Thursday, 21 June 2018

Stone Free Festival 2018

After last year's Stone Free Festival ended up being such a fun day, it really was a no-brainer to attend this year's version. Especially considering the line up being so enticing. Well mainly the two headliners being Scorpions and Megadeth I should add. Megadeth I've seen countless times but this was my debut with the German hard rock stalwarts.

The day always starts very early at the fest and I got to the Arena at 11.45 am in time to check the first band Nitroville at 12pm sharp. To my surprise and actual delight, the free stage or Orange Amp stage was built outside the main Arena foyer. This was a welcome change as the early comers get to see the early bands with a proper outdoor festival feel.

The lady fronted Nitroville were pretty solid. I actually thought they were going to be a bit better than they ended up being. When I heard them on youtube I thought they were going to be more up my street than they ended up being if you catch my drift.

After they finished I milled around for a while and waited for Killit. I really enjoyed this band. They had great heavy riffs and decent song writing. Really really good rocking stuff and a cool chick guitarist. Good solid, rocking metal all round.

Meanwhile inside the Indigo, two bands had already played. namely Pete Spiby and The Beats Alls and The Picturebooks. Like...who??? Can't see every band so these guys got the heave ho.

My first visit inside the Indigo resulted in catching about 2 song from rousing rock 'n rollers Triggerfinger who it turns out are from Belgium of all places. They were like a heavy rock 'n roll band from the two songs I heard. Not bad and a few people dancing including a group of three ladies doing flower power style dancing. Nice!

There was a technical issue with one of the amps so Anchor Lane got held up until they borrowed an amp from one of the other bands. Finally the very young looking Scots started up with their heavily bluesed up fuzz rock. Not bad at all, though it's not really my style. Nice grooves and plenty of funky riffs.

Next I went inside for a ponder at the many stalls and then back out for Dirty Thrills. They were easily the sexiest and grooviest rock band of the day. The singer had some suave moves and their riffing and bluesy style was totally in keeping with the other bands. Quite fun indeed.

A quick visit inside the Indigo to catch around three songs from alt rockers Warrior Soul followed although their material sounded very samey. Not my thing at all. It has energy but lacks hooks from what I heard.

Another trip outside to watch Daxx and Roxane who followed in the style of all the bands in the Orange Amp Stage being very rock n' roll and in the AC/DC mould. Quite good but very derivative. Still fun to watch with a beer in your hand and nodding along.

Finally it was time to fill up the belly with a burger and fries at exorbitant O2 prices.

After a belly full of grub it was time to check out the UK's premier Nickelback copy band, namely Stone Broken. They were OK but Not that great to be honest. I enjoy them on record though and they'll have better live days for sure.

After that It was time for the proceedings to end outside the main hall with the stoner groove machine Orange Goblin laying waste. Never really been into this band but they have some nice grooves going and a raucous front man in Ben Ward. That guy is a big bear of a man and commands the stage and the crowd to get going. I guess they are used to a more energetic crowd but don't forget Stone Free is an old man's fest in the main. We don't get 'going' so to speak! The Goblin were pretty decent though again their material suffers from being samey live with no discernible difference song to song. Anyway good energy by the Goblin lads.

Time to look at the stalls a little more as I missed the final act on the outside stage. A chap by the name of Aaron Buchanan. He actually sounded quite good from what I heard on youtube but I missed him live.

Next up were Buckcherry inside the main arena. Second time seeing these guys. Not bad but not a band that makes me wanna jump around and go ape. Guns n Roses lite is the theme pretty much. Not bad but it's all about the two main bands for me, though I've heard worse than Buckcherry of course. Plus the arena was pretty empty for them which I'm sure disappointed them a little.

Next up were thrash titans Megadeth. Everyone who knows me, knows Megadeth is a huge deal for me and I've seen them double figures by now since when I first saw them back in '95. I was looking forward to their set and boy did they not disappoint. Some of the recent videos that I saw of live performances were slightly iffy but all my fears were unjustified. Dave and the boys were on shit hot form from the word go.

Hanger 18 is such a fantastic opener and gets the crowd quickly pumped it's such an old favourite. A great tempo and a great chorus and superb solos by both Dave and Kiko. Then we launch straight into the pounder from Dystopia, The Threat Is Real and before long we go into full thrash mode with Rattlehead for the old school headbangers.

Dave hasn't said a single word from the stage as of yet. Heads are down and guitars are being thrashed like there's no tomorrow. And so it continues with the headbang-alicious Wake Up Dead. Slightly slower but so anthemic with a big singalong for the crowd. Especially the superb stomping riffs at the end. "You die! Wake up dead! You die! Wake up dead!"

Finally we slow it down with the classic In My Darkest Hour. The slow building classic is just as good as ever it must be said and builds into an inferno of a thrash classic. Megafans have been loving that for decades. I should add whilst Dave won't win any awards at all for his vocals they were actually ok for someone who can't technically sing. The band was tight as hell as you'd suspect.

Special mention for Dirk on the drums. The guy fits in Megadeth like a glove and to me sounds like a better fit that Chris Adler.

Finally Dave spoke after IMDH and introduced the next song by saying they haven't played it in 18 years. So we weer wondering what it could be...hmmm. Bloody hell it's The friggin' Conjuring! Dave said he's never gonna play this song live ever again 'cause of it's satanic lyrics but maybe Junior persuaded him or he finally listened to fan clamour for the tune. I must admit it's actually not a huge fave of mine but it was so bloody cool to hear it live. I even remembered the lyrics enough to sing a long to most of it. Of all the Satan influenced Megasongs I would have preferred Bad Omen or Good Mourning/Black Friday but The Conjuring was a great and huge surprise.

The next songs in the set or all must haves really. I guess Sweating Bullets can be dropped but people still love it as do I. The next two were just mandatory tracks which I doubt have ever not been played by Dave and co. Namely Take No Prisoners and the mammoth Tornado of Souls. The performance on that was incendiary. Awesome solos by Kiko. Guy's already a mega-legend

Hangar 18 mk2 followed aka Dystopia which was great followed by fan fave Symphony of Destruction to change the pace a little. I love Symphony even though I've heard it a gazillion times. Dropping in This Was My Life or Countdown to Extinction here would have been nice but next time eh lads.

Mechanix followed which personally I am not a huge fan of. This was a very thrash-centric leaning set and I guess Mechanix fitted well. I wouldn't have minded to hear say something more melodic from Youthanasia. You know drop Reckoning Day in there or something to really throw a curve ball at us. But the set like I said was geared purely at ripping your head off with full on Megathrash.

The main set ended with the anthem Peace Sells with full crowd singalong. As usual the song was introduced by Junior playing the opening bass riff to great acclaim from the packed floor. Dave admonished the crowd for doing a half hearted chorus first time round so the second time people gave it their all for the chorus hehe.

Off they went and of course the one and only set closer Holy Wars followed. So friggin' tight as Dave says this is Holy wars and all hell pretty much breaks loose. Great and only way to end a killer set. Best Megadeth line up since the classic RIP no doubt and band still sounds hot as hell.

Hangar 18
The Threat Is Real
Wake Up Dead
In My Darkest Hour
The Conjuring
Sweating Bullets
Take No Prisoners
Tornado of Souls
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Holy Wars... The Punishment Due

Finally a bit later than the advertised stage the German legends and Stalwarts, Scorpions took their spots and launched into the big single off their most recent album, Going Out With A Bang. This is my first and almost certainly last time seeing the Scorps. I'll happily admit I actually don't know a lot of the old Scorps classics apart from the odd well known classic of course. But the thing is when you hear a Scorps song it sort of feels like a long lost old friend so you welcome it without much persuasion.

Their set continued with both regular songs and also a medley of songs. Notable stand outs to me were Steamrock Fever and The Zoo.

I also enjoyed the newish song We Built This House. I love that song. Their most famous song soon followed. get your lighters or phones out people it's Wind of Change. It's still a wonderfully whimsical song and people still love it. I'll say a few words about the band. They are all experts at their craft after doing this for decades. Klaus is 70 now and has quite a fair bit of his power it has to be said and he does look quite fragile on stage, but he's still got a great high pitched tone to his singing although his accent is a bit iffy sometimes hehe!

Special mention for Mikkey Dee. He's a real powerhouse drummer and I can't help thinking he could still be drumming in a far harder edged band than Scorpions. His drum solo was immense. Apparently he persuaded Klaus to have a go at doing a Motorhead and they have a decent bash at doing Overkill but the vocals lack the roughness and power required in my opinion.

Last two songs were huge sing along affairs being Blackout and Big City Nights. The singing and dancing got a bit more energetic let's say hehe!

The band went off and returned for the encore of Still Loving You the ballad with full sing along by the crowd and then the band's most famous and final song of the night Rock You Like A Hurricane. I think literally everyone was singing the chorus on that one as the Stone Free Fest came to a close.

Final thoughts - As usual a seriously fun day of music. Megadeth took the honours but it was good to see ancient rockers Scorpions before they keel over! Keep rocking Klaus and co!

Oh PS..
I went to the aftershow party and that was a lot of fun. This cover band called Shot through The Heart played 80s rock covers and it was a really fun way to end the night with another hour of music. You buy a beer, put your fist up and sing Bon Jovi, Kiss, Motley crue and Journey songs like a proper rocker. Not that I had any voice left by then!

Crazy World
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
Is There Anybody There?
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy's Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance
(with Ingo Powitzer)
Follow Your Heart / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Tease Me Please Me
(Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
(by Mikkey Dee)
Big City Nights

Still Loving You
(followed by a capella snippet of "Holiday")
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Brother Firetribe Live at the Garage

This gig got transferred from the main hall downstairs to the much smaller room upstairs at the Garage. It was still very good though. The venue gets packed with 150 in there and it was pretty packed to the brim. Support band was Transworld ID, an AOR band from Finland that I've never heard of. Strangely the lady singer was from Sheffield but had been in Finland for 14 years! Weird..

The BF boys played just last year here at the Borderline and I was surprised they were back so soon but glad for it. They just sound so good live. Pekka is a funny dude too with some typical Finnish humour. They played all the songs we expected. Every song has a catchy chorus hook to hang on to. The crowd also was well into it too with some tall dudes even jumping around at times.

BF put on a great show though I guess they would have preferred to pay the big hall downstairs. We'll come in droves next time chaps !

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

British Steel 2

A nice 2 day event at the Underworld. I missed the first edition of this fest last year but I gave it a shot this time. It was sadly very poorly attended. The Friday night saw 3 bands performing and the crowd was barely over 50.

First band were locals Se3ven Sisters. They were Maiden worshippers and really really good.
Next up were old timer Salem. They were a meat n' potatoes NWOBHM band. Just OK in my book.

Headliner for the first night was Avenger who I know zilch about. They were actually pretty good but still not as good as Seven Sisters who were band of the night.

Saturday came and I returned to the Underworld for a five band bill of trad and true heavy metal from the UK. I missed most of Toledo Steel as they played the last two songs as I walked in. The crowd was again very small and barely reaching 3 figures. TS were ok.

Next up were Neuronspoiler. Seen these guys a couple of times and they are very tight live. Some of their tunes are very catchy and they have a very flashy, live wire guitarist. More Maiden worship but they have their own sound too.

Next up were Eliminator from oop north somewhere. Manchester possibly as the singer did say it but I don't recall now. The singer really was the best and most interesting of the night. A proper air raid siren that fella! I enjoyed Eliminator's Maiden on speed worship.

Next up were my fave new UK trad band, Primitai. They were promoting the new album which is shit hot I kid you not. These guys are always super professional live and put on an outstanding live show. Lead singer Guy has a great live voice and they drew the biggest audience of the night of just about a 100 or so.

Headliners were old timers and dark NWOBHM band Desolation Angels. They were quite doomy and dark. Second time seeing these guys. The crowd had thinned out a but for these guys but they were ok with some cool head banging sections.

I enjoyed the 2 day fest though obviously only diehards gave a shit. I'll go again next year if they can get another decent line up of true and trad metal. Best 3 bands Seven Sisters, Primitai and Eliminator.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

5 More Gigs...

Round of recent gig visits.
On Tuesday, 17 Apr I saw Angra at the Underworld. I think it's the third time I've seen them. First time with Fabio singing. They were really very good. The support bands were good too though I don't have the info at hand as to who they were.

On Monday, 23 Apr  I saw a 4 band bill headlined by thrashers Havok at the Camden Underworld. Nice Monday night of madness. One of my fave thrashers, Harlott opened the show. Havok ended it with a lot of mental riffage.

On Friday, 11 May I saw Nickelback at the O2 Arena. First time ever seeing the Canadian giants of rock. They were cool but I won't be going to see them again now I've got them out of my system.

On Friday, 18 May I saw FM and Dare at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Both bands were really good.  FM were there usual great selves.

And finally on Saturday, 19 May I saw an evening with Machine Head at the Roundhouse. Only my third time with the 'Head. they played for almost 3 hours. They were very tight but I'll never be a huge fan of theirs but they were solid.

The gigs will continue to flow over the coming months...

next up the 2 day British Steel II festival at the Camden Underworld.

Friday, 13 April 2018

6 recent gigs

As usual I've attended a lot of gigs since my last update. A wide variety in fact of different styles of music.

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 - Tonight Alive - Koko
A nice gig. The support bands all sucked. TA were really good. This gig was totally out of my comfort zone of course but I enjoyed the band's music a lot although I only know the latest album. Jenna the front gal is really a live wire. She's great to watch and sings very well too.

Sat, 10 Mar 2018 - Obituary - ULU
Death metal titans. People love them. Haven't been to ULU for a long time. Always a nice venue, don't know why more metal gigs are not here. the support bands were decent too.

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 - Starset - O2 Academy Islington
Epic melodic rock. Different kind of band to see. Stage was always so dark that you couldn't even be sure they were playing live. But the show was a complete spectacle worthy of a far bigger stage.

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 - Ne Obliviscaris - Dome, Tufnell Park
Never been a fan. the support tech death bands were a draw for me. Ne Obliviscaris ended up being the best of the three. They were great live with a great sound even though I didn't know the songs.

Sun, 01 Apr 2018 Toto  - RAH
Toto were spectacular really. Played for about 2 hours 20m. They were just ace. Can't say I'm like a Toto nut or anything but damn the band is tight as ever. Joseph Williams was superb on the mic as well.

Wed, 04 Apr 2018 - Testament + Annihilator + Vader - Koko
Finally back to my usual fare. Seen Testament too many times now and they never fail. Annihilator were good too. Vader were Ok but didn't excite too much.

2 more gigs forthcoming. Angra and then Havok for more thrash.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

3 recent gig reviews.

Attended 3 gigs since the last time I posted on this blog. Firstly Symphonic Metal Nights III as it was billed. Followed by Rhapsody's reunion tour and finally last night Blaze Bayley, the ex Maiden man's solo band.

Symphonic Metal Nights was headlined by Serenity with support from Visions of Atlantis and two other symph metal bands. The first two were forgettable, Average stuff to say the least. Visions of Atlantis were great. Clementine, the female lead has a beautiful voice and their latest album is  their best by far. Serenity, I was seeing for the first and boy were they great. Georg is a great front man with a surprisingly soft voice for such a big lad. They were joined by Melissa Bonny from the band Rage of Light to add a female angle although the band doesn't have female vocals much in the actual studio versions, she add a nice flavour to the live sound. The night was worth it for the two main bands but not the support.

A week or so back I saw the reunion show of Rhapsody at the Islington Academy. The place was absolutely rammed on a Monday night. Double the attendance I recall for when Luca's version of Rhapsody came calling with Alex Conti on vox. This was of the return of the original minus Alex Staropoli of course which in my opinion is a bit of a shame. He was a also a huge part of the band. Anyway the keyboard parts are piped in on this tour. The support was the mighty new band Beast in Black who were absolutely crazy fun. The Greek front man's voice reaches absolutely insane highs. The songs are blessed with super catchy chorus. Poppy melodic power at its very best. Rhapsody were amazing too with Fabio sounding absolutely superb live. The venue was so packed that getting a good view of the stage proved nigh on impossible once I had left my original position for a drinks and toilet break. This will be the last time we'll see Rhapsody in original form on these shores but a great way to end. London's power metal die hards loved it.

And finally last night I saw the Blaze Bayley band at the Underworld on a Saturday night. I hadn't seen Blaze for a long time it must be said, maybe 7-8 years in the very same venue and his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse but him and his band are back. The Infinite Entanglement trilogy was very good although I have yet to really get a grip on the final part as of yet at it's only just come out. Blaze was signing autographs and taking pictures in the bar of the venue and I queued up to have a word or two with the man and get a picture with him after buying a shirt. Not every day you get to meet an ex Maiden singer is it! The show itself was good although the support act was not my cuppa at all. They were called Faith in Glory for those interested. Blaze started at 8pm  on the dot and played 18 songs all told from throughout his career. The attendance was pretty good at around 250, considering the terrible weather that we've been having.

Throughout the night, Blaze sang with great enthusiasm and this rubbed off on the crowd which feed off his joy for singing metal. It was like a mutual appreciation society haha! He constantly thanked the crowd for coming down and led the cheers for a big back slapping parade for all the fans who still support and have faith in him. As he explained he is a completely independent artist and it's through the fans that he can continue doing this.

He played a mix of tunes including of course some Maiden tracks which went down very well indeed. I was hoping for The Clansman or When Two Worlds Collide but sadly we didn't get those but Futureal and Man On The Edge were both excellent. Blaze sounds very good live I must say and much better than in the studio believe it or not. I'm glad I gave him another shot at the cherry. Blaze bleeds metal through and through. He may not be popular but he really is a hero for keeping on and on when anyone else would have just given up. Up the Blaze!

Some pictures from the three nights. Getting good pics from the Rhapsody gig proved impossible though but I got a couple from Beast in Black at the end.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

First 3 gigs of 2018

Took a long break from gigging activity since last year but that all came to an abrupt end last week with a trio of gigs to break the drought so to speak. One power metal, one thrash and one modern rock. All very different and all fun in different ways.

The first gig of the year was Gloryhammer with support from Civil War and locals Dendera. Dendera as usual provide a great warm up sound. Seen them so many times now they open for literally everyone passing through.

CW have new singer Kelly Sundown Carpenter on show and he did a fine job. Strangely he sounded a lot like old singer NPJ with his inflections and vocal mannerisms. Bay of Pigs was a great song that I recall and there were a few others too and the band comes dressed the part in old military gear.

They were a good warm up act for the hammer and glory to follow. The Islington Academy was rammed all the way to the back for this one and they weren't disappointed either. They played all the new album and plenty from the debut. The songs are a riot and a blur of colour and just plain fun. Everyone loves a good bit of cheese don't they and the 'hammer provide it by the bucket load! Great front man Thomas is too. Fun times and beers for all!

Second gig of the week a few nights later was one I decided to attend on a late decision. I like Dr. Living Dead the Swedish crossover thrash band but their latest album from last year was only merely good, however I like their riffs and ideas and they just seem fun on record so I gave'm a chance live. The mask gimmick is quite cool too as are the stage antics and synchronized, rap/gang stage. Two support bands were listed one was Comaniac and the other one the name escapes me at the moment.

I don't recall the first(this is what happens when you drink and go to a lot of gigs in a short period! The ones that go to gigs a lot will know the feeling lol), but Comaniac played great even though the singer is a bit iffy with his accent but he's also playing cool techy choppy riffs so I forgive him. They were fun and the poorly attended gig enjoyed them anyway. About the attendance well we never reached three figures quite but for thrash it doesn't matter you know. Well to us, maybe the band might be a little pissed hehe!

For Dr. Living Dead the crowd just about reached maybe 80-90 tops but not quite three figures as I said. But boy was it fun. These guys are fucking hilarious plus they have great riffs. The gangster masks and stage banter and grooves were cacthy and they are a funny and cool sight on stage. They must be absolute awash with sweat by the end of their gigs! Their energy was also endless, stomping about the stage especially the little bass player. I enjoyed them far more live than I have on record I must admit. I guess having a beer in your heand and banging your head makes you care a little less about what you're actually hearing. It's all about the mosh and the banging riffage. I'd go and see these guys live again no doubt. Hellish good thrashing fun and a major fun pit with 30-40 lads going at it full pelt.

Finally on a very busy Friday night in Camden Town, I went to see Raveneye who I had first seen last year and been very impressed with. This time they played Dingwalls which is a venue I haven't been in for 10 years and I even remember the gig. Candlemass with Rob Lowe and it was a great gig by the way. Anyway two support bands were listed. One of them was an all girl foursome called The Franklyns who were playing as I walked in. They were not my thing vocally speaking as the lady was hollering away. Typical pub rock IMO.

The second band whom I've never heard but seen the name around was called Skam. These guys were very good and I need to check out their albums properly now I've seen them live. They've got a very enthusiastic and engaging frontman with a very good voice. Their songs are pretty catchy and they know a good riff or two. The main man's voice is what held it altogether so well for me. Remember the name Skam. Good future for these guys as hard rockers.

Dingwalls was absolutely rammed by the time Raveneye got ready. The place was absolutely heaving to capacity of around 500 I'd say. Front man Oli mentioned a couple of times that this is the best and biggest gig that Raveneye has even played and how thankful they were. They've got quite a big following it seems too and have built a very strong fan base for themselves on the back of an ep and a debut album which they played most of if not all. They also played a couple of new tunes which sounded pretty good. I am not a huge fan of the band or anything but some of their tunes are very infectious and their performance as a power rock trio is tremendous and stacked with showmanship and energy.

Al they need now is to work on a new album and make sure it tops their debut.

Well that was an enjoyable week with 3 gigs and a football match at Wembley fitted in as well. Rest next before plenty more gigs on the horizon.