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!