Dementia Aware Festival Saturday 20th Jan 2024 at The Station, Cannock
Here we are in the middle of the midlands supporting an event purported to be Dave Evans‘s final show as the main promoter/ godfather and saint. Dave has been running these events for many years and raised thousands for the important charity, the reason we are here today. Dave has not only helped give exposure to lots of bands, but Dave enabled me to photograph several of his events along my own personal path in photography. So I also owe him a debt of gratitude for his kindness and friendship, I really hope we cross paths regularly in the future. Dementia Aware Fest is now taking off nationally so the events will continue. The extremely capable and thoroughly loveable Rich Forbes and his partner Rockchick Allison Jayne will be carrying the torch with the next event in Coventry at The Arches 16th – 17th March and Birmingham Billesley Rock Club 18th May 2024.
Enough of this, today, I switch my attention to the delights on show here in Cannock. The Station is a cracking venue, with friendly bar staff, efficient and hardworking and a decent friendly crowd from the start. The only downside for a photographer is the lack of pit but the crowd are really cool, offering up space to allow us in for a few shots.
I’m not going to go full-on in-depth with the bands here, as a lot of them are totally new to me, but it’s still fun.
BANG BANG FIRECRACKER
First up is the wonderfully named Bang Bang Firecracker, a three-piece of power, aggression and control, hailing from the Stoke area. They weren’t the luckiest with the gremlins messing with the sound, I think there was a problem with the bass, even so, they ploughed on as soon as they could. An awakening set which relied heavily on the sound of the bass guitar, giving this three-piece the desired effect that would appeal to fans of the heavier side of classic rock. The set featured tracks from their trilogy EPs Hear Evil, See Evil and Speak Evil. Tracks played included “Immortalized“, “72“, “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change” and the one that will always get attention. A dedication to the original Motorhead, raise yer glass to Filthy Phil, Fast Eddie and of course Lemmy, we got an excellent rendition of “No Class“. Loud and cool at the same time.
Second on, quite a decent crowd in here considering other gigs going on tonight, we get another band I have never heard of, Kinstrife. I must admit, not what I expected, no set list to be seen or photographed so what can I say. My apologies if I get the song titles wrong to the ones I picked up……haha! As stated, a surprise for me, they play good time power rock. They have great guitar sound with colourful vocals, sometimes smooth, clear and soulful, sometimes a bit dirty. The set includes songs from their back catalogue, “Rise and Fall“, “Getaway” and my favourite of the set “Slow and Easy“, a slow builder and the first ballad today (Yeah I know some of ya don’t like ballads, me I love ‘em, but I love aggression too). There was a dedication to anyone working or serving in the forces, “Ground Hammer“. Listening to these guys, for me they have a unique sound, I quite like it…. They finished off with the catchy little ditty “Make Me“!
ADAM AND THE HELLCATS
Third band on, the crowd is really good in here, nice to see loads of familiar faces, smiling, friendly and enjoying the show. Another band that I hadn’t had the pleasure of before, Adam and the Hellcats. My God, there are a few of ‘em those Hellcats and is that a keyboard, I hope he doesn’t do any twirling, he’ll wipe the rest of the band out!!! Opening the set with, “She’s a Vampire“, there’s a lot going on, a cool band for festivals, entertaining and fun, by their own admission….a bit nuts, that’s what we want though, entertainment. You may get more of an idea from songs like “Queen & Country“, “Black Witch Bomb” or “F**K You Brain“, it’s a bit like being in the Baron Frankenfurter’s castle, or on the set for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We are treated to a dedication to a young lady, Kelly Jones, who recently passed away. The track was specially written to her, “Go Easy” and we all share the sentiment, “Go Easy” my friend. Adam and The Hellcats aren’t pretending to be anything other than a fun-loving rock n roll band out to party with all that are willing, good fun to watch.
Now we’re moving into more familiar territory Circus 66 featuring the vocal powerhouse of Annabelle Zaychenko. I saw this band at Call of the Wild and liked them then, nothing here has changed my mind, kicking things off with “Replace the Pain” and “Jekyll or Hyde“. Circus 66 have just taken it up a notch or three. Annabelle owns the stage, appears to be having fun, chatting with the audience and putting everything into her vocal performance. Songs are from the 1st album, Follow the Black Crow and the follow-up album Elements. “A Little Piece of Magic“, is exactly that, a great song. Tonight, we hear a new single “Save The Damn World“, this song goes down really well. The band play with a punchiness that sets the bar for those that follow finishing the set with “Take a Shot” and the wonderful “Monster“. An excellent set from Circus 66.
A’Priori are brilliant, that’s it, excellent band, banging out excellent tunes and there’s only three of ‘em. I didn’t write anything down, it was too crowded, with no tables or lights so I just enjoyed the show. I’ve seen these guys quite a few times now, I think the first time was in a tent at Call Of the Wild, they are building a following and when you see them live, it’s totally understandable. Every element of the band sounds excellent tonight, again that’s not unusual. We get served up tracks off their two excellent albums A’priori and House of Cards, from memory we got the awesome “Watch the World Burn“, “Shotgun Blues“, “Black Church” and “Better Man“. “Here Comes the Reign” keeps the mood and vibe rocking. A sing-along of “Making Love with the Devil“, “Wasted Years” and the really catchy “Nananana“. Such an excellent live band and worth the money on their own, Blackpool’s own showing the rest of us how Rock is made.
Black Lakes, a band that for me and a few others, have managed to hide in plain sight. They have a darkness, almost gothic look about them but they seriously kick it. “Avarice“, opens up the show, with up-tempo drums and a wall of sound, so many influences, some may become more obvious later looking at the setlist. “Verity in Flames” is the track I checked out last night that made me quite excited to see these guys. It’s initially slower but bounces along into a crescendo chorus, becomes more aggressive vocally. “Fragments“, “Break the Silence” and “White Cliffs” lead us onto the cover I alluded to. Will Preston (vocals) suggested he was struggling vocally tonight, I hadn’t noticed, sounded great to me. “One Step Closer” – Linkin Park was an interesting cover, for me, it didn’t quite work, I spoke to a friend who felt it was a little too fast and that’s probably how I felt. That aside, I really like these guys as “Dissident” finishes their set, they went down an absolute storm.
THE HOT ONE TWO
The Hot One Two, what can I say about this energetic, monstrous bundle of rock n roll fun. These guys are non-stop movement, great sounding entertainment. Another band that I failed to write anything down, just watch and take it in. These guys just don’t stop moving and engaging the crowd. Kev Baker and Nick Manners really putting the energy in on rhythm and lead respectively. I noticed Kev was very expressive at Call of the Wild but Nick is too. Both of these guys pulling faces, throwing shapes and dancing around, the brilliant vocals from Simon West keeping the crowd going with singalongs and encouragement to make noises. They pretty much played the whole of the brilliant album Superbia. Starting the show with “Playing with Fire” and “Bleed on Me” (the only track not from the album but their EP, Unrestrained). “The Fray” is one of my favourite tracks, as soon as it starts it rips yer face off.
This band is on an upward trajectory, listening tonight, you can hear why, you can also see it. More energy than a lorry load of Duracells, this band is a power station. Tonight “Rolling Stone” moves us on, we get “Something Real“, “You’ve Got it, Is it Hot?” These guys write cool rock n roll songs that are classic in style full of energy and passion. This show gave us all the songs we wanted to hear and left us wanting more, as all good bands should. Finishing with a flourish “Tie Me Down” gets everyone’s juices flowing. The Hot One Two, once more give The Dementia Aware Fest a knock-out blow. Great cause, great crowd and a fantastic show. Well done to all involved. Awesome night and The Station Cannock an excellent venue for the party.
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