FOUR STICKS CLASSIC ROCK WEEKENDER 2018 Day 3 - New Cross Inn, London 07.10.18
PHOTO CREDITS: JON THEOBALD PHOTOGRAPHY
The third day starts at the earlier time of 1:30 pm and whether it’s because people are still nursing hangovers or are still finishing up their Sunday lunches but the crowd is as sparse as it has been all weekend as SILVERVOID take the stage.
The curse of the openers doesn’t strike again however and the band deliver a strong set full of big riffs and Zeppelin-esque breakdowns. Despite the low numbers watching, the band get a decent response and for their part they give 100% throughout, gaining a few new fans in the process.
CITY OF THIEVES are up next, a late addition to the bill after STONEWIRE pulled out. The band have been around long enough to not let this, or the early time slot, faze them as they tear into their first song, an Airbourne-style full-on rock beast. A sound they maintain throughout their set, effortlessly putting the power into power trio.
There is also a refreshing lack of artifice about them, it’s the music that does the talking not the image. And it’s obviously talking to the right people as CITY OF THIEVES have secured a support slot on Inglorious’s next tour, and quite frankly the headliners are going to have to be on top form following their full pelt, kick-ass rock n roll.
It may only be quarter past three but that doesn’t stop the members of DEAD BLOW doing Jaegerbombs as they walk on stage. If you’re expecting a finessed and refined sound after that then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. They play a raw and somewhat ramshackle brand of rock that harkens back to Motörhead or the early thrash bands. Unfortunately, there’s not quite enough meat on the bones of the songs to enliven a slightly sluggish crowd and while there are enough moments to suggest promise most of the songs don’t quite hit home today.
Unlike on Saturday, the crowd seem to be making the bands work for their attention and HAMMERJACK do their level best to grab it. Confident frontman Sharpy immediately demands the crowd get in closer and their Airbourne-cum-AC/DC unreconstructed rock sound certainly gives them something to nod their heads to. It’s not big or clever but it’s good time music and gets a decent response from the crowd as a couple more beers go down. They lack the professionalism of some of the best bands of the weekend but HAMMERJACK manage to kickstart the day and they grow into their set, warming the crowd up nicely for the next act.
Unfortunately for GALLOW’S HIGH, the start of their set is marred by the sound, the vocals completely missing in the mix. This is something of an issue for a band that clearly centre around frontwoman Emma Wale’s voice. Too often though it gets lost in the mix even once the mic starts working. It’s a shame because their sound which sways between arena-rock and classic metal with a little hint of Scandinavian symphonic thrown in has promise. The atmospheric solos sound great and they have a good, powerful back line, they just perhaps need a little more stage presence to win over the crowd.
When it comes to stage presence HELL’S GAZELLES have it in spades, even if singer Cole Bryant spends as much time off of the stage as he does on it. He patrols the floor, leaps on and off of tables, clambers on to the bar and if you take your eyes off him for even a second he disappears and then pops up halfway across the room. But when you do tear your eyes off of him you realise that each member of the band brings their own character to the show, bassist Rickard Ridemark has, quite frankly, the coolest looking bass strings you ever did see – and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. HELL’S GAZELLES are tight and yet spontaneous and there is an instant familiarity to the songs and riffs. Vocally Bryant pulls off the incredible knack of managing to control his Halford-esque histrionics while maintaining his hyperactive showmanship. The crowd lap it up as the band raise the bar and then raise it again with each song they play. If there’s any justice in the world HELL’S GAZELLES will be huge, but right here and now they just knocked it out of the park and put the Four Sticks Weekender firmly back on track.
There’s a strange ebb and flow to the Sunday crowd, drawn in by HELL’S GAZELLETS they seem to disappear again before THEIA hit the stage. It’s a real shame both for the band and for the crowd who are missing out on one of the rising stars of the rock scene. To their credit THEIA play an immaculate set of melodic hard rock that still carries enough of a punch to get your heart racing. These superbly crafted songs in any other era would be nailed on for commercial success. Frontman Kyle Lamley is engaging throughout and works hard to win over the crowd and has a relaxed cool about him that charms and draws you in. By the end of the set, he’s in amongst the crowd without missing a note on his Gibson. It’s an impeccable performance and if they’d played on Saturday they’d have blown the roof off, as it is they can congratulate themselves on a job well done under inexplicably tricky conditions.
As we reach the business end of the day the venue again starts to fill up and the stage is set for the arena-sized fist-pumping rock of NEW DEVICE. Muscular singer Daniel Leigh certainly looks the part but his vocals are a little lost in the mix in the early part of the set. There are hints of Alter Bridge's expansive post-grunge sound and ‘Strung Out’ seems ready-made for American rock radio.
In a heartwarming moment, they spot a young girl called Riley in the audience who is at her first gig with her mother and they invite her onstage and the crowd give her a rapturous response. It seems to kickstart the band’s set too. New song ‘Wake Up’ sounds like a belter and the band really hit their stride doling out anthemic bangers with ease. Sadly just as they’re hitting their peak their set comes to a close, Riley returns to the stage for the final song and the hearts of the crowd are won. Just another in a long list of bands that deserve to be heard on a much wider scale - something of a theme for the weekend.
So onto SACRILEGE, a band who had some minor success in the 80’s during NWOBHM’s heyday and have returned to the live circuit after a long hiatus. In all honesty, they feel a little high up the bill and while they’re technically very good the lack some of the freshness and vibrancy of earlier acts. They get a decent response from sections of the crowd but others are less forgiving and a lack of interaction between songs for the first five or so numbers does little to win them back. Eventually the bassist - and obvious showman of the band - follows earlier bands example and walks into the crowd and claws back some of the ground they lost earlier. Ultimately though their set drags on a touch too long, and the majority of the crowd are anxious to hear the two bands that are waiting in the wings.
First of those two bands, in what basically amounts to a double headline slot is Aussie rockers MASSIVE.
Somehow on a stage that has seemed cramped for most, MASSIVE seem to create extra space and within seconds everyone there knows they’re in for a good time. Their no-frills approach means what you’re left with is just good old fashioned rock and fucking roll and that’s exactly what the crowd wants. Everyone’s on their feet as the band slam into great song after great song. They mix-up oldies with unheard songs and blend it all together so well that whether you’re a die-hard fan or a complete newbie you can’t help but enjoy yourself. No band this weekend has got the crowd moving as much as MASSIVE.
They chuck back some beers, chat jovially with the crowd and blast through a 100mph version of ‘TNT’ and if you think all they can do is big, fat party anthems they then prove their musicianship by making Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ sounds like it’s their own original track. Each song sounds like a euphoric encore and the hour-long set zooms by leaving you gasping for more. It is, quite frankly, a blistering performance.
And then it’s just left to MASSIVE WAGONS to bring the day and the weekend to a triumphant close. They are, as ever, spectacular. Baz takes the stage, replete in trademark bowler hat, which doesn’t even last a song before it’s flung from his head as he leaps around the stage. He is quite probably the best live frontman in Britain at the moment and though the small stage means he endangers the lives of his bandmates every time he whirls his mic stand, his energy really is something to behold. Making a mockery of the idea that’s there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, the man just does not stop. And behind him, the band, riding the crest of their top 20 chart success wave, are in equally astonishing form.
The set draws heavily from their Full Nelson album and considering how well it’s done, why wouldn’t it? The crowd sing along to every word, ecstasy clearly etched upon their faces. The adoration is palpable, the crowd are jumping as one and the floor is shaking under the combined weight. And all that is left to do is for your intrepid reporter to abandon his notepad, push himself down the front (where else?) and enjoy the spectacle of the best live band in the world right now.
MASSIVE WAGONS, and indeed everyone involved in the Four Sticks Weekender, we salute you. Rock has never felt more alive.
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