Day 2 of SOS Fest started with me getting on the wrong tram. I was at a stop and thinking “I don’t remember passing this one yesterday“. I had a look at the map and realized I was on my way to a completely different town! I jumped off very quickly and crossed over to the other platform to go back to Manchester Victoria to start again. Felt such an eejit but the main thing is I still got there in time for the opening band of the day. The weather was pretty decent being dry which was an improvement from the night before. Saturday was very much the longest day of the fest starting by lunchtime. Despite that, there were plenty of folks who had made their way to the venue in time for the opening act called Crowley!
First Band Getting It Going:
I didn’t know much about Crowley before I arrived. I did see they had a couple of tracks up on Spotify and they sounded a bit doomy in style. The band played both of those songs late into the set which meant everything else was uncharted territory for listeners like me. So they are a 5 piece band with a male drummer (CGCM happily turning stupid sexism on its head here in 2023). The band are from the Newcastle area so had crossed country to get to the venue. The opening song “Hell Hath No Fury” was quite heavy and possibly about a scorned woman. What I noted was that singer Lidya Balaban was at one point “on her knees belting her bloody lungs out”. That woke me up completely. As I said I was expecting more of a doom-metal thing but they are actually more adventurous than that. For instance “Resurrection Song” was almost a thrasher musically. It kicked some arse. What I most appreciated (no disrespect to anyone else in the band) was the quality and sound of the guitar solos, especially on both “Hectate” and “Pyre” from lead guitarist Eliza Lee. On the latter, there were definite hints of Ritchie Blackmore most closely to his work in 70s Deep Purple. The song had quite a bluesy vibe and was for me the absolute highlight of the set. Very tasteful. Lidya did mention most of the songs are yet to be recorded as “recording studios are expensive and we are skint“. I hope they get the money they need as I would like to be able to listen to those songs again! Terrific start to the day.
Metal From Belgium:
Moving indoors we were treated to a band all the way from Belgium in Europe (for those shite at geography) called Sin Savage. This 4 piece definitely had a NWOBHM vibe going on. The band write catchy songs with some lovely harmonies as both the lead guitarist Jasper Vanderheyden and bassist Andreas Timmerman were joining in with singer (and guitarist) Zan Geeraerts on vocals making the choruses easy to join in with. The opener “Lost In The Dark” reminded me quite a bit of one of the melody lines of “Kill The King” by Rainbow. “Down To The Ground” was a hard rocking instrumental, the sort of thing that would have been played by Tommy Vance (RIP) back in the old “Friday Rock Show” days. Very late 70s and early 80s in sound. If my notes are correct to the info I got from the band themselves then “Mascarpone Avenue” was a track that opened with a gentle melody played on lead guitar and then built up as the band joined in creating a sense of foreboding. The dual harmonies were first-class on this. Really liked this one. “Through The Gates” was a barnstormer of a metal song. There was groove, melody (again), and atmosphere to go with some cool riffage.
After these guys I was busy with an interview so missed Scarsun so my apologies to them. They were on their last track when I got there and were going down very well so hopefully will get the chance to talk about them another time.
The Event… A Late Addition:
The next band to play were not who I expected. I am not sure what happened but it must have been late in the day. However, credit to the organizers for pulling out a very good replacement in The Event. These guys were completely new to me so I didn’t know any of their material. The 4 piece from Stoke On Trent are a classic hard rock band who like to get a bit funky on some of their songs. “Phony” had a jazzy-style guitar opening leading into a harder rocking song with a very catchy chorus. Grant Hume lead vocalist (and guitarist) asked us if we were all drunk. When we didn’t all cheer he quickly remarked “Ah, so just me then” whilst laughing. “Lay It Down” he said was their latest single only out a couple of weeks. I can see why they made it a single. Very easy on the ear, a toe-tapper with a good groove. They even got a singalong going on at one point of their set which for a band just added says how effective they were as a live band. They finished with the song which was also their last video. During the song, the mike kept dropping down causing smiles and laughter onstage. The song was called “Missed It” which was kind of appropriate as he kept trying to sing into a mike stand that wasn’t there when it dropped down. Really fine addition to the day by the promoters.
All About Having Fun:
The Hot One Two were next up and what a show they put on. The band all move around plenty onstage, lots of facial expressions (one of them looks like he wants to get into the world gurning championships😂 with the ones he pulls) along with grins like Cheshire cats. They run around so much that at one point the stage manager who had to go onto the stage to sort out part of the drumkit was looking around so as not to have anyone accidentally hit him. Mind he looked to be enjoying the show himself despite the danger. At one stage during the latest single “God Forsaken Blues” as the guitar solo was being played all the rest of the band (minus the drummer of course) were lined up in a row back to the audience shaking their collective tooshies to cheers. Their songs are 3 or 4-minute slices of AC/DC meets 1980s hard rock. They groove and sway and have lots of room for audience interaction. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles and folks punching the air on the beats. In the words of their song “Move And Shake” both audience and band do (actually the stage guy was grinning away side stage during this one). It all ended with a big singalong of the song (I believe) called “Tie Me Down“. A band that gives folks a fun time and rocks like mad, what more could someone ask for?
A Mix Of Styles In One:
I missed the start by the time I got back into the bar stage and the band White Tyger were already giving it some welly. My first thoughts were they were a metallic AOR band. Plenty of harmonies but with a heavy edge but they moved around a bit musically. There were moments where I thought they were quite punky, perhaps a little similar to “Slave To The Grind” era Skid Row in that they had plenty of melodies but at times were pretty damned heavy with a fair bit of attitude. The fourth track of the set (I believe) which had a title like “We all Dealing” (from the setlist on floor which was crumpled) was very good having a gentle guitar opening into the body of the song and the chorus had some long well-held notes vocally. The following track which I think was “Speed Demon” was much much heavier and faster. “Skum Town” was grooving riff-wise but lyrically quite punk in its attitude and delivery. They dedicated it to where they come from. Not big fans it seems of it from this. “This Is The Life” is pure AOR in the chorus but hard-edged rock in the verses. Last track “No Fucks Given” I felt was a mix of the Murderdolls and Motorhead. Not exactly but close enough in my view. They certainly have plenty of attitude but have the ability to be subtle and melodic. An interesting mix of styles.
Fun Chat, Moving Music:
Blue Nation were a band I first saw at another festival earlier in the year. I had chatted with them after their set and asked about doing an interview of some kind as I had absolutely loved them. When I realized I was able to make this festival I was delighted as it meant not only could I see them again but I could hopefully do an in-person interview. I did that before they hit the stage and that interview (like the live performance) goes from very silly and fun to very serious and thoughtful. The 3 piece from Birmingham are a well-dressed bunch who take their influences from the late 60s and into the 70s and if they had been around at the time of Britpop would have also done very well with the non-hard rock crowd due to their melodies and vocal harmonies. They have a lovely sense of humour. For instance, as they were about to play the new single “Every Single Time“, Neil (lead singer and guitarist) was slagging off bassist and backing singer Luke‘s acting in the video. Someone shouted at the stage “There is a buzz about you”, Neil very quickly quipped back “Oh, we’ll be shite now” to laughs and cheers. Of course, they weren’t shite, they were very good with the new single showing their voices off very nicely. “Strangers” has a Free vibe about it at points. “Echoes” is stunning, moving, and powerful. There is a sense of despair overtaken by hope both in music and vocal delivery. Music that truly moves emotionally. The band takes time out to talk about mental health as it is a subject that means a lot to the guys. They regularly collect for The Samaritans at shows even telling folks that if they only have money for one thing at the counter give it to the charity rather than buy a shirt. They also mean it. They care. They are also bloody excellent live!
I didn’t see much of Thorium (my apologies) as I went for food as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I also bumped into someone I had met the day before and we were kind of comparing notes on what we had seen whilst eating outside. I did catch a little bit and they sounded like a good heavy metal band in the NWOBHM vein reminding me a little of Iron Maiden in particular in the bits I heard. Again maybe catch them another time.
Good Time Southern Blues Rock:
One of the good things at a festival like SOS is that not only do you get to see bands that are new to you, but they also put in some variation keeping the day(s) interesting. In Old Glory & The Black Riviera they did both for me. The band play countrified blues rock ‘n’ roll that swaggers and grooves throughout. They are another band that looks to be having as much fun onstage as the folks in the crowd. It is also good to hear some lovely slide guitar work. “Two Hearted Woman” is an absolute foot stomper that was impossible not to move to. “Had It All” had a Southern feel about it yet is pretty soulful. I liked singer’s Jord Davies comments beforehand where he told the crowd “Hopefully you will get to know us better today and like us. If you don’t, please don’t tell us” as he laughs. Before the ballad “Waiting For You (To Come Home)” he remarked about the song is for couples in love but warned not to “look at each other if you aint as that might give the game away“. A right-swaying type of song. They finished on another slide-led workout which gets quite frantic on the lead-up to the chorus which itself is stripped back for vocal harmonies. There was one song (I think “Dollar“?) where lead guitarist Jay Meehan managed even without the slide on his finger to make the guitar sound like a steel guitar which I was impressed with (no idea if that is easy to do or a clever trick but it was kinda cool). They sure gave folks a good time which I imagine is what they hoped for. Mission accomplished!
Second Time Around:
Circus 66 are a band that I had seen before and even interviewed (both can be found here at CGCM) so I was very keen to see them again, and this time even more up close and personal. The 4 piece have plenty of attitude with frontwoman Annabelle knowing how to grab an audience’s attention. I love that raspy vocal and the dirty groovy riffs going on. From the opener “Jekyll Or Hyde” they went in hard. Most of the set was based around the first album with 5 of the 7 songs being from that. However, they played a couple of tracks which I think are on the next album. Certainly “A Little Piece Of Magic” suggests a lighter colour for the next album “Elements” (which the band says is about “positivity“) having a slightly more commercial feel whilst also being quite bluesy. It was fun to see how the band paid attention to things going on around them like when before the 4th song (I believe called “Live For The Day“) Annabelle turned around side stage to those who had just come in from outside and gave them their own “welcome” message. They have moments of prog in their sound too and at points sound like they are improvising a little, adding a little danger to their show. There were some moments in songs where they do stop starts with quick changes of direction which were all done to great effect. Annabelle went walkabout during the last track “Monster“, I think ending up either on or behind the bar (I was too short to be able to see from near the front) working the whole room. Glad to see they were even better than the first time.
2 Types Of Vocals:
I didn’t catch all of Metaprism so can’t give as full a review as some other bands (apologies). The band has 2 singers a male and a female with the male supplying harsh vocals (and from what I could see clean harmonies at times too). Modern sounding metal with a European feel. The band were very solid musically and the voices worked well with Theresa Smith having a very soothing yet powerful voice. I think they played “From The Earth” which was announced as “bringing things down a bit“. I did note down the name Evanescence during it, not that it was anyway a copy but just having that kind of vibe and elegance. Before playing the track “Lost In The Dark” Theresa joked with the crowd that having not played it in years they might “know it better than we do“. During that there was a bit of a technical issue which the band laughed through, especially the male vocalist (not sure of his name, my apologies) who it was that had the issue. I enjoyed what I heard and hopefully will catch a full set next time.
A Wonderful Tribute:
Due to bumping into someone I was late back into the pub and Luke Appleton Power Trio were already onstage playing. They were playing “Medusa” when I walked in. This was my first time seeing Luke and his trio but they sounded really good with some solid playing all round. Luke himself was on bass and vocals, Rishi Mehta on guitar and Adam Harris from Dakesis on the drums. We were treated to a track he rarely does live called “First Star” due to him being able to have his original duet partner for the song come onstage, that being Theresa who had only played with her band before him! It was a beautiful piece with the voices blending so nicely. From that, he played something from another band he is in that being Absolva. “Rise Again” went heavy and packed a punch. For me, the highlight of the set song-wise was “Forever Viking” which before they played it he explained how it was about a local legend called Wayne Turnbull who sadly died too young and was a regular in the Manchester scene. The sort of guy that may not be famous but supports not only the scene but the folks in it being almost a lynchpin to the community. Luke described him as “a big man and a big heart“. Plenty of folks around me had tears in their eyes as did Luke who poured his heart and soul into it. A very powerful and haunting track that really grabbed my heart and made me think of lost friends of my own. Stunning moment in this fabulous weekend!
Not Just A Show:
The headliners were the wonderfully entertaining Ward XVI. The band played the whole of their second album Metamorphosis in one go (apart from adding the song “Ward XVI” before the last track of the album). As the whole thing tells one story and they are working on album number 3 it seems they want to give this show based around the second album a last fling. The show is not only on the stage as the actors also end up in the crowd with the large mother (someone with poles etc under a costume making the mother much bigger than singer Psychoberrie who at that point is playing a child). There are plenty of theatrics but the staging is done in a way that they can and do improvise moments adding to the enjoyment of any given show. I have reviewed the band (and interviewed them… both can be found here at CGCM) before and talked about the show, however this time I paid more attention to the playing throughout and realized how bloody tight the rhythm section of bassist Wolfy Huntsman and drummer Bam Bam Bedlam are. They hold everything down so sweetly which allows guitarist Doktor Von Stottenstein to play some really lovely thought-out lead breaks and then Psychoberrie and the actors can ham it up and entertain the living shit out of folks.
Songs Worth Hearing Throughout:
I have said before and I will say it again (it bears repeating) that what helps the whole thing is that the band can write songs and hooks. Personally if it was just show and no substance I would tire of it quickly, but the material is so good that I regularly listen to their albums at home. From the progressive “Cradle Song” through the eerie Alice Cooper style “Shadows” heading leftfield towards the heavy Middle Eastern sounding “Burn The Witch” and including moments of complete folky metal knees up of both “Broken Toys” and “Toybox” along with some heavy rocking “Cry Of The Siren” and “Catch Me If You Can” the band mix up styles with great aplomb. Singer Psychoberrie manages to alter her voice to the music and melodies as well as character acting. Songs with more mellow moments allowed her to shine vocally. The show also included the children of the guitarist and singer who all came out of the Toy Box on the stage. One of them even had an inflatable chainsaw! There was one wonderful moment when one of the smaller children poked Wolfie and he noticed, looked down to her and gave her a smile and a wave at which point the wee one beamed a smile. Lots of folks going “Aaaaawwww” proving that us rock and metal fans are actually soft as shite😂. Someone remarked afterward that the show was “the most wholesome horror show I have seen”. I know what he meant.
A fabulous ending to a glorious day of music in Whittles for day 2 of SOS Fest. There was a house band in the pub afterward featuring staff working at the festival doing all sorts of rock and metal covers just for fun. I caught a small section of it before having to head into Manchester and they were going down really well. It seemed they were also changing some of the lyrics of the covers to make them more local to the festival area. I left with a smile on my face looking forward to doing it all again on Sunday.
Check out my other reviews and articles here. Tom.