Opening the Second Day of a festival is always a challenge, especially playing to those NWOCR Livefest survivors of a very late evening enjoying the convivial atmosphere of the nearby Giffard Arms.
Very much like the previous day’s openers, Gallows Circus, Electric Black smashed it. Hailing from Hitchin, this most cohesive quartet comprises Ali Shiach (Vocals and guitar), Jonny Bryant (Guitar), Ryan Trotman (Bass) and Matt Butler (Drums).
Commencing with what could be considered a most appropriate titled number in World Ain’t So Heavy, the bluesy intro yielded to a sonic intensity that blew all of Saturday’s excesses away.
Their sound can be best described as a gritty reimagining of blues-influenced classic rock propelled by blazing twin guitars, growling bass and relentless crashing drums, further elevated by Jonny’s prominent flowing soloing.
Much of the afternoon’s material was plucked from the forthcoming album Late Night Lightning, which is slated for a January release. The latest single, Take The Roof Off, has the sound you’d expect of a suvvernised anthem to a Friday evening.
“I’ll be hurting when the sun comes up” was probably written with a fair proportion of the early arrivals in mind.
We were treated to the line of the weekend mid-set with “The Drummer needs a bit more of everything in his monitor. What he means is he needs more of my vocal.”
Take It To The Grave was introduced as about the crews of the Enola Gay, Bockscar and other supporting aircraft who did not appreciate the enormity of the devastation they had unleashed until after the event. In subsequent years, they never spoke of their feelings, hence the song title. Powerful stuff on numerous levels.
The driving Sick Of Myself was another number where its introduction informed us, “We filmed the video in this very building.” Not just an extraordinary music venue.
Finishing off on Not Afraid To Die, an impacting weighty number whose skilful composition most impressively painted so many other musical colours.
A truly impressive appearance which drew an appreciative response. I imagine and hope that many of those present will be keen to catch them again.
It had been far too long – read that as pre-Lockdown – since I had enjoyed the sounds and endearing personality of Loz Campbell.
It is fair to describe her sound as a consummate fusion of indie-edged power punk and gritty rock riffs delivered in an accessible, effervescent manner.
The opener, The World Was Made To Destroy You, fitted that description perfectly with the incisive guitars rasping above the flowing bass and impelling drums.
Back Biting The Bullet was just so ridiculously infectious and, on reflection, one of the set’s highlights. To her left, the magnetic presence of bassist Steve Pickles was already making him a leading contender for ‘Coolest Dude of the Weekend.’
The sparkling Evil to my ear was akin to a supercharged Bangles or The Go-Gos and, given appropriate exposure, would generate tremendous crossover attention. One could tie your feet up in all manner of knots attempting to bop along to this one.
The captivating Bad Girl, her first-rate contribution to the CD, was delivered in rip-roaring style with bags of attitude pouring through. I loved how the riffing ascended in a brief but climactic ending. Up there with Bullet as a set highpoint.
The marching Coffee Cup from her most recent EP found many in the crowd dancing along, quite a feat for this time of the day. The Twilight Zone between Hangover and Let’s Go Again.
The penultimate number was an effervescent take on The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb. “I had done 8 Shots,” Loz said, recalling the occasion she was invited to jam it when she supported Cherie Currie. “I never drink before I play, but on this occasion, I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to play it. Went alright, though.” Phew!
Steve’s acrobatics were becoming ever more pronounced as the set progressed, with frequent trips to the drum riser and lengthening leaps off. However, the set concluded in triumphant style when, after Generic Girl, Loz, with the aid of her trusty cohorts, Steve and guitarist Will Price, formed a Scorpions-type human pyramid before she leapt off and brought a warmly received set to a spectacular close.
The sole remaining artists that I had yet to witness live were Devonian progressive grungers Ethyrfield.
Comprising Zach Cornish (vocals and bass), Ben Cornish (guitar) and Dan Aston (drums), they first came to my attention a few years ago on an acoustic livestream. At the time, I was mesmerised by the beautiful, haunting harmonies and aghast at the relative youth of the performers.
Thus, I was extremely curious to see how that ambience would now transfer to a full electric environment. Those vocal harmonies were naturally abundant throughout, only this time sitting resplendently atop arrangements that were almost polyphonic in nature.
The introductory chords of Sunstroke were overturian. The grungy elements were already to the fore while Zach and Ben’s vocals alternated magnificently before harmonising once more on the chorus.
Free The Dog positively galloped along with Laying On Of Hands continuing in a similar vein until the number was taken down to a whimsical folky passage prior to bursting back into life with the most anthemic vivacity.
“We’re going to slow things down. This one [Remembering] is on the CD and is one of our best songs,” explained Ben. This drew an instant response from Zach: “You only said that cos you wrote it!” Along with Electric Black earlier, one of the lines of the weekend.
Overgrown possessed Alice in Chains style vocals, and the harmonies within intensified as the guitar built correspondingly. It all grew into a work of majestic beauty.
“Back to the heavy stuff.” Serenity had the most beautiful mid-section solo from Ben, which also served to accentuate the re-entry of the vocal harmonies and progressed onto a rousing conclusion. Things were rounded off in a similar fashion with the magnificently elaborate Bitter Wishbone.
Post-set, one could sense the range of perspectives in the audience. For those experiencing them for the first time, many may fall into two camps: the newly converted or those whose senses were so overloaded they require further exposure to process and appreciate the engulfing soundscape.
They are certainly a band that should be afforded far more than a casual listen. One could not help but be impressed by their talent and virtuosity, and they were fully deserving of the reception they received.
NWOCR Livefest 2023 was held over the weekend of 23-24 September 2023. MetalTalk’s Sophie James reports from KK’s Steel Mill
All Photography: Jason Samuels
All MetalTalk’s NWOCR Livefest 2023 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/nwocr-livefest-2023.