HRH Sleaze IV 2021

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It feels a privilege to be able to go to an internal festival again and enjoy bands and the genre we love.

HRH SLEAZE IV
Sheffield: O2 – 29th-30th August 2021

Obviously the line-up for this year underwent substantial modification with international participants like Michael Monroe and LA Guns being rescheduled to next year. This year remained special, however, due to last year being cancelled due to the Pandemic and it feels a privilege to be able to go to an internal festival again and enjoy bands and the genre we love.

Saturday

Twister opened proceedings on the main stage. In my opinion this band have much more bite live than they do on record and they attacked the stage with a take no prisoners attitude which no doubt helped to make them past winners of HRH's Battle of The Bands. As a result the first day had a kick-ass start as they hit the ground running and made us really remember how great it can be to be at a Hard Rock festival at its best. Vocalist Stevie Stoker did not lose the opportunity to remind punters to support live music at this difficult time.

Takeaway Thieves were a nice surprise for me. The vocalist reminded me a bit of Richard Black of Shark Island and so obliquely Axl Rose in the way he handled the mike, but he elided his vocals like Phil Lewis of LA Guns and at times delivered a whisky-laden broken glass Faster Pussycat style vocal. The bassist Adam Hall reminded me of Marilyn Manson with energetic moves like Dregen of Backyard Babies, and it was like seeing Dimebag Darrell on guitar in a sort of computer game idea of a supergroup. Despite the range of visual styles they have a Southern Rock mixed with sunset strip sort of LA Guns style and left a very favourable impression, even though they were new to me.

As usual there were two stages in tandem and I just had time to catch a little bit of Liberty Slaves on the second stage and their very, very angry set verging on Punk. For vocalist Ryan Meehan think Andrew WK if he came from Huddersfield.

Next up on the main stage were Gypsy Pistolero who brought their Mexican Mariachi crossed with Hanoi Rocks European Glam Rock different take on Sleaze, complete with trumpets, sombrero, double bass with flame decals and zombie outlaw make-up. With a new line up since the old days it's not surprising that most of the set consists of the new 'Mescalito Vampires' record which ties in strongly with the costumes. If any of the crowd had not come across Flamenco Glam Sleaze before, certainly by the time of cover 'Livin' La Vida Loca' the band had the crowd convinced.

The Suicide Notes were a highlight of the second stage for me. Despite only having a few EPs out which feature the same songs in some cases done electrically and then acoustically, they manage a very full set with songs like 'Ragdoll', 'Smoke It Like A Cigarette' and 'Take A Bullet for Me' which by now are very familiar to me and the crowd. They packed out the second stage room. Billy Tee has a star quality that draws all eyes, especially when he takes his shirt off due to his Rock 'n' Roll tattoos. He likes to be compared to the Cry Babys, but most people would recognise the style as The Dog's D'Amour with a razor blade rasp style vocal. Indeed the band do a cover of 'Billy Two Rivers' as well as 'Dead Flowers' by the Rolling Stones. I think people would watch Billy Tee even if he didn't sing and that's probably the definition of magnetism and charisma on stage.

Midnite City are classy AOR with Rob Wylde proving that he can cut the mustard live with strong and clear vocals and oodles of keyboards as they powered through tracks like 'Crawlin' In The Dirt', 'Atomic' and 'They Only Come Out At Night' from their latest album, as well as older tracks like 'Ghosts' and 'You Don't Understand Me' from their debut. They even played a new song 'Power To Change'. Quality personified.

Stevie Pearce was the biggest surprise of the weekend for me as although I had seen him live before with Warrior Soul, I had never seen him play as a frontman and did not know that he possesses a voice like Robin Zander which he can employ at will like a siren, although he looks like a skinny Roy Wood. Not all the material is Cheap Trick-ish, though the Punkier Metal tracks are like latter day Warrior Soul. Also I don't remember ever seeing anyone before finger tapping with their fist! The band were celebrating the release of their second album 'Major League Son Of A Bitch' and the set were mainly those new songs, a bold choice as the material must have been new to the crowd. The crowd sang obligingly along when instructed and I really thought this band were arena worthy. Bloody well done! I took the time to seek him out to congratulate him afterwards and invite him for an interview. First time I have done this on the spot as a festival, such was the impact of their set on me personally.

Last Great Dreamers had to appear without vocalist Marc Valentine whose health was not good enough to play. I'd be lying if I said we did not miss Marc who really has that X Factor of a top quality Rock 'n' Roll front man and the stage does seem a bit empty without him. However, Slyder Smith stepped in manfully and carried the day with a roster of their rocky Power Pop delivered by chirpy cockney chappies. As they finish with 'Oblivion Kids' bassist Tim Emery blesses the crowd with his bass and the crowd indeed did embrace the band who had had a difficult day having experienced a van breakdown on the way. As such they must have been relieved things went so well.

Wayward Sons were on fire, they truly felt invigorated and so, since Toby Jepson has cut off all his hair, he's like a reverse Samson; stronger when shorn. Always enjoy seeing smiley Sam Wood and Phil Martini with his distinctive red and yellow candy-striped drum kit. Playing a mixture of new and old Wayward Sons tracks (rather than relying on the Little Angels legacy) they smashed it into the goal; job done!

And then we reached the headliner Tigertailz who had had a difficult day apparently with soundcheck and a few other problems. Well, all I can say is that it was impossible to tell as they powered through 'Bezerk' tracks like ''Sick Sex' and Punky late eighties tracks like 'Star Attraction', 'Hollywood Killer' and 'She's Too Hot' from 'Young And Crazy' before delivering sweet AOR in the shape of 'Heaven' and the fun track from latest album 'Blast', 'All The Girls In The World'. 'Love Bomb Baby' closed out the set with paper cannons and a real sense of occasion, a fitting end to an extremely fun day!

 

Sunday

Sunday was started in style by Sweet Teaze with Dean Foxx on vocals and Raz White (operator of the Call of The Wild Festival) in the ranks on guitar and JJ Watt (The Main Grains/City Kids) on bass. Recently reformed after thirty years, a one-off gig has led to more, so this now seems to be a thing. As well as their own material such as 'I've Had Enough' about one of Foxx's ex girlfriends, this band know the crowd and get things swinging with a cover of Faster Pussycat's 'Bathroom Wall'. Overall it's grass roots melodic Punk which had me thinking of the Soho Roses at times. Cheekily Foxx explains to the crowd that the band are in judgement of the crowd, NOT vice versa. It was not rocket science, but it was a good way to spend a Sunday lunchtime. I particularly enjoyed the cover of 'Rock N Roll Queen' by The Subways (recently given a boost by use in prime time advertising).

Todd Michaels And The Screaming Hearts, featuring Johnny Sparks from Lovebite on guitar, kicked off the second stage with Sunset Strippy inspired Rock 'n' Roll. Sadly I had to cut and run early in their set to see the City Kids on the main stage with their roster of catchy Punk Pop, including storming single 'Best Of Me' which they wisely used to make a great first impression. JJ Watt from The Main Grains provide the raw glass vocals. Berty Burton of Tigertailz does an energetic turn on bass and Dennis Post of Warrior Soul injects a bit of blonde bombshell old skool Metal on guitar. Joined by Billy Tee of The Suicide Notes for a bit of vocals on 'Rats', I think this band is set to run and run.

Surprised to see so few females on stage this year, but Vixen of Black Rose is one to remember with her blonde dreadlocks, fishnets, pink garters and steampunk top hat, not to mention her 'Alas Poor Yorrick' skull. Despite the slightly alternative appearance, the music is definitely Rock on the softer side at times with Vixen having a Bonnie Tyler edge to her voice which is full of emotion. Great covers of 'Sweet Dreams' and 'These Boots Were Made For Walking' (done with PVC thigh highs) sit beside new and older originals including 'Sleazy' (written for the band's previous appearance at this festival) and ballads like 'Snow Angel' comprising an entertaining set, leaving me wondering why we didn't have more talented women on the bill this year.

South Of Salem from Bournemouth were new to me and I immediately noticed the wit in the titles of their songs like 'No Plague Like Home', 'Let Us Prey' and 'Demons Are Forever'. From the singer Joey Draper's undercut to the DJ Ashba influenced guitarist Kodi Kasper (who both work hard to inject the performance with energy an vigour), it's an American Urban Goth influenced band with even a few Rap influences, but although more nineties the songs are still melodic and full of blistering guitar, and they do a cover of Velvet Revolver's 'Slither' and 'Cold Day In Hell', putting them firmly back in the genre of this festival overall.

Headlining second stage were the Circus Junkie Rebels who I immediately warmed to as the singer has that wow Factor, reminding me of a youthful Brent Muscat singing on helium and who surprisingly speaks like that as well. I found his nasally highly strung voice and big screams compelling and unusually I stayed to the end of the set. (I found out afterwards he had had a tooth extraction and had an infection which perhaps explains the unusually high pitch.) It was amusing to see the shy cute bassist looking very Duff from Guns N' Roses, but definitely acting like a wallflower being pulled centre-stage. Perhaps it was his first gig, bless. This band had a melodic heart and a trashy exterior. They did a great version of Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' showing that the singer has a stronger voice when doing lower less trashy material, although as I said I found the trashy stuff to be uber Rock 'n' Roll. Would definitely go to see them again.

I missed a lot of Scottish band She Burns Red as a result, but they reminded me of a heavier more System Of A Down band from the short extract I saw.

The Mercury Riots consist of Zachary Kibbee on vocals and bass and Felipe Rodrigo on guitar, both from well-seasoned band Bullets And Octane. Rodrigo's stage presence is full of theatrical, eye-catching guitar hero moves. With their stomping beat and big Zeppelin-esque riffs with a Southern Rock feel, the singer tried hard to light up the crowd including running into the audience, a rarer sight in these days of the Pandemic. I couldn't help missing the charismatic Gene Louis, but it is perhaps unfair of me to say that, given that this band is a whole different deal.

After photographing the Quireboys I let myself go and had a bit of a party with old friends singing along to old favourites. This band are a guaranteed spirit lifter and I had an amazing time. They didn't play 'Mayfair' but that's a small complaint and the band are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. It's a similar set to the Steelhouse one, but with the addition of 'Fool To Cry' as a tribute to Charlie Watts. You can NEVER go wrong with the Quireboys. '7 O'Clock' is a highlight as always, and they finish with 'Sex Party'; perfect for an end to a festival called "Sleaze". We may not have had the international bands but know I am gonna remember this one forever.

Dawn Osborne

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