Amplified Festival 2017
Quarry Downs, Gloucestershire, July 21st – 23rd
Review by Beth Jones
Photographs by Beth Jones & Sian Irvine
So, as this is my first review, let me give you a bit of back story here first. I was a metal head / goth back in the late 90’s at college and loved the scene, only to be swept off my feet by what I thought was my knight in shining armour at the age of 20. Fast forward 17 years, and after 10 years of living in the purgatory of Northern Soul and Motown (I have nothing against the genre I might add, and some damn fine tunes came out of it), I am back in the scene and loving it, but also trying desperately to catch up on lost time and learn about bands I had completely missed out on whilst locked in to ‘Tears Of A Clown’!
Rick and I have been together for just over two years and really wanted to do a festival this year as a family, as circumstances beyond our control have stopped us doing that until now. The obvious choice would have been Bloodstock, as this year’s line – up is the best yet, and we have so many friends both locally and from further afield who attend, however wanting to go VIP and having my two girls with us pushed it unfortunately out of our budget. I was at the point of giving up on a festival for another year and starting a savings account for BOA next year, when I stumbled across the Facebook event page for Amplified 2017, with an amazingly diverse line-up, headlined by none other than REEF!!!
I was instantly transported back to the late nineties, at the Saturday Rock Night in the Tivoli, Buckley – dressed in my ankle length black crushed velvet dress and my DM boots, with elbow length black gloves, corpse makeup and rollies made with multi coloured Rizlas on a roll, (that you could get from the hippy shop in town for a quid) dancing on tables after too many vodka jellies, knowing every word of ‘Place Your Hands’ and singing it in my best mates face as loud as I could!!!
With the family ticket priced very reasonably at a little over £230 for all four of us for the whole weekend + camping, I made the executive decisions that we were going!
As the week preceding the event progressed, the weather forecast transformed from ‘yeah it’s gonna be quite nice for the time of year’, to ‘yeah, you best give Noah a call – you may need his help!’
We arrived on the Friday at around 1pm, and entered the Ease Of Access campsite which I had secured to help Rick make it through the weekend. We ended up being able to pitch up our tent right by our car, which was a god send. Now, pitching a tent in gale force winds is an experience I hope most of you never have, but to put it in perspective, plaiting treacle would be easy in comparison! However, it was made more pleasing by the sounds of the first band on the ‘Very Metal Art’ stage drifting over whilst I wrestled with canvas. The all female band ‘Dorja’ absolutely nailed it and were a great way to open a festival! Aiym Almas, the lead singer, had a killer range and immense power and absolutely smashed a Dio fronted Black Sabbath cover as the last song, and the pumping bass of Becky Baldwin held everything together perfectly.
I thought the weather gods may have been kind to us, but sadly I was mistaken. After pitching the tent, we made it on to the main arena for one band, Bleed Again, on the Very Metal Art Stage, who were heavy and growly and dirty and damn good, especially with the tempestuous clouds building behind them. Then it rained, and everyone was sad, but hopeful that it would pass.
After hiding from the wet stuff for a bit, we made it out to see a band that Rick had been really looking forward to seeing, Tess Of The Circle. Rick had alerted me to them a few months back. He had said they would be right up my street. A real fusion of punk, indie, grunge, folk, blues and classic rock, and fronted by singer / songwriter Tess Jones. They were indeed right up my street! I love to see music genres marry together well and that is what Tess Of The Circle achieve. We had the great pleasure of having a chat with Tess when they had finished on stage and it is clear to see that he is as passionate about the music off stage as he is when in performance mode, and this is really reflected in the music he writes.
We were just settling in to the all female ‘The Amorettes’, who were putting on a great show when sadly the heavens opened on a biblical scale again and we were forced to abandon and retreat to the tent amid much swearing and cursing and hating of the world.
By 8pm that night, everything was shit. The rain had been coming down for 6 hours solid in what could only be described as mother nature’s version of a critical error that required the sky to be restarted in order to restore the programme, I was cold and wet, in a tent with a leak, with no money left and no cash machines on site (they hadn’t turned up), wishing I was at home on my sofa. The stages had had to be closed due to safety concerns and all was looking lost. I reverted to my default setting for situations such as this – I went to bed! Had it not taken me two hours to pitch the tent, I would have been packing up there and then, and heading home, but something made me stay….
And what a difference a day made. Yes, there were organisational errors, yes there were issues, and yes the insane weather made them all very stark, however, Gary Paterson, the main organiser, and his team were determined to make the best of a bad situation. Despite probably having to deal with some of the most horrible criticism, they ran around like a deranged army on the Saturday morning to try and put on a show for the people who had been brave enough and strong enough of character to stay with them. So, from 12 noon on Saturday, bands went on and although we didn’t catch them all, here is my pick of the best:
Outright Resistance: Wow! Now I have to admit I’m not massive on death metal vocals, but for sheer performance skills Paige Lee wins! Rather than letting the monsoon season get to her, she took the biblical rain and made it part of the performance and all those who saw it had a ball. Musically, they are a great band with lots of solid chunky riffs and rhythmic bass to bang your head to and it is impossible not to toe tap even if death metal isn’t completely your thing. And they had awesome fun in the face of adversity, and the audience got that.
Massive Wagons: Great punchy classic rock, which really worked well on the newly formed ‘Bar Stage’. For me they are somewhere between Status Quo and The Foo Fighters in style – just good, fun classic rock and everybody was having a jolly good boogie to them in the tent. They are definitely on my list of bands to see again very soon.
Krysthla: If you like extreme metal then these guys will float your entire armada! Very loud, very growly and very heavy. I prefer my metal more melodic, however they are brilliant musicians and have already gained a huge amount of acclaim from all corners of the metal music press. They put on one hell of a show and needed a big mention on my favourites list because they know exactly who they are and they do what they do with finesse and this makes their stage presence unmissable. YES!
Evil Scarecrow: What can I say…. These guys are THE best. They take the serious side of metal and beat it to death with a robotic space crab! Audience participation is at the heart of what they do and to see the whole crowd making the Robotatron Square, scuttling from side to side, waltzing with their nearest and dearest and beating the boss with 90’s computer games moves is something very special and it spans across the generations – my girls are 10 and 15 and they worship them! Not only are these guys awesomely funny, they are amazingly talented musicians and all round nice guys. After the show, the girls were able to meet the band and they even took them back stage so they could get autographs from every member – to say they were chuffed is an understatement, and the kindness of the band and their crew nearly reduced me to a blubbering mess.
During all of this craziness, and still a fair amount of mental rain, our solace was a cosy little tent tucked away at the end of the field, belonging to The Motley Brew. For those of you who have not experienced the Motley Brew, it is like reaching Mecca at the end of a pilgrimage! They sell tea of all varieties, and a bit of coffee too, and my god was it needed! And the atmosphere in their tent was homely and warm no matter what time of day or night it was. Directly opposite them was the London Pie And Mash Company Ltd, whose pies were the dietary godsend of the weekend. Proper pies, proper mash and proper gravy, served with a smile and friendly banter from the lads, and they are even going to do some gluten free pies next year so I can eat them and not feel crappy!
On Sunday mother nature finally decided to get her shit together and make the weather a little more conducive to having fun in a field! My Highlights of Sunday were:
Instill: (from Brazil apparently ;-P ) They were riff heavy, raw and quirky, with undertones of funk and classic rock. A real mix for someone fancying something a little different with their Sunday lunch. Front man, Hodge, goes for the smart casual evening attire on stage, looking very dapper in shirt, tie, waistcoat and jacket, but he didn’t like to take to himself too seriously and could carry a tune very well which really drew in the crowd, in the way only a great frontman can. Whatever ‘it’ is, he has it and I liked it a lot. This is a band that understands rhythm and they work really well together on stage, even though each member has a very different look, and I liked it on many levels not only for the music.
Courtesans: A hot, all female four piece from London, Courtesans are down tuned and doomy, which doesn’t usually do much for me, but they were brilliant! I am a huge fan of females in metal and rock and this was the first time I had heard them but lead singer Sinead has a really rich, deep, silky tone to her voice which I loved. Their use of electro and synth elements makes it feel really fresh and gives it ethereal properties which work brilliantly. I was so impressed by them and look forward to seeing them again.
Bad Touch: If you love a bit of classic Rock ‘n’ Roll and awesome facial hair, these are the chaps for you. I dread to think how many bottles of lavender beard oil and moustache wax the lead singer gets through a year, but it makes for a facial adornment that is worthy of icon status!! Musically they are just great classic rock – simple as. They look like they have just arrived in a time machine fresh from Woodstock and are here to revive good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. We bought both their albums as soon as they finished and have played them many times already.
Vega: I had never experienced Vega until now, but I will be investing in the back catalogue very soon – THEY ROCKED!! A six piece melodic Rock band from the UK, frontman Nick Workman reminds me of a cross between Bruce Dickinson and Tobias Sammet and I loved it. Backed up by some awesome guitar work and face melting solos provided by Marcus, and intricate drums and keyboards, I was completely blown away by their stage presence and all round musicianship. Seriously, if you like melodic rock and you are as behind the times as me, check these guys out – fandabidoziiiiiii!!!
Reef: What can I say. Dem Boyz still got it!!!! Even though at least one member does look like the Hermit from ‘Life of Brian’. I was instantly 17 again watching them, and sang along to every word. The vocal range of Gary Stringer is just formidable and his control of dynamics had the audience eating out of his hands. From the highs of ‘Summer’s In Bloom’ to the tranquil calm of ‘Consideration’, it was sheer perfection and one of the best live performances I have ever seen. My only gripe is I would have loved them to do ‘Lullaby’ as that was always my favourite song. But that is by the by. It was a great way to close the festival and I am so glad that I was there to experience it.
There were so many other great bands on over the weekend that deserved a mention, Rival Bones, Codex Alimentarius, Acid Reign, Press To Meco, Illustr8tors, Anti-Clone, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, Unzucht and Diamond Head (who Rick absolutely loved) to name but a few, but these were the ones that really did it for me.
So in summary, this was a weekend of low lows and awesome highs. Things that made me lose my shit: Rain. No cash machines. Rain. Not being really sure of what was happening where. Rain. Tents and anything camping related. Not seeing Torqued. Rain. Rain… Things that made me sad: The look in Gary Paterson’s eyes when I saw him running around the field on the Saturday morning, which just said ‘I’m not in a good place right now’. I felt for him big time… Things that made me regain my shit and forget why I lost my shit in the first place: Awesome music, some of the best sound quality I have heard ever (kudos to the sound guys), an amazing standard of festival toilet (always impeccably clean and stocked with toilet roll and incredibly slimy antibacterial hand cleanser!), meeting some awesome friends, old and new, seeing good British spirit prevailing in the face of adversity, tea and pies, and most of all having a damn good laugh with the people I love the most in the world.
Yes there were issues, as there will be at any festival in its first year, but Gary Paterson has stood up, admitted the flaws and taken it on the chin in a way that can only be described as highly commendable and humbling, and he should be saluted for that. I for one cannot wait for next year and am booking a family ticket again as soon as they are released. A huge well done to all involved and I am preparing already to get Amped in 2018.
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones, Sian Irving and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities