HOLLOWSTAR / FLORENCE BLACK / EVERYDAY HEROES / FLOWERPOT - Cobblestones, Bridgwater 26.05.19
Cobblestones looks unassuming from the outside, but through the main bar and to the side of the large beer garden lies a 150-capacity music venue with its own bar, that was converted into Bridgwater’s only dedicated live music venue a few years ago. This hidden gem in the heart of Somerset has played host to an array of rock and metal bands and has recently celebrated its third birthday in spectacular style with a party, together with live music. The sun is out and the beer garden is looking rather full as people mill about and grab a drink and sit down to chat with friends before the bands start. Tonight HOLLOWSTAR play here for the first time, at the mid point on a headline tour for their well-received eponymous debut album, released earlier this month. Playing alongside them for the whole tour are FLORENCE BLACK and tonight they are joined by EVERYDAY HEROES and FLOWERPOT.
First up are FLOWERPOT, fronted by the expressive and eye-catching Steph on vocals. As the four-piece from Bristol power through their six-song set, including ‘Umbrella’, ‘Ouchie’, ‘Anisoptera’ and ‘Sword Fight’, Steph ensures her clear and feisty voice cuts through as she gives a dynamic performance, headbanging along with bassist Morgan. Guitarist Tom’s melodious riffs underpin Steph’s vocals, while drummer Jess pounds out a steady beat alongside Morgan’s rumbling bass. It’s a year since I’ve seen this band and in that time the set list has completely changed, plus they have gained a new guitarist in Tom. They’re a rousing opening act and one not to miss if you get a chance to see them.
Next up tonight are EVERYDAY HEROES, who it looks like a fair number in the crowd are very much looking forward to seeing, especially after their recent support slot with STONE BROKEN in Exeter had to be pulled at the last minute due to illness. There’s no sign of that tonight; the Newport natives are raring to go as they take to the stage and launch into their latest single ‘Soul to Save’. Vocalist/lead guitarist Luke Phillips’ strong, deep tones ring out and sound effortless, the band playing as a tight unit as they run through their set of songs old and new, including ‘Find My Way, ‘Take Me Home’, ‘Texas Red’ (from the forthcoming album) and ‘The Ballad of Robert Johnson’. Bass player Lewis Watkins and drummer Jay Haines make a formidable, well-rounded rhythm section and carry out backing vocal duties too, plus the crowd sing along with enthusiasm to match that of the band. If you were unaware, you might think this was the headline act of the night. They would be worthy of that title, as the performance the guys put in is polished and accomplished. Final song of the night ‘Delilah’ gives the audience one last chance to sing along before it closes the set. I’m so looking forward to hearing this band’s album, due out at the end of the year, and judging from the buzz around the room after the set, plenty of the Cobblestones crowd are too!
The effervescent FLORENCE BLACK, made up of Tristan Thomas (vocals/guitar), Fozzi (bass/backing vocals) and Perry Davies (drums/backing vocals) start their blistering set with ‘Breadfan’, which goes down a storm with the audience. Tristan is animated, coming right to the front of the stage, and Perry’s a total workout drummer; giving his kit a complete thrashing. As the set continues with tracks from the band’s three EPs to date, including ‘The One’, ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Ghost’, the vocal harmonies from the trio sound fantastic. Throughout the set, Tristan is great at introducing the songs and explaining the meaning behind them. The trio produce a massive wall of sound that have the Somerset crowd fully engaged and the band themselves are dynamic, with hair and sweat flying. ‘The Ride’ and ‘Same Again’, “a song about money, religion and greed” follow, before ‘Gunshot’ from their last EP, originally recorded with guest vocals from Benji Webbe from Skindred. “Unfortunately he can’t make it tonight, so Perry’s going to sing instead!”. It makes for an invigorating rendition before the powerhouse three-piece finish their set with the awesome ‘Smoke’. The crowd here can’t get enough of FLORENCE BLACK and their explosive brand of hard rock. This band are exuberant, energetic and dramatic, I can’t wait to see them again!
As the last remaining stragglers wander in from outside and the room descends into darkness, MASSIVE ATTACK’s ‘Teardrop’ rings out as HOLLOWSTAR’s intro music, accompanied by swirling dry ice. The song continues to play unhurried, as Joe Bonson (vocals/bass), Jack Bonson (drums), Tom Collett (guitar) and Phil Haines (guitar/backing vocals) take their places on the stage ahead of their opening song and the crowd greet them like long lost friends. Frontman Joe sways to the music and then addresses the room, “Are you in the mood?” The answer is a resounding yes! With that, the band launch into the first song from their album, ‘Take It All’. Joe’s slightly gravelly tones fill up the room as his bass reverberates alongside Jack’s thumping beats. The sound in this venue is fantastic and doesn’t disappoint, as the twin guitars complement each other and weave around the vocals.
Joe tells us as it’s a tour for the debut album, they’ll be playing every track from the album, plus more. The crowd lap up this news and effective twin smoke plumes erupt from the stage intermittently as we are treated to ‘Down by the Water’, ‘Lay Down’, ‘Guilty’ and ‘Invincible’, before Joe stops for a breath. “When we decided five years ago to do all this, the same people who said they would pay the rent are the same people who can’t be with us. My girlfriend is at home in our flat while I’m here doing this. We wrote this song for all the those people”; ‘Think of Me’ is a winner with the crowd. ‘Money’ ‘Let You Down’ and ‘New Age Lullaby’ follow, and as things slow down for ‘Feel the Burn’, I make my way from the front to the middle of the crowd to gain a different perspective. People look happy, drinks in hand, singing along and having a great night.
A great cover of Free’s ‘Wishing Well’, as covered by Gary Moore in the early ’80s, who Joe considers “one of the most underrated guitarists ever to walk the planet”; ‘Overrated’, “How this makes us feel following bands like we have tonight!”, and ‘Sinner’ follow, before Joe tells us about the two people whose memories the album is dedicated to; Chris Jackson and Carl Malik. When Joe was told by his ex-employer to cut his hair or lose his job, builder Chris gave him a job of “basically sitting in the van all day and rolling his spliffs for him, £60 a day I got for that!” Carl was at school with Joe and Phil, he’d lost his father at a young age and despite seemingly managing, he had recently taken his own life. The band wrote ‘Good Man Gone’ as their way of dealing with what happened to Carl. The stories are heartfelt and the guys fully deserving of the massive amount of applause they receive after performing the emotive and melodic song to the captivated crowd. Finally, they put everything they have into set closer ‘All I Gotta Say’. Punchy drums from Jack, crunchy riffs and soaring solos from Tom and Phil plus those grinding bass notes from Joe make for an addictive blend. The audience need no encouragement to sing along with the addictive chorus as the energetic four-piece finish the night in style.
Tonight we got to see four cracking bands for less than £15. That is not to be sniffed at! Small venues like The Cobblestones are in so many towns and cities across the country and we need to turn out and support them. This was a brilliant night of live music in a fab venue, with awesome sound.
Hollowstar continue their tour here:-
03 June - Cambridge, Junction (J2)
05 June - Edinburgh, Bannermans
08 June - Stowmarket (Rak N Roll Dayer Festival)
28 June - Wanlockhead (Wildfire Festival)
26 July - Ebbw Vale (Steelhouse Festival)
31 August - Bury St Edmunds (Just Push Play)
16 November - Looe (Cornwall Rocks)
29 November - Troon (Winterstorm)