SUBTERRANEAN FESTIVAL - Cambridge Corn Exchange - 23.09.17

Tom Blackburne-Maze


This was the inaugural Subterranean Festival; the dream child of local rock DJ, Neil Jones, and supported by the excellent Cambridge Live Trust. A one-day indoor festival featuring the very best local talent from the Cambridge area alongside those  bigger names from the rock and indie world; who headlined each of the three small stages inside the main auditorium with performances rotating from stage to stage throughout the day. A separate stage hosted a selection of acoustic rock and indie bands. In the main auditorium the bands would play one after another with just enough time to either fill your glass, get a bite to eat or browse the merch stands. It worked really well and in total 21 bands played over the 10 hours of live music, and fortunately for me this included my two favourite bands.


Here are my highlights: First up was Sweet Crisis, a three-piece contemporary rock band from Cambridge. They are well followed in the Cambridge area and are a great sounding band with good vocals, guitar riffs and loads of hair. The guitars sounded good but unfortunately, they currently lack a bass player so a backing track was used. I don’t actually think that many people noticed that. I know they are actively seeking to fill that position and I do hope they are able to do so soon as that is likely to help them make it to the next level. They have a new live album coming out next week so I would recommend you give it a listen and check them out live, you won’t be disappointed.


Next up was Mammoth Penguins, a three-piece indie band and again from Cambridge. The biggest surprise to me was knowing the drummer, Tom, who was a past work colleague of mine. I now see him in a different light, very impressed. They were accomplished musicians who were solid performers and gave a great show and able to keep my attention even though it wasn’t my own personal taste in music.


Hollowstar are one of my two most favourite bands. Neil Jones personally introduced them saying they were the first band on his list for the festival and rightly so. They are a four-piece classic rock band from St Ives, (no, the other one just outside Cambridge), and give an awesome live performance every single time. Joe on Vocals & bass and Phil on guitar spring around like they are high on caffeine and fizzy drinks and Tom on guitar never stops smiling. Jack twiddles his drum sticks around his fingers on Money and Guilty and I am sure I might have seen him do it during another track as well. I always try to catch him dropping a stick on my camera but no such luck yet. Originally given a 35 minute slot, they were receiving so much support that Neil gave them an extra 10 minutes; so they squeezed an extra 2 songs in. Money, Lay Down, Future City, Sweet Suicide, Feel The Burn, In My Dreams, New Age Lullaby, All I Gotta Say and Guilty. An absolutely stunning performance full of energy and I never tire from watching them; they pick me up every time. Can’t wait to see them again, I think I’m catching them 3 times in November, and I would recommend them to everyone. I do hope that they will get the support slot for a bigger bands tour soon which will help to launch them, they deserve it.


Next up was Phoenix Calling, a five piece rock band from Peterborough, just up the A14. I have only recently found this band and I wish I had earlier. I would liken them to post grunge American bands like Adelitas Way, Daughtry and Cavo. I like this genre of music and it has been great for me to find a UK band that can deliver as good a sound as those across the pond, their being local to me is a further bonus. They gave a great performance despite the small stage being restrictive for 5 of them. My particular favourite is “Rescue Me” which they released as a single last year. If you haven’t watched the video on You Tube I would recommend it, great piece of work. Excellent vocals from Steven with great riffs and solos from Dom and Martyn on guitars, not to mention solid bass and drums from Jason and Matt, I am really surprised they haven’t been able to make the break to the next level yet. A great band and hopefully I will be able to see and hear more of them soon; I would certainly not hesitate to catch them on a bigger stage.


Pins were next up headlining the Labyrinth stage, a five piece all female band from Manchester. They play an energetic Indie/Punk style of music which certainly gets the fans jumping about. Faith on vocals gave a great performance interacting with the fans at the front throughout the set keeping their attention held firm.


Stone Broken, my other favourite band, were next headlining the Inferno stage, probably the largest of the three. They also drew the largest number of fans of the day and provided another awesome performance. They continue to go from strength to strength. In June last year I caught the band from Walsall for the first time in Stowmarket with 12 other fans, 13 of us in total. This year they played Winters End, Download and are headlining Planet Rock’s Rockstock. Next year I predict even bigger things for them. They played 11 tracks in all nailing each and every one of them, including two new ones which will hopefully be on their forthcoming 2nd album out early next year. Stay all night, Better, Let me Go, Be there, Other side, Wait for you, Doesn’t matter, Just a memory, This life, Fall back down and Not your enemy. As there was no pit, I sat stage side with nine year old Alex, an awesome little guy with safety headphones on singing along to every single word they sang from start to finish. Rock On Alex!! ‘Wait For You’ is a firm favourite with fans and the band dedicate this song to them, allowing them to sing all the words. Stone Broken are developing such a large following that each time they do this, the crowd sounds even louder than the time before. Rich, Chris and Kieron move around the stage constantly interacting with the fans with energy and passion throughout. Robyn on the drums joins in, stands up and thrashes her drums impeccably throughout. I loved it when Robyn started playing the wrong track; they recovered the position with brilliant humour. All in all, another absolutely awesome performance from the band. I can’t see them enough and I’ll be off to see them again next week in Norwich supporting Living Colour.


Finally headlining the Under World stage were The Amorettes. I last saw the three piece all female rock band from Scotland in Cambridge 2 years ago supporting Black Star Riders and Europe. Since that tour they have opened up more doors. Their music has also matured and they provided a solid energetic performance to the fans that had come to see them. I bumped into one of their fans that had come from Glasgow on a £14 return flight to Stansted just to see them and he didn’t leave disappointed. Great performance from the girls, great riffs, vocals and lots of hair which makes their act a great one to catch.


So in summary, a great little festival that brought the best up and coming local rock and indie music in the Cambridge area together under the same roof as some of the bigger bands who were once in the same position and have since made it to the next level. Well done Neil Jones and Cambridge Live! I look forward to Subterranean 2 next year.  






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