Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Oval Rock House Reunion - Epic Studios, Norwich - 21/09/2013

Courtesy of Norfolk Photography
It's not often in life you wish you were older. Perhaps when you're a teenager desperate to get into a nightclub or the latest horror film at the cinema, but pretty much as soon as you hit 21 you wish you were back in school.

I had the exact opposite feeling this weekend when I stepped foot inside Epic Studios for the Oval Rock House Reunion. I'd have given anything to have experienced it first time round given the buzzing, vibrant atmosphere that welcomed me on Saturday afternoon.

Erin Rockowitch and her team created a masterpiece in just 3 months, combining the sights and sounds of the Oval as was, with a sprinkling of sparkly new local talent – many of whom would have graced the famous stage today, had it not sadly closed its doors for the final time back in 1998.

At just £10, tickets were an absolute bargain and the proceeds went to a very good cause, the MIND mental health charity, and with plenty of impressive raffle prizes on offer, kindly donated by the bands and other supporters of the reunion, the impressive crowd ensured plenty of money was raised.

Over 620 people filed up the stairs of Epic Studios, many hoping to relive the glory years of rock music in Norwich, and plenty hoping to catch a glimpse of the perfect blend of fresh and vintage talent adorning the large stage for 11 action-packed, eardrum-shredding hours.

The darkened studio provided excellent acoustics, plenty of standing (and dancing) room and a breakout area for those whose feet simply couldn't take the pace (including mine). With large projector screens positioned either side of the stage, every member of the crowd had a perfect view of the performances, as the whole show was recorded by Epic camera crew and streamed live online for those who couldn't make it.
Courtesy of Norfolk Photography

For those who could, the atmosphere was electric, excitement built up throughout the day, helped by an early performance from Jim Higgs, a young acoustic artist who's music is a breath of fresh air and was a perfect way to start the day.

Under the Radar upped the tempo with their energetic set. The trio made as much noise as any five-piece band I've heard, with plenty of charisma, and an audible Green Day influence in their original work – they're a band I'd like to see again, and with plenty of local gigs coming up, including a set at the Rock Monster event at the Waterfront in September, the chances are I will.

Joining them on the bill that day are Silenced by Shadows, who gave us an insight into things to come on Saturday as they well and truly rocked Epic Studios to its foundations. The last show for their brilliant bass player Johnny Liu couldn't have been a better one, with great stage presence and an infectious metal sound, they certainly took me by surprise.

Erin professionally punctuated the day with introductions before each band went on stage – the personal touch you just don't get anywhere else, and as the crowds started to grow bigger, she left the stage to Synaptic, a band made up of some former Oval regulars who provided an absolute assault on all my senses – in a good way of course. Clearly experienced musicians, their tight set heavily influenced by the birth and growth of heavy metal grabbed the unfaltering attention of the room, and the matching Synaptik smart shirts worn by band members were a welcome change.

Courtesy of Norfolk Photography
Continuing the metal theme as the afternoon began to turn into evening was the brilliant four-piece Saigon Kiss, fronted by the talented and timelessly charismatic Kev Saigon, who brought punk and heavy metal together in an electric half-hour set dripping with energy and plenty of sweat for good measure.

The drinks were starting to flow from the bar (which was pretty much drunk dry by the end of the night!) as Wicked Faith brought a bit of technical rock & roll top proceedings fresh from their headline performance at another celebrated local rock venue – King Edward VII the night before. Jade, Becki, Tim and Matt tantalised the tastebuds of every classic rock fan in the room with plenty of catchy 70's style riffs brought bang up-to-date with refreshing lyrics and an energetic stage show- Wicked Faith do exactly as the latter part of their name suggests – restore your faith in the timeless nature of classic rock.

Courtesy of Michael Wilkinson
Blending rock and metal together was the order of the day as all 600 attendees took a ride through Norfolk's music history, and Soulborn tattooed 'metal' on the chest of each and every member of the crowd with their pulsating, feel-good take on the genre, with catchy yet powerful riffs and an addictive stage show, these guys are sure to continue to go from strength to strength in their bid to plaster a smile on the faces of metal-heads everywhere.

The ringing in my ears was allowed to subside with intermission performances by 'Thunder Mental Entertainers'. Made up of fire breathers and semi-clad dancers armed with angle grinders, the scent of parrafin filled the air and sparks flew across the room as the group mesmerised with their grinding, sexy routines.

Rock & Roll took centre stage again as 6 o'clock struck in the shape of No Mercy, the first band of the day to have played at the Oval back in the nineties having formed way back in 1988. The guys reformed two years ago to once again bring melodic, classic rock to the people of Norfolk, which is exactly what they did, with help from a guest on-stage appearance from Denny. No Mercy are back to their best – and back at Epic Studios supporting the Burning Crows this weekend as they continue to spread the word.

Courtesy of Norfolk Photography
My highlight of the day was fast approaching, and it couldn't have had a better prelude than a set by the brilliantly fresh and talented Strange Tail. Having seen them recently at the Lady of the Lake, I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer. Despite only forming 7 months ago, I was astonished with how well they owned the Epic stage – hypnotising the audience with their Thin Lizzie inspired performance. Toby and the boys did tremendously well and well and truly stamped the strange Tail name into the minds of hundreds of die-hard rock fans.

Courtesy of Michael Wilkinson
Sparks flew once again as the Thunder Mental performance group warmed up the crowd once again and allowed Bad Touch to set up. It was time for a little bit of funky as the boys – who provided the back line for the whole event – pumped up the volume and made their presence well and truly known with a fantastic rendition of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock & Roll'. Sporting brand new shiny Hagstroms, Seeks and Rob on rhythm and lead worked in perfect harmony as the boys introduced party track 'Waiting on the morning light' and blues-inspired 'Preacher'. Finishing their fun-filled set with Skin's 'Look but don't touch', rehearsed especially for the reunion as a nod to one of the greatest bands to ever grace the Oval, the boys did themselves and their fans proud.

The fun didn't end there for me, as Mastema took to the stage. I'd been told about these guys and made sure I looked out for them. With a clear Papa Roach influence, their version of heavy rock envelopes your senses and makes it impossible to stand still. Belting out tracks from their latest EP 'Close to Breaking', the five-piece set the tone perfectly for a night of hard rock partying.

As the beer continued to flow, the floor of the once pristine studio floor took the brunt of all the dancing and spilled drinks, taking on a sticky glaze to bring back some memories for those lucky enough to have been at the Oval Rock House back in the day: 'Now it feels like the Oval!' were the cries of delight as your feet started to stick to the floor.

The anticipation was building for the headline act Sods Law, and Sweet n Innocent fed off the atmosphere to absolutely rock their set, which was unfortunately cut short With head-pounding riffs and raw energy emanating in spades, the crowd was in seventh heaven with tracks from their latest EP echoing in their skulls.

Words were being slurred and inhibitions were being lost as the party headed towards its peak, and Kamikaze Radio, combined with the 'surprise' reformation of the Oval legends Spot was the perfect catalyst to really send the crowd into overdrive. Belting out classics with an audible nineties rhythm, the 50-minute set left the over-excited crowd screaming for more as the re-lived the old days with friends old and new.

Courtesy of Kevin Watson
And so, after 10 hours of spine-crunching, ear-blending, skull-shaking rock and metal, the headline act were ready to take to the stage. Reforming for only two gigs after their split in 1999, Sods Law were better than ever as their first performance plastered a smile to the face of every single member of the audience. The 5-piece absolutely stole the show with pulsating rock beats in tracks like 'Whats done is done' and 'Violation', it was as if no time had passed since their final show at the Oval. With one more show booked at the Spalding Rock Club in November, this reformation has been a huge success and a sign that rock music is, as we all predicted, utterly timeless.

Erin and the team at Epic Studios put on a fantastic show, and what started as a one-off reunion gig celebrating a great venue has snowballed – with 'Ovalfest' already booked for 2014. And the 11 months in between then and now should be just enough time to recover from the awesome show we were treated to in 2013, proving that Norwich still has a want and an inherent need for pure rock talent. Roll on Ovalfest 2014!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Insane Music Festival Final - The Railway Venue, Ipswich - 15/09/2013

As Sunday nights go, this one was pretty special. Usually spent doing ironing and getting ready for work, this Sunday, despite the torrential rain, we made for the Railway Venue, Ipswich to watch the final of Lord Bishop's 'Insane Music Festival'.

An event set up by Lord Bishop in a bid to find a support band for his European Tour next year, we were treated to an eclectic mix of music from Four Wheel Drive, Shock!Hazard, Bad Touch and the Handsome Dead, who's set we unfortunately missed this time round.

We arrived just in time to sample the delights of Shock!Hazard. Now there's a stage show worth watching. These three guys have so much intense youthful energy pouring out of them, and they leave you as the audience feeling exhausted for them. 

Launching their new EP next week, the boys were treated us to an ear-popping mix of originals including my own personal favourite 'Dirty fight'.

Bad Touch set up next as the rain continued to pour outside, fresh from their unplugged performance at the Gemini, Dereham. 

The boys took to the familiar stage – where they'll be performing again on Tuesday 24th September in support of Warrior Soul – to belt out a 40 minute set sprinkled with the usual party tracks 'Set the night on fire', 'Too late' and 'Waiting on the morning light'. 

An opportunity to try out some new songs on a familiar crowd, Skin's 'Look but don't touch' followed brand new original 'Good on me' in its full electric debut.

Next up came the winners of the festival, claiming the slot on tour with Lord Bishop, Four Wheel Drive, a loud, four-piece band that screams attitude and grabs all your senses with catchy beats and infectious riffs. 

Performing tracks from their recent EP, including 'Hammered Again' and 'High Roller', it was the perfect ending to an evening championing local musical talent.

Next up for Shock!Hazard is their Live EP Launch at the B2, Norwich on 22nd September, while Four Wheel Drive continue their UK tour at the Exmouth Pavillion on 27th September. 

For Bad Touch there's a 7.30pm slot at the Oval Rock House Reunion at Epic Studios, Norwich on Saturday, 21st September before the boys head back to the Railway.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bad Touch Unplugged - Gemini, Dereham - 14/09/2013

There's was a different, more laid back atmosphere to gig day this Saturday as I approached the Gemini, Dereham for Bad Touch Unplugged. Running late meant I missed most of the warm up, a jamming session between lead singer Steve, drummer George, and Steve's friend Ali.

It's not the usual venue for a rock gig, a 'Meet & Eat' bar, packed with families chatting over plates full of pub classics. Tucked away to the left of the front door, the band were set up facing half of the would-be restaurant, cleared to allow space for the fans who piled into the Gemini.

Unusually, the band members positioned themselves on chairs and stools (and the beat box for George) and, after a few PA adjustments, introduced 'Water's edge', followed by Rolling Stones classic 'Jumping Jack flash'.

The acoustic version of second single 'Too late' came next, before the boys slowed things down with Bon Jovi's 'Wanted dead or alive'.

It was a hometown gig for the boys, and this was obvious with the amount of people singing along to the original Bad Touch tracks, including 'Call for me', 'Preacher' and 'Lock & Load', and the die-hards were treated to an inaugural acoustic performance of new song 'See you again'. Steve dedicated the track to his friend Ali, who wrote it with him almost 10 years ago.

Thoroughly spoiled, the audience was also introduced to another brand new song 'Good on me', a catchy upbeat number written about wearing womens' jeans – a topic close to the heart of a couple of band members who I won't mention.

Ironically, ZZ Top's 'Sharp dressed man' came next in a set completely different to the norm. It was nice to see the boys in a different environment, casually dressed, perched on stools, enjoying themselves and having a laugh still as they do at every single show.

Paying homage again to Led Zeppelin, and with a couple of tributes to legends Skin and Guns & Roses, the set took fans on a journey through the history of Bad Touch, from their idols and inspirations, to their own musical beginnings and more recent efforts, right through to brand new barely out-of-the-studio originals.

The busy weekend continues for the boys as they head to Ipswich to perform in the finals of the Insane Rock Festival courtesy of Lord Bishop at the Railway Venue – great preparation for their set at the Epic Rock House Reunion next Saturday.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bad Touch & Strange Tail - Lady of the Lake, Oulton Broad - 06/09/2013

Oulton Broad was again treated to a Rock & Roll masterclass last Friday evening, as the Lady of the Lake played host to Bad Touch, supported by Strange Tail.

The place was already packed when we arrived just after 9pm, and people continued to pour through the front doors as Strange Tail took to the stage. Lead singer Toby J. Rous, the former frontman of Bad Touch made their presence felt as the Norwich-based 5-piece belted out originals and rock classics in an energetic high-tempo set.

Influenced heavily by the likes of Thin Lizzy and AC/DC, the band work really well together, there is clearly an understanding between the artists which allows them to work as a tight unit, despite only being together for 7 months.

Performing their first demo track 'Running for your love' as well as their take on Thin Lizzy's 'Don't believe a word' and 'Jailbreak', the guys are well and truly making their mark on the local rock scene – which is only going to be helped with their performance at the Epic Rock House Reunion on 21st September.

Joining them on that day will be the brilliant Bad Touch, who took to the stage next, and with the crowd already in the mood for a party, the performance of recent hits such as 'Set the night on fire' and 'Too Late' went down a treat.

Punctuated with covers, the Bad Touch boys continued the nod to Thin Lizzy by performing their ultimate hit 'Whiskey in the jar', as well as Led Zeppelin's fantastic 'Rock & Roll, to the delight of the crowd that packed out the venue yet again for the boys.

Having been busy in their home studio, Bad Touch introduced the audience to some new tracks, including two originals 'Halfway Home' and 'See you again', as well as Skin's classic 'Look but don't touch' to bring a new, fresh edge to their performance.

Seeks and Bailey combined perfectly during fans' favourite and rock party track 'Waiting on the morning light', while Rob expertly held proceedings together during 'Preacher' with an awe-inspiring performance on lead guitar.

The gig gave the opportunity for Bad Touch fans to celebrate with George on his birthday, and he was centre of attention for an epic drum solo, complete with cowbell of course, during 'Lock & Load'. Stevie took full advantage of the atmosphere in the venue, mixing up the original track with 'Word up' and 'Hot in here' for the highlight of the night.

'Down' brought the mammoth 2 hour set to a close, but instead of screaming for more, the crowd burst into a random chorus of 'Happy Birthday' for George, who thanked the audience as the lights came back on and people started to disperse into the night.

Next up for the boys is an acoustic set at the Gemini, Dereham on Saturday, before the finals of the Lord Bishop 'Insane Rock Festival' at the Railway, Ipswich on Sunday.