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Gig Review : Love Rocks IV

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

So Saturday dawned bright and sunny; the tomorrow, that was discussed yesterday, that is required today to follow the terrific vibes of an emotional day one of Love Rocks IV.

Leaving Basil Fawlty behind in South Devon – no doubt pointing out precisely where the sea is to his confused guests – rapidly ascending prog-metallers Ethyrfield hit the stage, early-doors, at 11am.

With orthognathic surgeons on stand-by, for the unknowing, the high-voltage trio hit heavily from the off with grungy grit of ‘Sunstroke’ – most apt considering the wall-to-wall sun forecast – uplifted off their debut album ‘In Delirium’.

In fact, just days before the long-player’s much-vaunted release, their set is slanted in this direction with five of their seven track set drawn from the long-player, demonstrating the massive potential possessed within.

Latest single the emotive and melancholic ‘Remembering’ flows serenely in a neoclassical fashion with passages of dark and light; theirs is a journey embracing the edgier metalliferous elements of prog.

The glorious vocal harmonies and sensitive solo of ‘Serenity’ are contraposition to the aphotic riffs and tempestuous rhythms that dwell within. Live favourite ‘Show Me God’, from 2017s self-titled debut EP, stands well amongst the newer material demonstrating a resilient depth.

As the feedback, at the end of ‘Bitter Wishbone’, echoes circumferentially so the trio take the deserved roar. They are at the beginning of a massive skyward trajectory but there’s just one headache! It’s now a case of what to leave out of a 40-minute set not what to put in!

Not long after their killer set MPM caught up with Ethyrfield for a chat with the trio admitting “It was very strange, I think it’s everything we kind of we were used to before has kind of become a bit rusty. Even down to how I move on stage! It feels a bit different.”

Reflecting on the change coming back from rehearsals in the bedroom they added “Exactly, it’s all a bit of a shock really. ‘Cos they way you perceive yourself to be in a practice and how you move around; then you go on stage and it’s completely different. You don’t really expect it.”

Reflecting on the period of lockdown “Definitely, it’s been a lot of time for us, and we’ve hunkered down and started to write a lot of material.”

Hopeful for the future they projected “We’re aiming to obviously gig a lot more, definitely more than last year! Then on from the gigging is selling what we’ve outputted and getting the word out.”

They confirmed that their 2 EP’s that preceded their debut album are close to selling out “Yes, we will get some more made for sure. People seem to like going through the back catalogue. We played a couple of the older tracks today (‘Free The Dog’ & ‘Show Me God’). We were planning to play ‘Bag of Bones’ but ran out of time.

We got really excited to play and perhaps a bit overconfident about how quickly the songs would play out. The good thing it’s blown the cobwebs away. Halfway through the set we could feel ourselves getting into it.”

The effervescent Verity White hits Love Rocks second stage most vibrantly, for the first of two sets, in typical high-energy style neatly complementing the day’s radiance. Slamming in with the spiky post-punk new-wave edged ‘Own Me’; there’s a touch of Blondie at work here. Verity and co. breeze through catchy hooks such as the punchy yet, in part, haunting ‘Exhale’ and Elastica-esque anti-mainstream ‘Come And Get It’.

Verity rallies “I don’t care what people say, I’m gonna do it my way”; prowling the front stage whilst, out stage right, her husband Alex hammers the six-strings.

It’s not all full throttle as Verity demonstrates, midway through her second set, with the heartfelt ‘Zeroes and Ones’; slowing matters down a gear with its mellow intro before gradually ratcheting it up into the chorus. Ending their second set with the rabblerousing ‘I Don’t Care’, from 2017s ‘Breaking Out’ sets a party-tone for the Love Rocks faithful in a Ramones crossed with Joan Jett sort of a way!

Once the dust had settled Verity drew breath to natter to MPM. “It was such a wonderful feeling to get back on stage – I was so excited I could barely breathe for the first few songs coz I was jumping about so much. What an audience too, you could feel the happiness and love radiating.”

Reflecting on lockdown Verity added “After over a year of live streams it felt even more special to meet the fans who have been with us nearly every week too, like a real party, and we finally got to perform some of the tracks that we’ve written over lockdown as a band for the first time too, was great to see people singing along with ‘Alibi’ and ‘A Little Bit of Trouble’, as well as our older stuff.”

Looking to the coming weeks and months she revealed “We have huge plans for the next 18 months, more new music and a headline tour coming in early 2022. We are working on a proper show to really blow people away – this won’t just be another band in a room, we want to make something really unique – so look out for that! There are a load of dates coming later this year too, including a few with Jack J Hutchinson and also the amazing Toyah Wilcox. No matter what the future holds COVID wise, we will continue to do our weird Monday night live streams coz they’ve just been so fun – we might even write another track live online with the fans soon!’

Back over to the main stage and local outfit Black Tree Vultures seamlessly tear full-bore through an eight track set completely confuting the fact that 50% of the quartet has been recruited during lockdown. To lose one member of a band knocks hard but losing two doesn’t just double the issue, there’s even more to factor in.

However in new vocalist Tom Jobling and bassist Jake Waters, joining remaining originals Jonno Smyth (drums) and Aaron Hammersley (guitar), they have struck gold based upon this showing. The first time live with the new lineup and the set packs a veritable punch in its intensity with a mixture of old and new music aired.

‘The Unforseen’ and ‘Veins’ – lifted from this years EP ‘III’ nestle tidily alongside 2020s ‘Pull Apart’ and ‘Bitter’ from a year previous; a new course has been charted and with sails now fully unfurled BTV 2.0 are heading for a bright future

Guitarist Aaron took some time to have a few words with MPM; beginning with reflecting upon last year “2020 started well I’ll be honest. We made the decision to go to Spain to record our latest EP ‘III’ which we’re still immensely proud of. Two months later and it’s all shut down.

So we was wondering what we can do safely in this time? So we thought we need to get a decent music video together, we need to branch out some new songs. We managed to record a new video in Manchester on the Peaky Blinders set believe it or not! A lot of people think it’s in Birmingham. That was in July, and we had that period of time, four months, waiting to do something. It’s horrible.”

Looking back upon the loss of two band members he added “Well yeah, sadly two of the guys. We parted ways amicably but I was disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? That element we used to have, our chemistry, we’ve found it again with other people. We feel comfortable. Jonno and I love it. It’s so nice to go and do this with other guys. We didn’t think it would happen again.”

Upon taking a new musical direction Aaron mused “Yeah, we always try and facilitate the four members. Now there’s two new members and naturally things are going to be different with different people. So we’re trying things that are more upbeat in some ways. It’s taking it on a new fork, the third and fourth tracks are new ones.”

On future plans he revealed “Yesterday we were in the studio. It’s been a great weekend. What a comeback! In the studio and our first gig back! Adding about new vocalist Tom being a record producer “Yes he is! It brings something massive to the band. You always do that sort of thing externally; pre-production with a producer. Like when we went to Spain; do calls over Zoom get some ideas. Now Tom’s heavily invested in the band, and he’s part of it. He’s like I can put my ideas here, and we can do that.”

New material is in the offing “We’re thinking probably before the end of the summer, possibly September at the latest. I’m so chuffed today’s happened and I was sceptical last month. I thought that they might shut the whole country down again. I think, to a degree, we’ve got a green light so it’s time now to show what we are.”

Finishing off by looking at their set Aaron said “We all came here today excited. I was like I really hope this goes well because we don’t know. We hear in the practice room and we are going to think it’s great because we’re doing it, but is it? The feedback we’ve had today has been astronomical. From people we’ve not met before which is great! It’s given us a confidence boost and we can push forward into the rest of 2021. We’ve got things planned for the coming months.”

The main stage reins are handed over to another south-coast band in the entertaining package that is Bournemouth-based choreographed rockers Saints of Sin. Make no mistake these four chaps are serious musicians, but they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Although we’re a few miles inland they’ve brought the beach-soiree to us; they’re here to party and want the whole field to join them! This is a bright, summery set – most appropriate as it’s shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the year so far – lifted, in main, from their eponymous album of last year.

Set opener the ‘Heart Attack’ has the glam-trappings of the LA scene that carry through to last track the anthemic ’21 Shots’ via an inspired re-working of Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’; the latter surely the weekend’s recipient for the award of most unlikely song to get a field full of rockers …. ummm well, rocking! They know how to work a crowd and aren’t shy of getting up close and personal decamping from the stage at one juncture. They’re brash, engaging and above everything they truly rock!

The hard rocking triumvirate that comprises the ranks of Haxan deliver their no-nonsense brand of thumpingly enjoyable rousing rock in the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. Slamming in with opening track ‘Damned If You Do’.

Jabbing left, jabbing right Haxan mean business and set about tearing Love Rocks a new one; metaphorically of course! The power-hammer ‘Killing Time’ rolls along taking no prisoners.

Think AC/DC crossed with The Donnas and you get the arena Haxan motor around in. There is absolutely no doubt that this trio does ‘Bring The Thunder’ with them; listen carefully there’s a supercharged nitrous-boosted Quo riff in there! Cumulonimbus gather on the horizon as the air energises in front of the approaching storm; electricity crackles before Haxan go out with a massive bang, rattling bones, with the osteological-rocker ‘Skeletons’. It’s all over in a blink of an eye; leaving a wishing for more.

It’s a good three years since I last caught the polished vibes of Northamptonshire rockers Empyre live and I’m keen to see what is behind the buzz currently surrounding their good name. The potential that had been noted previously is blossoming beautifully and the clear, precisely defined lines of their alt-edged rock suit a larger stage well.

From the very offset with highly impassioned strains of the emotionally drenched ‘Homegrown’ setting an impressive tone; one that is sustained, seemingly effortlessly, throughout. Henrik Steenholdt’s vocals possess so much passion and feeling; it’s impossible not to be swept along with this tsunami of heartfelt sincerity.

Alongside Henrik is lead guitarist Did Coles who picks out the intro notes of ‘Stone’ with Gary Moore-like precision before sensatively battering the riffs that follow. This is raw lump-in-the-throat mastered artistry; some what akin to the planar journey Pink Floyd takes the listener upon albeit on a much heavier level.

The portentous strains of ‘New Republic’ are set upon the so-so solid foundation laid down by metronomically defined tubthumper Elliot Bale and his rhythm partner-in-crime Grant Hockley on bass; it’s a compelling, potent heady brew that is most palatable. Empyre have been on one heck of a journey thus far and it’s going to be captivating viewing watching what occurs going forth.

About a day and a half into Love Rocks and it’s quite apparent that this festival is a self-propagating beast. Each band sets a high bar in terms of quality and the following one sets about in industrial-grade earnesty in clearing that bar and setting another even higher. Sheffield outfit Doomsday Outlaw launch with new single ‘In Too Deep’; shooting from the hip into a headlong blues-grooved rocking track that sets about roughly destroying the joint.

The Outlaws are an eclectic mix of five very individual characters that share a common goal of rocking the heck out of wherever they play. They swagger, they prowl at high pace, they face head on whatever lays in front of them; no diversions required here, this is balls-to-the-wall high-energy rock n’ roll.

The crowd lap it up; no mid-afternoon slumbers here. ‘Bring It On Home’ has a Led Zeppelin crossed with Black Crowes kind of groove but without trampling right across either influence.

Runaway’ skyrockets into the upper reaches of the atmosphere; there’s a undercurrent of classic Foo Fighters but with added southern vibe liberally sprinkled about. The Outlaws came with a mission to rock, they succeeded with aplomb.

Following on from a well-received mini acoustic set on the second stage Jack J. Hutchinson and his band saunter over to the main stage for a full-on electric assault. With trademark bowler hat and flying-V to the fore Jack turns it up to eleven from the offset setting off apace with ‘Justified’; a sort of, in parts, cranked up riffing Lenny Kravitz crossed with Billy Gibbons slick blues-grooved rock.

This grabs the attention by applying a twist of the sphericals and that is maintained by 2017s ‘Deal With The Devil’ – an infectious earworm of a hook that will be rattling about cranially indefinitely – and the southern-steeped grace of ‘Kiss Your Ass Goodbye’. Looking out from under the rim of his bowler Jack stalks the edge of the stage taking the six-strings to the gathered masses.

Worship has commenced and the wily preacher has unleashed a sublimely unforgiving precept of a sermon. ‘Sleep, Awake, Obey’ lifted from 2019s long-player ‘Who Feeds The Wolf’, closing a magnificent set, has a ‘Black’ album-era Metallica-esque riff underpinned with a curious beat that verges towards the glam rock chapter.

There is mastery afoot right here. There’s also ice cream to my very table courtesy of Dave – aka The Horny Barman – a very most welcome random act of kindness.

Llanelli’s finest Scarlet Rebels are proudly flying the Welsh flag upon high having recently announced their signing to Nottingham label Earache Records, home of such musical peers as Massive Wagons, fellow-countrymen Those Damn Crows and The Dust Coda.

They possess a great following who are most vociferous in their unfettered support of this ever-humble quintet. Ferocious six-stringing from Chris Jones is the foretoken for Rebels’ anthem ‘No One Else To Blame’; every last word sung right back by the sun-drenched audience. Amiable frontman Wayne Doyle gets the crowd singing in fine voice in the, now, traditional participation of ‘Save Me’; it’s great to hear, just rewards for the band’s hard work and commitment.

The profoundly heartfelt ‘Heal’ decelerates musical affairs as Wayne bares his inner soul, with a hint of Bob Catley, before the band gathers ranks to lift matters as the song progresses. The forthcoming single ‘Storm’ is introduced and goes down a storm naturally; a catchy chorus and contagious hooks, it’s instantly Rebels.

The closing brace of the utterly Quo-tastic ‘Not The One’ – the one Rossi, Parfitt et al should have written but didn’t – and ‘Take My Breath Away’, with its AC/DC edge, tear the place apart. The Rebels are on the march!

The breeze ruffles the leaves on the trees; smoke swirls about the stage; Celtic goddesses Arianrhod and Branwen ride high on a wave of passion. Elles Bailey – the ‘Stevie Nicks of UK blues’ – takes to the Love Rocks stage weaving a cogent incantation with her silk-smooth voice and enduring natural charisma.

This is truly spellbinding; there’s a tangible dynamism stirring. Shaking off the stupors of lockdown Elles – recently a mum to son Jasper – and her band are soon into their collective stride. Engaging blues-ballad ‘Woman Like Me’ and the melding of country-blues and mellow southern-rock into the form of ‘Miss Me When I’m Gone’ set the mood that suits the mid-evening perfectly.

Enchanted, there’s sorcery astir, songs unknown are sung along too. The Devil, the purveyor of the darkest arts, arrives in a horse and cart, for the beguiling southern-laced hex of ‘Medicine Man’, after falling head over heels with the bluesy grapples of the infectious ‘When I Go Away’. ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ is dedicated, by Elles, to all the greats of blues who have inspired her; we are thankful that they have had such a profound effect.

Upon returning home Elles took time to chat to MPM looking back at Love Rocks “The sun was still high in the sky as my husband, son and I drove into the Love Rocks festival site. That in itself is an incredibly surreal statement …. I still find it mad emerging out of lockdown with a newborn when no one really saw me pregnant, let alone being back at work with a 10 week old. And honestly I was super nervous, and not sure I was ready for the stage (I actually cried with nerves as I arrived – Richard Brindley can vouch for that).”

She added “But then I walked into our backstage area and saw how much effort Loves Rocks had gone to accommodate us (set up a changing mat for Jasper and a huge present for him too) and I knew it was going to be ok. To be back playing to a real crowd was incredibly humbling, I was rusty, lyrics were forgotten, notes were missed but the crowd, forgiving and electric, and they sang along…. And then there is my band. Four unbelievably talented musicians that set the stage on fire (and covered up all my mistakes) …. I felt like I was home!”

Cambridgeshire hard rocking four-piece Hollowstar stride on to the Love Rocks stage; frontman Joe Bonson, smiling broadly, looks about before exclaiming “We’re back!”. With his musical brothers around him they roll right into ‘Down By The Water’ to get right amongst the masses.

Just a matter of a few weeks prior to this evening’s gig it was announced that guitarist Tom Collett had elected to put his focus into other areas of his life and as a consequence was departing the ranks of the band. Despite this untimely bombshell the remaining trio of Joe, Phil and Jack shifted up a gear and filled the void by calling upon Carl Ledger, a close friend of the band, to take on the six-string duties. To the credit of all this is a seamlessly executed matter with the quartet on form and exuding so much happiness on-stage.

Joe dedicates anthemic ‘Think Of Me’ to all those not at Love Rocks watching via live feeds whilst explaining that the deeply resonate ‘Feel The Burn’ – taken from their 2017 debut EP ‘Some Things Matter’ – has found meaning with many and this has forged a personal connection. The power of quality, heartfelt music. ‘All I Gotta Say’ is blasted out at a rapid rate of knots.

Tears in eyes, every blooming time gents, the emotional plagency of ‘Good Man Gone’ strikes home on so many levels. Joe roars “Black dog waiting at the door” and you know it’s so damn heartfelt. The absolute highlight of an outstanding set.

Returning home Hollowstar commented, on their social media outlets, “What a way to return to some form of normality as a band! Love Rocks we had so much fun tearing up the stage, a massive thank you to Jim, Simon and everyone involved in putting together such an awesome weekend! And a very special thank you goes to all you lovely lot that welcomed us back with such an amazing response Until next time!”

For the second day a high bar has been set for the headliners to clear; Love Rocks have lined up a heavyweight to confront this challenge in the form of highly-lauded bluesman Kris Barras. This is his third Love Rocks appearance and a deserved first as the headline act.

Devon-born Kris and his band provide the perfect ‘bookend’ to the day with Kris having tutored brothers Zach and Ben Cornish from opening act Ethyrfield whilst his guitarist Josiah J. Manning produced and played keyboards on their recently released debut album.

It’s an interesting switch that Josiah has undertaken moving from keys on to six-string duties. Whilst losing that wonderful swirling hammond sound from the mix the extra guitar does ‘rock’ matters up a good degree; heavying up the sound quite noticeably.

Technical issues, early doors, with Kris’ wireless transmitter on his guitar are swiftly overcome with Kris plugging in a cable and going, as he put it, ‘old-school’ before firing off, into the dusk, with the aptly titled ‘Ignite (Light It Up)’. The band does that very thing as they illuminate the dark with brightly shining numbers such as ‘Rock n Roll Running Through My Veins’ and ‘What a Way To Go’.

The a cappella intro “High hopes and empty roads, She’ll tell you a story that’s never been told” raises the goosebumps and announces the commencing of the foot-stomping ‘Hail Mary’.

We hold on to what we know as Kris hits the first riff; left leg stamping along to the pounding beat and with a smile as wide as the nearby Solent Kris is clearly enjoying the return to the stage. I’m transported to happy memories of post-festival shenanigans in a certain Sheffield drinking establishment with good friends; you know who you all are! Such is the undeniable power of absolute quality music.

A wonderful weekend is over and we have a year to look forward to Love Rocks V. Dates have been announced – 24th and 25th June 2022 – along with five bands. Namely SKAM, Scarlet Rebels, Ryders Creed, Florence Black and Sons of Liberty; all of whom whet the appetite nicely.

This announcement resulted in the incredible act of the entire allocation of early-bird tickets selling out in a matter of a couple of hours. Steadily confidence in the live music arena appears to be returning.

Photography by Jon Theobald for Love Rocks and MPM

Full Gallery by Kelly Spiller for MPM Below – Click the link.


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