Morag Farley & Charley Farley
(Photo Credits: Morag Farley)
The day dawned bright and sunny for this small festival which is fairly new to the calendar. Organisers held the first one last year, using an indoor venue to host the event. It was successful enough to run a second one in 2017 and in anticipation of increased ticket sales, it was moved outside. The facilities were sparse but adequate with a beer/food tent, Mojo Rox, who sell lovely bottle lights and rock related artwork, and a clothing seller. Outside the arena, tents were pitched on pretty much every spare grass patch by eager gig goers and the lovely large car park doubled as a camper van/caravan site.
Almost an hour later than expected, the first band, Problem Child, took to the stage. This is a great covers band from Ellesmere Port. They gave a totally amazing performance, despite being a drummer short - no problem - bring in not one, but two stand ins - both with enough skill and talent to add to the performance. Woody, on Bass, seemed to like the idea of wandering round the festival field with a fag in his mouth and a beer in his hand and the small crowd enjoyed the close up and personal humour. They performed great covers of some classic tracks by the likes of AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Thin Lizzy and many other classic rock songs.
As they left the stage, it became apparent why they had started late. The second billed band, Reveller, had disbanded a few days earlier, leaving the organisers with an empty slot and no time to find another band to fill it. By starting the show a bit later, and giving the earlier bands a longer slot, the gap was soon filled.
Twisted Illusion, a three piece prog-rock band based in Manchester filled their slot with some of their own music - with one track appropriately named 'Apocalypse...#LOL'. Typically proggy, some tracks were long enough to challenge any Rick Wakeman solo, but were performed well, and the revellers enjoyed what they heard. Not limiting themselves to prog, they also played some excellent covers of Dio and Led Zep classics. A small hiatus in the music caused by a technical issue was well filled by the lead singer, Matt, giving an impromptu rendition of 500 Miles much to the crowds amusement. An excellent band who can be seen at Bloodstock on 12 August.
Hell's Addiction is a 5-piece hi octane, hard rock band from Leicester. They have been described as 'a bastard child of an illicit threesome between Skid Row, Early Guns'n'Roses and AC/DC'. It’s a fair description of their style of music. With a great stage presence and they perform their music brilliantly. Their exuberant personalities shine through on stage with passion and an infectious attitude to having fun. The band gave us a good taste of their latest album, Broken, opening their set with ‘What You Gonna Do’ and closing with ‘Holiday’ as well as some tracks from their earlier album 'Raise your Glass' such as ‘Brand New Story’ and ‘Alcohol’. Both albums are definitely worth buying. Despite their obvious talent, they remain unsigned, but that doesn't seem to worry them. They are well and truly 'out there' picking up gigs and supporting some fantastic bands. Surely the future is bright for a band with a drummer having the same name as one of the best writers and producers in the business (Luke Morley).
With two albums and a clutch of EPs, the next band on stage, Falling Red have a great catalogue of music to choose from. From the first few notes of ‘Break Me’, from their 2014 album ‘Empire of the Damned’ they had the growing audience hooked and engaged with their set before moving on to other tracks from their later works including ‘No Sanctuary’, ‘We are Reckless’ and ‘Disposable’. Rozey is a very engaging frontman who managed to get even the most stubborn members of the audience to stand up and join in the final song (If You Ain’t Down With The Rock) with its simple lyrics and ear worm tune. Their third album is well on its way to being funded through Pledge Music. It is definitely worth investing in, and we’ll look forward to catching this band again soon.
The Specials Guest to the headline band was Bad Touch, who come from Dereham, Norfolk, and really take command of a stage. They have a wonderful versatility in their blues rock that is addictive. Stevie Westwood, on vocals has a voice as smooth as velvet and delivers his lyrics with emotion and has a way with the audience that draws you in closer. They show their musical versatility in punchier tracks such as ‘My Mother Told me , from their album ‘Truth Be Told’ and ‘Waste My Time’ from the album ‘Halfway Home’ before slowing the tempo right down for ‘Take Your Time’. Just as you get used to the more bluesy feel, they ramp it up again for the fantastic single ’99%’. They finished the set with a tribute to Led Zep - Whole Lotta Love and finally The Mountain. It was a brilliant set which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed. Bad Touch have been out on tour supporting more established bands and have a Planet Rock Live tour later in the year.
As darkness fell, the headline band, Stone Broken erupted on stage with brilliance that many people have come to expect. As an emerging band they are, really, nothing short of magical on stage. They are fast becoming one of the tightest new hard rock bands in Europe. While Rich engages the crowd with his chat, and his friendly recognition of fans in the crowd, Chris dances his way through a thousand pairs of Converse. Kieron manages to flirt with the audience and Robyn is obviously enjoying herself at the back. Sadly, all the previous bands had the sun to light them on stage, but after sunset, the stage lights for Stone Broken were inadequate and meant that Robyn was well lit, but the lads at the front were left pretty much in the dark. This is probably the only criticism we have of the whole day. With a set that delivered many crowd favourites from their album, ’All In Time’, Stone Broken gave us what we came for. ‘Wait for you’ and ‘Not your Enemy’ are fast becoming Stone Broken anthems with Rich leaving a lot of the vocal work to the fans in front of them. They also included a couple of new songs - ‘Doesn’t Matter’ and ‘Just a Memory’ which will be on the forthcoming second album which is set for release early in 2018. It was over all too soon, as the strict 10pm curfew prevented the band performing an encore the crowd clearly wanted. Stone Broken then spent a good couple of hours chatting with fans old and new - their accessibility is a much loved part of any set that these guys do. Stone Broken are on tour with Living Colour next month. With tickets selling fast, you would be well advised to get yours now to avoid disappointment.
We hope that Helsfest will be back in 2018 with another great line up. We're sure the organisers will recognise things that could be improved for future events and we’d love to return.