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Concert Reviews

Planet Rockstock 2021

Added by ant-rocks     November 18, 2021    
 
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The choice of bands was impressive, mixing styles and genres pretty well with something for everyone

PLANET ROCKSTOCK 2021
Trecco Bay Holiday Park, Porthcawl, South Wales - 12-14 November

Day 1

Trecco Bay holiday park seems like a nice place, buffeted by the tropical Welsh weather fun of a howling storm one minute and lively sunshine the next. The staff seen happy to welcome the hordes of Metal fans down for the weekend and the general atmosphere pre music is one that's easily enjoyed. It's clean, with a few caravan owners taking advantage of the last open weekend before Winter shutdown, and everyone is nothing but friendly.

The event starts at 5pm, as the main stage welcomes Collateral. It's a typical UK holiday camp set-up, a decent sized room with a wide, elevated stage. Unlike some festivals, Planet Rockstock doesn't have band clashes, with the smaller stage open in the afternoon, with the main room coming in for the whole evening. Lesser known bands fill up the afternoon, whilst in the evening you're more likely (though not guaranteed) to have heard of most of the acts. Whilst Friday is just the evening session, the next two days will, I feel, test a few patrons at least those on an all-dayer., myself definitely included.

First up on the main stage are Collateral, a new band on me. Opener 'Lullaby' is a real crowd pleaser, heavy and melodic just like God intended. It's a case of no frills melodic Heavy Rock for their short set, with more riffs than the Warriors. Everything is first class, a stand out being 'Midnight Queen', an early track now re-recorded featuring a certain Danny Vaughn and 'In It For Love', a fantastic catchy upbeat track. As openers go, Collateral put the Rock in Rockstock and then some.

When Rivers Meet are next, another new one on me. Prominence is given to guitarist Aaron Bond and vocalist Grace Bond, who are married. Musically, it's pretty bluesy with a strong beat, with Grace providing nice sonics as well as eye candy for all the old men here (and I include myself in that). Guitar wise Aaron lays some riffs but there's no heroics, leaving the songs a little empty. Where Collateral grabbed the crowd by the next, When Rivers Meet just bat them about a bit.

A thirty year veteran of such bands as Blue Murder, Thin Lizzy and, um, Right Said Fred, bassist Marco Mendoza has also released three rather decent solo albums, so I'm interested to see what he comes up with live. Well, there's no need to worry, as Marco puts on a show that demonstrates just why he's so highly regarded. Working as a three-piece, he and the band plough through an unsurprisingly bass heavy set of gorgeous tunes. What I didn't expect to see this weekend was a sing along to 'Give Peace A Chance' but Marco beings it out and it's a beautiful minute in a diseased world. Well received and a breath of fresh air, Marco Mendoza is a dynamo or pure Rock 'n' Roll.

Gun are a band I've followed on and off since their debut, and I know they're a damned good live act, something reinforced when they cone out guns blazing, throwing in their biggest hit 'Word Up' just a few songs in, driving the crowd mental in the process. They continue like a well-oiled machine, getting better and tighter with every song. Dante Gizzi has come on leaps and bounds since he first took over on vocals, and their time fairly flies by. Special mention goes to 'Steal Your Fire' which is as perfect a Pop Rock song as you get, and they nail it to the wall. Then, when things can't get any more fun, they roll out 'You Gotta Fight...' By the Beastie boys as an encore. Seriously, fourty-five minutes of heaven.

Massive Wagons come next, and although they have a big hill to climb they make the mountain seem like a molehill. Their catchy Heavy Metal is a bit of a mix of The Wildhearts and Status Quo, banging out song after song, all catchy, all fun, and we just lap it up. Mid set there's covers in the shape of 'I Fought The Law' and 'Surrender' and not a beat is missed. Frontman Baz Mills is a ball of infectious energy, his high kicks knackering just to watch. By God, though, the man knows how to entertain a crowd. Beating Gun was a tough task, and if I'm honest I'd just give it to Gun, but both bands were very entertaining indeed.

Finally, Vandenberg step up to close out the day, and they're a bit more of a mystery to many folks here than the last two bands for sure. It starts out very eighties in style, with some pretty good songs lifted by Adrian Vandenberg's sweet solos, then he and vocalist Mats Leven sit on the drum riser for a run through Whitesnake's 'Sailing Ships'. This is an odd move, as the crowd chatting threatens to drown out the gentle, acoustic ditty and I fear they may have lost the room. All is saved from there onwards, though, as it's followed by the snakey pile-driver 'Judgement Day', and kicks off an electrifying second act that sees Leven showing off a set of pipes to rival David Coverdale. There's a few new Vandenberg songs that soar and thunder, plus the crowd pleaser 'Here I Go Again', and all through it's the voice and the guitar that show us just why they're at the top of the bill. The forthcoming album may surprise a lot of people, it seems, so keep your eye out for it and if you get the chance check them out live, just don't talk too loudly during 'Sailing Ships'.

Day 2

After a quiet night in a very nice caravan, I decide to check out The Graham Harding stage, named for a sadly departed crew member. It gets the afternoons over the weekend, with several smaller bands each day. Saturday brings Tribeless, Haxan, Attic Theory, Voodoo Vegas, the Autumn Killers and Ashen Reach. I wander in and out, checking to see what bands grab me. It's pretty hot with all the people, so I decide to focus on what I see as the best band of each afternoon.

Stand out of Saturday afternoon are undoubtedly local band Haxan, a three piece who prove you don't need cocks to rock (as it says on their t-shirt). Each band gets half an hour, and Haxan delight the crowd with powerful, fun and melodic Metal brilliance, all bolstered by the excellent vocals/guitar of Sam Bolderson. Her bouncy personality and rapport with the crowd help elevate the gig, and whilst they deserve a few comparisons to Girlschool, Haxan are definitely their own beast. A tornado of energy, power, passion and melody, Haxan encapsulate all that is needed in young bands today. With just a single album under their belt ('White Noise' - well worth picking up, as I did) they're a real treat, and one to watch for the future.

A five thirty start for the main stage means it's not rammed as Edenthorn take the stage, though there's still plenty of people not napping or eating back in the caravan to cheer on the band. The North East quartet play pretty standard, decent Heavy Rock, with a smattering of Grunge like the impressive '1993'. It's all done perfectly well, but I can't get too excited when there's nothing exceptional to make them stand out from the crowd of similar bands.

Welsh band Florence Black are up next, with a healthy dose of home support. They open like a mortar bomb, all big riffs and gruff vocals, Heavy Metal that's designed to bang your head to. They're a bit like a truck with no brakes, ploughing on through the night. Every so often singer Tristan Thomasw will get everyone clapping, then comes more riffage and headbanger fuel. It's fun, and entertaining, a real power trio deserving of the description with a great new album out as well.

Sally Ann Evans and Chris Buck are, unsurprisingly, Buck & Evans, with Chris playing guitar and Sally Ann providing vocals and keys, backed up by a drummer and bassist. Playing "Exquisate Rock and Soul" (it sez here), they are an odd fit and rather a sonic comedown after Florence Black. Yes, they can certainly play, and they do nice enough songs, but whilst there's plenty of appreciation from the crowd I'm left rather colder than November in Wales.

It's a great shame Heavy Metal's godfather Blaze Batley has had to pull out with the plague (get well soon, mate), but having Stone Broken as a replacement is certainly no downgrade. Opening with 'All In Time' is a great move, and any doubters in the audience are converted by the monster melodies, fine fretwork and heavy harmonies. Yes, they're so good I get way too alliterative, but that's what watching a first class performance can do. There's a heavy as feck new track called 'Black Sunrise' that bodes well for the forthcoming album, and throughout their allotted hour Stone Broken demonstrate that they're a band with that elusive X-factor that made Simon Cowell so bloody rich. A special moment or two comes when Rich Moss straps on an acoustic guitar and delivers a beautiful song, 'Wait For You', that's precluded by some beautiful words. Not a dry eye in the house? Look, it's a bit of dust or something, all right? No, you're crying. Anyway... Blaze is missed, and the band pay suitable tribute, but this one time when I enjoy watching something that's broken

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After a Celtic intro that goes on linger than some band's actual sets, headliners The Darkness arrive. Whilst they haven't got the best songs of the hands on this weekend, they've got secret weapon Justin Hawkins up front, and boy is that man a great showman. New songs are played with him wondering if anyone has heard their new album which isn't out yet but has been leaked. The crowd interaction garners a lot of extra love and helps people warm to them, not that they weren't well warmed already. Hawkins reminds me of Russell Brand if he had any talent, and I find myself laughing almost every time he has a chat with the crowd. His vocals shine when he's doing the high stuff, though otherwise they're way less powerful. The Darkness play well, a solid outfit in every way, with Hawkins occasionally strapping on a guitar to effortlessly pull out a solo. You get the feeling the rest are happy being part of the Justin Hawkins show, and although I loved the Stone Gods spin-off it didn't have the heart and soul Hawkins brings. It's a fun set that goes down wonderfully, and although I still don't like all their songs that much (though they do have some right bangers in the set), I'm as entertained as much as anyone.

Day 3

First order of the day is the Rock Quiz, which is a fine way to kick off the final gasp of the festival. There's lots of teams, with Steelhouse 2022 tickets up for grabs. My team do quite well, and the whole thing is lots of fun, or as much as a quiz can be, anyway.

The Graham Harding stage is back again today, hosting Ashley Sherlock, Finding Kate, Marissa and The Moths (great name, good band), Doomsday Outlaw and Gin Annie. Standout for me, though, are Daxx & Roxane, a Swiss outfit named after some pet rats, apparently. They certainly bring a lively energy to the smaller room, banging out high octane, upbeat compositions like opener 'Ticket To Rock' and the pounding, bass-heavy glory of 'Strange Woman'. Things step up a notch near the end, as 'Hard Rocking Man' adds a few extra miles per hour to the speed, absolutely nailing the mood. Adding to the fun is a seriously heavy version of 'Superstition', and I for one am left happy when the stupidly energetic 'Good Vibrations' wraps things up - these Swiss are on a roll!

After missing Empyre due to just needing to rest up at the end of a long weekend, I make sure I'm fresh as I can be (not very) for Jim Kirkpatrick, making a rare solo appearance outside of FM. Joined by FM keyboard chap Jem Davies and two others, Jim takes on guitar and vocals for a bluesy forty minutes. This isn't slow, yawny blues, though, and opener 'Prodigal Son' sets the tone of serious Blues with a definite Rock base. 'Brave New World', for example, starts reasonably slowly, but has a ballsy chorus that rocks our asses off, and the long solo at the end is masterful, the sound of a natural player who doesn't get to let rip too often with his main band. Current single 'Dead Man Walking' is on the Planet Rock playlist, and it shows that the next album will be something to look forward to, though until then I thoroughly recommend his debut 'Ballad Of A Prodigal Son', which will definitely make you appreciate how lucky FM are to have him.

Myke Gray is a name I haven't thought about for a while, but someone I've dallied with from his Jagged Edge days through Skin and beyond. I even like his current, silly and filthy stuff with Schism, so it's great to see him in the flesh again. Rather than those other bands, it's the Red, White & Blues that kick things off, with the superb and high energy 'Stand Up For Rock & Roll'. A frenetic version of Whitesnake's 'Trouble' follows, and blow me if it doesn't work really well. When Skin's 'House Of Love' follows, it's apparent that this going to be a very well planned greatest hits type of set. The band around Gray is well oiled, with a frontman, Dan Byrne (Revival Black), who knows all the right moves and can handle all the songs admirably. Gray is left to do his thing, sometimes letting rip but never coming off as a scene stealer unless the song demands it. I have to say, it brings back fond memories when they drag 'You Don't Love Me Any More' by Jagged Edge out of the attic, and whilst Byrne lacks the raw soul power of Nev MacDonald, he does a great job on perennial sing along favourite 'Look But Don't Touch'. At the end of Myke Gray's greatest hits I'm exhausted in a good way. Much like Gun before them, this was an exercise in giving the people exactly what they wanted. Brilliant.

It's time for a true classic rock band next, as Diamond Head take the stage with a real rager, 2019's 'Belly Of The Beast', a track that firmly announces that this isn't going to be a bunch of plodding old farts. The first few songs fly by in a whoosh of energy and thunder, singer Rasmus Anderson justifying his right to a role he's had fir seven years now. The only original member, Bryan Tatler, is a blur on guitar, and this is a set worthy of a festival which is heavy on the metal. 1982's 'In The Heat Of The Night' slows things down a little, but it has a bit where we can all go "Whoah whoah whoah" so we don't mind. All in all, they deliver a really solid set, with Tatler shining with plenty of widdly goodness. Naturally, they close with 'Am I Evil', and it's a credit to them that the songs that preceded it have been just as good.

I'm new to the Kris Barras Band but have enjoyed a few tunes on YouTube. I'm not prepared for the raw ferocity of opening duo of 'Dead Horses' and 'Rock & Roll Running Through My Veins'. They play Blues-tinged Heavy Rock, with the emphasis on heavy. Barras himself plays a mean guitar, and I'm fascinated by the drummer trying to destroy his kit with every beat. A particular highlight is new single 'My Parade', with its strong beat and sing along chorus, taken from the forthcoming March 2022 album. It's followed by the Alabama State Troopers' 'Going Down' which, um, goes down well and is mostly a vehicle for Barras to demonstrate why it's his name on the t-shirts. It's the sort of stuff that can all roll into one a bit, but it's still a damned good set.

The last band of the weekend are one that has plenty of support throughout the crowd, with their many t-shirts peppering the audience. Those Damned Crows may only have two albums to their name, but Welsh five piece have worked hard to gain a deserved reputation for cracking music and a powerful live show. It's great to have a reasonably local band finishing off proceedings, and although it's my first time seeing them live I'm mesmerized by the talent and power of this young band. 'Who Did It', the brilliant 'Long Time Dead', 'Sin On Sin' and the accurate 'Rock & Roll Ain't Dead' are just a few highlights in a set that leaves no doubt as to why they're topping the bill tonight. Shane Greenhall is a great frontman, backed by a band that look like they're having a fine time, with the audience happy to make the most of what has been an excellent return to Planet Rockstock after a couple of years without. A fitting finale indeed.

It's been a fun few days, although exhausting. The choice of bands was impressive, mixing styles and genres pretty well with something for everyone, tough to do in a post-Brexit world with travel restrictions all over the place. I've found several bands new to me to keep up with in future, and the only criticism I have is that the park failed to get enough food and drink stocks, a real shame. I understand that they don't want stuff there after they close for a few months, but hopefully next time there will be a better idea of what is needed.

On the plus side, the sound for every single band was excellent, on both stages, with the main stage benefiting from very effective lighting as well. No matter where I stood, I always heard every note and that's not always the case at festivals. In all honesty, it's probably the best sound in general that I've ever experienced with so many bands to juggle.

So, I'm no longer a Planet Rockstock virgin, and I have to say I'd totally recommend the festival to anyone, as it was all so friendly and there's no need to shiver in a tent in a field. Great bands, great people and no longer in Great Yarmouth, it's a Welsh wonder.

Alan Holloway

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