GIANTS OF ROCK 2019 DAY 2 - Butlins, Minehead 26.01.19



The second of 2018’s ‘Introducing’ stage winners, Devon’s DEPARTED, get Saturday lunchtime proceedings in ‘Reds’ off to a brilliant start after an initial technical problem with us not being able to hear vocalist Mark Pascall.  Once sorted by a quick-thinking Mark, he is confident as he belts out his vocals, hitting every note with ease, and the packed crowd at the front sing and clap along, their hangovers are soon forgotten. Although others in the venue may not have been familiar with the band, as their set continues with ‘Don’t Follow Me’ and ‘All I Want’, the area in front of the stage gets more packed. Ben Brookland shines with his expressive guitar riffs and crowd interaction; Matty Clements (bass) looks to be having the time of his life as he and Matt Chalk (drums) provide the throbbing backbeat to the classic rock vibe of the songs with a soulful, bluesy edge. A cover of ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ has the crowd singing and an orderly queue forming at their merch stand. What a way to start Saturday morning!

MARTIN BARRE’S JETHRO TULL take up the reins next at ‘Reds’, to the delight of the crowd, which has swelled during the break to almost fill the standing area. Martin Barre on lead guitar is masterful, Dan Crisp’s vocals engaging on ‘Teacher’ and ‘Steel Monkey’, and the strong rhythm section of Alan Thomson (bass), and Darby Todd (drums) provide impeccable strength and pace, Darby, in particular, standing out with his solid drumming style.

Rounding things off at ‘Reds’ for the afternoon is DARE. Accompanying Darren Wharton are the charismatic Nigel Clutterbuck on bass, Vinnie Burns on guitar, Kev Whitehead on drums and Marc Roberts on keyboards. The room is absolutely rammed, every seat is taken and there are people standing as far as the eye can see. The band make it sound absolutely effortless and the crowd are lapping it up, singing along and cheering for more. As a song is dedicated to the late Phil Lynott, the applause reaches new heights.

Over on ‘Centre Stage’, GEORDIE warm up the afternoon audience nicely with their brand of classic rock, delivered with the upbeat, easy comedic banter of frontman Mark Wright between songs. Ably backed by Steve Dawson (guitar), Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums), Mark is engaging and in fine voice. Going into ‘Don’t Do That’, he quips, “We’ve only got a couple of hits so we’ll do those!”, which has the standing crowd laughing and dancing. Declaring “Geordie is back!”, just before ending the set with a fantastic cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, they may just be right!

THE CHRIS SLADE TIMELINE are the last band of the afternoon on ‘Centre Stage’, and the former AC/DC drummer and his band of well-tooled musicians, Paul ‘Bun’ Davis (vocals), Steve Glasscock (vocals), James Cornford (lead guitar/backing vocals), Michael J. Clark (rhythm guitar/keys/backing vocals) and Andy Crosby (bass) have the late afternoon audience singing along to old favourites like ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ as the band rip through their repertoire of stirring tunes from various bands Chris has played in. From ‘Blinded By The Light’ to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, the crowd are singing and dancing along, cheering away and generally having fun.

The first of today’s four ‘Introducing’ stage bands vying for a place on next year’s big stage are MARK PONTIN GROUP, a trio from Swansea. Mark Pontin (vocals, guitar), Callum Morgan Jones (bass/backing vocals), Daffyd Davies (drums/backing vocals) have a tough opening slot, with fairly big names in the other bars, and the crowd feels a little sparse in here. Mark’s gravelly, abrasive vocals cut through the atmosphere and the extended instrumental interludes in the melodic tracks strike a chord with some of the audience, who are nodding their heads. Some, however, appear indifferent and are chatting.

THE MISER burst onto the ‘Introducing’ stage with their energetic, loud, heavy rock sound. The London based five-piece use the stage to their best advantage and really seem to capture the attention of the audience. Frenetic drummer Max thumps his kit so hard it looks like it’s going to come apart. Matty on bass keeps up a rumbling beat, while Scott and Ben on guitars throw out bracing licks and grungy riffs with abandon. Crocker on vocals sings with passion and abandon. Around me, people were saying they were the best band they had seen (so far) all weekend.

Next up are Cambridge five-piece HOLLOWSTAR. From the moment they step onto the stage, it’s immediately clear they have something very special indeed. The room is packed right to the bar at the back, and there are people joining in with their songs, raising their fists and banging their heads all around the room. Frontman Joe Bonson captivates the room with his richly organic, soulful vocals and drummer brother Jack is thunderous in his delivery. Guitarists Phil Haines and Tom Collett are both faultless as their harmonious and killer riffs ring out. Joe says they have “been looking forward to this for a year”. He then dedicates ‘Feel The Burn’ to “anyone fighting an invisible illness like anxiety or depression, (as) it’s the most important song to us and means the most”. The performance was absolutely breathtaking and you could’ve heard a pin drop in the room. I don’t think these guys know just how good they are, but the audience obviously do, as when the votes are counted later, HOLLOWSTAR wins the public vote to play on the big stage next year.

PRIMYL VINYL are the last band to perform on the ‘Introducing’ stage today and bring their inflatable whale, ‘Jeremy’ onstage with them. Although Will Dorey (lead guitar/vocals), Matt Bankhurst (guitar/vocals) and Nahum Matthews (drums/vocals) give a focussed performance with great sounding vocal harmonies and dual guitar work, the crowd had dwindled as people were now queueing for the other stages. Songs that stand out are one about moving to a new town and feeling lonely for which the vocal was heartfelt and emotive, ‘Sun Is Set’ which is about being nicer to each other and ‘Baby Steps’.

The first act of the evening on ‘Centre Stage’ tonight is ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN DOGS, made up of Zal Cleminson (vocals/guitar), David Cowan (keys/backing vocals), Nelson McFarlane (bass), Willie McGonagle (guitar/backing vocals) and Scott Cowie (drums). Dedicating the entire performance to Ted McKenna, who passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago, Zal’s theatrical performance is a breath of feisty fresh air and spellbinding to boot. Comprising mainly of songs from the Sin Dogs debut album, their set is striking with big, crunchy walls of guitars and heavy as hell.

First on the bill tonight over at ‘Reds’ is RHINO’S REVENGE, featuring Status Quo’s John ‘Rhino’ Edwards on lead vocals/bass, Jim Kirkpatrick (FM) on lead guitar and Richard Newman on drums. They play a selection of lesser-known Quo tunes among other songs, including ‘Mony Mony’ that delight the standing crowd and get the heads bopping among the seated audience too.

Next up at ‘Reds’ is prog rockers ATOMIC ROOSTER, made up of original members Pete French (vocals) and Steve Bolton (guitar), along with Adrian Gautrey (keyboards), Shug Millidge (bass) and Bo Walsh (drums), who thoroughly entertained the audience with their back catalogue.

OLIVER/DAWSON SAXON closed the night at ‘Reds’ tonight. Saxon’s former guitarist, Graham Oliver, and bass player, Steve Dawson, and their band - Bri Shaughnessy (vocals), Paul Oliver (drums) and Gav Coulson (guitar), give an exhilarating performance to the riveted fans that have packed the bar. Playing a selection of songs from their back catalogue, the band are upbeat as they have fun, Bri massaging Gav’s shoulders during a long, flowing guitar solo.

Over on an absolutely packed ‘Centre Stage’, THE SWEET have the whole crowd singing and dancing, both teenagers and not so young, as Andy Scott (guitar), Bruce Bisland (drums), Pete Lincoln (vocals/bass) and Paul Manzi from CATS IN SPACE guesting on keyboards/guitar/vocals, treat everyone to covers and original Sweet numbers. It’s one big party with a slick presentation. Encores are ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’

Saturday night headliners WILLE & THE BANDITS give the ‘Centre Stage’ crowd a real treat with their no-frills performance to round off the night in superb style. Wille Edwards (guitars/vocals) switches between playing a regular guitar and a lap steel guitar, and has a wonderful way of masterfully coaxing the most beautiful notes from both instruments. Matt Brooks plays a six-string bass like a man possessed, jumping up and down on the spot and banging his head at the same time. The thick bass notes resonate through my chest and weave wonderfully with the magical notes that Wille is producing. Andy Naumann, whilst not necessarily possessing the most visually impressive drum kit of the weekend, has a boldly percussive drumming style that needs no such metaphorical bells and whistles. They pull off Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’ with apparent ease, which has the crowd whooping with delight, then ‘Scared Of The Sun’, which is “about needing to look after our planet a bit better”. The vocal harmonies sound absolutely incredible, the melodies are just amazing, as they are on the funky ‘Make Love’, from the new album ‘Paths’. A hypnotic and enthralling set that thrills the crowd.