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Kevin Zen
12th October 2012

denim and leather festival

So there I was – having severed my hypnotised gaze from the laptop, happily driving a few hours down the M6 to Wolverhampton for the Denim and Leather Festival, when I realised I was suitably attired in next generation denim and leather from the clearance rack of TK's.

Occasionally checking the kink in the brim of my cowboy hat – (which I didn't need a third of a century ago) I wondered who the feck would fly from Tokyo to Wolver for what was to be an exceptional showcase of British Heavy Metal.

Being afflicted with low impulse control I walked up to the first SE Asian guy and asked if he'd been recently exposed to radiation from Fukushima: "Nah mate, I'm from Landan", was the reply - then I vaguely recognised Toshi as a face from the London Rock scene of the late 90s.

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I eventually found Ko, as he was the other half of the 2% of ethnic Japanese attendees. (I ticked the box for the other main demographic)

Ko was a hardcore NWOBHM fan and loved every band on the bill, especially Playing Mantee and Reppon, it was a one sided conversation as those were the only English words he knew. What a stud!

Danny Hynes from Reppon was the next familiar face to me and effortlessly introduced the outstanding Agincourt at the start of my evening's filming which I edited and uploaded to YouTube the next day. You can see it at the bottom of this page.

Life is cruel and aging rock fans bestowed with the walking sticks of time's toll beg the question: Is the 'happening scene' a fascist/ageist game run by the law of the unwelcome jungle?

Up the road a half empty Wulfrun Hall glumly applauded Rival Sons whereas a half full crowd at the Slade Rooms were genuinely appreciative.

Every band was worthy of the biggest venues in the country and absolute gems were being continually thrown out to the audience.

Agincourt did the genre proud, even though they were formed in the 90s. They instantly pushed the ticket price out of my mind and later bands on the bill made me think it should have been much higher – at least £25. The musical ability on show warmed the cockles of my heart.

Richard E. Toy, Russ Weaver, Paul Anderson and Steve Riley performed very well rehearsed tracks from their (IMHO) five star album 'Angel Of Mons', impeded only by the health and safety decibel meter limiting the lead guitar level. Get 'em Googled!

The sound balance improved when Gaskin started cranking out top quality Metal tunes with lightning guitar from Andy Solomon solidly backed (I kid you not) by Norman/Cross. Is that the perfect name for a Heavy Metal drummer and bassist partnership or what? Paul Gaskin is a gifted scribe of classic Heavy Metal and deserves an accolade for the anthems he has written – 'I'm No Fool' up to the present day 'The Contract' from their latest release 'Edge Of Madness'.

I was knocked out by these bands with their all round ability and so went for a bite to eat where I met a relative of the next band's guitarist. The couple were on a world trip from New Zealand and had just nipped up from staying in London for the gig – small world – great folks!

Praying Mantis had the best sound (and lighting) of the evening, because they had reduced the overall back line volume, being perfectly balanced for their multi BV's and well honed twin leads of Tino Troy and Andy Burgess. Mike Freeland out sang Geoff Tate of Queensryche for my money and really lifted the crowd in unison. They have an exceptional track record of classic, melodic hard rock and I urge everyone to check out their latest release 'Sanctuary'. They are true stalwarts from the 70s without any hiatus and to me they personify what every serious rock musician aspires to.

The crowd was pumped up after Praying Mantis and the bar swelled with stories of overloaded synapses and still being alive. The legendary Krusher Joule was the host for the evening and played his impressive eclectic sound track between the bands.

It always amazes me why people pay for a ticket and remain outside the stage room when one of the main bands begins and when Weapon hit the stage Danny Hynes made a valid comment about posers at the bar. The DJ Roger Fauske muttered to me "Oh dear" as the charismatic Irish firebrand made his feelings known.

They proceeded to set the stage alight with PJ Phillips and Ian Sweeting applying a vice like grip on the rhythm motor that drives these highly satisfying heavy rockers. Jeff Summers gets compression on his guitar, which is enviable to say the least, and is highlighted perfectly in the opening riff of their 2011 release 'Ready4U'.

Shades of Dokken (minus the depression) strike me and a momentary wonder about how the feck Danny Hynes does it and a tangential thought about the altar he and Krusher sacrifice at to remain so follicly gifted – bastards (poser rock fans are the biggest bitches you know).

Weapon's fans were the most vociferous of the night and were rewarded with a well-crafted, high energy, hard rocking set complete with Southern Irish charm.

Roger Fauske (the Viking rock DJ from and Rock Rotation Radio on StroudFM) was responsible with Jeff Summers and Reuben Archer for organising this jewel of an event and officially introduced Krusher who proceeded to crack everybody up with a wonderful delivery of expletive superlatives (some of which I left out of the video because I wanted my Mum to see it). He asked the audience to go crazy and shit themselves for Stampede who blew the whole night off it's head.

On the intro, the bassist Colin Bond performed a mesmerising solo of harmonics that I never knew was possible and I feel sure the entire audience missed it. He delivered the best live bass sound I've heard in ages – I was made up even before Rob Wolverson started riffing with Chris Clowsley and I thought – bastards – they're fecking brilliant.

They cherry picked from nearly 50 classic rock tracks dating back to 1981 and really brought it home on their own turf. Particularly impressing me with 'Send Me Down An Angel' which was released last year - an absolute classic Metal anthem.

Reuben Archer – Metal Legend! How the frig does he do it? Blinding finale? Yes!

I Redbulled it back up to Yorkshire in record time on the euphoria of having caught some high calibre rock footage and hooking up with the heart of British Heavy Metal.

Click here for the Denim And Leather Festival Gallery...


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