Review & Photography by Lindsay Smith for MPM
Still buzzing after such an amazing day yesterday, I headed back to the site in anticipation of another great day.
Happy festival goers already looking round, sourcing food and appreciating the custom bikes, gleaming in the show tent, polished with care and pride ready to be judged later on, handlebars glinting as the sunshine broke through the side of the tent.
Wandering down to the outdoor stage there was a sizeable crowd gathered as BadAxe got things underway entertaining those watching with some unique games with some pretty unusual prizes. Who doesn’t appreciate a bit of competitive crumpet skimming?
So, to the music! First up STAND AMONGST GIANTS from Sheffield who delivered a brilliant start to the day with some heavy blues rock.
A lovely tone to the vocals and some really gritty, dirty riffs held those watching, the low bassline keeping your boots firmly planted to the ground.
In contrast, the super talented HARRY JORDAN opened things up gently on the main stage with more rock and roll blues.
What a set of pipes this lady has, hard and heavy to light and melodic with under currents of southern and country blues, a great tone to gently wake your ears up.
One of the bands I was looking forward to seeing was EVERYDAY HEROES having seen them a few times over the pre-pandemic gigs including a solid set in the acoustic tent a couple of years ago here at Rock & Blues.
The south wales boys had one of the biggest crowds of the weekend on the outdoor stage for their hard and heavy set and they did not disappoint.
Vocals and riffs to split your soul and hard, heavy basslines keep on pounding through the amps. How good are these guys? – professional, skilful, talented, entertaining with some bloody good songs, never putting a step (or note) wrong. Congratulations Everyday Heroes, bloody brilliant!
An early slot on the main stage for Myke Gray and his band. I am not going to beat about the bush, I loved SKIN, the songs are iconic and hearing them again live is always a treat and so I was looking forward to this one.
Another band who appeared here before, last time on the outdoor stage in torrential rain with Kim Jennet singing, this time with Mark Pascall on vocals.
I like Marks voice, always a pleasure to hear but how would he handle such iconic Skin and Jagged Edge songs along with no doubt some newer ones.
Well, no need to worry there…he nailed it, in fact more than nailed it, the entire band nailed it with the bass master Colin Parkinson, Glenn Quinn on guitar, Neil Ogden on drums and of course the class guitar player of Myke Grey himself, this was an absolute treat for everyone watching and listening.
A setlist of one well known song after another with some more recent thrown in for good measure, opening with ‘Stand up for Rock n Roll’ and getting through such immense songs as ‘House of Love’, ‘Look but Don’t Touch’, Jagged Edge’s ‘,Trouble, ‘Out in the Cold’, and You Don’t Love Me’.
And including the rarely heard Skin song, ‘Raised on Radio’ wow just wow! Finishing with ‘Tower of Strength’ before a determined and appreciative crowd demanded an encore, this was the performance of the weekend up to now for me. What a band and what a singer!
BLITZ from Nottingham were next on the outdoor stage, and I have to admit, I was unable to catch much of their set but what I did see was very positive.
Describing themselves as high octane and explosive really does hit the nail on the head and the 3-piece showed that they deserved a place playing here at Rock & Blues. Great riffs, explosive drums and a stonking good bassline and vocal, 3 guys making a great deal of very nice noise! I will catch this band live again I am sure.
It’s a break from the music to allow everyone to appreciate the custom bike show with prizes being awarded and the bikes parading in a haze of smoke, noise and gleaming colours.
The artwork on some of these bikes is astounding. Well done to all the winners and entries this year, a real show of high quality work.
HOWLIN Mat has played before at Rock & Blues being invited back because he is the master of good, low-down, riffing southern blues, performing on his own and captivating the crowd. Howlin Mat is supremely talented and I don’t think I have seen anyone else here play a cigar box!
The variety of music at this festival is outstanding. Sludgy dirty southern Blues right through to light melodic AOR. Brilliant booking, something for everyone.
The anticipation had built in the main arena as the crowd still absolutely buzzing from the outstanding Myke Grey and his band, stayed firmly rooted waiting for CATS IN SPACE.
As a cheer went up, Greg, Steevi, Jeff, Andy, Dean and new frontman Damian Edwards took to the stage. The barrier was heaving with CATS IN SPACE fans, eager to see this new frontman deliver on a live performance and judging by the reaction after their first two songs of “Too Many Gods’ and ‘Spaceship Superstar’ he managed it perfectly.
One thing the Cats do well is the vocal harmonies and it really is something special to hear live, the melodic, glam rock, theatrical rock band have such a distinctive sound .
Revolution’, Scars’, ‘Mr Heartache’, ‘ Listen to the Radio’ all singalong songs from across their now growing collection of album releases. One song I do think sounds pretty special live is ‘ The Greatest Story Never Told’ and it did really show off Jeff and Damien’s vocal talents. A great reaction from the crowd and a job more than well done by the band.
Local band the HOWLING TIDES are a huge contrast in style from The Cats with hard, heavy, rampant riffage style, rock. I have liked this band from seeing them what seems years ago now and seeing how they have developed and progressed in confidence makes me feel like a proud parent! Their songs are good, their musicality is spot on and their personalities are really flourishing on stage with Rob’s vocals just getting better and better.
Always a pleasure to watch and I hope to see them back but on the main stage here in the not too distant future.
Another break from the fabulous array of bands with Reenies Rockettes entertaining everyone again with their energetic dance routines.
The well-run outdoor stage comes to a close with Scottish band ANCHOR LANE. This is another band that I have seen play over a few years now and they too have grown in confidence, ability and quality.
Hard rocking, hook laden, soaring riffs and hard pounding tub thumping, this band have it all. A good crowd still enjoying the evening with Anchor Lane filling the Derbyshire hills with hard and heavy rock and roll with tracks from their album ‘Casino’.
They are very charismatic on stage and their smiles become infectious as they are obviously enjoying themselves as much as the crowd are. A great set and a great performance from the Glaswegians.
But then the smoke descends and drifts throughout the main stage as CHRIS SLADES TIMELINE begin their set. Chris Slade is predominantly known for being a long-serving member of AC/DC however he has played drums with so many other bands and artists that it reads like a who’s who of the music world.
Almost hidden behind his kit, Chris gives us a brief insight into his career with a varied song list, two competent vocalists and a tight band. The AC/DC tracks obviously went down well with the now packed main stage arena audience.
Closing out the festival are headliners FM. I love the fact that this band have played here before and are always rapturously appreciated and so they are back, an hour and a half set after not playing for 18 months in a live environment, it is a big ask from any band but FM are the professionals.
The lights dim, the smoke descends and “The Mighty FM” begin with the absolute classic ‘Tough It Out’. Is everyone singing along? Is everyone having a bit of a foot shuffle? – of course they are. Steve Overland’s voice is sublime, he could sing the phonebook and it would sound good.
The band are as always exceptionally tight with the riffs firing off in soaring style from Jim Kirkpatrick who looks comfortable and happy from the off. Merv Goldsworthy seems focussed but happy. Pete and Jem look like they are in their element and it’s incredible sound to hear.
Dropping straight into ‘Don’t Stop’, yes – we are” loving every minute of it”! Timeless melodic rock with ‘Bad Luck’ all before Steve says hello to those gathered. Pinch me, they are playing ‘Dangerous’! I’m grinning from ear to ear and I’m not the only one. ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, ‘Wildside’ all part of the set, an amazing set at that. Slowing things down a tad with ‘Closer to Heaven’ before ramping it all back up with ‘All or Nothing’.
I’m losing track of the setlist as it is just so good, the songs from the early days sound current and fresh live, the dual guitar harmonies, the punchy drums, the low rumbling bass, it is all just fabulous. I’m wishing I’d made more notes as the superlatives are all blurring into superb, excellent, amazing, hell yeah… The songs kept coming, a brief interlude while Jim gave us a dose of ‘Metropolis’ followed immediately with ‘Over You’.
‘That Girl’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’, Other Side Of Midnight’, ‘I Belong to the Night’ . I’m shattered just singing along! Finishing their set with ‘Killed by Love’ from Atomic Generation, the rammed main stage arena crowd was not letting the band go without an encore. ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ closed out the festival with cheers and rapturous applause. An astoundingly good set from FM. They have just stolen band of the festival for me.
So how do I summarise 3 days in a field in Derbyshire listening, watching and photographing live music for the first time in 17 months. Not easily or that would not portray enough just how good Rock & Blues Custom Bike Show is.
A wide diversity in the types of Rock and Blues music delivered over the two stages, obviously due to travel restrictions the line up this year were all from our fair isles, but did this alter the enjoyment, the quality? No- all the bands were fabulous, all the organisation was fantastically efficient, all the backstage crew, stage management, pit management, catering, stall holders, and just the people were utterly amazing . I have covered this wonderful few days over a number of years now and it always goes above and beyond expectations. I always feel like I’ve come home, home to where music is appreciated, and people are respected.
Buy tickets for next year, come and experience it for yourselves, the best of family friendly, British summer festivals happens here in Derbyshire.
Rock & Blues Custom Show – Photography by Lindsay Smith for MPM – Full Gallery Below.