By Michelle Flynn
Photo Credits: Linda Flynn
Set in the beautiful surrounding of the rolling Cotswold Hills, the new boy on the UK festival circuit boasted over 100 bands spread across it's four stages. The Amplified Festival line up offered a great cross section of new and established acts, with representation from all corner of the rock and metal scene. On a personal level, I was pleased to see a large number of female acts (in comparison to other festivals) on the bill and wanted to make a point of checking these out. We were slightly late arriving due to travelling so didn't have time to explore the site prior to the bands starting; but the main arena looked good with the two stages at either end. The schedule for both stages alternated so there would be no sound bleed from either stage which is always a concern at outdoor festivals.
First on my list was Dorja, a 5-piece female band who were opening the Very Metal Art Stage. These girls have a great sound; the guitar fuelled tunes and gritty vocals are modern and fresh but with a cheeky wink to 70's and 80's rock. They also have a great look, each with their own individual style that makes them captivating to watch. They had me engrossed throughout their short set and I wish it had been longer. I'm pretty certain all those who made the effort to turn out early felt the same! Be sure to check out their debut 4-track EP 'Target Practice', available now, and their new single 'Far Gone' which is due to be released in September.
Next up was Rival Bones on the Red Stripe Main Stage. This band were not on my radar, but had checked their EP Rival Bones out quickly prior to the festival, but I had no idea how they would sound in that environment; it can be tricky for duos to fill the space. I need not have been worried though, they produce a whole lot of sound for one guitar and a drum kit. It is pure, earthy hard rock that had the crowd head bopping and foot tapping throughout the set. I'm a complete sucker for filthy guitar riffs and this duo have them by the bucket load and when this is coupled with gritty vocals, it's a winning combination.
I'm going to take a moment here to talk about the main arena and the facilities. At festivals we are so used to the stages having blacked out back and sides, it was really refreshing to see the Red Stripe Main stage enclosed in clear plastic or mesh (I'm not sure which). The Very Metal Art Stage also had the same sides but a black backdrop. Being able to see a backdrop of trees really did make this feel like an open air event and took full advantage of the stunning setting. The main arena had a nice large bar and several food and drink outlets offering something for all tastes; and all were reasonably priced. There were also plenty of toilets, which is always a thumbs up for me!
The Fallen State were the next band on my list. They are a band I have followed for a while and know quite well but really wanted to see how they would fare at a festival. The audience were hanging back but vocalist Ben Stenning had them eating out of his hand in no time and soon had them to the front of the stage; he is a skilled frontman and engages with every member of the audience. He and the rest of the band looked totally at home on the open air stage as the powered through their set; even guitarist Jon Price was more animated than usual. It's fair to say their brand of melodic hard rock is infectious and they definitely gained a few new fans at Amplified.
We took some time out to investigate the rest of the festival site. At one end of the main arena, a path led down to the Mud Slide, whilst an opening between the two stages took you along a walkway which led to the Shoot Your Hoops Stage; where a few bands we were hoping to check out would be playing over the weekend, and on further to more food outlets, a bar, and the Tavern Stage. As the events of the weekend unfolded, we didn't get the chance to spend any time over this side of the site.
The next band we were due to see were The Amorettes; another all female band. The harder these ladies played, the harder the rain fell; and trust me, that's hard. This band don't have sass, they have pure attitude and their music has an edge – a sharp one. They are a band who give absolutely everything when playing live. Towards the end of their set the rain turned into a monsoon of biblical proportions and they would have been forgiven for cutting it short. But did they? No! They stuck 2 fingers up to the weather and rocked even harder.
Due to the weather conditions and safety concerns, all stages had to be closed at this point which meant Departed were unable to play. This band were my highlight of the day so I could have cried, but safety has to come first. They were also distraught at not being able to play and kindly had a quick chat with me backstage. When asked about their future plans, they told me how excited they were to be playing Bloodstock Open Air after winning The Metal 2 the Masses competition. New music will also be on the way, but there is no timescale for this at the moment. If you have a chance to check these guys out I would strongly recommend it as I believe they will become a force to be reckoned with on the rock scene. They are also really nice guys.
As the weather was showing no signs of relenting, the organisers took the decision to close all stages for the rest of the day. At this point there was a lot of uncertainty around the site with nobody knowing quite what was going on, but in amongst this uncertainty a few people refused to be beaten and were beavering away setting up a makeshift stage in the beer tent.
We headed over to the tent in time to catch Acid Reign, who should have been headlining the Very Metal Art Stage. Thrash metal isn't my thing, but boy were these guys entertaining! Not content with the small stage area, vocalist Howard 'H' Smith decided it would be far better for him to perform on the bar; much to the delight of the drenched music fans who had rammed themselves into the tent. I can safely say that this was one of the most surreal performances I have ever witnessed.
People had travelled from far and wide to see Puddle of Mudd and there was a sense of anticipation over whether they would play given the circumstances. But play they did, albeit a condensed set. Vocalist Wes appeared slightly bemused by the makeshift stage set up, but also seemed to be really enjoying himself as he perched on the drum kit riser. He beamed as the crowd sang along with him, as if he appreciated the fact that they had stayed; I know the fans appreciated that the band had agreed to play given the circumstances.
Day one of Amplified Festival was certainly an experience and we left site wondering what day two could possibly have in store for us with more rain expected!
**PHOTOGRAPHS MAY ONLY BE USED WITH PRIOR CONSENT FROM LINDA FLYNN PHOTOGRAPHY / DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA**