Due to unavoidable circumstances which happen when you least expect them, I must offer a big apology for the delay in publishing this review. Well, better late than never, let’s get down to it and tell you all about the first GRAVITY FESTIVAL. Held at one of the finest venues we have at the moment, THE STATION in Cannock and organised by Shaun Haynes, with KOL PROMOTIONS and ROCKPULSE, we have been waiting for this one for some time. After an introduction from our compere, the incomparable PETE K MALLY, it’s 1pm and time for the first band.
JESSE’S DIVIDE have been around since 2011, the 3 guys from Stoke On Trent are pretty honoured to be opening the festival. Si Ward on vocals and guitar leads the introduction with ‘Collider’ its mean and dirty from the off. Taking no prisoners, the rhythm is steady as we plunge into ‘Space Wolf’ more cosmic, but still has this amazing fuzzy and distorted essence. Most of the tracks today are from the bands recent EPs and ’Strange Alchemy’ is one of them that stands out. They finish on the pulsating ‘Protector’ which they thump out, again with no mercy. Fast, messy and technically superb, very enjoyable. Rob Barnes on drums and bassist Nick Cotton make up the threesome and yes they were different.
I have seen MAD HAVEN before and love the enthusiasm that bursts out when they play. The young Welsh trio get going with the 3 tracks from the 2018 ‘Light It Up’ multi single. Title track is a straight out rocker, with finger picking and easy listening vocals from frontman Tom Rogowski, a nice instrumental middle and it leads perfectly into ‘Whats Left Behind’ that has more of a hook. Alex Rogowski on drums keeps a cool tempo and bassist Morgan Owen-Rees is a marvel to watch. ‘Into The Blaze’ continues that early AC/DC kind of stickiness, with a rapid and boot kicking attitude. Another single produced ‘Partner In Crime’ which is eerily Queensryche in places and ‘The Truth’ an excellent little number, that tells you Mad Haven have quite an impressive catalogue of material already. ‘Are You Ready?’ is the new single, which the crowd in the Station seem to warm to. Yes, there’s already a lot of punters packed into the room and as they finish on ‘Run Away’ Morgan races around to join them for a bit of up close and personal. Appearing at the Winters Storm festival at the end of November, Mad Haven are fast becoming favourites on the scene and rightly so. Tremendous band, so uplifting to watch.
TRIDENT WATERS all the way from London are a three man outfit that just blow you away. Frontman Andrew Knightley has charisma, no doubt about it. They perform many from the excellent ‘Hollywood To Vegas’ LP, including the new single ‘Futility’ and the Cannock audience, even at 3pm, are getting into the groove. Wilson Zaidan adds bass that accompanies Knightley’s rather outstanding guitar and drummer Greg Zaka is not left out with some fine and unrelenting sticks. Trident Waters remind me of those bands that used to drool over in the 70’s, with the ability to lose you in psychedelic and mind blowing experiences. Totally enjoyed the set.
FALSE HEARTS have caused quite a stir, seeing as they have only been together since 2016. With Emma Hodgson on vocals and sharing guitar duties with Ali Westwood, they have already produced an EP ‘Dirty Little Soul’ from which, a couple of songs are played today. But they get underway with ‘Fall Down’ with its low and mournful vocals, that Emma produces so effortlessly. Soft and smooth, she does have a voice that gets into your head. ‘Addicted To Pain’ is full of passion and quite dramatic and they end on ‘Cynical Love’ which has more pace and rocks along with a groove. Already winning awards and a full calendar until the end of the year, it’s superb to catch them here at Gravity today. This is turning out to be quite a rewarding festival.
And now for something completely different, 4TH LABYRINTH are a modern day progressive Hawkwind. They have toured with Focus, Carl Palmer and Wisbone Ash, but are versatile enough to have also supported Dan Reed and FM. Marcel Kunkel takes centre stage on his keyboards and looks so flamboyant in Top Hat and a glitzy jacket. On bass is Claudia McKenzie, also fabulous to watch as she gets into the groove. The set is made up almost entirely from the latest album ‘Better’ and after ‘Intro’ which is a building Instrumental, they play ‘This Is Rock’n’Roll’ which I suppose it is in a way. A light, almost pop take on R&R, but it’s a pleasant enough start. The title track ‘Better’ has more prancing keyboards, definitely a change from what’s gone before and a refreshing one, they are having fun and the audience go with it. ‘Make It Mine’ takes us a more downhill path, heavy and poignant sounds echo around the room. The cover of ‘Live And Let Die’ is executed in the best possible way and I feel the Cambridge band do fill a gap in todays music market. Back in the 70’s we were used to seeing prog based bands on the general bill, these days genres are separated far too much, so the many of the younger generation don’t get to experience a wider range of music. 4th Labyrinth delight us with ‘Rule The World’ from their debut album ‘Quatto Stagioni’, a slow and melodic ballad, that ends the show on a plus. I liked them, maybe a bit of a brave choice, but it paid off for me.
FUGITIVE Are a melodic biker band from Liverpool, that have been around since the early 90’s, but recently have been given something of a new lease of life. A new album, ‘The Awakening’ is turning heads and here at Gravity we get to hear most of it. ‘Light It Up’ is a classic rock anthem, Michael Angel’s vocals are up there, equalling the quality of a lot of well known crooners. Fast and spot on guitar picking from Ranko ‘Chip’ Veltro on ‘The Weekend’ and pounding drums by way of ‘Al Catraz’ I love that name. ‘Racing The Rain’ is a slower and more AOR, while the ballad ‘Two Hearts’ stands out as one of their best numbers. Impressive build up for ‘All Fired Up’ which is a messy rocker and they up the pace even further on ‘Pay Back’. That was a massive set, so impressed.
WICKED STONE Are firm favourites with a huge fanbase. Recently they took time out and have only just returned from their hiatus, with new members and a revitalised attitude. A new EP ‘Devil In Me’ has some amazing tracks and of course we get to sample a few this evening. However they begin with a couple from 2017 off Aint No Rest’ being ‘The End’ and ‘Set Me On Fire’ which are perfect introductions. Joe Hawx has amazing appeal, his vocals bellow out smooth and piercing. Drummer Olly Smith remains in command on ‘Couldn’t Take Anymore’ while Joe Davies and Dave Winchester share six string duties, completing the band is Tom Lane on bass. ‘Saviour’ is another new one with some meaty guitar and the new single ‘Unchained’ pushes the boundaries, the vocals are so pure on this one. Back to the magnificent ‘Aint No Rest’ to finish with the title track and ‘Another Round’. The latest recruits have gelled and Wicked Stone have emerged even more positive than before.
COLLATERAL have just risen and risen this last year or so, already winning a slot on the Bon Jovi cruise and countless awards. They have a unique blend of softer rock and easy going melodies, combined with killer looks. Vocal god Angelo Tristan is so pleasant on the eye, he is joined by Jack Bentley Smith on bass and guitarist Todd Winger, who are also pretty good to watch. However, take nothing away from the music, the songs and performance justify the attention they are receiving of late. ‘Mr Big Shot’ is from the ‘Collateral’ LP which is due for release in February. Typical Collateral sounding, it is full of punchy guitar and harmonies. ‘Going With The Wind’ and ‘Midnight Queen’ from the previous EP ‘4 Shots’ are intertwined with more from the new album. They end on ‘lullaby’ which came out as a single earlier this year and is already a favourite with the Collateral faithful. Forever on the roster, you can catch them on tour with Jared James Nichols early next year and I’m confident they will be at several festivals.
The BURNING CROWS offer us more groove and bluesy, sleaze ridden numbers. Charismatic frontman Whippz, is so unashamedly cool, he has to be one of the most laid back vocalists around. The Crows give us plenty from the album ‘Murder At The Gin House’ that came out In 2015. The songs are timeless, but now the long hiatus appears to be over, I’m sure most fans are eagerly awaiting some new stuff and hope there is something in the pipeline. A great set, another band that always deliver 100%. Lance Daniels on guitar as well as Whippz, gives the band some solidity, with 2 six strings. Along with Lance, Will Lockett on bass adds backing vocals, so the harmonies tonight come in to strengthen the performance. While drummer Chris Chapman remains constant throughout. All of these elements combine to make Burning Crows, outweigh many of their contemporaries. The 2016 tour sold out really quick, before they took a break, let’s hope they return to full fitness soon and enchant us some more.
DEAD MANS WHISKEY are another band who are fast becoming top dogs. The five from London have found a niche and fit into it quite nicely. Up front is Nico Rogers who has one of those voices that is undeniably outstanding. Backed by Billy Kons on lead guitar and Elliott D’Alvarez on rhythm, their sound is bluesy rock with a shit load of attitude. Most of the songs are from 2017 and the ‘Under The Gun’ album, kicking off with ‘Live Loud and Ready’, dirty and gritty, it’s an awesome ride. ‘My Year’ is in a lower gear, with Rogers wooing us, such a joy to listen to this guy. It is ‘War Machine’ that allows the guitars to take control, lots of riffs and extremely heavy grooves. The new single ‘Last Train’ is a fast runner and has a deadly attractiveness, lovely guitar on it. ‘Make You Proud’ is a romantic number that is so delicate, I like the way Dead Mans Whiskey can cross over to produce this kind of number. ‘Racing Bullet’ sees the end of the show. If you haven’t witnessed them yet, you are truly missing out.
Glaswegians MASON HILL are another band that are returning tonight after taking a break, they have been silent for about a year. But with a new album already underway, they headline Gravity, refreshed and full of confidence. Opening with ’Survive’ from the 2016 EP, singer Scott Taylor, sporting a new look with shorter hair, starts as he means to go on. Wow, we listen to new tracks off the unreleased ‘Against The Wall’ debut, that are so polished and written so well, it’s like they’re old favourites. ‘Hold On’ a single from 2018 is well received and The Station is still full to capacity, no one is leaving yet. The new single is the title track ‘Against The Wall’ and goes down a storm. James Bird and Marc Montgomery on guitars are so in tune with each other, it just adds to the show. They have matured into a major contender and the performance tonight absolutely blew me away. I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the new album and see them live again.
So that ends the first Gravity Festival and what a success, well done to all those involved in organising it and working behind the scenes. Next year is already starting to take shape and the first bands have been announced. Bound to sell out, I would get a ticket ASAP.
Photo credit – Billibee Creative