What better way to spend a cold December weekend than in the company of like-minded music fans and some fabulous bands.
Rockstock is on the list of must go to festivals, entering into the Christmas season full of family, parties and drinks with friends, the festival feel is very much underway from the off.
Thursday is “Gold Ticket ‘ holders only but its still very busy with around 800 revellers ready for the first bands of the weekend.
The main stage is opened by GIN ANNIE, a hard rock band from the Black Country who are well grounded in the live music scene, showing their flair for kick ass rock, the band doesn’t seem to be phased by the early evening start blasting away the cold and warming everyone up.
On their travels around the UK, KINGDOM OF MADNESS very kindly drop in join the party at Porthcawl. With former members of Magnum Mark Stanway and Micky Barker and featuring vocalists Mark Pascall and Mo Birch, the band focus on the ‘classic’ Magnum era songs with a setlist that keeps the whole room singing along.
I waxed lyrical last time I reviewed the band about how good they are and today is no different. Epic songs wonderfully performed.
Mo Birch takes the lead for ‘Story Tellers Night’ her tone and phrasing absolutely perfect for such a classic. Layers of vocals added to by 800 others do just give some spinetingling moments.
The distinct vocals of Graham Bonnet have been filling our ears since the 70’s with Alcatraz and Rainbow and Down to Earth is probably in the top 10 of most memorable classic rock albums for those of us of a certain age.
This is a new line up of the GRAHAM BONNET BAND with just Beth-Ami and Graham himself remaining since I last saw them. They proved to be a good, solid and gelled band. Blasting out the songs, the oh so familiar voice is still there, the tone hasn’t changed, still rich but with the ability to crank it up when needed.
The swagger is still there, the shirt and tie and suit are still there, Graham may be in his mid 70’s now but obviously still has a passion for what he does, opening with ‘Eyes of the World’ and the other tracks from ‘Down To Earth’, they are still amazing live and show how timeless they are. Off out on the road again with FM and The Dead Daisies now there are plenty of opportunities to see this iconic singer.
So how can you follow such an icon – with HEAT of course! Following the return of Kenny Leckremo to vocal duties, the band are obviously enjoying being back on the road and I don’t think there is a better band live at the moment.
So much energy and so many good songs including from their new album ‘Force Majeure’, the energy levels in the room almost matched that of the band. Only one word sums these guys up, phenomenal.
Taking the pace down but not in a bad way are blues rock masters KING KING. They always draw a big crowd; the songs are full of rich basslines and soaring intricate riffs delivered to a blistering standard by both the Nimmo brothers.
A great choice from the Planet Rock team to close such a fabulous first day of Rockstock.
Day 2 begins with 3 bands on the second stage, The Graham Harding Stage, housed in the new dome at Trecco Bay, and as the temperature had plummeted overnight, it was a cool start to the day with Anchor Lane, Kira Mac and Troy Redfern attempting to raise the temperature a little before the main stage kicked in with KIRA MAC.
Planet Rock really have got behind this band over the last year and rightly so, good songs performed well, and it was really good to see so many festival goers filling up the room and supporting great new British music.
GRAND SLAM and the legend that is Laurence Archer are next up and provide a strong set of guitar driven hard rock, some of the songs were written by Laurence and the late Phil Lynott and the Lizzy vibe is just the perfect way to get the vocal chords of the crowd warmed up!
WHEN RIVERS MEET after appearing last year seem to be cemented well and truly as one of the bands to see over this weekend. The enigmatic husband and wife duo deliver great renditions of some of the songs from their album, opening with ‘Did I Break The Law’, many familiar to those of us that listen to Planet Rock such as ‘Battleground’ and ‘Testify’.
A 2023 tour announced and a Christmas single to boot, these guys are going to be busy.
Tonight’s special guests are the one and only SWEET. I bet everyone could name at least one or two songs but it’s only when you see the band live that you realise just how many cracking, memorable songs they have and that’s just scraping the surface.
Starting with ‘Action’, ‘New York Groove’ and ‘Hellraiser’, the roof about blows off when 1300 people all start singing along. What a set from Andy. Paul, Lee and the guys.
So, the mood was that of a party and what better way to continue a party than with PHIL CAMPBELL & THE BASTARD SONS playing a classic MOTORHEAD set. ‘Iron Fist’, ‘Stay Clean’, ‘Rock Out’, ‘Over the Top’ the list goes on culminating with ‘Killed by Death’ and ‘Overkill’.
Such a great band and the room was bouncing, foggy and hot. A heady mix of hard rock and fantastic music was the perfect way to end the second night of musical marvellousness.
Saturday was an early start another set on the Graham Harding Stage for Glaswegians Anchor Lane. Classic Rock from Burnt Out Wreck and Daylight Robbery before a hard rock blues kick from Troy Redfern and then Loz Campbell. The second stage closed out by Twister as the enthusiastic and appreciative crowd make their way into the main stage for more music in slightly warmer surroundings.
Planet Rock do put together a stellar line up and a variety of genres of rock bands and it was good to see such support for Metal band ASHEN REACH for the 5.30pm start on the main stage.
Big, powerful, soul shattering, skull pounding riffs, a few death growls, lots of jumping and masses of headbanging… and of course, good songs including “Broken Column’, Heir to The Throne’ and ‘Prey’.
From ‘new’ rock to one of the original classic rock bands VARDIS. A band I didn’t pay much attention to back in the day but the number of Vardis t-shirts and patches on waistcoats and jackets seen over the weekend, it is very clear that they are a popular choice here at Rockstock.
It goes without saying that the band are very much at home on a stage with Steve Zodiacs vocals as strong as ever and the sound from the three piece so cohesive and professional it is a lesson in experience and timeless music.
Bringing on the blues as the evening progressed was the talented DANNY BRYANT. The guitar obsessed singer /songwriter has a classic blues feel to his music – completely riff driven with the vocals sometimes appearing to be an added necessity rather than a way to tell a story, the guitar does that, the playing takes over and sometimes the words aren’t needed. That is the talent of the man… Astounding.
After a break of around 5 years, THE ANSWER is back and oh how they’ve been missed! The Northern Irish hard rock band who has announced a new album for 2023 to add to their existing 6 seem to have a renewed energy and passion for their music.
Connecting instantly with the crowd, a smiling Cormac Neeson seemingly revels in their performance. Another band with so many songs to pick from, the set spanned across their career to date and had willing participants in ‘getting down low’, a great sight to see so many people happily joining Cormac in the crowd siting on the floor.
The air was electric as headliners BLACK STAR RIDERS banged up the level to eleven. The room was rammed. The barrier was rocking from the off. With his familiar stance behind the mic with his guitar, the rock’n’roll filled the air.
A new energy to the band with the addition of Sam Wood has increased the heftiness of the guitars, the big baselines of Robbie and the tub thumping of Jimmy still pumping through, but the might of the guitars was shuddering especially when joined on stage by one of the best guitarists, the legend that is Mr Scott Gorham.
Ricky’s hard and distinctive vocals hitting the spot throughout the set, ‘Saving Grace’, “Jailbreak’, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’. Tonight, was a tremendous performance, the band seemingly hungry to be back on stage, the sweat streaming down Ricky’s face, the hair flying from Sam and Robbie. A band on fire and a crowd fuelling it.
Catch them out on the road in February, you will have a fabulous time!
As sore heads, ringing ears and tired feet wend their way up to the Dome, the final day of Rockstock is upon us with another early start on the Graham Harding Stage. More cups of tea and coffee in gloved hands than pint pots, a gentle start is needed.
Black Lakes, Dead Man’s Whiskey, Electric Black, Matt Mitchell and the Cold Hearts, Mother Vulture, Square Wild can hardly be classed as a gentle start.
All bands keeping the music coming with another great blend of bands from across the Rock genre. I’m sure we will see some of these bands appearing on the main stage in the next couple of years.
ABSOLVA with their barrage of dual guitar riffs and meaty hooks draw in a large crowd to the main stage. The atmosphere is slightly more subdued today, nothing to do with the quality of the bands but with the weariness of the attendees it has been such a fabulous weekend.
The boys smash through their short set before returning to provide the music for the icon that is Mr BLAZE BAYLEY.
The frontman of Wolfsbane and former frontman of Iron Maiden commanding the room from the front through familiar sing a longs and crowd participation, Blaze is a showman, an expressive, dramatic singer with some wonderful songs. ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Sign of the Cross’, “The Clansman’ timeless and powerful.
Planet Rock presenter and rising blues songstress ELLES BAILEY received a very warm welcome from the now fired up crowd. An instant connection both ways, a rock / blues singer with some country/ Americana in there too, Elles is an artist that crosses into all territories with her amazing voice and catchy melodies.
The crowd are singing along familiar with her music and clearly enjoying themselves. She is the surprise of the weekend for me. Not in the quality of her music, that’s a given but in the fact that she really brings it to life in a live setting. A really enjoyable performance from Elles and the band.
STONE BROKEN stepped in last year and brought the roof down, so it was fabulous to seeing them back on the Rockstock main stage. The band from Walsall have a reputation for outstanding live performances and the barrier is crammed full of familiar Stone Broken fans faces and loads of merch! The beaming face of Robyn behind the drum kit lights up the stage before the stage lights do.
‘Revelation’ gets things started and the band go to where Black Star Riders did with it turned to eleven. I love this band. The songs are all so memorable and accompanied by such strong playing these guys are a ‘Rock band’. No half measures just fantastic rock and roll.
The smiles emit from the stage consistently, the noise from the crowd is phenomenal. Rich Moss is a wonderful frontman, stepping out from behind his guitar to better engage. This was one of the best Stone Broken performances I’ve seen. A great set and a brilliant way to lead into tonight’s headliners and festival closing band MONSTER TRUCK.
The Truck certainly rolled in. Hard and heavy, meaty, pounding riffs, the music flooding up from the soles of your feet being met with it slapping you through the chest. A powerful band, “Why Are You Not Rocking’, ‘Old Train’, the band launch through their set like a juggernaut rather than a truck…. It’s been a long road to get the band at Rockstock due to the pandemic but the persistence from both sides has been so worth it. An absolute scalding hot way to finish 4 days of music lovers wallowing in music, friendship and fun.
Thank you to Planet Rock for an incredible festival. Go, buy tickets for Winters End, support the Radio Station, buy Rockstock tickets as soon as they become available, support live music and enjoy a friendly and fabulous festival to close out the year. I’m sure 2023 will be another huge line up of stellar quality.
Personal thanks go to Jon Norman and all the Planet Rock crew for making Metal Planet Music so welcome. A wonderful friendly bunch of really lovely people.
Review by Lindsay Smith Metal Planet Music