Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The four bands of the a-rock-olypse rode into the arena upon their steeds; eyes glowing ruby-red even as the darkness of night faded into dawn. Nostrils flaring as they breathed a sulfurous furnace-like inferno. From their mounts the gathered musicians nodded knowingly as they looked at one another; the time was near for tonight they would rock!
A quartet of riders stood out from the ensemble; whilst the others had ridden in upon stallions of pure white these four were astride multi-hued rides. A tie-dyed rainbow had been brought to the show! Stonedead 2021 could begin; the year of the giraffe had arrived.
This year’s Stonedead has overcome many trials and tribulations with Chris Sumby, Production Manager, and his team heading off all challenges and clearing all obstacles to ensure that the show did indeed go on. Born of a desire from a group of Donington veterans to recapture the spirit of the Monsters of Rock – in essence one day, one stage, one monster show – Stonedead came to life in 2018. Now in its third chapter in 2021, having rolled over from last year, the veritable beast that is Stonedead continues to evolve.
New for this year is the Friday Night Rock Party in partnership with Midland Metalheads Radio (MMH); a pre-festival gathering in celebration of all that is good with rock featuring a quadrumvirate of the finest the current scene has to offer.
Getting proceedings underway are The Hot Damn bringing their vividly coloured tie-dyed rock n’roll to the party. Formed from the ashes of The Amorettes and Tequila Mockingbyrd coming together of 2019 the three remaining members – Gill Montgomery (guitar / vocals), Laurie Buchanan (guitar) and Josie O’Toole (drums) – have added the talents of New Device bassist Lzi Hayes to their ranks. Based on this set the picture is now complete and this fine hard-rocking quartet can push forwards, with confidence, safe in the knowledge they have the new material and fan base to do so.
Heralded on to the Stondead stage by an electronic style intro and the rather bewildering sight of an upstanding citizen running about with a large inflatable giraffe very much in the mould of Lancashire comedian Bernie Clifton! Straight into action, with the familiar opening chords of ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’ stampeding around the Neward arena there’s no time to draw breath.
Gill is in fine voice and wrings the life out of her six-strings in wonderful style; alongside Laurie prowls the stage looking out from under her trademark hat as her technical rhythms from her Telecaster make the perfect bridge between the lead and the pounding foundation laid down by the energetic bass of pink haired Lzi and the hard driving drums taken to an inch of their lives by the ever personable Josie.
It’s a well-balanced 40 minutes long set from The Hot Damn and it’s clear that they won’t rest on previous material. Half of the eight tracks are brand new a brave move that pays dividends. The rapidly filling arena, under grey skies, make their appreciation evident of more than capable rockers like ‘Little Pretender’ and ‘Loud And Clear’.
Matters are wrapped up with a triple blast from the collective cannon starting with the rumbling bass and thundering drums kicking off Tequila Mockingbyrd’s punk-tinged hard-rocking classic ‘I Smell Rock n’ Roll’.
THD’s brightly tinged debut single ‘Dance Around’, complete with a chorusline of onstage dancers which includes the Stonedead mascot, goes down an absolute storm before rebel-rousing set closer ‘Everything I Learned – I Learned From Rock n’ Roll’ gives one and all a four minute lesson ranging from the Sex Pistols, Beatles and Rolling Stones to Joan Jett, Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone.
As the hard-working stage crew undertake the changeover MMH DJ and Managing Director Andy Till takes to the stage to make an emotional video call to fellow MMH DJ Tony Heare. Tony has sadly been diagnosed with cancer and has been given just weeks to live. The Stonedead crowd raise their glasses and horns roaring in appreciation for all Tony’s efforts through the years; a gent who is highly regarded. Tony we salute you good sir.
Seizing the reins Spanish sleaze rockers Stop Stop bring their melding of LA sleaze with the party glitz of the Mediterranean shores to the Nottinghamshire countryside . There is more than a touch of prime time Motley Crue about them as they set about tearing up the Stonedead stage with opening salvo the glorious ‘The Last Call’. With a full white-painted face bassist and engaging frontman ‘Jacob A.M.’, complete with low-slung 4 string, is quickly into his stride with his Gene Simmons like tongue threatening the front row of the Newark crowd. Six-stringer Vega hits the buzzsaw riffs before a rip-snorting outro as Jacob exclaims “Good evening muthafuckers!”. The crowd, in parallel with the lyrics, are having a ball.
Punk-tastic ‘Anarchy’ references a collective appreciation of The Pistols for the second time this evening before the hell-raising trio request Stonedead to ‘Join The Party’. Clenched fists punch the evening skies as the gears are shifted upwards.
A frenetic rendition of 2014s ‘Love Machine’ showcases skinsman Danny Spasov’s punchy beats as Jacob and Vega, out front engage in high-energy deliciously sordid rock n’ roll. The tongue in cheek ‘Banana’, lifted from ‘Lowcost Life’ the latest release, gives reason to half-expect a horde of small yellow pill capsule shaped critters to appear. Mercifully they don’t as Jacob offers to ‘Let Me Fill Your Void’ in a head-on collision between Kiss and AC/DC gets the masses rocking.
There’s no doubting Stop Stop’s collective showman qualities but set-closer ‘Stop Stop’, the band’s party-piece sees them quite literally taking the show to the giraffe-ravaged horde. All three band members decamp from the stage and head off into the crowd to finish off their 35 minute in typical Stop Stop party ’til you drop style complete with snippets of Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ and The Police’s ‘So Lonely’. Stanley, Simmons et al would be satiated.
By the time the polished sounds of AOR outfit Cats in Space leap out from the speakers on-stage proceedings are running late by about half an hour which results in the Cats’ set being curtailed by ten minutes. The Cats’ spaceship lands with a resounding bank of keys announcing ‘Too Many Gods’ from 2015s debut album of the same title. With the pomp of Magnum, Uriah Heep and Boston all rolled into one this a very tasty wrap that has the crowd eating from the palms of this oh-so tight six-piece behemoth.
New vocalist Damien Edwards’ theatrical background, fresh from starring in War of The Worlds, The Roy Orbison Story and Tommy, is well suited to the big theatre-style production of the Cats in Space sound. He injects a power into the vocals of ‘Revolution’ as the twin guitars of Greg Hart and Dean Howard entwine around the swirling keys of nattily top-hatted Andy Stewart. The latter’s gentle notes combine emotivally with Edwards sympathetic vocals for the intro of the epic four minuter ‘I Fell Out Of Love With Rock n’ Roll’.
The funky overtones of the shamelessly 70s drenched ‘Thunder In The Night’ have the crowd in raptures before the March Hare and The Hatter are rolled out for a highly-charged ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’. No slumbering dormice here with the Cats engage burners as they ready their ship for blast-off. Bassist Jeff Brown (The Sweet, Tremeloes) takes the vocal duties for the sensitive beginning of ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ with Stewart’s notes enveloping in a delightful manner before the band hits hard and fast for the song’s main body.
Out and out glossy rocker ‘Hologram Man’ with its underlying Quo rhythm and ever-so haunting intro launches the Cats back into the stratosphere as they close their set in fine style. With soaring vocals and most memorable choruses this sextet have worked the Stonedead crowd well with their highly polished theatrical rock redolent of the likes of Toto in their prime and exit stage right to deserved roars of approval.
The Cats hand over the baton to Wayward Sons who set about notching up the party-ometer several notches with a rumbustous 13 track set that clocks in at just over the hour mark. The lights drops down, subdued as a classical intro signals time for the Sons to take to the Newark stage as rock n’ roll troubadour Toby Jepson hits the initial sandpaper rough riffs of 2019s ‘Any Other Way’ before being joined by energy bunny-like bassist Nic Wastell, the ever dapper tubthumping Phil Martini and the sublime Gibson Les Paul slinging talents of Sam Wood.
Wastell’s structurally damaging bass growl signals ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ as Jepson works the Newark crowd as he proclaims “To be a rock n’ roller’. Rolling like the proverbial heavy freight train Wood breaks into a searing midsong solo, seemingly effortless, the ensemble, like a cat with a saucer of premium cream, laps it every delightful second. Martini’s pounding drum output brings in the heavy rocking overtures of ‘Even Up The Score’; the intense kinetic energy is apparent but there’s time for subtly crafted moments from Wood as he plays the perfect juxtaposition to Jepson’s buzzsaw chops.
Recent single ‘Big Day’ with it’s 70s driven style and infectious chorus follows before the metaphorical roof is blasted apart with live favourite ‘Ghost’; a 21st century classic rocker for sure! The crowd are in a singalong mood and Jepson fervently feeds off the crackling atmosphere. This is the third Sons appearance at a UK summer festival and it’s evident that the cobwebs have been well and truly blown off.
The hugely contagious ‘Bloody Typical’ is announced by Jepson as the next release, on September 3rd, from the forthcoming long player. There’s absolutely no doubt that this Sons’ styled rocker, complete with Wastell’s bouncing basslines, is destined to be in the set for a considerable time. “Unbelievable, but bloody typical” sings Jepson with a noticeable glint in his eye.
The new material continues to flow with the purity of a crystal clear mountain stream powering it’s way, rocket-like, down to join the main flow. Recent single ‘Faith In Fools’ with its reflective lyrics and blues-edged licks is aired much to my personal delight.
The second half of the set notches matters up to the proverbial eleven with all bar two of the tunes lifted from the evergreen ‘Ghosts of Yet To Come’ album which introduced the Sons to an awaiting world. ‘Alive’ is delivered in a furious manner with Wood’s Les Paul nigh on vertical as the notes sear out far and wide across the showground. Jepson observes “The one’s that shout the loudest do the least” alongside Martini’s solid beats and the crunching riffs laid down by the band.
Newark is familiar territory for the Sons following a triumphant appearance here in 2019 as Jepson takes time to state “It’s good to be home” before wishing Sons’ one-time keyboardist Dave Kemp well.
Scorching guitars blazing a trail atop resounding beats will surely see ‘Fake’ become a mainstay in the Sons’ set much in the way that the tasty-licious melodious ‘Crush’ has become. The Nottinghamshire skies have cleared and Wood steps forward to the stage front for the solo, glancing upwards to catch sight of the stars above. A hard-trucking rendition of ‘Small Talk’ precedes ‘Jokes on You’ as the Sons power on showing no signs of relenting in their collective onslaught. They’re in fine form, right on pole position in musical terms. The crowd responds to Jepson’s showmanship much to his delight “Like a choir of angels, I’m feeling the love” he quips.
The set must end and that it does, most appropriately, with the resonance of ‘Until The End’; a rallying call for who will defend at all costs from those without virtues. The crowd have eaten right out of the Sons’ hand throughout the set and roar loudly with the final notes ringing out into the night. Stonedead 2021 has landed and much is promised for the main course tomorrow.
Photography by Lindsay Smith for MPM -– Copyright to all Images Lindzrs Media – Full Gallery Below.