It’s Sunday and day 2 of the ROCKFORCE festival. There are probably a few sore heads this morning, but the Waterloo Music Bar already has a small crowd gathering for todays onslaught. I’m on the coffee, served fresh at the bar, I know its lightweight, but it’s too early for me. I will sample the ‘Motorhead Road Crew’ Pale Ale later, don’t fret.
All the way up from the Smoke, are todays starters DISTRICT 13, a trio with attitude. Not easy being on first, but this doesn’t deter these young hopefuls. Jon on guitar and vocals I notice, is wearing a CBGB’s T-shirt, which answers my thoughts of who District 13 remind me of. The NYC punk underlay that I hear, with Jon’s raw and often rasping singing, emulate New Wave, pioneered by The Ramones and Television in that infamous East Village venue. They include Nirvana, Kings Of Leon and Royal Blood among their favourites and I can hear the Kurt Cobain influence in Jon. ’Wild Flowers’ and ‘When You Come Around’ continue to hold the line and simple bass from Richard provides a contrast to the fervent frontman’s style. I admit it is a combination that you need to adjust to it is pretty dark in places, ’Vacation’ and ‘Emotive Addiction’ poise heavily on your ears. Jon is a fine guitarist and between the vocals produces some monstrous solos. ‘Apologetic Trickster’ is the highlight of the set and they go down well.
I did a bit of a reconnaissance mission before coming to Rockforce and checked out the bands I wasn’t too familiar with. BREAKING WAVES a duo from nearby Preston, sounded really interesting so I had a listen to their 2nd self titled album, very impressive. Live on stage today, could they match it? Well, in a word, yes! The first song today is off the 2018 recording, ‘Big Trouble’ it is soft and mildly funky, reminded me of Steely Dan. I love the immensely talented Phil Ireland’s ability to transfix you with his easy going manner. He, together with Peat Hicks on drums, don’t hold back and cover Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go your own Way’ and Zeppelins ‘Rock and Roll’, both delivered in outstanding fashion. Today they rocked it up effortlessly, a brilliant show. They state on their Facebook page ‘Spreading the art of music, inspiring minds, doing something different!’ and I couldn’t agree more. Having supported Gun, Marseille and Michael Schenker and toured around Europe, these two are quietly very successful.
Blackpool’s favourite rockers are on next THE SENTON BOMBS, who are greeted with warm applause on their home turf. Vocalist/bass player Joey Class is a pretty cool looking character. He leads the pack with quite mellow tones and together with the bands added harmonies, they come across like a demure version of the Wildhearts, quite refreshing. The first half of the show comes from the album released in 2018 called ‘Outsiders’. Beginning with the kicking drum and guitar hook of ‘Who We Are’, It’s an introductory statement, followed by ‘Outsiders’ itself, which is a stomp filled anthem, ‘Outsiders Aint Coming In’, aimed at those who don’t generally conform. The sleaze driving ‘Reckless Youth’ which is next in line, is quite different, a jaunt of cheesy sentiment. ‘Bury The Hatchet’ carries on with a more brisk tempo like a punk melody and ’Lights Over Phoenix’ from 2015 is even harder punk influenced. The Senton Bombs manage to wreak havoc with the final 2 songs, ’Train Wreck’ and ’Nothing Quite Like This’ an absolutely decimating finale from these locals. You smashed it guys!
COBOLT COLLISION are from just down the road in Preston and got together after meeting at University. In the short time they’ve been gigging, they have been hard at work writing and have brought out a 3 track EP ’Saints and Sinners’. Well liked in the area and having supported Electric Six, they are on to day at 4.30 for 45 minutes, time to make an impact. The title track from the EP is likeable rock and roll, with a high pitched chorus from front woman Jess, who is never still, jumping around the deck with great stage presence. I like the way ‘All About me’ changes after the slowish start, to burst into a gripping headbanger. ’Ego Tripper’ is also from that release and is a grungy number with mean and raunchy guitar. It is obvious that each member has their own taste in music and so Cobolt Collision are a mix of Seattle, Metallica and the Blues. Early on, the scene stealer is one of the kids, who joined vocalist Jess on stage and accompanied on tambourine for a while. The guitar of Jimi is paired up solidly with Ryan’s bass to play ‘Devil To The Saint’ and ‘Crazy Game’ is a stormer of a song. Yes, I liked them, for an up and coming band they are able to write some quite hefty music.
So then it was Food Break, which sadly wasn’t another band, but a chance to grab some amazing burgers and chips from the van outside. Also time to catch my breath and mingle with friends and fellow punters for a while. The Waterloo has that kind of atmosphere, a really friendly place, full credit to the guys that run it.
All the way from Leeds PSYCHOBABYLON are another band I haven’t seen or heard before. Oh lord, from the off I’m transfixed, its love at first listen. Riffs that have been dragged through the gutter, thumping drums and loads of laid back Rock n Roll swagger. ’Love and War’ is from the ‘Embrace the Strange’ album of 2014, an awesome hook and is a quality opener. The new EP ‘Is This All There Is’ produces the next 2 numbers ‘All There Is’ and the excellent ‘Die Alone’ it is great to watch Rusty D on stage he comes across like a horror-movie star, but was as sweet as pie when I spoke to him afterwards. ‘Dark Valentine’ is so lush and gorgeously pumping, there’s a hint of punk that gives it a rough side. Andrew Mewse and Robbie G are so in league with each other, producing those smooth guitar sounds. The whole band really look the dogs preverbal, strutting and pouting, oozing sleaze. ‘Horror’ has a more kick back style, while the set ends on ‘No Means Of Escape’ which has a groove like Velvet Revolvers ’Slither’. Gosh, where are they next, I want to see them again already !
HEARTBREAK REMEDY have been going since 2013, back then they were 4 strong and after finishing as runners-up, in the Hard Rock Hell, Highway to Hell contest in 2014 , they were billed at festivals and supported bands such as UFO, Enuff Znuff and The Quireboys, which they survived to tell the tale. Three years ago they became a 3 piece and after a short hiatus, they returned in 2018 with new songs and a new album. I suppose you could class them as a bit ‘Old School’ in the way they just throw out easy going, no frills rock songs. Tonight they are impressive, Matty Penn on vocals and bass, taking the reins and firing straight into ‘Octane’ a new one from the ‘Memento Mori’ long player, its gritty guitar and unstrained vocals. ‘Girl At The Bar’ is an older song, but given a refresh tonight, guitarist Luke Blair slotting in a fine little solo. There are a few from the 2014 self named EP, on the set list this evening, ‘Hair Of The Dog’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Keep Rollin’. At one point, Luke, with cowboy hat and sunglasses, steps into the audience for a close up and personal visit, highlighting the bands unpretentious attitude. Great performance, they never disappoint.
After some slight technical problems, Cass King and company are ready to astound us. TOMORROW IS LOST from Newcastle have been gradually building up their profile over the last 2 years. They have already impressed, as support act to Skindred, Inglorious and Wayward Sons has shown. Tonight they play all of last years ‘The Shadowman’ EP, beginning with the hooky riff of ’No One Knows’ which is belted out. Cass is one of the most captivating female singers, a powerful voice and ballsy attitude that makes sure your attention doesn’t drift. ‘Rapture’ has a gutsy melody and hard hitting vocals, this isn’t a tame sounding outfit. It’s on the more defined ‘Insane’, that has heartfelt lyrics, where you can appreciate the strength of the singers capabilities. Along with generous helpings from the strings of Joe McDermott and Ryan O’Hara on the two guitars, Tomorrow Is Lost have balance. ’Shadowman’ and ‘We Are The Lost’ are further proof of how well they can cut it live, an extraordinary heavy show. Well deserved to be this high on the bill, I really like their work and they are definitely going to get even bigger.
So we come to THE ROOM, who have stepped in at relative short notice to headline Rockforce, this Sunday night. Yep another band I have no previous knowledge of, they are a melodic/prog type of band, so it will be interesting to see how they match up for the end of this mainly, heavy rock orientated festival. It is clear after watching the time it takes The Room to set up, that they are one of those true professional types. The 6 of them are based in the London area and have all been in the business for decades, gaining experience and so by being in several types of bands, there is plenty of scope for them to produce their own blend of music. Since they emerged in 2010 they have been on the stage with Inglorious, Lifesigns and Soft Machine. The silence is broken with ‘Flesh and Bone’ which goes back to 2012, it is immediately apparent that we are in for an hour of music of superb quality. Martin Wilson is on vocals and has a remarkable range,’ The Golden Ones’ and ‘Run’ follow, both from the new album ‘ Caught By The Machine’, making it look admirably easy, the songs just pour out, there are no theatricals and no need to grace us with anything other than playing their instruments. By the time they reach ‘Drowning In Sound’ I am feeling the love, they are eloquently growing on me. ’Screaming Through The Noise’ is an awesome ballad, keyboards and poignant lyrics are joined by drums and then harmonies of incredible magnitude, what an experience. ’Carrie’ and ‘The Hunter’ stem back from 2015 and the ‘Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam’ LP, the latter has a fine drum introduction from Chris York, before Martin attaches his mature Ian Gillan sounding voice and the guitars of Eric Bouillette and Steve Anderson scream in unison. It’s quite a statement piece at over 6 minutes long, so even Andy Rowe on his bass, has time to convey a brilliant message. They finish in magnificence with ‘It’s Not My Home’ another new number. Hats off to them for first agreeing to play at the last minute and secondly for perhaps adapting the songs a little to satisfy the audience. All in all a truly outstanding band, glad I stayed to the end and witnessed them, not usually my kind of music, but they won me over.
Again big thanks to Martin Short for organising such a fabulous festival, Pete K Malley for being a great compere, Ian Fletcher of the Waterloo Music Bar, all the staff and security and every single band, for making it such a brilliant weekend. Not forgetting all those who came and gave their support for The Childrens Hospice Arts Charity.
Keep a note in your diaries as Rockforce 2020 is already being planned.