Home Gigs Gig Review : Love Rocks Festival 2024 – Day One

Gig Review : Love Rocks Festival 2024 – Day One

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

Betwixt the behomothic weekends of two of the UK’s largest festivals, and coincident with another, nestles a far more intimate affair. Another festival, much more intimate in its nature, that in my books outweighs all three with its rustic charm, sense of community and rocking temptations.

Held at St. Leonard’s Farm Campsite it’s a bit like having a festival in the midst of the much-maligned camping of Download but with all the facilities associated with a fully serviced permanent camping site. With its opening day falling on the Summer Solstice, in spiritual terms, it’s more Glastonbury than Glastonbury itself. A festival that, pound for pound in my humble opinion, punches well above its weight. A festival of festival moments.

Nearly 60 years ago a certain Mr. Lennon wrote “All you need is love”; those words still resonate so truly especially at this time of the year. It’s the weekend when several hundred likeminded folk trundle along the highways and byways to arrive in Dorset for three days at Love Rocks.

Further expanding upon Lennon’s sentiments, the effervescent frontman of Saturday’s headliners The Answer Cormac Neeson, just a couple of tracks into their rousing set, declares, so accurately, “It’s true that love does indeed rock!”

Now in its seventh chapter, since its inception in 2017, Love Rocks grows year on year. Expanding from a two-day event to a fully-fledged three-dayer this year’s incarnation has seemingly ‘matured’ even further. The capacity has been upped slightly with no detrimental effect and with room to expand if deemed necessary; both stages have been upgraded following discussions with Bournemouth-based SJ Hire. The opening Thursday slot is now firmly ensconced as a part of the festival having its roots as an informal gathering prior to the weekend.

Shortly after the hour of five the honour of holding aloft the baton for Love Rocks’ 2024 opening slot is handed to capital city rockers Hunted By Elephants. With a space-trucking Deep Purple infused sound this wondrously titled outfit are straight into the fray, no messing.

With the keys of Daniele Colombo shining as brightly as the late afternoon Dorset sun in opening track ‘Hazy Eyes’ comparisons of enthused vocalist Apostolos Liapis to Coverdale / Gillan are instant.

In fact, the classic 70s vibe runs strong throughout the band with guitarist Roman Flourendzou shredding a fine Blackmore-esque fret upon a rocksteady foundation laid down by drummer Alex Butticè and bassist George Chronis. Whilst not necessarily re-inventing the wheel there’s a fine broad spectrum of influences on display – from Dio, Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Whitesnake and, of course, Deep Purple – throughout.

In a nine-track set, a fraction over 40 minutes, we get a choice selection from 2021’s ‘Carry On’ album enwrapping the entirety of this year’s ‘Sestertius’ EP. Following in the boot prints of ‘Hazy Eyes’ the deeper, darker ‘Change’, with its haunting reverence, and reflective vibrancy of ‘Down To The Wire’ form a triple-pronged introduction to the aforementioned ‘Sestertius’.

Going on the evidence provided this is a band who, with the added swagger of a Karma Effect, can most ably fill the void left by the breakup of Vambo. There’s driving forces with surging electricity aplenty with ‘Living Free’ a perfect example. In counter position the gentler strains of ‘Wasn’t In Vain’ gives us a Love Rocks first – a flute courtesy of Liapis!

A one-way ticket to the depths ‘Keep On Giving Me Loving’ wraps up a cracking opening set that has served as a fine introduction to the finer points of Hunted By Elephants. From Greece to Love Rocks via Maid of Stone this is without doubt a band I’ll be paying close attention to.

Next up Midlanders The Howling Tides, with volcanic forces,hit matters squarely and headlong taking to the stage as Satan’s herd, in an ungovernable cloudburst, thunders in. With a bastardized Zeppelin furrow channelling through a Sabbath filter opening gambit ‘White Crow’ is total killer, 110% proof with frontman Rob Baynes’ gravelly vocals a focal point. Guitarist Hayden Kirk leans forwards, over the stage front, whittling a searing solo before ably taking it down.

With maturity well beyond their young years the ‘Tides’ have been ripping up stages and blowing roofs since their 2018 emergence. Incendiary festival slots at 2021’s Bloodstock and Steelhouse, the latter where we first encountered their driving hard-nosed blues rock, firmly announced their arrival.

The coarse granular blues intro of ‘Blue Moon’ – consider Pantera’s version of ‘Planet Caravan’ for a moment – morphs into a growling demon whose next shot of liquor is just a single gunshot away. Cogitate upon Cream blended with Clutch and the heady potion is ready for quaffing voluminously. Right out of the hallowed halls of regalness the arenaceous ‘Elephant Graveyard’, written after watching ‘The Lion King’ informs Baynes, firmly engages.

Ahead of a UK tour supporting Hillbilly Vegas it’s clearly evident that there’s a statement of intent being penned. ‘Thalia’ jabs and writhes as the quartet out-Barras Kris Barras inside of four minutes. Floating in upon a summery breeze ‘Fortune Never Favoured Me’ follows with a confident, composed swagger with touches of Commodores’ top-ten single ’Easy’; strangely not the only time that this legendary US funk-soul band wanders across my grey matter this evening.

Within the hard, edgy angst of ‘He Told Me’, a departure from the running order of their setlist, Adam Brewell’s bass – in the first of two appearances at Love Rocks this weekend – pounds resonantly. At track end Baynes quips “It’s normally me who fucks up!” smiling at Kirk to his right.

Thus, the ethereal obsidians of ‘12/8’ follows when it should’ve preceded prior to Kirk and Baynes twin lead assault in set-finale ‘Crack My Soul’ winched in from 2018’s self-titled debut EP. Once again, The Howling Tides have come and conquered.

As the solstice sun begins to descend horizonwards and shadows start to lengthen genial bluesman Mike Ross, along with his drummer Darren Lee and bassist Lindsey Oliver, takes to the stage to inject some laid-back grooves. It’s a perfect easing off of the festival’s accelerator, a moment to soak up the craft and nuances of this Brighton-based guitarist. Gentle waves lap coral shores as the shimmering intro tape takes us by the hand.

A Love Rocks favourite, having played a couple of sets back in 2021, Ross is swiftly into his stride with fire inducing slide guitar from his left-handed Gibson SG in ‘Leviathan’. Pardon the pun but it’s an absolute monster of a track with dashes of Bob Dylan daubed upon a canvas of a classic 70s Southern Stateside.

Evocative imagery is conjured, smoke wisps over the bayou as we head over to the plains. Canned Heat and Black Crowes are alloyed in ‘Ghost Hound Rider’ – a track lifted off ‘Mahogany Drift’, the debut album from Redfern, Hutchinson, Ross – to the delight of the early evening crowd.

Having announced, a couple of weeks ago, that the crowdfunding target had been successfully reached for the forthcoming ‘Electric Smoke’ double lp Ross tempers the mood furthering that he’s wrapping up the solo band later this year. Fear not however, as plans for 2025 are, according to Ross, in motion and disclosure will come in due course.

Ross’ prediction that “this will blow your ugly brains out” is proven correct by the succulent stoner-fringed ‘Ugly Brain’. A jet roars high overhead, between tracks, as the SG is exchanged for a stunningly beautiful Gretsch for richly toned ‘None Of Your Business’. If Hendrix had jammed with Aerosmith this could well have been the resultant output.

A dab of voodoo is sprinkled over Dorset with ‘Seabirds’ whilst we canter off into Foo Fighters realms with ‘Fallen Down’. Oliver gleefully bounces along as Ross despatches yet another conflagrant solo as the expansiveness ensures a continuing upwards trajectory.

The downright dirty cellar-dwelling blues of ‘I Swear’ and the hip swaying ‘Ran Through Here’ wrap up a tasty 45 minute long set that has weaved and meandered as the river, in glorious maturity, travels through the floodplains. We look forward to hearing Ross’ plans for next year and beyond, the grassroots scene would be a duller place without his presence no doubt of it.

Technical gremlins do all concerned a disservice as Welsh blues rockers Cardinal Black hit the Love Rocks stage about 25 minutes behind schedule. With ever-humble vocalist Tom Hollister sincerely commenting “I can only apologise” before wryly adding “We’ll do one song, 25 minutes!”

It’s the, by now, trademark self-effacing humour we have become accustomed to with Tom who once famously apologised, during a storming set in the swirling mist of Steelhouse, “for not being rock n’ roll enough.”

In true Love Rocks spirit there’s co-operation behind the scenes and Cardinal Black’s set is only trimmed by about seven minutes or so. A second apology, later on in the set, from Tom sums it all up, “It’s live music in a field!”

Sublime in every quarter – or every sixth as the quartet’s ranks are swelled by the talents of singer Tay Cousins and the keys of Gregg Hollister – the anthemic blues rock of ‘Tell Me How It Feels’ sets a high initial bar. Six-stringer Chris Buck, every inch the Welsh Bonamassa, excavates a high-grade ore.

It’s the night before the band release the triumphant ‘Live at The Memo’ CD recorded at Newbridge Memorial Hall, in the heart of the Valleys. A gig in memory of Chris’ late father Dory who tragically passed away the day the band headlined Chepstow Castle last year. There’s ever so slight a chill running quietly, and most unseen, yet the six-piece are in determined mood to break the ‘sublime meter’.

The interplanetary blues of ‘Ain’t My Time’ is followed by the Pink Floyd fringed ‘Terra Firma’, goosebumps and tingling spine simultaneously sheer cogent alchemy with razor-sharp incisiveness. The last few minutes of daylight ebb away unnoticed as we’re captivated, spellbound.

It’s fair to say that Tom possesses a criminally insane voice, smooth as the finest, velvety chocolate with just that hint of crunch. The soulfully opulent ‘Warm Love’ gives rise to touches of Commodores’ Lionel Richie in part. Cousins’ vocals entwine about Tom’s, a perfect complement.

The sharp riffage of ‘Where Do You Go?’ uplifts seismically before Tom, in observational mode, notes “The glamping up on the tower is the best, takes the biscuit!” before the band, as one, dive into the Motown-fringed sublimity of ‘I’m Ready’.

If what has gone before hasn’t already irreversibly wrecked the sublime meter then the closing affidavit ‘Tied Up In Blue’ would, if Love Rocks had one, lift the roof. Buck’s solo is intuitive and heartfelt, demonstrating that sometimes it’s the notes you don’t play that reverberate the very loudest as sparks fly into the early night airs for one final time.

Genuinely sincere in his thanks, as ‘Tied Up In Blue’ fades, Tom gives a big shout out to fellow Welsh rockers Scarlet Rebels who follow in the opening night’s headline slot. Sublime class enough said.

The last couple of years, since hitting the number seven chart slot with ‘See Through Blue’, have been a bit of blur for this evening’s headliners Llanelli’s Scarlet Rebels. The release of a new album, their second with record label Earache, looms large and the pace is beginning to pick up.

A whirlwind consisting of a seemingly never-ending stream of gigs from Spring ’22 through until the middle of last year – including a couple of treks to Germany – prior to a break for writing and recording the elements that have come together to form the highly awaited forthcoming release ‘Where Colours Meet’ have paid handsome dividends.

Along with the likes of Guy Bellamy’s Great Music Stories and ourselves here at Metal Planet Music it’s well defined the high level of support and belief that the team behind the prestidigitation of Love Rocks have in Scarlet Rebels.

This evening is the third time they’ve had the Rebels down in their corner of Dorset since the pandemic. Going from mid-order in ’21 to, via special guest to Phil Campbell and his marauding brood, to a coveted headline slot and, in the process, joining the likes of Kris Barras and Skam in the Love Rocks Treble Club.

Once the reappearance of the gremlins of technical issues – did someone feed the Mogwai post-midnight earlier in the week? – is squashed so The Rebels get straight into gear. No fuss, no bother just frontman Wayne Doyle rallying “Love Rocks! Better late than never!” and encouraging someone in the crowd to get their Welsh Red Dragon up.

Only their second live appearance, following on from a barnstorming set at Call Of The Wild, of 2024 and they’re straight into the new material with ‘Divide and Conquer’. The first of the four new tracks released thus far its political marauding goes down well; serving as a welcome diversion from the seemingly never-ending stream of broadcasting surrounding the looming election.

Having not seen Scarlet Rebels live since last August it’s patently evident that several rungs have been scaled. They seem revved right up and with flamboyant guitarist Chris ‘CJ’ Jones thoroughly rocking out the opening track even takes on a slight punky fringe.

Pounding the bass Carl Oag connects with drummer Gary Doyle with the pair apparently intent upon heading from the present Quaternary right down through the underlying Tertiary clays and sands, such is their combined energies.

Cruising altitude is rapidly reached with ‘These Days’ hitting warp drive in the falling darkness before the quadrumvirate rattle through a particularly thunderous ‘I’m Alive’. The pace is maintained into a rumbustious ‘Take You Home’, complete with raising of hands at the appropriate juncture.

It’s one of the tightest gigs I’ve seen the Rebels output with a sense of urgency flooding through. Clearly a band on a mission the AC/DC infused ‘Take My Breath Away’ leads into Rebels Club favourite ‘Save Me’. As Wayne relays the three rules of Rebels Club, I mooch over to the Rebels’ tour manager Aled ‘Uncle Al’ Lewis and enquire whether he’s been feeding the lads extra Weetabix. A planned 70-minute set is in danger of wrapping up around the hour mark if this pace continues!

The new and not-so new alternate but it’s so seamless. The expansiveness of ‘Secret Drug’, ‘Grace’, and ‘Streets of Fire’ – the latter getting its live debut – slot right in alongside the sumptuous ‘Let Your Love Go’ and the arena ready ‘Let Me In’ like warm, comforting old friends.

The very nearly full solstice moon – apparently, it’s 98% waxing gibbous – continues to rise in the clear skies as an emotional ‘I Can Sleep Now’ scales the heights. CJ’s heartfelt solo arcs starwards.

All too quickly the set draws to a conclusion but Love Rocks co-promoter Simon Jones twists arms “Do you wanna hear one more?” elicits a massive roar from the arena.

An energetic ‘Heal’ rammed full of emotion brings the metaphorical roof down as Day One in the Love Rocks House ends with some ‘structural repairs’ to conduct in the morning!

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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