By Michelle Flynn
(Photo Credits: Linda Flynn Photography)
Of all the available slots at a festival, I always think that the Sunday morning opener is the most difficult, almost everyone is tired and most are seriously hungover. But at least the sun had decided to make a timely appearance for Crooked Little Sons who woke the festival up with ballsy, bluesy rock with a good dash of punk attitude thrown into the mix. Vocalist/guitarist Josh really made an effort to get the crowd involved in the set and they obliged with some hungover headbanging to join with in the almost frenetic performance by the band.
The change in weather had definitely changed the atmosphere around the arena; it had gone from the uniquely British festival spirit of “we're here, we're cold and wet, but we're going to enjoy ourselves anyway” to full blown rock-party central. It was decidedly busier than it had been previously; enticed by a little bit of sunshine, the families had come out in force to join the fun with the next generation of rockers bopping about on the grass in the ear defenders. And yes, I said grass. Not even torrential downpours of biblical proportions over two days had affected the ground in the main arena.
Fragile Things are a relatively new band who have very quickly earned their slot on the Red Stripe main stage. Putting a fresh twist on classic rock, this four-piece had the crowd dancing in no time. Frontman Richie Hevanz is mesmerising to watch and his vocals are huge but this isn't a case of a great frontman being supported by the rest of the band, they all link together perfectly to produce a melodic rhythm, blistering guitar solos and sing-along choruses. The interaction with the crowd was brilliant, with each seeming to feed off the other. This is a band who will really go places.
Another of the all female bands I wanted to check out were The Courtesans. Their sound is very distinctive; I would describe it as doom metal with soft edges. Perhaps it's the gorgeous, haunting vocals of Sinead La Bella Combined with the spellbinding guitar work and the foreboding rhythms that make it seem softer, whatever it is, it works. Visually they are stunning to watch. Of all the sets I watched over the course of the weekend, this is the one where I felt the music. If you had told me two weeks ago that I would like a doom metal band, I would have laughed. It's amazing what can happen when you open yourself up to new music.
Bad Touch never fail to deliver a polished, professional performance and being on one of the largest stages they've graced thus far certainly didn't faze them. If anything, I'd say they took it up another level. They powered through their set thoroughly enjoying being on stage and the crowd lapped up their take on bouncy, bluesy, southern rock. This is a band who will make you dance, whether you want to or not but also have substance to their music. Cheeky chappie vocalist Stevie Westwood has a smile that is contagious and balances out the cool seriousness of the rest of the band. They are one of the best live bands on the circuit at the moment. Although they were slightly upstaged by the four degenerate Aussies from Massive running on stage dropping their jeans and mooning at the crowd.
It's very difficult to critique a performance when the image of four lily-white backsides is still burnt into the back of your eyelids. But that prank does sum Massive up; they are four guys who are out having fun while playing some hard hitting rock and roll along the way. Like excitable puppies and on stage, their enthusiasm is completely infectious; it pulls you in and within no time has you in a stranglehold so there is no escape and you will be left begging for more. That certainly seemed to be the reaction of the crowd around me who gave them one of the biggest cheers of the day. Of course, it wouldn't do for Bad Touch to let the earlier prank go without retaliation; cue frontman Stevie walking to the front of the stage with “I bad touched Brad” scrawled on his bare chest.
Bringing a bit of decorum back to proceeding were classic rockers Vega. They came out with a thumping set filled with anthemic, arena filling tunes. There is no doubt that they are at the top of their game at the moment and are enjoying every minute of it; I don't think they stopped smiling throughout the whole of their set. This is feel-good classic rock at it's best and they were well received by the fun loving crowd.
German rockers Unzucht were not on my list of bands to see this weekend, but was told by a lady I had met at the PoM gig in London, and subsequently hooked up with again at Amplified, that I absolutely must as they were her favourite band. They put on an amazing high energy performance and have some great dark rock tunes that the crowd absolutely loved. I'm glad I made the effort to take a look at their set.
As this is a review of the festival as a whole, I took time out over the course of the weekend to speak to various vendors, workers, band members, and other festival goers to find out how they had found the first Amplified Festival. With the exception of the issues caused by the weather and a few teething problems, the overwhelming response was that they all had a fantastic time and all commented on how everyone had pulled together to help the festival continue in the face of adversity. I must give a mention here to Nutzie Shelley of Broken Jaw, who not only masterminded the bar stage, but also gave up the band's slot on the main stage to Scarsun as the second stage hadn't been built by the time they were due to perform. I'd also like to congratulate Amplified for booking a number of female bands and also one with a transgender frontwoman, the festival really proved itself to be inclusive to all.
Sometimes, bands look as though they are just going through the motions when they're on stage, but there was none of that here. Each band I watched genuinely looked to be having a great time and I think that added to the overall enjoyment of those who attended.
Of course there are lessons for the organisers to learn, the first year of any festival will always be troublesome and I'm certain Amplified faced more adversity than most. This festival has huge potential; the site is perfect and apart from a couple of areas stood up to the elements superbly, the attitude of those working the festival was brilliant, and I don't remember hearing one cross word during the entire event. Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Amplified can achieve in 2018.
** PHOTOGRAPHS MAY ONLY BE USED WITH PRIOR CONSENT FROM LINDA FLYNN PHOTOGRAPHY / DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA**