Michelle Flynn (Photo Credits: Linda Flynn)
Held in the small Cheshire town of Lostock, the annual Rockwich Festival boasted 12 top notch bands for the main Sunday line up, with the addition of a warm up acoustic session on Saturday night.
Rockwich – Saturday
We arrived slightly late due to traffic delays, but were settled in time for Rob Lomax (formally of Crowsaw) and his band playing a selection of rock/country/folk music. Their set list ranged from Sweet Home Alabama to Lord of the Dance but had a very Irish folk style to the arrangements. Most of the people in the venue were up and dancing and to my mind was reminiscent of the 3rd Class dance scene in the film Titanic.
Next up were Theia, a band that I absolutely love. They had played electric sets at previous Rockwich events and wanted to be involved again this year and so took on the challenge of performing acoustically. They opened with Home, a stunningly beautiful song that should be getting radio airplay everywhere. By his own admission vocalist/guitarist Kyle Lamley found the acoustic set quite surreal and he had a 'what the hell are we doing' moment, but this did not come across during their performance. They finished the set with the crowd pleasing Whoop Dee Fucking Doo.
The final act of the night was Baxter, a two piece covers band. This was a completely fun set with everyone joining in with a rousing rendition of I Wanna Be Like you from The Jungle Book. The duo jumped from Adam and the Ants to Foo Fighters in a blink of an eye; it was like being in our very own episode of Phoenix Nights.
Rockwich – Sunday
There was a sizeable crowd given the midday start, and they were definitely not being eased into the day gently as the first band of the day, The Sourheads made their presence known with boundless energy and a hard rocking sound that reminded me in places of Motorhead. The metal was heavy, the drums were thumping, and the guitars were full of grooves and riffs. This was a high octane performance from a band who obviously like to rock and roll. Secret Cigarette and Mad Dog were the highlights of the set for me.
If The Sourheads hadn't managed to wake you up, then Black Cat Bones certainly would have done. I had heard only good things about this band and I was really looking forward to seeing them live. They did not disappoint. Vocalist Jonnie Hodson has all the style and swagger of an early Axl Rose but it's not style over substance; his vocals are superb. This was especially noticeable on Give You The World. The vocals were backed up by great riffs and rousing guitar solos that took you on a rollercoaster ride through each track. This band are both musically and visually amazing in a live setting and I can't wait to see them again.
The venue was really starting to fill up and it was great to see so many families had come along, bringing the next generation of rock fans with them. Ryders Creed were the beneficiaries of this larger crowd and they most certainly played to the audience. This is another band who come into their own in a live environment and they completely won me over. Their set was full of catchy hooks, great riffs, and a vocal that I don't think I would ever tire of listen to. The band were continually looking for crowd participation and a call of “Let me hear you scream” was met with a loud reply. The Devil's Road, with its southern rock vibe was a highlight for me.
Up next were The Senton Bombs, another band I've not come across before. This band rock hard, throw in a good slice of punk, and add a dollop of country vibe for good measure. Admittedly, they were a bit too heavy/punky for me personally, but I was very much in the minority with that view. Everyone down the front was having a great time and the atmosphere was electric. These guys have been on the scene for a while and they know their craft and how to work an audience, Nothing Quite Like This really got the crowd going. If you like a dose of heavy punk rock, then these guys should be top of your list.
I've been a fan of Baleful Creed for a while now, but this was the first chance I'd had to see them live as they don't pop over from Northern Ireland regularly. Opening with Devil's Side, you were left in no doubt that your internal organs were going to take a pounding with the low, gutsy bassline that this band produce. The Wolf was another track that really transferred well to a live setting, luring you in gently before letting rip. I think it's safe to say they definitely gained a few more fans judging by the response from those around me.
We were served a plateful of heavy metal along with our dinner in the shape of Beckon Lane. They hit the stage running and did not stop for breath. They have some crashing tunes and I'd like the opportunity to see these guys again and give them my full attention.
A slight change in the running order saw Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters take to the stage earlier than scheduled. If it wasn't hot enough in the room already, Beth decided to turn the temperature a notch or seven and performed with more balls than all the bands that had gone before (no offence, lads) as she belted out the intro to Hell Yeah. Down and Dirty provided some much needed Sunday sleaze while If You're Ready To Rock brought the party vibe. Beth never fails to impress me with her performance, she gives it absolutely everything and the whole band seems to feed off this. I wish their set had been longer. Shout out to Luke who was performing with the band for the first time after only a couple of rehearsals.
Making a quick dash from another festival appearance, Hell's Addiction carried on where BBATBD left off. The high octane set was filled with crashing drums, blazing guitar solos and vocals that you have to take notice of. Quite how Ben manages to hit that vocal range time and again, I have no idea; he goes from a gritty growl to a glass shattering scream and back again with ease. There's no better demonstration of this than Time Has Come, which was the highlight of the set for me; 'Maiden'esque metal in all its glory.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Regulus but was back in fine fettle for the following act. The last time I saw Mason Hill they blew the headline act off the stage, so to say I was looking forward to seeing them again would be an understatement, a massive one. This is one of those bands that has 'it', the thing we can't describe, but whatever 'it' is, we like it and we want more of it. They have a maturity about them that belies their years and this comes across both in their music and their stage presence. Technical issues which would have caused some artists to lose their cool during Your Memory were turned into a game of 'can you hear me yet', with the band continuing without batting an eyelid once the glitch was rectified. Now You See Me provided hooks, riffs, and grooves that had the whole crowd moving. The absolutely beautiful Where I Belong brought the set to a close; this track is even more hauntingly, spine-tingly, goose-bumpy live. Much to the crowd's approval they finished with an encore of Audioslave's Cochise in tribute to Chris Cornell and certainly did the original justice.
Another helping of Sunday sleaze was on the cards with Knock Out Kaine up next. This was another first for me, and one that's been a long time coming. A blinding set included 16 Grams Of Heart Attack, Fire and Smoke, and Little Crystal; grooves so good you just can't stand still. Flying Blind gave us a reminder of everything that was right with 1980's rock, while Coming Home, one of my favourite tracks was performed brilliantly; Dean's vocals have a direct line to your emotions. By the end of the set, everyone was in the mood for a party.
Leading that party onwards were Screaming Eagles, another band who had made the trip over from Northern Ireland. This band play good, old fashioned rock 'n' roll and they do it well. I've said before that this band will play with the same energy regardless of whether they were playing to 20 or 20,000 people and tonight was no exception. The AC/DC tinged Blood and Ready For The Fall had the crowd up and moving, while Rock and Roll Soul had the whole singing “but I wanna rock and roll” back to the band.
Tonight's headliner was the mighty Massive Wagons. Opening with their latest release and tribute to the late Rick Parfitt, Back To The Stack they made it clear they were here to have a good time and wanted everyone to have fun with them; and we all raised a glass to Rick. The large crowd sang along with Tokyo and Ratio with almost as much gusto as Baz. We were also treated to a couple of new tracks, Last On The List and Under No Illusion; both in keeping with the hard hitting, foot tapping tunes we have become accustomed to. Guitarist Adam was grinning from ear to ear throughout the set and so was I, the grin got wider as they broke into the brilliantly funny Fee Fi Fo Fum and the whole crowd agreed that we wanted to party with an English rock and roll band. At the end of a set that was far too short for my liking, they performed one of the best covers of Thunderstruck that I've heard. I honestly don't think I'll get enough of Massive Wagons and it was a perfect way to end the day.
I have to just say, the organisation of this event was brilliant and all the staff were friendly and helpful. The atmosphere was fun, with everyone wanting to enjoy the music...and boy do you get a whole lot of music for your pennies! I would definitely recommend Rockwich 2018.
**PHOTOS NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT OF LINDA FLYNN PHOTOGRAPHY / DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA**