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Gig Reviews : Love Rocks – the first outside rock festival since Covid

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

See the people feel the power , There was sixty thousand there , just like thunder the crowds began to roar.

Where you there ,did ya know , did ya see all the show, There was magic in the air

Fourty years on those lyrics have soundly resonated across a barren wasteland that the music industry has inhabited latterly.

Forward wind fifteen months since the pandemic struck and not only pulled the plug on live music but shoved the entire industry into a darkened room, leaving it waiting, there is a glimmer of light. Green shoots of recovery are sprouting; the germination begins.

Live music is returning surely and steadily; radiating brightly, from a corner of Eastern Dorset, comes a beacon of inspiration. Love Rocks IV – the first outside rock festival since Covid dug its claws in – offers a focal point for all quarters. Collectively we have been starved and the thought of dining upon a veritable banquet of rock n’ roll is a beautiful prospect.

Assembled, and heading for Dorset, are twenty of the finest grass roots rock outfits. Hankering to hit the stage, hooves thundering, across the two days of the main body of the festival.

Plus a brand new innovation, for Love Rocks this year, two further acts on a pre-festival warm-up session. Such is the growing popularity, and indeed reputation, of this burgeoning festival.

The spectre of Covid does, still, cast a darkening shadow but the organisers are on point; with all perspectives covered. From removing the marquee of previous years, to go fully outdoors, to excellent security who exuded professionalism and empathy throughout ensuring that matters were adhered to whilst mindful of the overwhelming desire to turn up the rock to 11! All in all a challenging situation to add to the already complex business of holding a festival but the bands did play on!

As the sun dips down behind the trees lining the festival site so the opening act of Love Rocks IV, Bristol-based songstress Miss Kitty takes to the stage for a breezy, summery acoustic set. Partnered by guitarist James Ashbury – one time fellow band member in folk-pop trio Wildflower – Miss Kitty’s set is the perfect soundtrack for this balmy Dorset dusk.

Spiky lyrics suit Kitty’s wide-ranging vocals with the likes of Alanis Morisette and Shirley Manson clear influences especially in the likes of ‘Mania’ and ‘Better Places’.

Following swiftly on are a trio of renown rapscallions hailing from the southern swamplands down there deep in the Solent delta; bringing their own brand of bluegrass rock fueled with an injection of humour The Outlaw Orchestra tread the boards.

A rollicking good hour of foot-stomping, whisky-guzzling mayhem ensues as ‘Rocker Dave’ leads his merry band through such classics as ‘Milk My Cow’, Whiskey Drinking Liar’ and perennial crowd favourite ‘See You in Hell’ laced with extra ‘Devil Woman’ and, to the surprise of all gathered, a rousing segment of The Proclaimers’500 Miles’ thus ensuring the party continued into the wee hours! It’s an emotional sort of evening; out of the darkness we have emerged with live music, and we’re back amongst like-minded friends who we care deeply for. Nothing more need be said.

Friday dawns brightly but somewhat fuzzy around the edges; fighting our way out of what seemed like a week’s worth of alcohol related recycling we moseyed forth for undefinables 50 Year Storm thundering in from the Western pointy-end – such is the broad spectrum of influences that they meld together in such a polished fashion; gritty yet soulful blues interlaced with an industrial grade rock and a balanced dash of delightful electro.

This is the first edition of pasty-powered mayhem to be launched into the Dorsetshire stratosphere; hopefully nearby airports were warned.

Rocktastic live favourites ‘Cold Teeth’, ‘We The Brave’ along with the hauntingly ethereal ‘Grey Ladies’ please not only the traveling Cornish contingent but the overwhelming percentage of the ever-growing gathering too.

The latest single ‘Intravenous’ and  ‘The Fanlight’ –inspiring a rather natty t shirt / sock combo (more of which later)are aired demonstrating that ‘The Storm’ are striding forward through 2021 in confident and inspired fashion.

Shortly after Mike Ross had graced the second stage Damon Morey, the ever-stylish frontman of 50 Year Storm took time out to chat to MPM reflecting“ Such a fabulous experience.

Really, really good! I don’t usually get nervous but definitely had pre-gig nerves today. It was really good, the team here have been fantastic. They’ve really looked after us and the sound on stage was amazing. I just hope that it sounded as good out front.

He explained the natty t shirt / sock combo “That was actually deliberate, we were trying to copy one of our recent singles ‘The Fanlight’ with Emma and Andy dressed as the demons on my shoulders with red t shirts and red socks. We were trying to replicate ‘The Fanlight’ video just for this performance as a bit of an inside joke and a laugh. Anyone that knows us might recognise it from the video.

Looking to the coming months Damon revealed “We’ve got a few good things coming up actually. We’re visiting Wales a few times in the near future and couple of gigs in Kernow-town back in our homeland. We’re trying to get on a few tours. We’re actually hoping to mingle with some of the bands here today and get networking.

Taking a look across the festival programme he enthused “I’m Obviously looking forward to King Creature and really looking forward to Elles Bailey. I’ve listened to her on Spotify, sounded beautiful. Kris Barras pretty keen to watch that dude. Not being funny but I’m quite narrow-minded when it comes to music but there aren’t many on the list whom I not looking forward to to be fair.

It’s a pretty good line this weekend! That last band on, Mike Ross, almost a blue grassy sort of edge. Really cool, his playing had an edge; great voice too. I’m here to have my mind blown!”

Heading over to the second stage and gravelly blues-rocking troubadour Mike Ross tears into the afternoon with ten tracks of sublime quality that exude heartfelt sincerity and passion.

A wide-ranging selection of tracks from albums across his solo career that included set-opener’ Harpo’, the excellent ‘Hammer’ and ‘Driftwood’; the latter delivered powerfully from his custom left-handed ‘barn wood’ thin line Telecaster. Such quality will ensure further exploration into what was previously uncharted musical territory personally. Special mention must be made of Jade Williams whose silken vocals gave the perfect juxtaposition to the gritty, dirty hard-driven blues.

Reflecting upon his set, Mike observed “It was like the part in The Wizard of Oz where the world suddenly ripples and stretches into glorious Technicolor. Like I’d been seeing everything in black and white but I didn’t know until the drums kicked in and everything…..changed.”

Ahead of joining forces with Mike Ross later, on the main stage, Troy Redfern hits the second stage to impart a different perspective upon the blues. He possesses a packed arsenal that is utilised to the full with ferocious earthy slide overlying an engaging blues-rock groove.

Alongside Troy on stage are two gents with musical ‘rap-sheets’ as long as your arm. Bassist Lee Pomeroy (Yes, Rick Wakeman, Annie Lennox, Take That) and drummer Darby Todd (Devin Townsend, The Darkness, Martin Barre, Gary Moore) provide an incredible foundation for Troy’s slick-as-you-like six-stringing in the likes of ‘Scorpio’ and ‘Shake ‘Em On Down’. A serious statement of intent for current and future endeavours.

A late, but most welcome, addition to the festival line up are South coast alt-rockers Amongst Liars; a ‘new-to-me’ group who only gathered ranks in early 2020. Prowling with a frenetic, energy-drenched power you wouldn’t have know that this is only their second live show! There’s a edgy nitrous charged hook here that leaves you begging for more.

From the ireful riffs of’ Black Days’ via the powerful lyrics of the soul-searching angst that is ‘Mind’ through top sounding hyperactive beat of set-closer ‘Wolf Machine’ –  that leaves a complete of absence of sound rather than just quiet at song-end –this Brighton quartet have an impressive array of ordnance from which to draw upon for future exchanges.

Sadly Mancunian dirty-rock n’ rollers Gorilla Riot were unable, due to illness, to travel southwards but the Love Rocks organisers pulled a Brobdingnagian sized rabbit out of the metaphorical hat by securing the services of the mercurial monster that is Blind River at 24 hours notice.

A great choice as this ten legged hairy heavy rocking groove machine have just come off a tour with King Creature and are in fine form. They hit the stage in rumbustious fashion; kablooey right into the detonative ‘Going Nowhere’. Which is precisely where we’re heading for the next 40 minutes. Heck ‘The Creature’ are awake and stirred into action; cheering on their recent tour-mates.

Affable frontman Harry Armstrong, who has more than a touch of Dio in his delivery, chats ebulliently between songs and enthuses eloquently regarding the return of live music; a recurrent thread throughout the course of the weekend.

Their two albums provide several live favourites including the tremendous power of ‘Bone house’ and the southern-infused charms of ‘Home’. The powerhouse signature track’ Can’t Sleep Sober’ ends a very well received set quite aptly. Don’t think many will be sleeping in this manner tonight!

In Angelo Tristan (vocals/acoustic guitar) melodious Kentish rockers Collateral have a frontman to die for; LA rock-style looks and a voice to match.

They are a talented bunch whose ranks have been increased following the addition of six-stringer Louis Malagodi and keys man Robert Fenning. Sadly the latter is not available but it’s evident that Malagodi complements fellow axeman Todd Winger and gives an expansion to the overall sound.

Collateral’s Americanised rock delivery is perfect for this sunny later afternoon with the words of live stap lessuch as 2018’s anthemic debut single ‘Midnight Queen’, the gloriously riff -tastic ‘Mr Big Shot’ and Jovi-esque ‘Merry Go Round’ are sun gright back from the assembled.

Shortly after Collateral’s energising set MPM caught up with one of the mosts in cerest, genuine guys in rock n’ roll; the all round lovely Todd Winger who, casting an eye upon their set, remarked “It’s been along time and I think I did more dancing than playing today because I was so f*****g happy.

It was really cool, really enjoyed it.” Adding about their new guitarist “Louis is wicked man, he’s got such a lot of feel and touch That’ll only matter to guitar players really, but he can play some really twinkly, really nice stuff in contrast to the dirty drop D stuff that I play. So he adds a nice essence to it, broadens the sound. He’s really good.

The frustration of releasing and their debut album and being halted in their tracks last year was challenging but Todd seemed upbeat saying“ Yeah, certainly is. We kinda got stopped in its heyday.

We were just starting to get going with the Jared James Nicholls and Phil Xtour and then suddenly it all ground to halt and the album had only just come out. It is what it is, we made do, and we’re back bigger than ever. We’ve got new members.

Projecting forwards Todd revealed “We are going to re-release the album with some guess artists later this year. It’s going to be very cool; we’ve got some guys from Blackberry Smoke, Cadillac 3, Jeff Scott Soto and Phil X. Next year we’ve got a whole load of tours with Skid Row, HEAT, Reckless Love and then we’ll bring the new album out.”

From one high point to another; Love Rocks IV is the rock n’ roll version of Alpine hiking! The twin growling guitars that are an unmistakable trademark of Liverpudlian hard-rocking quintet Revival Black announce their collective landing.

In singer Dan Byrne the band possesses, simply put, one of the most natural and talented vocalists on the circuit; a wide-ranging breadth and depth of not only the notes but styles too.

Their 40 minute set passes in the blink of an eye as they rollickingly rock their way through a set largely drawn from the irimplausibly delicious 2019 debut ”Step In Line’ with a couple of new ones mixed in as a taster for the forthcoming long player.

Balls to the wall ‘So Alive’ kicks off proceedings peregrinating through out with the hammering beat garnering a healthy response. The filthy blues licks of ‘Midnight Oil’ swagger outwards across the Dorset countryside before matters are wrapped up with the twin-barelled hard-rocking blast of ‘No Secrets, No Lies’ and ‘Wide Awake’.

It has been some 15 months since I had last seen Revival Black in action so it was an absolute pleasure to catch up with the  humblest off frontmen in the affable form of Dan Byrne. Looking back to that night in Swansea Dan noted “That was the last gig of the Rising Tour, we had to cancel the tour short unfortunately.

In the meantime we had one gig with an audience which was at Leos Red Line [Rock Co-operative, Gravesend]. So it’s a pleasure to get back out and play to a crowd.” Musing upon lockdown Dan commented “Lockdown has given us a chance to do things somethings we’ve never previously been able to.

We’ve successfully written and recorded our second album. I feel it should continue the momentum that we had on our debut. We were riding that wave and I don’t think we would have had the time even begun writing songs and the ideas that we’ve had.” Expanding upon plans for releasing the new album this year Dan noted “Ideally, maybe pushing into next year depending upon availability.

Furthering plans for the coming weeks and months Dan closed “We’re in festival season right now. Providing everything goes ahead to plan we’ve got a gig every weekend in July. We’ve got Steel house and all those great festivals. We really can’t wait to get involved, and then we are on tour with Vega.

I know Pete New deck, the drummer, well. He’s the guy who messaged me and said ‘Would we be interested?’ It’s a different audience to the one we typically have, a different style of rock and we can complement it well hopefully expanding our fanbase.

Joint custodians of the second stage earlier in the day, Mike Ross and Troy Redfern join forces on the main stage for a barnstorming set of driving blues-rock under the RHR banner.

Based upon their set it’s a trademark of quality in the humblest of my opinions. The swaggering Pintura De Luna entwined with the snarling ‘She Painted The Room’ sets the tone early doors with’ Ghost Hound Rider’ giving a good idea of what the swamp dwelling offspring of The Black Crowes and Creedance Clearwater Revival would sound like.

The cantering country-blues southern rock crossover of’ Tres Hermanos’ – renamed ‘Dos Hermanos on the set list – is a highlight of the set that seemed in perfect harmony with the essence of the early evening.

Flicking the switch back to all out heavy rock are The Dust Coda, fresh from charting with their second album ‘Mojo Skyline’, with an eye-catching 40-minute romp as the sun continued to lower in the Dorset sky.

The capital city rocking quartet, a late but exceptionally well received addition to the bill, possess a confident swagger combined with a sharpness of delivery that is rapidly apparent as they hit the ground running with the swashbuckling punchy’ Demon’. ‘Rolling’ through the exuberant ‘Jimmy 2 Times’, deeply steeped in gritty blues, to the soulfully edged ‘Breakdown’ The Coda barely draw breath as they set a high bar.

As the evening draws onwards and the shadows lengthen Cornish-metallers King Creature stride forward snorting brimstone and breathing fire; this is as upper charged incendiary beast of Celtic origin. Opening up with a full-blooded battle cry in the shape of ‘Live Forever’ The Creature are aiming for the jugular, let there be no doubt they mean business.

Rocking the hell out of this corner of Dorset is atop their agenda and hard-riffing gems ‘Beautiful Fatality’ and ‘Demon Within’ ensure that success is achieved in this quarter. New guitarist Mike Stennett slots in seamlessly and seems well atuned with his six-stringing brother-in-arms Matt Karl Vincent; whilst bassist / vocalist Dave Kellaway views the ‘Desolation’ that his rhythm partnership with skins man Jack Bassett is creating out front.

It’s a beautiful sight as Kellaway enquires, playfully, “So what’s it like to be in afield full of smelly people?”.
The gears are shifted upwards and the metalliferous Ker now four-piece hammer through the aptly entitled ‘Power’; intense and unforgiving The Creature have whipped up a storm and as the final notes of ‘Never Get Out Alive’ reverberates around Love Rocks one is left wondering how on earth do you follow that?

That mammoth task falls squarely at the feet of Norfolk’s Bad Touch, Love Rocks’ day one headliners; and how they rise to the challenge! Their infectious southern-doused whiskey-fuelled brand of rock has me transported back to Glastonbury ’95 watching The Black Crowes; the smoke from the camp fires pervading my nostrils.

Such is the power at hand; Stevie Westwood’s vocals sooth the inner soul with an Americana-infused passion whilst the guitar slinging from twin six-string banditos Rob Glendinning and Daniel Seekings entwines, in a rare fashion, evoking Free, Skynyrd and the aforementioned Black Crowes.

Bassist Michael Bailey and the veritable ‘Beast from the East’ tubthumping George Drewry lay such a solid foundation to build the strutting sashay of a groove upon that swaggers more than Mick Jagger and Joe Perry combined.

The country-edged ‘Outlaw’ has me reaching for my ‘six-shot’ in readiness for the coming duel out there on the dusty street; whilst the riff-laden ‘Skyman’ hits stratospheric heights.

An inspired, and completely unexpected, re-working of Alanis Morisette’s ’95 hit single ‘Hand In My Pocket’ raises the roof and structural damage ensues with the walls coming down as the opening chords of the show stopping singalong anthem ‘99%’ resonates across the darkening evening. Utterly sublime and the, in summate, perfect answer to ‘How on earth do you follow that?”

Reflecting upon returning to the stage the irrepressible Stevie Westwood, in conversation with MPM, commented “Anyone who knows of Bad Touch ,knows that we live to be out there playing shows.

The last 18 months or so have been so, so hard for us, and for everyone, not just musicians, but to be at an actual festival, with a real crowd, in front of real people with human emotions and reactions, after this long was beyond euphoric.

Nerves played a part initially as Stevie revealed, “I was shaking like a leaf before we went on, I honestly didn’t know if my lockdown bod still had it! But the crowd loved it, we loved it, and both of us(hopefully) went home smiling from ear to ear.

Now we’re back and have got a taste for blood! We have our “Better Late Than Never ”Tour coming your way November this year (tickets atbadtouchrocks.co.uk) and we can’t wait to see you all down the front (and then hopefully at the bar!) Stay safe everyone, peace.

As the last notes reverberate about the arena, organiser and good friend, Jim Love looks across and says ” How do we follow today?” .I reply , Quite simply , Put on tomorrow.”

Photography by Jon Theobald for Love rocks 2021

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

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmW4Gr8c

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