AOR/Prog and Blues Festival – Thursday 20th March 2014
Home grown trio, The Kix, opened up proceedings on Thursday evening to get the atmosphere warmed up. Playing tracks off their EP ‘Lady Luck’, you can understand why their following stretches as far as Europe. ‘Louder than Words’ proved to be an audience winner as did their cover of Queen’s ‘Fat Bottom Girls’. Having supported the likes of Saxon and Dr Feelgood, Sam, Charlotte and Harriet may just fill an opening in the all girl rock band arena.
Up next was Tax The Heat. I have seen these guys a couple of times, more recently supporting The Union and always enjoyed their set. This strong rhythm and blues band really held the crowd well with solid vocals and a storming Bluesy rock drummer holding everything together. Loved ‘Caroline’ and their new track ‘Landslide’ held my attention with some nice tempo changes.
Meanwhile over in Prog… South Wales rockers Sankara took to the stage to open the Prog Pre-Party. Although on the Prog bill, Sankara are hardly your archetypal Prog band, which lead singer Gareth Jones readily admits. We were, however treated to several numbers off their album ‘Guided By Degrees’, a few of which ventured, much past the four minute mark. At this stage I must give credit to the bass player and drummer Mathew Whitney and Chris Summerill, who after only eight hours of rehearsing with the band, performed magnificently. ‘Guilded By Gaslight’ according to Gareth is about “shagging” and when they played ‘Lullaby For A Lost Boy’, this was written on a life experience. The lack of harmonies left Gareth somewhat exposed at times, but I liked these guys and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a watch or listen. In fact I am listening to the album as I write this and it’s good.
Jump (from High Wycombe) followed with a nine song set and again, whilst not out and out Prog merchants, they were certainly appealing to the Prog audience. With twelve albums and countless live performances under their belts, a polished set was expected and pretty much delivered in a relaxed and laid back storytelling kind of way. Vocals reminded me so much of early Gabriel fronted Genesis with hints of Marillion and no song reflected this more than ‘Free At Last’ from the “A Man Was Made” album. Jump tick a lot of boxes, so I may just have to check out some of their albums.
Back in AOR and Screaming Eagles were on and if they were anything like last November for HRH Cirque du Rock, we were going to be in for a treat. And that’s just what we had. With stunning bass riffs and heavy drums, these Northern Irish rockers stormed through their set to the sounds of ‘All The Way’, ‘Hungry for More’ and ‘Down the River’ from their CD ‘From the Flames’, even finding time to cover Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ much to everyone’s surprise, but they did……and they did it very well with Chris’ spot on vocals!
Captain Blackbeard describe their music as “melodic kick-ass rock” and I am inclined to agree. Playing ‘Rock Is My Life’ off their first album ‘Best Thing You’ve Never Heard’, is a stunning anthem style track that we call can relate to. ‘American Dream’ has a glam glitzy feel and bass player, Robert Majd, looks the part too.. 2013 was taken up mainly with recording the new album ‘Before Plastic’ which due for release in May.
Final band for the night for me was Dante Fox. A five piece female fronted band, Sue knows how to belt out the vocals strong and hard and this can be seen quite magnificently on ‘Remember’. With the release of their double A sided single to coincide with their HRH AOR performance, ‘A Love Affair’ & ‘How Will You Know (Where To Find Me)’, ‘How Will You Know’ is the “go get” track for me. An amazing set with amazing vocals. Next for Dante Fox is the Bike 4 Life Fest on 27 April 2014 at RAF Cosford.
In Prog relatively recent London Prog rockers Synaethesia and neo-proggers Credo, played us toward the end of the day along with the day one disco to round off a cracking start to the event and to send us to bed thinking of things other than the appalling Welsh weather!
Words and Photography by Lisa and Rob Billingham (Billibee Creative)