Pentre Fest 2020 Day Two
Mcleans, Pentre, North Wales
Review by Rick Tilley, Alun Jones and Beth Jones
Pictures by Beth Jones
Saturday’s Pentre Fest, Day Two review is a collaborative affair between myself, Alun and Beth. I’ve made it clear who wrote what and I would like to thank them for their help, as well as looking after a broken 52 year old (me!) who cannot get around as quickly as he used to!
On the Saturday morning, pleasantly surprised that we weren’t hurting as much as we thought we might, we set off back to Mcleans, pausing only to pick up Powerzone’s Dani Maguire on the way, ready for a full day of Metal and Acoustic performances. It was noticeably quieter upon arriving, but a fair amount of alcohol had been consumed on the Friday, so I imagine there were a few sore heads! However, the always faithful had dragged themselves out of bed to watch the opening band of the day on the main stage…
Pop/Punker Cheerfully Undiagnosed (aka Adam Robinson) had also performed early on the Saturday at Pentre Fest the previous year, waking everyone up and putting a smile on our collective faces. Now expanded to a two piece, (with the addition of a drummer) they did the same this year. Vocalist/Guitarist Adam will probably be the first to admit that the material is simple, but he performs it with a huge glint of fun in his eyes and is very comical to boot. Getting a selection of hungover and tired metallers to sing along to tracks such as ‘I’ve Just Been Sick’ and ‘Unsolicited Dick Pic’ was hilarious to watch and take part in and it’s just the sort of thing you need to kick your day into gear!
One person we certainly hadn’t expected to see was Edd Case. In the week running up to Pentre Fest Edd had been taken ill, spending two days in hospital, so to see him turn up on the Saturday with his guitar, looking like death warmed up was a bit of a shock. After telling him off, he proceeded to blow us all away on the acoustic stage with a short set of songs, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play or sound better. His original songs are beautifully written and any covers he plays are turned completely on their head, always recognisable but played in a way only he can. He was excellent but, like Brian, he was still ‘a very naughty boy’ for turning up!
Next up on the main stage we were due to get our first proper Metal fix of the day from a band I hadn’t seen live before but was really looking forward to, Manchester based NWOTHM four piece Stormrider and ‘by the power of Greyskull’ did they deliver. If, like me, you love a good dose of Trad Metal, mixed up with some Power and Thrash influences, played as tightly as a gnat’s chuff and delivered with the force of a Challenger Tank then you’ll love Stormrider. Their not long enough set was excellent and looking around at the growing crowd it was clear I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Afterwards I immediately went and bought their EP and hope it isn’t too long before we see them again!
I nipped outside for a breather and immediately got caught up talking to people. For my sins I missed most of the next artist on the acoustic stage but, luckily, Alun didn’t so here are his thoughts on Rhiannon.
Rhiannon Petrou (Why’d You Wanna Know)
Sadly, Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year. One such example was on the acoustic stage, where Rachel Sian Roberts, one half of the newly formed duo, Why’d You Wanna Know, was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform. But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage. Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing (having only started to learn guitar a month ago) she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort. Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven. Possessing a beautiful singing voice she even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ – making it sound good for the first time ever!
Having seen the end of Rhiannon’s set and thinking what a beautiful voice she had, I headed back to the main stage to get another blast of METAL, this time from Huddersfield Thrashers RipTide, another band I hadn’t seen live before. Now Thrash is one of my favourite genres. I’m old enough to have been around when it all began and saw bands such as Exciter, Exodus, Testament and Destruction etc play when they were starting out. I was also lucky enough to see Sy Keeler’s first gig singing with Onslaught, which still stands as one of the best live performances I’ve ever witnessed. Why am I on a trip down memory lane you may ask? Well, RipTide filled me with that same sense of open-mouthed awe I got as a teenager witnessing my idols for the first time. They possess everything a Thrash band needs and they do it with style. There’s definitely an old-school ‘Bay Area’ element to their sound, but it’s mixed with a modern-day twist and slightly harsher vocals, which brings everything into the 21st Century. They were incredibly tight, playing at break neck speed when they needed to, but slowing down and leaving space for the groove as well. A highlight of the weekend, you must not miss them if they gig near you!
Mine and Beth’s recent return to Ever Metal, for some reason, seemed to be going down well for many people attending and I got chatting again outside after Riptide. This meant I missed the beginning of Mike West’s set on the acoustic stage. Having seen him before I knew he was good, but Alun hadn’t, so here’s what he thought!
If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you. I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul. Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost. A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can. Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet? If not, there’s a headline for us there!
After Mike’s great set, it wasn’t long before our Master of Ceremonies ‘Beany’ was rounding everyone up to head back to the main stage. He didn’t have to coerce me because I had been looking forward to seeing Forlorn Hope for about a year. Historical Heavy Metal may sound odd to some (although, it’s never done Sabaton any harm) but Forlorn Hope manage it with aplomb. They have been described as “a musical version of Bernard Cornwall’s ‘Sharpe’ novels” and I couldn’t put it any better myself. They haven’t been together that long, but arrived on stage like a much more seasoned outfit. Their Classic Heavy Metal sound mixed with Military History of the Peninsular War of 1807-1814 lyrics and a little in-between song humour from vocalist/rhythm guitarist Chris Simpson works perfectly and you should really seek them out. If there is one negative it is that keyboard player Jade McKenna doesn’t get more involved or smile. Her playing is more than acceptable, and the keyboards definitely add something to the music, but she looks very ‘stiff’ on stage compared to the rest of the band!
By this point my spine was starting to groan and I needed a break, so I’ll leave you in the more than capable hands of Beth who went to check out Ben MIlford on the Acoustic Stage.
Normally we’re used to seeing Ben shredding in the shadows, as he’s the super skilled, but incredibly humble, guitarist in OMV. His acoustic performance wasn’t just a new experience for us – it was also the first time he’d done an acoustic set on his own. Talking to him beforehand, we discovered that he was pretty nervous about it, because it meant stepping out of his comfort zone by singing as well as playing. He needn’t have been nervous though, because his performance was brilliant, and he has a lovely voice. On a couple of songs, he had extra vocal support from his band mate Richie, front man of OMV, and the unstoppable Edd Case! To be honest though, he didn’t need it. He did a fabulous job on his own, and we got to see another side of him, which we really liked.
Scars Of Remembrance
Sore back or not, I wasn’t going to miss our friends in Scars Of Remembrance, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made for a long time, so I hope you don’t mind me waxing lyrical! Since vocalist Mike Edwards’ departure from the band late last year, SOR have been without a steady frontman. They’d decided that, for this gig, guitarist Mark Harris was going to sing (he already does backing vocals and has a good voice), but it was clear beforehand that he was in pain. It turns out he had cracked two ribs in a fall and wasn’t able to play guitar, and I think there were nerves within the band as to how this was going to go down.
They needn’t have worried, because within half a song, the now much more healthy crowd was looking at the stage and at each other in astonishment. Regardless of the pain he was in, which must have been very uncomfortable and deserves a medal on its own, no-one could quite believe the voice (both clean and screamed) that was coming from Mark’s lungs. He is a very quiet individual off stage, but this was an absolutely mesmerising performance, and easily the best I had ever seen Scars Of Remembrance play. Having just four of them on stage gives them more space. Bassist Karl Ditcher certainly came out of his shell (he also joined in on backing vocals presenting an excellent bear-like roar), guitarist Daniel Dawson admirably covered the missing guitar with his riffing, and drummer Ben Burke played like a man possessed, thumping the living daylights out of the kit. However, Mark was the star of the show and it’s quite obvious that they don’t need to find a new singer!
Afterwards, many people spent an awful lot of time telling them this, and I really hope they listen. I already thought they were a great band, but this performance elevated them to the next level! My band of the weekend bar none!
Back at the acoustic stage it was time for Adam Robinson to play a set and I shall leave Beth to tell you about that.
Adam Robinson (Cheerfully Undiagnosed)
Still stoked from what I’d just seen on the main stage, I headed back to the acoustic room to watch Adam Robinson deliver his second set of the day, this time acoustically and on his own. It was no less cheerful than his earlier offering, and his witty banter and repartee kept the crowd enthralled. Again, his chosen songs weren’t overly fussy or complex, just good fun. He is a great act if the audience need a bit of a giggle and a livener, and his endearing stage persona could warm the hearts of even the coldest of souls!
At this point, along with Dani from Powerzone, we had arranged to interview the bonafide superstar, and absolute gentleman, that is Luke Appleton (Iced Earth & Absolva), alongside Rishi Mehta (Babylon Fire) who would be performing an acoustic set together later that day. While we did that Alun was watching OMV and here are his thoughts!
On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas. Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy. Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them. Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs. They were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they were actually going to pistol whip the audience into submission. The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.
While I took a plethora of pain killers, washed down with a pint (don’t have a go at me) Beth headed to the acoustic stage to watch the second performance of the weekend from the excellent Cry For Mercy.
Cry For Mercy Acoustic
We’re quickly running out of adjectives to describe these guys, but I’ll have a bash at a few more here, to describe their set on the acoustic stage! We’re big fans of these guys at Ever Metal, and have seen them many times now, but not stripped back like this. As usual though, their performance was a masterclass in how to deliver a great acoustic rock and blues set. Drummer Steven Taylor kept the rhythms going on Cajon, which gave the set that extra acoustic feel, and the grooves were upheld by guitarist Andy Cutty and bassist/vocalist Kev Plant. This set upheld their super-tight musicianship, with all of them on point all of the time. One of the things I like most about them is how comfortable they look when they play. The feel they give to the music is both smooth and charismatic, and you can’t help being drawn into it, making toe-tapping and head nodding obligatory! This set was so chilled that it would not have been out of place on a ‘hideout’ stage at a midsummer festival somewhere in the Texas Deep South. It oozed groove and proved just how versatile these guys are.
By now I was going numb so I knew I could manage some more music and I went back to the main stage to watch Son Of Boar, however Alun rather enjoyed their set (I did too), so he’s written this short, but very complimentary review.
Son Of Boar
They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests. From the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special. I wasn’t wrong. These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness and they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch. The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb. I even bought a t-shirt!
At this point Edd Case played a second set on the acoustic stage and it was the one time, all weekend, we missed a performance. However, as we’d seen him earlier in the day and he was still a very naughty boy for even turning up, he’s going to forgive us…aren’t you Edd?
Back at the main stage it was time for the awesome Severenth to play and, once again, they showed why it is so good to have them back on the scene. When these guys were around the first time they toured the US and played the hallowed Wacken Open Air, among others and their pedigree shone through from start to finish. Vocalist Peet Bailey is a wonderful frontman, possessing a huge voice and bags of energy, Ben Jones thunders on the bass, guitarists Jack Somers and Adam Sidor are the perfect foils for each other, and drummer Dave Roberts is a mass of arms and rhythm. Together they a make a brutal, but very catchy team, and the sooner they release a new album the better!
We were now heading towards the climax of the Festival, but there were still two performances to go. First up were the headliners on the acoustic stage, namely Luke Appleton (Iced Earth, Absolva) and Rishi Mehta (Babylon Fire) who put on a wonderful performance. As Alun hadn’t seen Luke acoustically before he kindly supplied the write-up of the set!
Luke Appleton and Rishi Mehta
A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage. In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020. Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge. Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers. Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure! A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.
After a short break, where some of us braved the horrendous wind that was pummelling Mcleans outside (actually, now I think about it, bearing in mind who was due to appear onstage, it could well have been the ‘True Metal wind of Joey DeMaio’s 24 string bass guitar), we headed back to the main stage to witness the climax of Pentre Fest 2020 – WomenOwar!! Now, there had been rumblings (no, not from my stomach) that WomenOwar were threatening to pull out of their performance as there’d been a massive argument between Floss The Boss and Davina Shenkles over who was going to wear the deep blue eyeliner and baby oil, but luckily tragedy was averted! Of course, had this been the real Manowar we would all have been sat twiddling our thumbs calling Joey a complete and utter wan…!
Yes I’m joking, sort of! WomenOwar are an ‘all women, not all women’ Manowar Tribute band and they were absolutely brilliant! Formed for a one-off performance in 2018 they now find themselves in demand, possibly because Manowar really do argue over who is going to wield the He-Man sword and get the best painted on six-pack, but more likely because they are very funny and play the songs superbly!
Made up from members of the awesome Dakesis, Fury and Christgrinder you just knew the musical prowess was going to be top notch, and so it proved to be. Armed with a wig and mascara collection that Steel Panther would be proud of (in fact Manowar would be proud of it as well), they proceeded to blow us all away with a majestic set of Manowar classics that the crowd lapped up! It was the perfect climax to a wonderful weekend. As it says on their website “the band have weathered even the most unconquerable challenges to consistently bring you 100% of the Manowar for 1% of the price of actual Manowar”, and that says everything really. Go see them! You won’t be disappointed, because WomenOwar will actually turn up and play!!
So, that’s Pentre Fest wrapped up for another year. In all seriousness, it was incredible and everyone I spoke to enjoyed themselves immensely. Sound was perfect all weekend on both stages and the only thing that let us down was the weather but having the sometimes ‘not acoustic’ stage inside really worked well!
Massive thanks must go to the team at North East Wales Metal Productions for assembling another cracking line-up of bands and acoustic artists, and especially to Fozzy for getting through what must have been an awful weekend for him.
We were all well looked after by Pat and the staff at Mcleans, they do a sterling job, the bands were friendly and approachable all weekend and, of course, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you who turned up to watch.
Pentre Fest is a wonderful grass roots event and it should be thoroughly applauded. I’m already primed for 2021!
Disclaimer: This review and photographs are solely the property of Beth Jones 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 adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.