Rabidfest 2019 The Wheatsheaf, Oxford 16/08/2019, Day One Review by Beth Jones & Rick Tilley
After a journey down to Oxford marred with torrential rain, traffic jams, road works, more biblical rain and a fair amount of motorway madness, Rick and I were more than ready for some R & R in the form of epic music. After we had checked into our digs for the weekend, we headed off to The Wheatsheaf on Oxford High Street. Before I start talking about the bands, I want to say a bit about this pub, as it is now my new favourite pub in the world! Down a small alleyway, it crosses the divide between old and modern, and melds them together in perfect quirky harmony. The staff and clientele were friendly, and the beer was good (they really did serve a fabulous pint of Guinness – Rick). It took me back to my youth, and how real pubs used to be, but also made me revel in the wonders of modern technology, when I realised that a Guinness advertising stand on the bar was actually a USB charging hub!! THIS is what every pub should be like, everywhere!
We also finally got to meet Rabidfest and Ever Metal team member Sheri Bicheno who proved to be even more lovely in person than she is on social media. After lots of hugs, selfies and waxing lyrical about the USB charging hub on the bar it was time for some music, so we headed upstairs to see what was on offer!
First up for our delight and pleasure where Oxford based four piece, The Crushing! What a way to start – they were lively and funny and gave a charismatic performance of good, solid and well executed metal. We were really impressed, and they instantly blew away the slightly irritable cloud that the journey had hung over us. Front man Snuffy Walden had such an expressive face that it was difficult to take your eyes off him, and his discourse between the songs was witty and Monty Pythonesque, as was his enthusiastic jogging on the spot whilst playing, that endeared him to the gathered crowd, which was growing by the minute. If the whole festival carried on like this, it was going to be great!
Next on the bill were Aylesbury’s Imminent Annihilation, bringing to the table a more serious, but equally adept sound, with chunky riffs and rhythms, and powerful vocals! Even though the room wasn’t big (it was long and narrow), there was some serious headbanging going on and the atmosphere was electric! The gruff and raw vocals of Jordan Gray, combined with the power of the music really made your internal organs rattle, which is the sign of a good night in our book!!
Having seen these guys on a couple of occasions previously, we knew we were in for a good show, and Fahran didn’t disappoint. The energy that every single member of the band always brings to the table is immense, and their style is a unique combination of current and classic which makes them a timeless band that I hope we will enjoy for many years yet. I seem to be going on about vocalists a lot in this review, but thus far, they had all been stunning, and Matt Black’s were no exception – Jesus this guy has some pipes! However, it was bass player Joshua Ballatyne that I found myself following like a hawk here, just for his sheer Tigger level bounciness!! Great performance!!
Closing the first day were four fine fellows from Lancashire, Troyen, who have been kicking it for a good while, and reformed in 2014 after a sizable thirty-two-year break!! Rick had really been looking forward to seeing them as he remembers the name from way back but had never seen them live. They bring to the table a very adept and tight hit of NWOBHM, which is always a treat for any classic metal fan. They looked so cool and collected on stage, which showed their experience, and it was impossible not to be drawn in and rock along with them. Like a fine wine, they have aged and matured, and were chilled to perfection making them an incredibly enjoyable end to Day One. Brandy and cigars anyone?!
It was safe to say that everyone in attendance had a fantastic evening and afterwards a bunch of us went in search of the magical thing that is food and, as is usually the case, there was a McDonalds about two minutes away from the venue. After filling our faces we said our goodbyes and Beth and I had a very pleasant walk back to where we were staying. Oxford is a very beautiful place, architecture wise! It was then time to get as much sleep as possible before meeting up with everyone at The Bullingdon venue on the Saturday where a much longer day of Metal and Rock awaited us!
Disclaimer: This photo album is solely the property of Beth Jones and Photograbee Images. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of these images, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Amplified Festival 2018 Quarry Downs, Gloucestershire July 7th 2018, Day Two Review by Rick Tilley with help from Beth Jones Photographs by Beth Jones 10/10
It was still very early when I woke up on the Saturday morning, 5:30am to be precise, but it was even hotter than it had been on the Friday and much too stuffy to be in the tent so I quietly got myself ready and went outside. I alluded to it in my Friday review, but it’s worth repeating, that Amplified is set in some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK. My Sister lives very close to the site and my Mum is only ten minutes further away so I know the Cotswolds quite well. Sitting in those surroundings, when there is literally silence, apart from the birds and farmyard animals in the distance, whilst watching the sun rise above the trees really was a wonderful feeling and totally at odds with what would be happening about five hours into the future!
Welcome to Ever Metal’s review of Amplified Festival 2018, Day Two!
As people started to wake up, and you really took a good look around, it was blindingly obvious there were a heck of a lot more people attending than in 2017. People had continued to arrive during the course of the previous day and it wasn’t long before more cars and Camper Vans started to come through the gates. Rather than the washed out, wet, tired, bedraggled and hollow looks on faces of the previous year, with many already packed and gone, this year everyone was smiling, there was happiness and laughter and plenty of sore heads, not just from one drink too many but also because of the sun. Yes, the weather was partly the reason for the joviality, but listening to conversations, it was very clear that people were talking about the site, the bands performances from the previous day and how relaxed, friendly and open everyone was being and that there was very definitely a special atmosphere.
We did find out later that day that there had been a security breach during the night, on the other side of the site, which slightly marred the weekend and needs to be addressed for next year, but, that aside, 99% of people seemed to be in seventh heaven!
Opening Day Two proceedings, on the Very Metal Art stage, with a thunderous bang were Stafford based band Obzidian. It was a great turn out for them so early in the morning and they punched us all repeatedly with precision fistfuls of heavy thrash. They were a bit too heavy for Beth, on the wrong side of her marmite gauge, but I’ve seen these guys a few times before and love them! They certainly aren’t your standard Thrash band incorporating chunks of Progressive and Death Metal, but they do it with a huge amount of catchiness and are incredibly tight! As I was watching them I thought back to just a few hours earlier, when I had been sitting peacefully, listening to the birds, and smiled…festivals are a funny thing aren’t they? Anyway, Obzidian had the crowd bouncing like loons and definitely set the pace for the day. If you were still asleep when they hit the stage, I’m positive you wouldn’t have been by the end of their set!
Even though it was still morning the sun was beating down without mercy, so with bottles of water (and a nice pint) in hand we headed over to the Red Stripe Main Stage to watch Yorkshire’s Aggressive Pop Rockers, As Sirens Fall. I have received quite a bit of press about these guys and they certainly seem to be gaining a fairly substantial fan-base, but, as you can tell from the above description of their sound, they are a much more mainstream sounding band that very much appeal to the Kerrang/Rock Sound readership and they fell a little flat for my liking. Their songs are indeed very catchy and they certainly have plenty of energy but it all felt a bit polished and staged and they look like they are being moulded into something they don’t quite feel comfortable with. I’d also like to say that their Manager/Photographer was quite annoying, wandering around the stage, taking photos and generally just getting in the way (even though she had been asked not to). A professional photographer will be almost invisible, she most definitely wasn’t! As a 50 year old man I’m obviously not As Sirens Fall’s target audience but I wish them all the luck in the world!
We were straight back to the Very Metal Art Stage next for a band I was hugely looking forward to seeing, Nottingham based Hard Rockers Fahran. I’m ashamed to say, that even though I love their music, I had always missed them when they’ve gigged near to me in the past and this performance proved why I should have gotten off my arse a bit sooner. Fahran have passion oozing out of them by the bucket-load and even though they play Classic Hard Rock, it’s done with so much bite, energy and skill that they appeal to a very wide audience, certainly judging by the variety of t-shirts on display in the crowd! They gave us a set of tight and intelligent tracks that you could REALLY bang your head to, with melodies to die for, and in Matt Black, a vocalist with killer range and emotion. Put that together with the crystal clear sound courtesy, yet again, of the brilliant engineers and you were on to an absolute winner. Drummer, Josh Fahran (who the band is named after) should take a huge bow. If they are gigging near you, don’t do what I did, make sure you go and see them because you’ll love every minute!
Carrying on in the Hard Rock genre, but with a little more Audrey Horne and Down in their sound, were King Creature who were next up on the Red Stripe Main Stage and damn they were good! It was now midday and the arena was ridiculously hot but these four guys from Cornwall were in serious contention to match and surpass that heat. I want to know, with all the music I listen to, why I had never seen or heard much about King Creature before, but you can be guaranteed that will now change. They put on a blistering performance of huge crunchy riffs and massive rhythms and Vocalist/Bassist Dave Kellaway has a colossal set of pipes. This was Rock N Roll excellence and it’s clear to see why they’ve been picked up by Marshall Records. We were only on the fourth band of the day and I was starting to get overwhelmed with just how well everyone was playing. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about Amplified Festival that seems to bring the best out in everybody!
For those of you who have met or seen Beth you’ll be used to seeing a big swathe of black hair, but underneath the colour she is actually a bit of a ginger, so by this point she was literally melting into the grass and went to seek shade at the Corrosive Merch and Goblin Dreams stands, run by the awesome and lovely Marc Cleave (Torqued) and Nici Chapman which, this year, were situated next to the Very Metal Art Stage and I went to watch evil Death Metal titans, from Bristol, Seprevation! I’ve seen these guys live before and whilst they might be on the brutally heavy side, they kick serious arse. If you’re a fan of bands like Possessed, Sadus, Pestilence, Death or Sadistic Intent then Seprevation will get you wet in places you didn’t know could get wet and this performance proved how good they are. You perhaps wouldn’t expect their brand of Metal to come across so well in a field, in the Cotswolds and in broad daylight but they pummelled the assembled crowd into submission and then some. I, sometimes, find them quite difficult to listen to on CD but live they have so much power and precision that it’s a different prospect entirely, for this Rick at least.
With Beth now somewhat refreshed, having tipped a few gallons of water over herself, we set off on the short journey back to the Main Stage to watch one of the 2017 Amplified bands that had been invited back again, the intriguing Rival Bones. I only vaguely remember watching them at the Festival last year, not because they were bad…far from it, but because the horrendous weather coupled with my back problems had me craving for more painkillers and hoping that Captain Nemo would appear in the Nautilus to submarine us all to safety!
How Rival Bones manage to make the sound they do, with just the two of them, is extremely impressive! It’s always great to see a drummer brought forward much nearer the front of the stage and Chris Thomason engages the eye with his style. Then you have Guitarist/Vocalist James Whitehouse basically doing everything else and it’s a bit like watching a game of tennis, your head constantly moving from left to right to try and work out how they do it. It’s not style over substance though, their music rocks, the tunes incredibly catchy and James has a superb voice. It was great to see them asked back to play again this year, especially as their music worked incredibly well in the sunshine and I look forward to seeing them again.
With a quick stop off for food/more water we headed straight back over to the Very Metal Art Stage for a dose of Classic Thrash mixed with a pinch of Crossover, done the Irish way, courtesy of Animator. They are another band I hadn’t heard an awful lot about but Beth and I both absolutely loved them. It seems to me that there are loads of fabulous bands coming out of Ireland at the moment and it’s great to see. Animator absolutely nailed their performance and were hugely upbeat. They managed to make themselves sound classic and modern all at the same time and are great musicians with excellent material. They also drew a very good crowd considering the field was now the temperature of a smelting furnace and that crowd, including Michael Randall AKA Tigger (Lead Vocalist/Bassist from the band Mad Spanner) who has the energy of a Duracell bunny, bounced their way through the entire set. It was certainly a sight to see. I shall be checking out Animator’s back catalogue and cannot wait to see them live again! You should definitely be checking them out too!
At this point it was my turn to reluctantly take to the shade of the Corrosive Merch & Goblin Dreams stands. Heat doesn’t usually bother me, too much, but even I was starting to wilt. However, I also suffer with spondylitis and spondylolisthesis of the spine and in my enjoyment of the proceedings, so far that day, had forgotten to take my medication. It was very silly of me and because of it I had to miss Sinnergod who I was looking forward to so I apologise to them. The beauty of the arena set-up, however, meant I could still hear them pretty well and what I heard sounded very good. Beth also went to take some photos and said that they were impressive!
After resting for an hour we headed over to the Red Stripe Main Stage to watch a band who many were waiting for with baited breath. It was actually touch and go as to whether Jinjer would be able to play, as they had been stuck in the Ukraine having issues with their travel visas and had missed a Festival the day before. Luckily they made it, much to the relief of Gary and the Amplified team and their performance could now be billed as a UK Festival Exclusive!
There was a huge crowd of, mainly men, waiting for them to start and you could tell why when lead singer Tatiana Shmailyuk took to the stage. Imagine one of the Cheeky Girls possessed by the demon Pazuzu from The Exorcist and you would be somewhere close. They are all incredibly talented and technical musicians, bassist Eugene Kostyuk and drummer Vladislav Ulasevish seem to have an almost telekinetic bond with one another, and they gave a hell of a performance…many said it was their performance of the weekend…BUT, personally, I had a little trouble engaging with their material. I’m definitely going to give them another go, I may just need more time, but if songs don’t emotionally connect with me, then all the talent in the world won’t change that, however popular they seem to be with everyone else!
Unfortunately, we only got to see a little of the next two acts Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics and Warrior Soul because we wanted to go and watch the ‘EvilStick’ interview (see below) but what we did witness was very positive on both counts. What I need is to be able to clone myself so I can be in two places at once!
So, what was the ‘EvilStick’ interview? Well, it was certainly one of the more surreal parts of Amplified 2018 and you, sort of, had to be there but I’m going to try and explain briefly!
A group of bright sparks, including John Matthews (Totally Tankered) decided that it would be really fun to do a combined interview with Evil Scarecrow and Psychostick and call it…EvilStick. Bearing in mind the humour levels of both bands is somewhere in the region of Monty Python meets Naked Gun then it was always going to be a challenge to control them and a challenge it most certainly was, albeit a hilarious one! What was due to take place in The Motley Brew ended up in the woods and it was 20-30 minutes of insanity involving, amongst other things, a trip/race by two band members to get ice cream which ended up becoming a trip to get beer, scones with cream and jam, a box with a question mark written on it backwards, lots of quick-fire questions (not one of which was answered in a sane manner) and Evil Scarecrow hijacking the interviewers chair, all watched over by a slightly bemused Gary Paterson. It sort of reminded me of a human version of ‘The Clangers’. It was recorded but we aren’t sure if it’s been seen by anyone. Very very funny but also very very mad!!
After a chat with our mates from the band Lullaby For A Unicorn, who were there for the weekend soaking up the atmosphere (please check them out, they are brilliant), we headed back to the Very Metal Art stage to get back into music mode with the brilliant Bull-Riff Stampede. This was only their second gig of 2018, as guitarist Jay Walsh has been busy with his other band Xentrix, but you really wouldn’t have believed it. They deliver their brand of Thrash/Death Metal with devastating clarity, are all seasoned professionals and very gifted musicians. All four of them gel so well and front man Dave Garnett has a voice almost as loud as his toxic green Jackson guitars. Bull-Riff Stampede never fail to put on a fantastic show, they thrashed out a loud and loaded set and the whole crowd really got into the groove with them!
We headed back to the Red Stripe Main Stage with huge smiles on our faces and everybody else around seemed to be smiling too. Whether people were in the bar, Merch tent, eating, sitting with a beer soaking up the sun or in The Motley Brew with a cuppa…the feeling of happiness, friendship, enjoyment and belonging was huge and it increased even more after watching Welshman Jayce Lewis and his band. I’m going to let Beth tell you about this because I couldn’t say it any better!
“This was one of my performances of the weekend. The masterstroke of dual bass guitars set Jayce Lewis apart from anyone else over the three days. It made the band totally different, insanely heavy and industrial. It was music that you could physically feel throughout your body, with the low frequencies of the basses rattling every sinew. This was a performance that highlighted the epic insanity of genius, as well as the incredible writing talent that is Jayce Lewis. His music is all about rhythm and it made me feel alive in its sparseness. The whole thing – the music, the look, the tone, the staging, all made for a stunning show which I am immensely happy that I saw. A new fan was very definitely born in me that day”.
All I will add, apart from agreeing with Beth’s sentiments, is that it’s clear to see why Jayce has toured with and is friends with Gary Numan as he is hugely influenced by him. This was a fantastic performance, almost hypnotic, and both of us are really looking forward to seeing him live again!
One of the reasons I had been looking forward to Amplified so much this year was the inclusion of Psychostick on the bill. I have been a big fan of these guys for about six years now and, when I find myself at a low ebb in life, one of my go-to places is the P section of the cavernous CD collection I own because they always make the corners of my mouth turn upwards into something resembling a smile. Giving Psychostick headline status on the Very Metal Art stage was a genius way to finish that part of the day and WOW, did they deliver! They are completely the real deal. Natural Talent + Zany Humour + Impeccable Timing + Hard Work & Dedication = Psychostick! Hilariously funny and incredibly talented to start with, they have also managed to put together a show that is a piece of live art. Clever, witty and lovable they take everyday annoyances and events that we already groan and smile about and turn them into a, laugh a second, collection of perfectly timed musical gags, peppered with sound effects, kazoos, great vocals, wonderful riffs and lots of hats. Audience participation is paramount, especially in ‘Sombrero Prophecy’ Psychostick were utterly brilliant from start to finish and, easily, one of my performances of the weekend!
If Psychostick had been the band to finish off Day Two proceedings then I think, just about, everybody present would have been more than satisfied but we still had the best band in the world ever…to write a song about a robot to headline the Red Stripe Main Stage, yes I’m talking about the mystical beings that are Evil Scarecrow!
Before we talk about this year’s performance, we need to mention that last year at Amplified, Evil Scarecrow were the band that grabbed everyone, that had stuck it out, by the soggy proverbials and dragged us all to the place called happiness! Their performance was the lift everybody needed so it was an absolute no-brainer to get them back to do it again.
We had heard that they had a new character to add to the arsenal of characters that already join them on stage, that they would be playing a new song and also that their performance would involve lots of pyro! We were stoked and with very good reason. Apart from wondering whether it was wise for ‘Brother Pain’ to be anywhere near pyro, Evil Scarecrow were magnificent. There is something very invigorating about watching performers faces when pyro goes off and flames leap into the air at the best of times but, when it happens at an Evil Scarecrow show, the glint of maniacally laughing demons escaping from every band members eyes when they lit up set the tone for this performance.
They threw in all the old favourites and had the crowd waltzing, scuttling and drawing robot squares in unison, and the stage show was as madcap and colourful as we have now come to expect from the Nottingham nutters…and then came the new song and new character; ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. However, this Red Riding Hood was far from little, she was ten foot tall and absolutely terrifying! The song was as dark as the character, and the swathe of red light that filled the stage made the performance the stuff of nightmares, not least for the photographers who pretty much all hate red light! With Dr. Hell announcing that a new Evil Scarecrow album was in the works and that it would be available sometime before 2025 everyone, in the sizeable crowd, looked like they were floating with joy. As the band left the stage we cried for more, and even after an encore, we still cried for more. By the time the cheering had quietened the stage lights were on and a good amount of equipment had been dismantled.
If you fancied it, and had the energy, the party then continued at the G’s Bar Stage with the madness of Electric Eel Shock but I was absolutely exhausted and after a lovely cuppa, and the obligatory chat with people, I retired to the tent safe in the knowledge that I had experienced my best day at a Festival ever…yes EVER! Beth wasn’t quite as tired though and stayed at The Motley Brew with a motley crew of our lovable buddies playing the best game ever ‘Cards Against Humanity’!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of all parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.