Review & Photography by Darren Smith for MPM
Ever since the Covid restrictions were lifted and live music started to rear itself up from its enforced slumber, the year has become something of a tickbox agenda for me as life returns to some sort of normality.
Been out for a meal, been down the pub to meet up with friends, been to a socially distanced gig, drove on a motorway (such a simple thing but hadn’t done it for 16 months), been to a proper live standing gig and now last Saturday, Nozfest gave me the chance to tick another thing off as I attended this superb one day indoor festival.
The line up was one that grabbed me from the off, with a mixture of bands I love and have seen live many times to bands that I have caught live once or twice, bands I have never seen live but enjoy and bands that were completely new to me. Perfect! It had all the hall markings of being a great day and it more than lived up to my expectations.
What young promoter Jodie Bowie has accomplished in pulling this line up together is something quite remarkable and a feat that did not go unnoticed by each and every band that entertained the gathered crowds throughout the day and night. Every single one of them was more than appreciative of the efforts she had gone to, to make sure the event happened in these more than difficult times.
You could tell from the first chord of Spyder Byte’s set, all the way through to the last dying note of The Treatments headline slot, not just because they all acknowledged her efforts, but by the looks on their faces as they took to the stage, playing their own brands of rock n fecking roll to fans equally starved of, what for me and many of them in attendance, is their lifeblood, that shot of adrenaline that gets you through the mundane aspects of life that we all endure to be able to don the denims, the t-shirts and let our hair down in a room full of hot, sweaty like minded souls, raising the horns and bowing and praying to the god that is rock n roll!
So what lay ahead for the attendees of this sold out event then? Well, quite simply 10 hours of loud, high class, rock music from 10 bands who were there to entertain and blow off 16 months of built up cobwebs. It had been two years since Those Damn Crows and Massive Wagons closed out the first Nozfest festival and you could almost smell the anticipation and excitement in the room as the clock proudly worked its way around to 1pm and the start of this years musical extravaganza.
Welcoming everybody to the party and onstage ready to rock at 1pm were the truly sensational Spyder Byte. A new band on me, one I had heard nothing of before but they won me over within minutes of getting said party started. They were dressed to celebrate and played high octane rock n roll that was just a joy to behold.
If anybody in the ever filling crowd was unaware of how good these boys are or were wondering how good the day ahead was going to be, then Spyder Byte laid it on the line very quickly and put down a very high benchmark for the next 9 bands to meet. Their 45 minute set seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye as they tore through a setlist that included ‘Tonight’, ‘Nocturnal Beauty’, their new single ‘Double Dose’ and ‘Vixen’ before getting to the riff laden ‘Moonshine’, one of the highlights of their set for me.
With frontman Dan Lawrence and bassist Nathan Hammond covering every inch of the 1865 stage with their unrelenting energy, the band continued with the all action rocker ‘Strip Club Blues’ and ‘New Blood’ before getting the crowd joining in during ‘In Your Face’, which is a really sleazy and dirty rocker for the 2020’s. The crowd really seemed to get them and joined in at every request, creating an atmosphere that contradicted the time of day. Finishing up with ’Spark’ and then ‘Black Velvet Love’ that was one hell of a way to kickstart the day. Fanbloodytastic!
If Spyder Byte were the cheese to get the Nozfest ball rolling, then Trouble County were the chalk to oppose it. Opening with new track ‘Wasted’ from their forthcoming 4 track EP which is out later this month, the Hampshire based trio, were quickly into their stride.
Theirs was a set of dirty, gritty, southern rock from the depths of the south coast swamps, full of passion, harmonies, monstrous riffs and some ear melting thunder from the rhythm section. ‘Oradour’, ‘Awake’ and ‘World To Me’ take their set to its mid-point before ‘John Baker’ and then ’12 Guage’ which is introduced by frontman Joolz with the request for the crowd to “Raise Your glasses and shake your asses” and then ‘Drive’.
They bring their power packed set to a close with a mightily meaty version of ‘You Again’, where the crowd are asked to “look out for the fuck you’s” of which there are plenty, and join in. Trouble County left the stage after their phenomenally power packed performance to a well deserved response from the crowd.
Next up were another new band to me, Western Sand, another South Coast band, who arrived here, post pandemic with a new bass player. They whipped up a right royal storm with their brand of southern influenced hard rock and like Spyder Byte found a new fan within minutes of starting their 9 song set of which 7 came from the bands album “Welcome To The Badlands”.
Kicking off with ‘Dark Horse’ and going straight into ‘Black Water Resolution’ what almost took me by surprise was the quality of the bands heavy, energetic rock. The gritty, gravelly vocals of frontman Tyler Hains are just exquisite and clearly this is a band that should be playing to much bigger venues and much bigger crowds.
Their performance in some ways reminded me of when I first saw Nickelback back in 2001/2, loud, guitar fuelled heavy rock with a top notch frontman who knows how to work the crowd. Truly captivating stuff and definitely the surprise performance of the day.
Their set continued with ‘Broken Bones’ a sublime cover of the Mountain classic ‘Mississippi Queen’ which really got the crowd dancing and then ‘Fly Like The Crow’. ‘Going Down’ gave the crowd plenty of scope to get involved with chants of “Come On Come On” before ‘Whiskey Tripper’ and ‘Welcome To The Badlands’ took us to the final song of the set. That last song, ‘Nothing To Lose’ was played as a tribute to the late photographer Lloyd Allen and that announcement was greeted with a thunderous cacophony of noise.
The song itself was a raucous way to bring their fantastic set to a close and like the rest of the set before it, was lapped up by the audience. Tyler Hains is a frontman who can not only control the crowd in front of him, he can sing, scream and play some mean guitar, a man with real star quality. Watch this space!
The next two bands on the bill were making return appearances to the Nozfest stage. First up were The Wicked Jackals, a band who caught my eye two years ago and because of a certain virus I have not had the chance to see since. This is a band who were born to entertain and entertain they do.
For me, there is something quite compelling about them, they play a brand of high energy rock n roll that sits just perfectly on my ear and I find nothing not to like about them. They have a frontman in Oliver Tindall who has the looks, the attitude and the voice that would have made him a megastar back in the day and a guitarist in Marty Venus who not only looks like he has been dragged Back To the Future from some sleazy bygone rock bar but has the ability to compete with some of the genre’s greats.
Their set included tracks from their debut EP, new music yet to be released and two fantastic covers. As Ollie Tindall said “I don’t need a fucking excuse to party, but Nozfest is a great excuse to party” and he was not wrong. I’m not sure on the set opener as I couldn’t quite see all their set list but the other original material they played in ‘Ain’t Gonna Change’, ‘Movin’ On’, ‘Victory or Death’, ‘Raise A Glass’, which was dedicated to the crowd and ‘Scream’ were written and performed for people to party to and party they did.
The two covers, WASP’s ‘Blind In Texas’ and The Cults ‘Firewoman’ gave those members of the crowd who were not familiar with the bands material a chance to get stuck in and sing a long to these familiar rock classics. ‘Firewoman’ in particular went down superbly and ensured the band left the stage with the crowds appreciation ringing in their ears and made sure I had a song to still be humming along to whilst making tea on Monday morning. Party time….excellent!
That left Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters to complete the duo of returning bands as they took to the 1865 stage for their first gig in 18 months. Beth obviously has an affinity for not only the promoter but the venue and clearly the stage as she commented very early on that “it was good to be home”.
I’m guessing after 18 months away there was some rustiness to be expected, maybe not from the playing but more from the stage presence as such, but in all honesty nothing was obvious and the band tore through a set of glitzy, gutsy rock n roll, full of crunching guitars, powered by an on point rhythm section and fronted by a lady who has a vocal power, presence and style that instantly draws you to leading lights in the rock scene like Lzzy Hale.
The Otherside’, ‘Forbidden Hearts’, ‘Give It All You Got’, ‘Hell In High Heels’ and ‘Down and Dirty’ are all really powerful rock tracks that help pull the crowd to the front of the venue. It is the latter part of the set though in which the band truly excel as the cobwebs have clearly all been blown off. ‘On and On’, then ‘Tonight I’m With You’, a song about everyone sticking together through the hard times leads into the delightfully beautiful ‘You And I’ which is a fine slice of meaty power ballad.
Then it was foot to the floor, pedal to the metal time to finish up as the anthemic ‘Ain’t Got Nothing (If I Ain’t Got Rock n Roll)’ took us into the set closer ‘Jack n Coke’ which is a rip snorting slice of down n dirty kick ass rock n roll if I have ever heard one and quite rightly so was played in honour of the late great Lemmy. The crowd had welcomed Beth Blade back with open arms and her comment of “Thank You Very Much We Love You”, was clearly and vociferously reciprocated.
So there we go then, the halfway point reached and so far there has not been a bad performance on the 1865 stage. As much as all the bands have been superb, a huge amount of the credit for that must clearly go to the promoter Jodie Bowie who has put together a festival line up, of bands from the NWOCR scene, who have all entertained the crowd in equal measure.
Kicking off the 2nd half of todays festivities are the much vaunted Kent rockers Collateral. I don’t know whether it was because of “sleeve gate” at Steelhouse a few weeks ago or because he just had a new outfit he wanted to show off, but the long coat that frontman Angelo Tristan normally arrives on stage in has gone and tonight the bands enigmatic frontman takes to the stage in pink leopard print trousers and pink snakeskin jacket. Shy and retiring….not this man!
This is a band that I have seen so many times over the last few years, even with a 16 month lay off and their set list is one that instantly gets the feet tapping and me singing along. It is like being re-acquainted with a long lost friend and after everything that has gone in the world is a real moment to cherish. There seemed to be a real heightened level of expectation in the venue as Collateral took to the stage, this is a band riding the crest of a wave at the moment and you got the impression, they were one of “the” bands that people had come to see.
The floor was at its busiest so far as the music kicked in. ‘Mr Big Shot’ and ‘Promiseland’ are two big big tracks to open with and gave a real glimpse into the energy and cohesiveness they have on stage. Even though I have seen them many times, this is my first time seeing them as a six piece, with the now added 2nd guitarist Louis Malagodi and keyboard player Rob Fenning really giving the band a much fuller and richer sound.
In fact today was Rob’s birthday and he got the full treatment from the crowd as they were prompted to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. ‘In It For Love’, ‘Going With The Wind’ are fast becoming modern day classics and it is very obvious that the Nozzers are revelling in seeing one of the bands of the moment. ‘About This Boy’ is another crowd favourite and is followed by the less often aired ‘Angels Crying’ which goes down really well.
Then for the big finish, which tonight is ‘Merry Go Round’ and ‘Lullaby’ with no time for the bands biggest hit so far ‘Midnight Queen’. The crowd are bopping, their arms are raised, they are singing, they are cheering and as much as the band are feeding off their energy they are devouring every last note, movement and look with complete adulation. That 45 minutes was over almost before it begun as Collateral left the stage after putting in what can only be described as an outstanding performance. How do you follow that?
Well follow that somebody had to do, as their were still four more bands to grace the stage and that job was left to Hollowstar and follow it they did. It is wrong to say I feared for them as they are without doubt a shining light in the current scene of NWOCR bands but the food van had just opened and people were hungry and I just wondered if they would end up playing to a less than full venue as people got themselves refuelled for the evening.
I need not have worried though, as they play a compelling style of rock that is totally captivating and in Joe Bonson, have a brilliant frontman that draws you in. When you add alongside that their own guitar maestro in Phil Haines you are nothing but compelled to enjoy them. They got off to an electrifying start with ‘Take It All’, ‘Down By The Water’ and ‘Let You Down’ which showed what an emotive voice Joe possesses as he lays down the passionate lyrics for the baying crowd.
This is another band full of energy, not least the aforementioned Haines, who throws a whole mixture of facial expressions and doesn’t seem to ever stop moving. Mesmerizing indeed! ‘Money’ is dedicated to the man who tried to steal Joe’s business whilst he was out performing, before they dip into cover territory with a masterful version of Free’s ‘Wishing Well’ which got the whole crowd totally engaged.
Overrated’ followed that before ‘Good Man Gone’ which tonight was dedicated to the father of Phil Haines who had recently passed away. He had clearly paid a big part in the bands creation as Joe says he kept them on track during their childhood and a visibly emotional Phil, kept it together on this beautifully emotive number in honour of his late Dad. That just left the band with time to play ‘All I Gotta Say’ to close out their stage time and leave the eager crowd wanting more which they could unfortunately not have.
So now we were about to head down the back straight for the last time so to speak, before the final corner and then todays headliners to take us down the finishing straight. SKAM got that honour and are a band I have only seen once before, when they wowed the Rising Stage at Ramblin Man a few years back.
Well, SKAM wowed me back then and they wowed me again tonight. This all action trio that play hard hitting no nonsense rock were quite simply sensational. From the moment they took to the stage, it was nigh on impossible to take your eyes off bassist Matthew Gilmore, not because of the Hawaiian shirt that adorned his body but because he is a show in his own right. He starts of by prowling the stage like a caged tiger, and then just goes into overdrive as he does not stop moving for the next 45 minutes.
With a new EP due out later this year, the band treat the crowd to songs from it early doors, with ‘Fade Out’ and ‘Circles’ placed nicely either side of 2017’s ‘Iron Cross’. ‘Take It Or Leave It’ and ‘Bring The Rain’ follow before a dip into their Peacemaker album with ‘Holy City’. From the energy and power these guys have onstage, not just Gilmore, but also frontman Steve Hill and his younger brother Neil on drums it doesn’t seem plausible that Steve claimed to not yet be gig fit after lockdown.
Massacre’ leads into a cover of Black Sabbaths ‘War Pigs’, complete with full crowd sing-a-long and then ‘Green Eyes’, the one and only track from the bands Intra EP which reached number 6 in the UK rock charts earlier this year. That just left ‘No Lies’ to finish their set and give the still eager crowd a chance to give SKAM a mightily loud cheer as they left the stage. Catch them when you can as these guys are well worth a night out for, I know I will be.
So here we go then, the final bend, the penultimate act, the much talked about, much desired and clearly, from the amount of t-shirts on display in the crowd, the much loved Mason Hill. Now I know that these Glaswegian rockers have been creating quite a storm over the last year or so with their debut album ‘Against The Wall’ breaking into the UK Top 20 but I have to put my hands up and say I’ve only heard a couple of tracks from it and never seen them live.
I can only assume that at some point I have had my head buried too deep in the sand and for that I must apologise. The Glaswegian rockers had made the long trip down today to play Nozfest and boy did they make the journey worthwhile. After vocalist Scott Taylor starts their set off with a little speech in which he tells us that “being onstage is the best feeling in the world” the band treat the packed to the rafters venue to a performance that defies the fact that live music hasn’t really happened since that start of 2019. Breathtaking only just starts to cover it!
The first four songs given a live airing are, if you include the impending release, the four singles from the album. It is an electrifying and powerful start that sees them blast through ‘Hold On’, ‘DNA’, ‘Broken Son’ and ‘Find My Way’. The band have so much energy, it is like they saved up energy from their van on the way down and are now spending that to put in a performance worthy of a headline act.
It is exhilarating, it’s captivating and it is being soaked up in abundance by the crowd who are at their most ardent and vociferous even though they have been here for 8 hours. Covers have been a familiar theme today and Mason Hill keep that going with a sublime and slightly reworded version of the Foo Fighters ‘Best Of Me’. Scott Taylor tells the crowd, by way of intro into the track that pre Covid he hardly ever introduced the band members but says that now always do it as they make him feel safe onstage.
The track, which the band recorded during lockdown is now their most watched You Tube video and is a massive hit tonight. It gives Taylor chance to really get the crowd involved as he splits them into two and gets each half singing against each other. Something each man, woman and child gets heavily involved in. Two more tracks from the debut album follow, firstly the title track ‘Against The Wall’ and then a heart warming and emotive version of ‘Where I belong’ that included a stunningly brilliant bluesy guitar solo from James Bird and saw the crowd singing the intro so loudly it was almost drowning out Taylors vocal.
The bands first ever single ‘Now You See Me’ brought proceedings to a close and ended for me somewhere near 50 minutes of rock heaven. What a performance, Scott Taylor left the stage dripping in sweat after helping the band put in a performance that was as much about the crowd as the music and was, in one word, phenomenal. The find of the day, yes. Am I going to see them again, yes, in September at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend as they tour the country with Hollowstar and Empyre. If you haven’t got tickets, get them quickly as these boys are a must see act for sure and they wont be playing venues this size for long.
The Treatment, tonight’s headliners were one of the must see bands for me today but as their stage time approached I wondered if many of the crowd had already seen their own headline act as it was decidedly more empty than 15 minutes ago. Had they had to catch the last train, were they battle fatigued after so long without live music or was the crowd swelled by Mason Hill fans who had seen their idols and decided enough was enough.
Was the headline spot at Nozfest a poison chalice I asked myself, as two years ago a similar thing happened when Those Damn Crows played before Massive Wagons. Well, whatever it was, those that left missed out on something truly special as The Treatment delivered a set more than worthy of headline status.
Right from the off, the 5 piece who have been in existence for around 13 years and have 5 full albums under their belt, treated the audience to a career spanning set of balls to the wall, heads down, fast paced, all action rock n roll. ‘I Bleed Rock n Roll’, ‘Eyes On You’ and ‘Vampress’ got the party started in emphatic style, the latter two tracks taken from their latest album. ‘Lets Get Dirty’ ‘Let It Begin’ and ‘Wrong Way’ offer no let up in the frantic pace of the set and the crowd are pushing their bodies to the limit to make sure they take every last minute of enjoyment out of the day.
Take It Or Leave It’, a really pummelling slice of down and dirty rock n roll is one of the highlights for me and that is followed by ‘Rat Race’. If the band have any stage rustiness, they are showing no signs of it and are putting in the performance of a band at the top of their game. Before ‘Hold Fire’, singer Tom Rampton introduces the crowd to new bassist Andy Milburn who joined the band over a year ago but because of lockdowns is here tonight, playing his first Treatment gig.
Rampton really whips the crowd up during the track and the battle weary bodies duly respond. Bands with this power and this stage presence are a joy to behold and they had me hooked. The bassline through ‘Devil In The Detail’ was so immense it went straight through my chest, oh man I missed that. This is music to headbang to, to raise your horns to, this is quite simply, what nights of rock n roll should be like.
Party On’ involves plenty of crowd participation, including Rampton getting the whole crowd to crouch down and then jump up. Who’d have guessed there was a bootcamp element to Nozfest as well! The energy The Treatment have is just incredible and that does not abate through set closer ‘Shake The Mountain’, the pace of which is just frightening and must surely have left some aching bodies in the audience.
There was time for one more song though and the fans were given two options, choosing to finish their night with ‘Running With The Dogs’. Quite simply a body shattering and breathtaking performance. Rampton left the stage thanking the crowd, I am sure each and every one of them would like to thank him and his bandmates. Sensational!
So that was another Nozfest completed and what a truly superb day it was. From start to finish every band put in performances to remember and that made my Hurculean 22 hour day more than worth it. Already I cannot wait for Nozfest 2022 and would advise anybody that loves rock music, live music and getting hot and sweaty with a bunch of like minded people to keep their eyes and ears peeled for any announcements as this is without doubt fast becoming a must attend event on a busy rock n roll calendar.