the front row and leaving one lady with a Gallows Circus battle scar to remember the night by. After a few moments of checking herself over, with a bit of help from the frontman and a lot of good humoured banter aimed at him, they brought their set to a close with two of my favourite tracks, “Holding My Breath” and “Faith To Believe”, with the vocals on the former, as always, sending shivers down your spine.
It is noticeable, that since their line up change in the summer, new guitarist Ben Attwood has now bedded in well and adds a different slant to the familiar tracks we are hearing tonight. As always the rhythm section of Richard Tunbridge and Steve Kitchener are solid, tight and powerful and on the basis of tonights performance it is fair to say that this is not just four guys playing music, but four guys that have now formed a family over the music they play. Promoter Steve Borkowski, offered the band a chance to play an encore to the clamouring crowd who had been shouting out for one after that scintillating set. Not wanting to disappoint, they returned to the stage and closed out with a fantastic version of “Come Together” by The Beatles that had the crowd singing and dancing and brought their set to an end in perfect fashion. Apart from a gig in Canterbury on the 8th November, their live shows for 2019 are now done but there will be plenty of opportunities to catch Gallows Circus in 2020 when they return.
Everyday Heroes took to the stage at Leo’s Red Lion to rapturous applause which was a sign of the anticipation that had built up to see this wonderful rock band from Newport, Wales. Tonight they rocked Leo’s to it’s core, with their brand of solid and heavy blues rock, that was played, loud, proud and with a quality and assuredness of a band that knows they have the material and ability to take them as far as they want to go.
I was completely taken aback by what I was witnessing onstage, I have to say. I had heard some really good things about Everyday Heroes but from the first song, their performance just took my breath away. Stunning, is about the best word I can use to describe it. If ever a band have captured the energy and feel for hard, bluesy rock, much in the same vein as Black Stone Cherry, then Everyday Heroes have caught it. Everything about the music and the set tonight was perfect and from what I witnessed every member in the crowd was drawn in by it and that showed in the response the band got throughout their set and at the end of it.
They whipped the ecstatic crowd up into a right royal storm with a nine song set, that included four tracks from their “The Other Side Of Nowhere” EP. “Soul to Save” was a blistering start to the set, full of riffs and plenty heavy enough to show what the band were about. It was hard to take your eyes off lead guitarist and vocalist Luke Phillips as he showed what he can do with a six string in his hand. “Honey” and “Take Me Home” followed, and both of these got the crowd singing along which just raised the atmosphere level even higher. The power in the rhythm section of Jay Haines on drums and Lewis Watkins on bass was incredible and at times I could feel my chest vibrating from the intensity and power they generated.
“Find My Way”, “Little Bit Of You” and “Storm” filled the Gravesend air with more luscious guitar work, some scintillating harmonies and more of those incredible vocals from Phillips which are so rich in tone and feeling. New song, “Texas Red” led us into “The Ballad of Robert Johnson”, which was greeted with a massive reaction from the crowd who had clearly loved every minute of the set by these gifted Welsh rockers. It was nearly time for them to go but not before they played an encore to their ever wanting audience. “Delilah”, no not the one by Tom Jones, finished their set in style. Huge vocals, fast paced, deep meaningful lyrics and some glorious guitar work from Phillips, ably aided by rhythm guitarist Daniel Richards and the whole crowd getting involved with more singing and clapping. This really was a set to remember. My first time seeing the band and it definitely won’t be the last. They made a new fan in me and I am sure plenty of other people in the crowd who witnessed them for the first time. By the looks on their faces, they had really enjoyed their set at Leo’s and hopefully it won’t be long before they make the journey back to Kent again to whip up another storm.
It was then left to Hollowstar to bring the night to an end and boy did they do that in style with a 17 song set that had everything. This was the bands last headline show of 2019 before they finish the year with a few shows at some of the winter festivals and a support slot on the UK and European tour of legendary US rockers Skid Row. On the performance they gave tonight, they must undoubtedly be one of the bands to catch at those festivals and will surely win themselves many new fans on those tour dates.
The award winning line up hit the stage running and treated the packed venue to an enthralling set, that included the whole of their debut album, most of their “Some Things Matter” EP, plus two unreleased tracks and a blistering cover. From the opening bars of “Let You Down”, I found myself fixated on the stage as the band set out their clear intentions to provide a night of top class entertainment. “Down By The Water” followed, a catchy number with a chugging bass line and some sublime vocal parts that was a real out and out crowd pleaser. The interaction between the band members and the fun they are having on stage is instantly noticeable as all four of them make sure that the temperature inside the venue continues to rise at the start of their red hot set.
“Lay Down” and “Guilty” are up next which give the assembled fans a chance to test their own lungs out as they sing along with frontman Joe Bonson. “In My Dreams”, the bands oldest song, which is not on either of their releases sees Joe having some fun interaction with Ian Day from Gallows Circus and shows the camaraderie that has instantly built up between the bands tonight.
The fast pace to the music and the set continues with “Sinner”. Heavy, bass laden and full of more exquisite work from Phil Haines, the bands six string shredder who throws shapes and makes use of the fretboard in his hands, much like Eddie Van Halen did in his pomp. Joe, then thanks the crowd for “Believing in four f**king idiots” as he describes himself and his fellow band members as “Four Muppets from Oxford and Cambridge, who started a band as they wouldn’t let us carry on at school”. I guess praise must be passed on to which ever teacher of staff member who made that decision then!
A drop in pace for “Think Of Me” gives the crowd, who have been dancing and jumping throughout the set so far a much needed breather before “Take It All” sees the band speed things up again. The Kent crowd, who are lapping this performance up are dancing and singing and join in with joyful cheers as Joe Bonson thanks both Gallows Circus and Everyday Heroes for sharing the stage with Hollowstar tonight. The three bands combined have most definitely made up one hell of a line up and the appreciation from a packed Leo’s must surely have been heard drifting out into the cold Gravesend air.
The hot and sweaty venue is showing no signs of cooling down as “Money” and “New Age Lullaby” keep the crowd jumping before the heartfelt soulfulness of “Feel The Burn” gives them another well earned respite. All night long, it has been obvious that in Joe Bonson the band have an absolutely cracking frontman and he really shows his star quality when the band play a rip-roaring version of “Overrated”, a song about “a little drunk friend, who had sat backstage with them at a show in Liverpool”.
An amazingly brilliant version of Free’s “Wishing Well” starts to close out the set, including yet another sumptuous guitar solo from Phil Haines. This leads into “Sweet Suicide” which we are told was written about 4 years ago, before Joe was able to discuss what was going on his head. He explains that writing this song, which is a really heavy, dirty rocker full of electrifying riffs, was his cry for help.
After taking some time to thank Everyday Heroes and Gallows Circus again, plus Steve Borkowski and the rest of the Rock Co-Operative team the band play on with “Invincible”. This takes us to the penultimate track of the night and undoubtedly a very poignant moment for the band and in particular frontman Bonson who is visibly moved to tears as he explains that “Good Man Gone” is about a very close friend of theirs who they had lost after he took his own life. That emotion stayed throughout this sublimely beautiful track and you could see that there were also moved by the deep and powerful lyrics.
So after around 90 minutes of witnessing one of the UK rock scenes best up and coming bands, entertain an enthralled crowd in Gravesend we had come to the last song of the night. “All I Gotta Say”, certainly brought the curtain down on the night’s entertainment in style as the happy gig goers joined in with the band one last time to make sure that Hollowstar left the stage knowing that the evening had been a great success.
Well, what a night that was. Three very different, but totally captivating sets from bands who are most definitely rising up the ladder and should be at the forefront of the New Wave of Classic Rock scene for the foreseeable future. Once again, for me, this was another superb night in a venue that I cannot fault and look for gigs there at every opportunity, but the final word, must go to the promoters. The Rock Co-Operative are the new boys in town and did themselves proud, with a stellar line up of bands and a proper venue for the occasion. They have already announced gigs for the first few months of 2020 which kicks off on the 25th January, at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend, when they will be playing host to Scarlet Rebels, Revival Black and At The Sun. I hope to see you there.
Review & Photography by Darren Smith for MPM