Disclaimer: This photo album is solely the property of Beth Jones. 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.
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.
The Alma Inn July Showcase 2019
The Alma Inn, Bolton
Review by Beth Jones
What is the best way to drown your sorrows about not being sat in a field listening to great bands with the best people? That’s easy – go and sit in a pub and listen to great bands with the best people instead! And that is exactly what we did on Saturday 20th July, by making a trek up to Bolton, to the Alma Inn for the Badgerfest Promotions / Alma Inn Presents July Showcase. It promised a cracking day of music, with some familiar names, and some that were new to us, and it didn’t disappoint!
We had never been to the much talked about Alma Inn before, so weren’t entirely sure what to expect. What we found was this: It is a cosy little venue, and really has the feel of a classic metal pub from the 80’s / 90’s, with some spectacular graffiti art in the beer garden, and interesting toilets! But the atmosphere was instantly warm, and the girl behind the bar, whose name I didn’t catch, was great!
Ninety Nine Mercies
First on the bill, and a new name to us, Ninety Nine Mercies kicked off the proceedings. Being the first band up is always a tough job, and their set was delayed by, and then hampered by a range of technical difficulties and sound issues that were beyond their control, so it was difficult really to get a good judgement of them. They were pretty solid, but had a few timing issues in places, but again this may be because they couldn’t really hear properly what each member was doing. I think I need to see them again to make a better judgement of them. They certainly gave it their all, which is always good to see at that time on a Saturday!
Fresh from their comeback show after a 6 year hiatus, the Severenth guys put on yet another stonking show here, and gained a whole pub full of new fans in the process! They are exciting to watch and musically they are spot on. Peet Bailey, as a front man, is brilliant. He can scream and do clean vocals with ease, and has a very expressive face, which makes the performance hypnotising to watch. The rest of the band are also not afraid of showing their spirit, and don’t hide in the background. Bass player, Ben Jones, provides some mighty powerful backing vocals, and this, combined with the heavy rhythms of Dave Roberts on drums, and some really technical guitar work from Adam Sidor and Jack Somers make for an all-round package that would not look out of place much higher up on a bill. I cannot wait to see these guys again very soon and would love to see them back on the festival circuit next year.
Black Sheets Of Rain
This band had actually recently done an EMQ’s for us, so it was nice to put faces to names and see what they were about. They were very different from what we had seen already today, in so much as they were more a classic hard rock band, so a lot lighter in style. They were very tight, and very good, but my one ask would be that they didn’t look quite so nervous on stage. They all looked slightly terrified, possibly because they were having to follow the Severenth performance we had just seen, but they had no reason to be, as they were very good, and we certainly enjoyed their set!
Lost In Lavender Town
In a showcase, you always like to see a bit of variety, and what better way to do that could there be than to chuck in an instrumental prog band, with three guitarists?! These guys were a bunch of insanely talented musicians who clearly live for noodling! They were like Pink Floyd after a marijuana binge, and it was incredibly relaxing! It was certainly music to chill out too!! I was however disappointed, as they had a brilliant ambient keyboard sound running through each track, but sadly no real life keyboard player, instead opting to use a backing track. Call me an old fuddy duddy if you like, but I do like live music to be 100% live, and if you are going to have keys as an integral part of your music, please use a real keyboard player!
Portrayal Of Ruinn
So, now we were all nicely mellow, it was time to get the shit beaten out of us, in a metal sense, by the insanely heavy Portrayal Of Ruinn. There are times when being a gig photographer can make you realise why the sofa and a nice cup of tea are so comforting – this was one of those times! Trying to take pictures when lots of big gents are erupting into pits in a space not much bigger than my living room is, err, interesting shall we say!! That aside, Portrayal Of Ruinn really know how to put on a great show, and delivered a punchy brand of melodic deathcore to the delighted crowd. Frontman Calvin Fayle has a terrifically manic look in his eyes when performing, and this captured the audience. Whilst vocally they are a little heavy for me, I really enjoyed their performance, and I didn’t die, so that’s a win in my book!
I saw Daybreaker opening last year’s Badgerfest, and was impressed, so I was looking forward to seeing them again today and was glad that Rick also got a chance to see them. Again, they put in a great performance, which produced another lively reaction from the crowd. Bass player Lynden Garrad has a hugely expressive face and looked like he was having a ball on stage, whilst front man Sam Higgins paced the performance area like a man possessed, delivering some hellish hardcore vocals that bang you right in the gut. They are fun to watch. I like them.
Kringer And The Battle Katz
Well! This performance was an experience. I want you to imagine The Sex Pistols, but with more musical skill, and heavier, having a crazed party following a month-long binge of mayhem and debauchery, and that kind of explains this performance! They describe themselves as Idiotcore, and are a mixture of punk, groove and deathcore, which bizarrely works pretty well! Even if you didn’t really like the music, it is impossible not to smile and get drawn in by their madcap insanity. They were perfect for this point in the day when us oldies are starting to flag a little – it peps you up and gives you a second wind! Bonkers. That is all!
We have seen these guys almost as many times as we have seen Lullaby For A Unicorn (and that is quite a few!!), but we never get tired of them. They are pure funky groove metal, and playing music is their life – this comes across in every show, and this one was no exception. It was hot, it was sweaty, but it was so much fun. Their all-round performance is always exceptionally tight, and the now packed out venue lapped it up. Their new drummer, Gary-Eric Evans, has really added a further depth to their music, that has enhanced an already superb product, which is brilliant. Add to this the fact that they are all truly lovely chaps, and it is easy to see how they have endeared themselves to so many audiences around the country and further afield.
Finishing off a great day of metal were Vice, a gang of three young and aspirational local lads, who you can’t help but love. Again, we have seen them a few times now, and absolutely loved their first album, “The First Chapter”, and are eagerly awaiting their second. They are superbly polished, and each show is measured and well thought out. They delivered a sterling performance again here, and it was great to see them getting such a warm reception from the crowd. We had to duck out a little before the end again, because we have no staying power! But we left a venue full of very happy people behind us, with big smiles on our faces.
Again, this was another brilliant day created by the seemingly unstoppable John Badger! There had been a few technical and sound issues towards the beginning of the day, which delayed things a little, but the people didn’t care, and it didn’t take away from the day at all in the end. It was great to see so many familiar and friendly faces, and to make some new acquaintances along the way. The metal scene in Manchester is alive and well and totally thriving, thanks to a host of brilliant underground bands, and the tireless work of people like John Badger, and James and Jayne at 0161 Manchester Underground Metal Community, and it really is a joy to be close enough, location wise, to be part of it.
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 both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Witch Tripper, Lullaby For A Unicorn and Bad Earth
Live At G21
The Saddle Bar, Chester
Review by Beth Jones
After an interesting heat of M2TM 24 hours previous, we were in the mood for a good dose of proper metal to knock away the lingering winter chill that was in the air and reset our minds! We headed over the border to Chester, and The Saddle Bar, for NEW Metal Productions latest gathering of banging bands. I remember this bar from many years ago, when it used to be one of my haunts in my mis-spent youth, but back then it was called the Chester Bells, and was a bit spit and sawdust, so it was interesting to see what the new owners had done with it. All the reports we had heard had been positive. Tonight, the Saddle was hosting two gigs, a UFO tribute act in the main bar, and our destination, Bad Earth, Lullaby For A Unicorn and Witch Tripper in the old stables out the back, which is now lovingly called the G21 bar!
It was an interesting little space! It looked a bit like the dungeon of Madame Elektra, with red walls, black ceilings and drapes, and elaborate chandeliers! It just needed some whips and a gimp mask for the full effect! The floor was a little uneven, which made it a bit tricky for Rick, but it was still a nice sized space, and full of friendly faces. We have seen all three of these bands on many occasions now, and have got to know them all, and love them all, so we knew it was going to be a good night.
First on the bill was Bad Earth, now thankfully back to a full quota of members, which was really great to see – they work so well together as a three piece and we are so happy that bassist Rob has managed to come back to the fold. As predicted, they smashed it. The sound was brilliant, and their performance was tight. My only woe was the lighting, in so much as there pretty much wasn’t any! Red walls and no lighting do not make a happy photographer! Considering how red everything was, the air around me was very, very blue I can tell you!!!!
IMPORTANT EDIT – For one reason and another this review is slightly late in being posted to our website and yesterday, 6th May, there was an announcement on the Bad Earth Facebook page that bassist Rob has again parted ways with the rest of the band. We wish them all the best in finding a replacement soon! – Rick
Lullaby For A Unicorn
Ah, my boys, my boys. What can I say? Yet again a splendid performance, full of chunky riffs, crazy vocals, and mess! Silly string, party poppers and party cannons aplenty were released over the crowd and it really kick started the party atmosphere, as there were at least four notable people in the room celebrating their birthdays that night. These guys are so much fun, and I love them, both as a band, and now as new found friends. They really are my kind of people!
The North’s hardest working band of the moment gave us another energy packed, full on groove fest! It was by this point incredibly warm in the room and Rick and I had to decamp half way through as he was hurting, and I was getting a touch wobbly, but luckily, we could still hear them from out in the beer garden! They are so good, so groovy, so tight, and their new drummer is amazing, and has brought a new dimension to them as a group. He also has lovely hair!
We decided not so stay for the UFO tribute act, as the main bar was so packed, which was great to see in the sense of people coming out to see live music, but not so great in the sense of being a small person and trying not to get squished to death! Also, there is an old law in Chester that has never (if tales are to be believed) been revoked – if a Welshman is found within the city walls after midnight, they can be shot through the head with a crossbow! I wasn’t up for taking any chances, and having an arrow through my brain would be somewhat of an inconvenient hinderance to my writing and photography! We had had a really fun night and were glad that we had experienced this new venue.
Plusses for me were the fact that the G21 is separate from the main pub, as we didn’t have to do too much fighting through crowds, and also the sound yet again was superb – thanks to Fozzy for this. Minuses with the venue are the flooring, and lack of lighting, but these are both easily rectifiable. A great night was had by all!
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 both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities..
All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images