It’s a civilised start at Station 18 Festival on Saturday. Doors at 2:00 pm with the first band on 30 minutes later. That gives time for a wander around Swansea and a bite to eat without rushing.
Station 18 Festival
Hangar 18, Swansea – Saturday, 21 October 2023
Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings
The team are hard at work, though, and no one more so than co-host Kelly, not in the best mood after discovering that compere Mike has done a typical bloke thing and thrown away the chilli that had been specially prepared for the event.
Cue a few stern looks, a hefty serving of remorse, and some frantic chopping. But all’s well, and the chilli is as tasty as ever.
Edit The Tide
Tasty could also be the word applied to the riffs that Edit The Tide serve up as the starters to the afternoon. The Bridgend alternative rockers fill the room with their soaring melodies and crushing progressive sound.
They’ve got pedigree, support slots with Skindred, Light The Torch, Funeral For A Friend, and Bring Me The Horizon, amongst the credits. Vocalist Benjamin James was heard warming up in the gents minutes before taking the stage, but it’s worked as he turns in a fine performance.
There’s confidence amongst the band as they race through eight songs, including the latest single Skylines and the closing track Strangest Call. It’s a strong start to the afternoon, and Edit the Tide make quite the impression.
Good time hard rocking follows, with the seasoned veterans Poole Vigilantes having made their way from the South Coast. It’s worth the trip, for the band, vocalist Neil Law, Matt Birley on guitar, bassist (and Welshman) Martin Davies and drummer Terry Bernard turn in a fabulous set of well-performed rock ‘n’ roll, which gets the whole venue smiling and dancing.
They pack a heavy punch in the best possible style with an AC/DC stomp. Scotsman Neil is a confident frontman, able to spread his banter about being banned 30 times from Facebook (30 Days) and songs about getting drunk (Overboard).
It’s singalong closer, We Came Here, which cements their status as another band welcome at Station 18, and its job well done.
The Modern Rogues
Although the overall vibe is very much the NWOCR at Station 18, there’s room for all types of music, and The Modern Rogues change the style once more with their set of Americana and Blues.
With new guitarist Sam (“I don’t know his surname,” admits singer Josh Jones) stepping in only two days before, it’s a credit to the band that put on a stellar show.
Sam’s guitar work is impeccable, and from the opening song Light It Up to the closing bars of Having A Good Time, the only slight challenge is a question about which key End Of The Line is in.
If this is what they are like with two days of practice, then it’s clear that The Modern Rogues needs to be seen again. Reminiscent of the amazing Chris Buck of Cardinal Black, Sam is the star of the show. It’s the sum of the parts that make this band well worth the watch, though, and if you like a little country with your rock, these guys need to be on the radar.
Mikey Ball & The Company
More music from the South Coast next, as Bournemouth’s Mikey Ball & The Company keep the quality high. They have a passionate style, with Mikey Ball front and centre and with nearly a decade of gigging, making them a seasoned and polished band.
It’s perfect for the late afternoon, with music to watch and nod along to as you have a long drink. Ball’s vocals work as the perfect foil for the band, who are linked in tight. Smiles seem to be the order of the day, and these four are no exception.
It’s infectious, as the barrier sees fans move forward to check out the likes of Misunderstood, Pressure, and One More Night. All songs from their 2022 album Through The Night, which I am sure gets picked up by a few new fans. Excellent stuff from start to finish.
Black Water Redemption
More familiar to me was the rocky edge of Black Water Redemption. I’ve seen these guys before, most notably on a bitterly cold night at The Patriot, where they warmed the venue up with their incendiary hard rock.
It’s no different this evening as they blast out of the traps with All Guns Blazing. For 40 minutes, they wow the slowly swelling crowd with dual guitar solos, poses galore, and a Southern tinge that coats their bluesy swagger.
Tyler Hains rarely stops when he’s not behind the microphone, venturing onto the very edge of the stage to communicate with the crowd. Devil On Your Shoulder is an anthem and gets the desired effect, plenty of folks now singing along, and even the odd outbreak of shuffling on the dance floor to boot.
Their cover of Mountain’s Mississippi Queen is now a staple and is good enough for it to remain in their set for a good while yet. Tighter than the skirts on Wind Street later that evening, Black Water Redemption remain a fantastic watch.
Another band who have made a good effort to get here are Oxfordshire trio Molly Karloff. They’ve been making waves in the NWOCR scene for some time now, and they receive a strong welcome.
I’ll be honest, they don’t stir me in the same way as some of the other bands, but their groove-soaked rock isn’t a bad listen by any stretch. New bassist Nico Martin is certainly a neat fit, adding power and the required rock star poses to his solid bass lines. He fits in well; in fact, I had to check previous photos to confirm he was the new boy!
With new album Breaking Out freshly released, there is a bounce in the band’s step, and they don’t disappoint with a set that gets the heads nodding, Martin even taking a trip into the pit towards the end.
She Burns Red
Whilst others are just getting their beers on, I’m now relying on a second wind and a cuppa for the final run-in. Luckily, it’s Scots She Burns Red who pick the tempo back up with a vibrant set that fires the temperatures back into the stratosphere.
Vocalist/bassist James McCulloch cuts the most imposing figure, his kilt and red striped face paint making him look like a lost extra from Braveheart. You wouldn’t argue with the man, and yet he has a voice like an angel.
Along with co-vocalist Andy Moore, the two steer She Burns Red through a set that draws from September’s fine Out Of Darkness album. Melodic but with a steely hard rock underbelly, hooks and anthems fill the room.
As they soar through Heavy Is The Head, Crack The Sky and Out Of Darkness, it’s a journey we are glad that they have endured. A fine set, and they’d be a welcome addition to any show.
It’s a testimony to the organisers of this fantastic festival that they can pull in the calibre of headliners they do. It’s Ashen Reach who have the honour of closing out the latest chapter, and after a much-delayed start, they finally get into gear to the delight of an army of fans.
Ashen Reach bring a Modern Metal sound to Hangar 18, with a heavier edge than most before them. There are death growls, thick, heavy riffs, as well as plenty of samples that blend their powerful style with a melodic delivery that appeals to many.
They throw in the new single Neophobia, which goes down a storm, alongside a smattering from 2020’s Homecoming. It’s the title track that gets the crowd completely stoked; such is the emotion that it emits.
They finish to a heroic ovation as recent single Ghosts brings the evening and the festival to a tumultuous finale.
The event is back on the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, promising a bigger and better time. I’ve already booked my slot, and it may be something that you will be tempted with as well.
Station 18 Festival returns from Friday, 3 May to Sunday, 5 May 2024. Some early bird tickets remain.