Pentrefest Summer Session 2018
McLeans Venue – Pentre, North Wales
July 14th 2018
By Beth Jones
It had been a few days since our return from Amplified, and a serious case of post festival blues had hit the Jones-Tilley household. The washing was nearly done, the ironing mountain was ever growing, and anything and everything was royally getting on my tits. So, when Fozzy sent us a Facebook invite to the ‘Pentrefest Summer Session – A Day Of Casual Mosh’, we could think of no better way to spend our Saturday and hoped it would be the antidote to the crushing withdrawal from live music and alcohol that we had been suffering, cold turkey, for what felt like an eternity!
Mcleans Pentre is a very unique venue; the space is fantastic, and the acoustics are great, but it seems that its location has a tendency to pull out a serious case of the ‘can’t be arsed’s’ in a lot of local music fans, which is a real shame. We arrived just after lunch, ready to watch a lovely collection of music ranging from local talent, to Italian metal heads Slave Steel.
Our first performance of the day was an acoustic set by Mike West. Based locally, he delivered a great set of southern style blues rock, which was perfect for a sunny afternoon. It was the sort of thing you would expect to hear being played from a porch on a ranch in Texas in a Levi’s advert, and I liked it a lot. There is something very appealing about that style of music for me, and Mike’s gravelly voice worked perfectly. I could quite happily have listened to it all day to be honest – it was just chilled and relaxing and very well executed.
Next up was another local act in the shape of Edd Case, again performing acoustically. He was more edgy than Mike, and delivered a great set, including one song which had, what I shall term as, rhythmic talking sections and a sung chorus. Now usually this sort of thing winds me up, but this particular song was a masterpiece – emotive and powerful, based on the experiences of his friend in the forces, and written as a letter home to family. It got me in the feels big time, to the point that I had to pretend I had something in my eye! I was emotionally teetering before this, due to the aforementioned festi-blues, so had to do a certain amount of internal pulling myself together before heading off to the smoking area for a break before the next act!
Things got a bit noisier next, as the acoustic acts were done, and we got our first full band of the day; a new band to the local scene, Renegades Of Fire. We had seen these guys at the Metal 2 The Masses heats in Wrexham, so kind of knew what to expect. They have only been around since November 2017, and I think need a little more time before we will see the best of them. They have a good sound but look a little tentative on stage at times. As individuals, they are all good musicians, but they need to settle in together and become more of a whole in order to really make their sound gel more and have fun with it; it is a skill in itself to be able to look confident even if you are shitting bricks, but it is things like this that will come with time. I am looking forward to watching their performance techniques grow.
From the nervous to the uber confident next, with Bad Earth. These guys had buckets full of dirty grooves and banging bass riffs, and some pretty fine rhythms to boot! Frontman Steve Coxon’s vocals were great, with a scratchy rugged tone, and excellent rock range, and he cuts an awesome figure on the stage too, he is a giant amongst men, or he certainly looks it from my 5’0” perspective! Both him and bass player Rob Murray performed topless too! I will let them off because it was very warm in that room, but they didn’t really need to – their music spoke for itself without needing to enhance it with sweaty torsos!! They led us through a rip-roaring set, which wouldn’t have been out of place on a bigger stage, and certainly deserved a bigger crowd than those of us interested enough in the local scene who had turned out on the day. They are a must see for anyone who likes bands such as Witch Tripper, Orange Goblin or Clutch.
The standard so far today had been excellent, and up next were one of our most favourite discoveries from Metal 2 The Masses – Lullaby For A Unicorn. A psychedelic bunch of chaps who like to harness their inner nutter and splurge it out for all to see!! When is a Unicorn not a Unicorn? When it’s a large man in a onesie strapped to a light up bass guitar! They are certainly an interesting sight to behold, but when they start playing you realise that their music is not as mental as their appearance – well maybe lyrically it is, but on an actual composition level, they are an extremely tight, solid and well-rehearsed band of talented players, and their timing both musically and comedically is spot on. It is always nice to see their seagull mascot, Steven, swinging above the stage, and they perform a very lovely song in his honour towards the end of their set, which is always a crowd pleaser and actively encourages audience participation. Very good, very funny and well worth a watch!
After a good dose of psychedelic craziness, it was time for a bit of instrumental prog just to focus the mind – pass the mushrooms will you! Again, we had seen Archetype as one of the guest acts at the Metal 2 The Masses final and had really enjoyed them. They are pretty unique in the sense that there isn’t a lot of completely instrumental bands around currently, and they do serve up a hefty heap of prog for starters, followed by prog, with prog and prog, and a nice glass of prog on the side! But flipping heck they do it well! Intricate chord sequences, tapping, cross rhythms and perfectly timed pauses are enhanced by sections of pure indulgent groove that fill you up – if this set had a calorie count I would be checking in at my local Weightwatchers to shift the added pounds right now! However, in the same way as I would be with a very rich pudding, I can only handle a certain amount of these guys in one go; my brain gets into a bit of an overstimulated mush and can’t cope! But they are superb – go see them!
Our penultimate band of the day were I Assassin, a four-piece hard rock outfit from Shrewsbury. They had great energy on stage and a brilliant sound, and vocalist Adrian Turner’s voice was superb, with a real metal core twang. However, as a band, they were a mix of lots of styles and I wouldn’t like to try and genre them – they certainly weren’t metalcore, but they were heavier than the hard rock we had seen during the rest of the day. They were full of energy and gave everything in their performance, creating a massive sound that was mightily impressive. I love it when a band puts everything into a performance – it grabs hold of you, and I couldn’t resist a bit of a boogie! They were very, very good, and we will definitely be checking them out again.
Bringing proceedings to a close were a band originally from Rome but now based in London – Slave Steel. One word. WOW! Heavy, loud, intricate, fast, growly, energetic and polished, and if that wasn’t enough, they were four guys with Pantene hair and smouldering Italian looks too! I’m sold!! As with Bad Earth earlier, these guys wouldn’t have looked out of place on a much larger stage and would have had the same impact on a much larger crowd. The energy they brought, especially the bass player and vocalist, was superb, and pretty amazing considering it was now heading quickly towards midnight. There was so much movement and vibrance in their performance that it was difficult not to move along with them, and thankfully the select gathering took the opportunity to rock out before bed! I was pretty much on my knees by this point so retreated to old farts corner to nod along approvingly and watch the young uns lose their shit down the front!! (Disclaimer – yes I know I am only 39 but I’ve had a hard life, leave me be!) It was a cracking way to finish! We will definitely be look them up again soon.
After a hard day’s rocking out, it was time to make the short 20 minute drive home again and digest the varied talent we had seen today. We are so lucky to have bands, venues and promoters willing to put on gigs that are, essentially, on our doorstep. Long may it continue! It is a tough time for smaller venues and local music at the moment, with apathy for anything that involves getting off the sofa seemingly at an all-time high. But I am sure that, with persistence, the local scene round here, and elsewhere in the country will thrive again, and I for one will be at the front of the queue with a smile on my face ready and waiting for the next band. With that in mind, I would like to say a huge thanks to Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester and Ian ‘Beany’ North for their hard work, dedication and persistence putting on these shows. They do an amazing job. GET OFF YOUR SOFAS PEOPLE AND COME AND FIND OUT WHAT YOU ARE MISSING!!!
Disclaimer: This review is 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 all parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
All photographs are the property of Beth Jones and PhotograBee – http://www.facebook.com/PhotograBeeImages