Firevolt Festival 2023 – Friday. When Rivers Meet, Massive Wagons and Royal Republic close out an epic Friday at Whitebottom Farm just outside of Manchester.
When Rivers Meet
Another first for me tonight are Essex band When Rivers Meet, who have been on my radar for quite some time now, and they didn’t disappoint. Essentially a duo, the husband and wife team of Grace and Aaron Bond are joined on stage by a rhythm section for their live performances which includes their producer Adam Bowers on bass duties.
Collecting accolades and awards for fun in 2021 in the Blues category, they have gone from strength to strength since the release of their debut album, We Fly Free, and by the time they break into opener Play My Game, the Trooper stage is rammed.
Grace Bond possesses a sensational voice and is simply mesmerising as she shimmy’s across the stage, making eye contact with the front row. This lady knows how to work a crowd, and she uses everything she has to do it.
Never Coming Home is next up, with Grace hitting the high notes with ridiculous ease, and Aaron Bond lays down a sliding riff for the stomping Did I Break The Law, which gets the crowd moving.
Take Me To The River, and Battleground highlight the obvious connection between the two, bouncing off each other and working the songs. Innocence Of Youth sees Aaron bring out the quirky cigar box guitar. With its sliding tones an absolute delight, these songs are so strong and just invite you to get involved.
Without songs, you have nothing, and these guys have them in abundance. It’s not just about the voice with Grace Bond. This talented lady also breaks out the guitar, mandolin and violin during the remainder of the set, which includes He’ll Drive You Crazy, My Babe, Free Man, Walking On The Wire, Perfect Stranger and Lost & Found.
Set closer Testify brings a magnificent response from the crowd, who lapped up every minute of the hour-long set. I simply can’t wait to catch this band again.
Headlining the Big Top stage tonight are a band that needs no introduction to anyone. Massive Wagons are at the top of their game and have worked themselves hard over the last ten years or so to get where they are right now, which is a bona fide headlining heavyweight band.
They enter the stage one by one, each to their own huge ovations from the packed-out tent, leaving Baz Mils to run out last, inevitably to the loudest roar.
Gone Are The Days from the Triggered album, with its big chorus (which Wagons song hasn’t?), had the crowd involved from the off, and before the end of the song, it became apparent that we were going to be watching silhouettes for the rest of the evening.
My one gripe about the Big Top was that, to be honest, the lighting wasn’t great. All the equipment was there, but I just think maybe the colour choice wasn’t the best. Lots of reds and not enough whites led to quite a dark stage throughout most of the day, leaving the photographers praying for a white light to capture a decent image.
Now couple this with the fact that the Wagons had brought their own stage ramps that incorporated spotlights at audience eye level, then add in the dry ice factor, and it became pretty much a visual blur for long periods.
But, back to the music, old favourite Tokyo was up next, which kept the crowd involved. Germ, ASSHOLE, Fuck The Haters, and Please Stay Calm got the venting out of the way before the Benji-less Generation Prime concluded the Triggered contingent.
This led the way clear for an overload of Wagon classics in Bangin’ On Your Stereo, Billy Balloon Head, China Plates, the hard-hitting Nails and Back to the Stack, which had everyone raising their glass to Rick.
They finished off triumphantly with In it Together, a song which describes exactly the siege mentality the band have built up to get to where they are now. Everybody, the band, the fans, as shown tonight, literally are all in it together.
Royal Republic from Sweden were an unknown quantity to me, and though they’ve been around for over a decade and even with a main stage Download appearance under their belt, I had no idea what to expect.
Closing the first day’s proceedings on the smaller Trooper stage, they bounded on looking like extras from Happy Days, with frontman Adam Grahn wearing a thick black moustache. This explains why a couple of ladies in the audience were walking around before the start handing out stick-on moustaches. Funny shit!
At this point, things weren’t looking great, but when they kicked off, their high-energy songs and performance reeled me in pretty quickly. The capacity crowd were lapping them up in droves, obviously knowing what to expect, and I have to admit Grahn was quite endearing with his comical facial expressions.
I’m pretty sure they opened up with Fireman & Dancer as I remembered the catchy line “Riddle me this, riddle me that,” and although not strictly my bag, we were at a festival, beer was involved, and we were having fun. All boxes ticked, really.
I suppose for the benefit of anyone like me who must have been on Mars for the last ten years, Royal Republic are the bastard child of Electric Six and The Hives. Great fun at the time but not something I’d usually seek out, if you know what I mean. I’ll definitely catch them on another festival bill, and who knows, they may even grow on me.
Firevolt Festival 2023 was held over the weekend of 11-13 August 2023. MetalTalk’s Dave Bonney reports from Whitebottom Farm.
All Photography: Linda McDermott
All MetalTalk Firevolt Festival 2023 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/firevolt-festival-2023.
For more details, visit the Firevolt MCR website.