Rockwich Festival 2017 – Northwich
Review by Aaron Emerson
Live Photography by Heather Mc
Family friendly fun was found at Northwich with the fourth year of Rockwich, a small festival run by fans for the fans and highlighting the diamonds in the rough of the rock scene. The friendly atmosphere could be felt with a relaxed mood and the sun shining on what was going to be a good day rock music. A small smattering of little ones wearing their ear defenders proudly waddled around with their parents and the less little ones taking in a festival suitable for the young and old, speaking of old, it was time for me to take note of hat was on offer on the stage.
Turning the bass up to 20 and the treble down to 0, Sourheads made the floor shake with their sludgy stoner rock vibe. The bourbon drenched vocals did what it was meant with the generic stoner warble right down to the “baked” movement of vocalist Jake. Guitarist Mik showed great promise, his movement and skill brought light to the moody, dark tone of the sludgy sound. Sourheads proved to be a standard opening act; they showed the promise of something greater but hadn’t quite hit the mark for anything more quite yet; certainly a band to look out for to see where they can go.
Catchy, energetic and full of bounce, Black Cat Bones showed that Trad Rock is still big on the agenda of the underground scene and going off the billing of the evening it’s hard to think otherwise. The energy of vocalist Jonnie Hodson bouncing around the stage, swinging his mic stand was hard to resist and to top it off the solos and bombastic approach of guitarists Rimmer and Kerbache squashed on the small stage was a marvel, it was a wonder how they managed to move around out there. Regardless, the swinging grooves and slick rhythm was the perfect potion to really get you going early in the day; the sweet twist of the harmonica magic gave the quintet from Liverpool a fresh vibe that sets them apart from the saturated Hard Rock scene. Black Cat Bones are definitely a cut above the rest with a sound that wants to keep you moving; a must see for any Hard Rock fan out there if you get the chance.
Here was a band that truly loved their craft, Ryder’s Creed were on fire. The five piece from Tamworth crammed onto the stage and yet managed to utilise every small inch of space they could muster as they swooned and grooved their way around the stage. The smiles on the faces of the quintet was infectious as they truly lived up to the expectation of the throng in front of them; the guitar work was sultry and the fusion of blues and country rock just sweetened the honey pot. The ex-Black Rose Cadillac members showed their incredible talent with bluesy tracks like “Riverman” and the Led Zepplin influences came to bare in new track “Rise”; Zepplin blood definitely ran deep in the sound of Ryder’s Creed and it is marvellous to hear. Something incredible had come out of Staffordshire and the groovy rhythm was just what the doctor ordered, Ryan Hulme’s vocals really played their part with his husky blues tones and the swagger of a Hard Rock band from the 70’s and 80’s, there was no doubt that Ryder’s Creed were up there as one of the spectacles of the festival.
Following the one of the best of the festival came the unfortunate worst; hailing from Blackpool, The Senton Bombs showed some promising aspects of punk elements and high energy and even the highlight of “Trainwreck” couldn’t deter from Joey Class’s out of tune vocals. Still, they had their fanbase who were very vocal and the guitar work was on point. It’s possible it was an off day for Joey but as this was the first time in seeing the Blackpool quartet for many on the festival goers, it spoke volumes when the crowd began to diminish.
Generic and painless, Baleful Creed produced a welcome reprieve from the previous act and a good old-fashioned background rock band with a touch of stoner rock sprinkled in for good measure. This is not a slight on Baleful Creed; they were a no nonsense non-offensive quartet that had a groove that made you tap a foot but unfortunately held no lasting memory other than the merch stands of some seriously cool t-shirts. The influences of Motorhead were obvious throughout the tracks which was very welcome indeed.
Replacing Fire Red Empress with merely a week to go before the festival started, Beckon Lane bravely stepped in, showing off their Alt. Rock repertoire to the overheated oven box that was the Lostock Club. Nothing really special was produced by the quartet from Nottingham but Beckon lane showed that playing a safe sound can pay off; thing is it’s all been done before with the basic riffage you would expect from the standard hard rock scene. The tunes were catchy with the very impressive “Justified” and the energetic, heavy “Fire” that went down a treat with the gathered crowd; they weren’t terrible but they weren’t great either, Beckon Lan sat comfortably in the middle, which is all you can ask for. There were some oddities with some weird high-pitched screeches from vocalist Lewis Phillis that marred what was a decent performance from him, it was teeth shattering and something to reconsider for future concerts.
Opening with “Hell Yeah!” you could have been mistaken to hear a female fronted Puddle of Mudd such was the riffage being produce so similar, instead what we got was Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters taking some liberties in sound for their opener; ballsy, yes but that’s where it ended as the Welsh outfit proved that it wasn’t just about sounding like someone else. Kicking into some seriously punchy 80’s riffs, the quartet showed some serious skills, from Beth’s exuberant guitar poses between her vocal rampage to the heavier than thou grunge stylings of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. The warbling antics that reminded you of Pat Bennatar or Lzzy Hale came to mind as Beth’s powerhouse vocals were the highlight with the precision solos created by Beth and Chris Gould. The sound and vibe o the 80’s style hard rock was the perfect tonic for the afternoon and as BBBD were pulled forward due to traffic for another band, they really showed their class and professionalism by stepping up and producing one hell of a set. Seeing them for the first time, Beth Blade hit the spot, and on my watch spot for future concerts, they were full of charisma which puts another spotlight on the Welsh underground rock scene.
Up next was the ever impressive Hell’s Addiction ripping it up with their energetic overload of hair whipping hard rock tunes. In the vein of headliners, Massive Wagons, Hell’s Addiction bring their own hyper fuelled energy that is lapped up by the crowd. The quintet has energy to burn and they do it with the panache of the best out there like Airbourne. They don’t let up once as they rock the house down, let it be known that Hell’s Addiction know how to put on a performance; lead vocalist Ben Sargent produced all the charisma of Channing Tatum at a house wives convention by simply turning up. The guitar riffs were explosive and the percussion pulled you into uncontrollable convulsive moves like a Boov of heat. Ending with “Holiday”, Hell’s Addiction made a massive impression on the crowd and for good reason, they were on the top of their game and it showed with fans still singing verses from Holiday long after the set had finished.
It was down to the stoner rock side of things once again as Regulus graced the stage to shred their way through a set of low ebbed power chords. They showed their intent from the start to boost the very average display of stoner bands. Their energy was pulsating, whipping it out (metaphorically) to show their girth with powerful reverbs and earth-shaking bass lines. The high intensity solos’ and low verb blended really well to make the crowd salivate creating a Pavlovian effect over the entire venue as the crowd drifted to the stage in a zombie like trance, captured by the sound. This was some good stuff, with the groovylicious “Bones” and “Regulus” as centre pieces to the set.
It was time for the Scots to tear up the venue as Glaswegian outfit Mason Hill graced us with their presence, bringing with them their blend of southern rock and modern metal. There was a twinkle in their eyes as they dominated the stage; they knew they had something special and boy did it show as the quintets vibrant southern groove meticulously blended with rhythmic riffs and punchy modern sound. Scott Taylor’s vocals were delicious, dripping with class and a vocal range that would put a soprano to shame. The guitar work of James Bird and Mac Montgomery was drool worthy as the silky smooth riffs ran dreamily into solo work; the biggest aspect of the night showed their professionalism as the death of the microphone actually showcased Scott’s vocal power as he could still be heard over the instruments and to truly give you an indication of how mind blowing they were was the biggest cheer of the day when the mic was fixed by the crowd. Mason Hill have come a long way in their 4 years together, their ambition worn on their sleeves and that ambition will take them places that is for sure; their debut album due next year, 2018 is going to be a massive year for the Glaswegians and they deserve it, I can’t wait to see them again, wow, just wow!
A slight change to the line-up, Knock Out Kaine opened up proceedings with “16 Grams and a Heart Attack” to a rapturous cheer. The change gave them something different, making them feel a little flat around the edges. Intentional or not, the absence of bassist Lee Byrne was felt throughout the set, the normally high octane, express elevator to hell style was diminished in pace and fluidity; their whole concept of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll just wasn’t felt as well as it normally would be. Having said that they still produced a set of highs and oddities as hits such as “Cascading” hit the right notes for the throng of fans yet they still used some oddities in their set with two tracks from their first album, House of Sins and yet missed their latest EP entry of “Cruel Britannia”. They ended with the incredible “Flying Blind” much to the satisfaction of the crowd and they showed they were still kicking it large but it has to be said, they’ve been better.
Classic rockers Screaming Eagles, hailing from the incredible talent pool of Northern Ireland, pulled the strings as thepenultimate band of the day. It was an amazing sight, having seen them recently at SOS Fest, Screaming Eagles performance was just as tantalising and going off the audience, they felt it too, moving and rocking to every riff they produced; they even created a new young fan that was seriously rocking it out at the back of the crowd near the merch stands. The heat of the room was felt by all and the electricity of the thunderous riffs and raging storm of percussion was soaked up with aplomb by the crowd. They had done it again putting the soul back in rock’n’roll, storming Rockwich with their high octane, pulsing tunes that saw the crowd screaming for more at the end of the set.
It was left to the headliners, Massive Wagons to finish off a great day of rock and metal and boy did they do that. Straight from he off, Massive Wagons sent Rockwich off with bang as they showed the rest how I was all done. Never a band to leave any quarter they showed why they were such a fan favourite in the underground scene. It has been questioned time and again why they have not hit it big and that question once again reared its head, WHY!? Are labels blind? It’s damned right unfathomable. The venue was bouncing, the sold-out crowd crushed themselves next to the stage to get close to the masters of performance with tracks like “Fight the System”, “Roll the Rhythm” and “Red Dress” that saw their anthemic songs blasted back at them by the crowd; they were on fire. The gravelly vocals mixed with the energetic pistol whipping riffs blended stunningly together. The throb of the bass lines and percussion ripped out as the fans absorbed the wall of intense brilliance. What a way to end a fantastic festival.