Pentre Fest 2020 Day One
Mcleans, Pentre, North Wales
Review by Rick Tilley & Alun Jones
Pictures by Beth Jones
Hi Everyone – It’s Rick.
Before you get into reading about Day One at Pentre Fest I would like send our love to Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester of North East Wales Metal Productions. Very sadly, Fozzy’s Mum passed away just before the Festival yet, in what must have been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family, Fozzy was present on both days manning the sound desk on the acoustic stage and running the event in the professional manner to which we have become accustomed. Many of you reading this know Fozzy and what a gem of a bloke he is and I hope you can all join me in wishing him and his family all the very best. This review is dedicated to Fozzy’s Mum!
It doesn’t seem possible that this was our third trip to Pentre Fest, the last two years seem to have gone by in a blur of gigs, photos, reviews, interviews, albums and laughs but, once again, Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester, Ian ‘Beany’ North and Frank Williams of North East Wales Metal Productions had assembled a ‘must see’ line-up of bands and acoustic acts who would be appearing over the two days at Mcleans, Pentre. Our gratitude and thanks must go out to them for continuing to persevere at a time when getting people to come out and see original music is something of a struggle. I would also like to welcome our colleague, friend and fellow Ever Metal reviewer Alun Jones who was at the Festival on both days and has kindly submitted his thoughts on some of the bands!
Pentre isn’t a big place and, therefore, Mcleans is somewhat stuck in the middle of The Twilight Zone so, within an hour of arriving on Friday evening, it was wonderful to see that so many people were turning up. This was easily the biggest crowd we had seen at the venue for any event. On top of that we knew pretty much everyone so the atmosphere was amazing!
Oliver Carins (Scarfoot)
Local legend Edd Case, who usually hosts the acoustic stage, wasn’t around on the Friday as he was very poorly, and with us also being in the midst of a series of storms bad enough to get their own names the decision had been made to move the second stage inside so after a small delay, Oliver Carins (Vocalist/Guitarist with Scarfoot) got things underway with a wonderful cover of John Butler’s ‘Ocean’. Personally, I think Oliver’s confidence has grown considerably over the last few months but this was the first time I had seen him playing acoustically and a very talented guitarist he is indeed!
In what seemed like seconds Oliver was done and, suddenly, we were all heading to see Cry For Mercy open things up properly on the Main Stage.
Cry For Mercy
If you want to open a Festival with a bang then Rock/Blues power trio Cry For Mercy provide it. We’ve now seen them a fair few times over the last twelve months and they never disappoint. Vocalist/bassist Kevin James Plant has a wonderfully soulful voice with just the right amount of gravel (he can sure play the bass well when he wants to as well), guitarist Andy Cutty lets the riffs fly and the solos fly higher and drummer Steven Taylor provides an ultra-solid beat with plenty of smiles. They treated us to some brand new tracks from their forthcoming EP as well as from last year’s “Overload” release and they all ROCK! It struck me a few weeks back that they remind me a little of Mama’s Boys, who I saw play on a number of occasions in the 1980’s and that’s high praise because I’m a big fan of Pat ‘The Professor’ McManus. Cry For Mercy = Excellent!
Back on the acoustic stage it was time for Oliver again but this time with the rest of Scarfoot. They all know how Beth and I feel but I’m going to say it again. Since new bassist Rhys Jones joined them last year Scarfoot have gone from strength to strength. There is a new found confidence in them and it shines through in their performances. This was a first for them as they had never played a ‘stripped back’ set before but it worked very well. As I have become more familiar with their music it’s fair to say that it isn’t your standard fare. It combines many influences and genres and comes across as occasionally schizophrenic (in a good way) and having two vocalists (drummer Phil Eakins also sings) sets them apart. If you’re familiar with the band Primus, imagine a saner version of them and you’ll be on the path that leads to the road that sits on the hill that Scarfoot inhabit. Lovely guys too!
Lullaby For A Unicorn
Off to the main stage again. This time it was for (drum roll) the one…the only…the leg-ends… Lullaby For a Unicorn!! These four guys have become really good friends over the last couple of years and we love ‘em to bits. Before they went on stage we were treated to lots of stories of their antics the previous week when they played the main stage at HRH Metal and predictably they had us in stitches (if you haven’t already then go and seek out the photos online). For this gig they had a new friend on stage…a synthesizer, apparently something they will be using a lot more in the future. It was a superb addition to their arsenal and turned vocalist Justin into a demented looking/sounding Jean-Michel Jarre! There wasn’t a colouring competition this time but we were treated to the usual array of Party Poppers/Cannons and, in an attempt to get the audience to love them even more than they already do, had bought shots for everyone which they dished out mid-set. Never predictable but always fantastic, Lullaby For A Unicorn are totally unique. In an age with thousands of sound-alike bands we should all be very thankful for that!
After replenishing our drinks (reviewing is very thirsty work I’ll have you know!) we went back to the restaurant…er, I mean acoustic stage, to see the next act, Daniel Moran.
I’ve seen Dan twice before, once with his previous band Ashen Reach and at Beth’s Charity Gig last December with his main band, the wonderful Reaper, but I had yet to see him perform acoustically and what a talent he is, especially for someone so young! He launched into a fabulous set, punctuated with jokes and witty banter and it’s plainly obvious that he lives, eats and breathes music. He has incredible vocal range, is a fabulous guitarist and relishes every moment that he can play and entertain. Finishing with a cover of ‘Why?’ from Devin Townsends’s most recent album “Empath” would be a challenge for most, but not Dan, who pretty much nailed every note and left the audience in awe. He is also a lovely chap so do me a favour and go and watch him wherever you can. People like Dan don’t come around too often!
With the turnaround time between the two stages working like clockwork, by the time I’d been to the loo and had a quick vape the mighty Impavidus were already half way through their opening track over on the main stage. It had been more than a year since I had last seen them live, far too long for my liking, and I was soon banging my head as much as my battered spine would allow me to. Vocalist Michelle Adamson has the voice of an angel and devil rolled into one. Her clean singing is haunting but her growl matches Angela Gossow for venom. In fact, classic era Arch Enemy is who Impavidus remind me of most. They may possess huge groove and power and be as heavy as a stampeding rhino but melody plays a massive part in the music and their songs are incredibly catchy. It was also great to see their ex-drummer, the gentleman that is John Badger, fill in for them one last time! Impavidus really should be more well-known than they are!
After the wonderful set from Impavidus I was hurting and in need of a break so I’m now going to pass you over to Alun who went to watch the final act of the night on the acoustic stage.
Ryuko presented a couple of surprises on Friday night’s acoustic stage. First off, they were fully plugged in and electric. Second, they play more of an alternative rock sound, which was something of a contrast to the majority of other Pentre Fest bands. Readers may not be aware, though, that I am in fact King of Grunge, with my 90’s credentials well proven. Ryuko’s set included some melody and even jangly pop along with heavier riffs, which was an enjoyable diversion in a Dinosaur Jr/Nirvana style. Well performed, Ryuko just need to test their audience further and throw in additional surprises in either a ‘Negative Creep’ or ‘About a Girl’ vein.
With medication taken, drink in hand and the pain in my back calming down a little bit I returned to the main hall to find our ‘Master Of Ceremonies’ Beany hosting The Tequila Game! This was basically The Jäger Game without Jäger!! It involves a large number of slightly inebriated and good-natured MetalHeads rolling pound coins towards a bottle of booze to see who can get the closest. Winner gets the bottle and the money raised goes to charity. It is always good fun and was the perfect lead in to our Friday night headliner…
If you haven’t seen, or at least heard of, Witch Tripper then you must live under a rock at the bottom of the sea. On any given weekend they will be playing somewhere in the UK or Ireland and they never stop. They arrived at Pentre Fest with incredible new drummer, Christopher Reed, in tow and proceeded to do what Witch Tripper does magnificently…blow the roof off. Vocalist/Lead Guitarist Richie Barlow is a manic ball of sweat and hair by the end of the first track and bassist ‘Stoff’ is a slightly more reserved, but no less brilliant rumble of thunder. Together, the three of them play an enticing mix of Stoner, Rock, Metal and Grunge all held together with lashings of heavy groove and they never fail to put a smile on your face, regardless of how many times you’ve seen them. As usual they were on fire and brought the Friday proceedings to a close, just as it had started a few hours earlier, with a bang!
With an audible sigh, that only happens when every band has played a blinder, the crowd started dispersing to different areas of the pub for another swift pint, a smoke, a chat and to chill before heading out into the horrendous weather (the wind sounded like something out of a Hammer Horror film) to waiting Camper Vans, Hotels or homes. It had been an incredibly successful evening not just from a band perspective but also for the number of people who had turned up. As usual, Beth and I were completely knackered and hurting but we both knew that the line-up for Saturday was going to be brilliant…
…To Be Continued!
Disclaimer: This review and photographs are solely the property of Rick Tilley, Beth Jones, Alun 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.