GIANTS OF ROCK 2019 DAY 1 - Butlins, Minehead 25.01.19



Giants of Rock, held at Butlins, Minehead is one of Butlins Music Weekends and is essentially a festival for people that don’t/can’t do festivals - your accommodation comes with beds, showers and self-catering facilities, and all your entertainment is indoors. What’s not to like? The music on offer is quite varied, with several genres of rock, from classic, through blues, hard rock, metal, AOR, there’s something for everyone. At Down The Front Media, we usually like to review every band that plays, and with overlapping bands on three stages this wasn’t always possible, but I think there were only three that I didn’t manage to see at all. Giants of Rock has an ‘Introducing’ stage, where four bands play each night and the audience vote for their winner. Votes are totted up at the end of the night, and the winner from each night gets to return next year to play on the big stage.

Kicking off the whole weekend and first on to the ‘Introducing’ stage is OUR PROPAGANDA, a proficient 4-piece from Southampton/Portsmouth made up of Jack Denton (vocals), Harvey Groom (guitar), Joe Newman (bass) and Charlie Denton (drums). The engaging set from the confident quartet is made up hard-rockin' songs that fully engage the crowd, including ‘Gold’, ‘i- generation’, about today’s reliance on social media, and ‘Hey Brother’, an anti-war song. The band show great chemistry and ooze style and swagger. A confident and passionate performance from the weekend openers.

Serving up Southern rock with a British style twist, SONS OF LIBERTY are up next on the ‘Introducing’ stage, to rapturous applause. Lead guitarist Fred Hale is all smiles as he throws out expressive riffs and maintains great eye contact with the appreciative audience. Playing the harmonica and a selection of other instruments throughout, vocalist Rob Cooksley is in good voice and is energetic, wildly spinning at one point, complete with his feather-festooned microphone stand. Andy Muse (guitar), Mark Thomas (bass) and Steve Byrne (drums) provide an upbeat, solid performance that thrill the packed crowd, who are raising their fists and singing along to songs ‘Damned If You Do’ and ‘Fool’s Gold’. The band’s addictive performance ensured they later won the first public vote to return to play on the big stage next year.

Leicester trio DIG LAZARUS, comprising frontman Ash Tustain (vocals, guitar), Atticus Hall-McNare (bass) and Jack Cotterill (drums) power through their ballsy, punchy set on the ‘Introducing’ stage, beginning with ‘White Ryno’ and ‘Hands Off’ and keep the crowd entertained throughout. Despite the other stages now having opened, the ‘Introducing’ stage is still rammed, a testament to the level of talent on show.

ICONIC EYE are the last band to play on the ‘Introducing’ stage tonight, and Wolverhampton AOR outfit Jane Gould (vocals), Greg Deane (guitars/keyboards), Neil Fraser (lead guitar), Michael Dagnall (bass) and Jon Cooksey (drums) play a rousing set of originals including ‘Black Country Lady’, ‘Black Heart and ‘Let It Rain’, that engage the crowd from the first to the last song.

The first of last year’s ‘Introducing’ stage winner’s to play this weekend, South Devon’s ETHYRFIELD open up ‘Centre Stage’ with an astonishing performance. The trio of Zach Cornish (vocals/bass guitar), Ben Cornish (guitar) and Dan Aston (drums) are perfectly in sync as they play a selection of originals, including ‘Black Sky’, ‘Show Me God’ and ‘Bag Of Bones’ from their EP, and a Rush cover, all of which receive a brilliant crowd response. The vocal harmonies from Zach and Ben sound sublime as they seamlessly blend; Ben’s quick-fingered prowess as he powers from one bracing guitar lick to another while flipping his hair is mesmerizing. The audience cannot get enough of this young band, who are encouraged to stay for one more song, a cover of ‘Am I Evil?’.

Meanwhile, over at ‘Reds’, ERIC BELL and his band run through a rather uninspiring repertoire of familiar songs including ‘The Rocker’ and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’. No doubt the accomplished performance pleases some of the crowd, who nod their heads as they watch.

Next at ‘Reds’, BRIAN DOWNEY’S ALIVE AND DANGEROUS wows the audience, who need no encouragement to clap along, cheer and whistle. The band are in their element and have the audience on their side as they celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Thin Lizzy album ‘Live and Dangerous’ and play some of those classic songs, including ‘Rosalie’, ‘Still In Love With You’ and  ‘The Boys are Back in Town’. Brian Downey (drums), Matt Wilson (bass/lead vocals), Phil Edgar (guitar/vocals) and Brian Grace (guitar/vocals) play like a well-oiled machine and the atmosphere is intoxicating.

Meanwhile, on ‘Centre Stage’, ROGER CHAPMAN FAMILY & FRIENDS are truly a sight to behold. It’s not often you get to see seven musicians, including Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, with a breadth of talent and a wealth of experience spanning several decades sharing a stage, all smiling and laughing, with lots of lovely interaction between each other as they take the audience on a trip down memory lane, the audience in appreciative and reflective mood; heads nodding, toes tapping, dancing away.

A change of pace next on ‘Centre Stage’ as German metal band U.D.O - Udo Dirkschneider (vocals), Dee Dammers (guitar), Tilen Hudrap (bass) and Sven Dirkschneider (drums) treat us to an outstanding set, with a thundering, powerhouse rhythm section combo in Sven and Tilen. Despite the absence of Andrey Smirnov (guitar) due to visa issues, and Udo’s knee pain prohibiting his movement somewhat, the band gave tight renditions of songs that delighted the crowd, including ‘Heart of Gold’ and ‘Independence Day’. The venue was rammed at the front of the stage, with fans of the band fist-pumping, cheering and playing air guitar; brilliant stuff!

Over at ‘Reds’, last act of the night, BON JOVI EXPERIENCE play various Bon Jovi songs like ‘Blood on Blood, ‘Raise Your Hands’ and ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. From where I was standing (not #DownTheFront) the singer looks fairly authentic, and people seem to be enjoying themselves.