Published on April 11th, 2018 | by Gary Spiller0
Four Sticks Festival – New Cross Inn, London Sunday – 25/3/18
A new movement of classic-inspired rock is well and truly underway, and on a grey Sunday a corner of New Cross is transformed into the very epicentre of this for ten hours. The leaden skies above Southern London are lit up by some of the brightest talent emerging from this new genre in a diverse ten band bill, lovingly constructed by New Cross Inn promoter, Andy Cavendish. Musicians and punters alike are drawn from far and wide by the lure of something very special; such is the momentum that is gathering within this movement which has gained a title. The New Wave of Classic Rock – a New Wave of British Heavy Metal for the 21st Century if you like. It’s a broad umbrella that encompasses a whole raft of sounds and this bill perfectly encapsulates what is on offer to the discerning rock n’ roll aficionado.
First up are Nunchucker, a five piece hard rock outfit drawn from various corners of London, who demonstrate a healthy swagger that the very offspring of Keith Richards and Joe Perry would be proud of. It’s early doors and the ‘pm’ hasn’t long begun but these lads are in a determined mood and rattle through riff-laden, punchy numbers, lifted in main from their debut album ‘Motherfucker Superior’, that have the growing crowd appreciating in a raucous manner. This is stripped back, bare to the bones rock n’ roll, at times sleazy and dirty to the core but how else would we want to spend our Sunday afternoon? First set and the bar is set high and expectation is fuelled.
Next on for our delectation are Birmingham-based quartet Stonehouse Jack who exhibit an awful lot of future promise with a sparkling set of rock fused with blues and indie grunge. Think something along the lines of classic Fleetwood Mac combined with Pearl Jam and you’ll be heading in the right direction. Originally a duo when formed a couple of years ago this is their first gig in London, and just their second as a full complement. Initially appearing, quite understandably, a little tentative they’re very quickly into the swing of things and their collective enthusiasm shines through; it’s clearly evident that they’re enjoying themselves. Something which resonates with one and all throughout their set, which includes tracks from their recent EP ‘Jinba Ittai’, that is well received. Just two bands in and a trend of high quality is emerging.
New Device, late replacements for Duchess, take to the stage and in an instant it’s noted that they are a polished outfit with a great stage presence. Founded in 2008, I’m left wondering how on earth this slick bunch of rockers have eluded me until now. From the very offset from set-opener ‘Make My Day’ to closing number ‘On Fire’, both lifted from debut long player ‘Take Over’ via brand new track ‘Wake Up’ the New Cross Inn gathering are royally entertained. The latter track whets one’s appetite for the forthcoming EP, one piece of a quartet of EP’s that New Device are currently engaged in releasing. There are several dimensions to them from melodious rock to all out rockers to soulful engaging tracks; a combination that further raises an already high bar.
Hammerjack stride onto the stage with a self-assurance that gives their gutsy brand of rock n’ roll that blends the likes of The Quireboys, Guns n’ Roses with Zeppelin and AC/DC a ballsy edge. Out front vocalist Sharpy is an engaging character that enjoys getting Hammerjack’s message right in the face of the crowd in such a way that gets the whole Inn up and rocking; at one stage he’s out off the stage belting out a number on the tables. It’s Sunday afternoon and the 436 to Lewisham drive past outside and faces full of curiosity peer into the Inn’s interior as they take a break from their shopping but we’re somewhat detached from these goings on as we rock along to these Guildford troubadours who effortlessly maintain the impressive trend set by the trio of bands that preceded them.
Fresh from their hugely successful outing on the Intro Stage of January’s Giants of Rock which saw them win a deserved main-stage slot at next year’s festival Black Whiskey are gaining much momentum. Infused with influences from the classic rock of the 70’s and 80’s these London hard rockers take rock into the new century with consummate ease, Knowing nods to Judas Priest via Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin are present but it’s evident that Black Whiskey have their own defining edge. A set drawn in main from 2015 debut album ‘Heavy Train’ is well received including their crowd-pleaser ‘Devil Rides’, a personal favourite of this scribe. New material is woven into their 40 minute giving good hints as to how the forthcoming album will sound. Sure to be one of the releases of the year in the NWOCR movement. Once again the momentum of the day has been maintained with another sterling performance.
With the metaphorical bar having now been lifted through the ceiling of the New Cross Inn the day’s impetus is handed to youthful Devonian trio Ethyrfield who maintain the trend in their own inimitable style. They open up with ‘Ignitor’ which does exactly what it says on the tin setting the venue alight with their dark, heavy overtones. They rapidly endear themselves to the early evening crowd and it’s clear they are additionally earning the respect of their musical peers with one proclaiming to me “Thank god we don’t have to follow them!” Jaws continue to hit the floor as they ramp up matters with ‘Show Me God’ and ‘Bag of Bones’, both lifted from last year’s EP and destined to become firmly ensconced in their set for years to come, before taking the roof right off the place with a barnstorming cover of Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil’. This trio of West Country teenagers are destined for bright things having gained many accolades in their short career thus far including, like Black Whiskey, winning their respective Intro Stage slot at this year’s Giants of Rock.
Someone has to keep the momentum going and the ‘responsibility’ is handed to capital city blues-metallers Stonewire who set about taking their Southern-tinged metal to the masses as darkness begins to fall outside. Such is the strength of what this South-Eastern quintet do that four of their six song set are from their much vaunted 2018 release which is destined, on this evening’s showing alone, to be a firm favourite. Entwined amongst the new material are ‘Walk The Line’ and the stunningly beautiful ‘When The Crow Flies’; both crowd-pleasers which singer Sky Hunter belts out in quality fashion lovingly embracing paths trodden by the likes of Deborah Bonham and Janis Joplin. The bar continues its journey skywards.
Basingstoke’s The Black Bullets are next up and this high-energy five-piece completely epitomise the variety of styles that are encompassed by the overall umbrella of the NWOCR; something which New Cross Inn promoter Andy Cavendish has knowingly tapped into and showcased with this eclectically diverse 10 band bill. Think about the offspring of Bon Scott era-AC/DC, The Ramones and The New York Dolls and you’re heading in a similar direction to The Black Bullets are. Initially this combination puts me on the back foot but within a couple of songs I’m in tune with these heavy metal/punk rock ragamuffins and rocking along with them. The New Cross stage is not enough for them and vocalist Billy T and bassist Alice E get out amongst the crowd utilising pretty much every inch of the venue that is on offer to them. Nothing is spared in their set and they rip through their tunes with a frenetic energy that engenders much enthusiasm all around.
Outside London is now cloaked in darkness but nothing slows down, the 436’s continue to rattle past; many emblazoned in advertising banners proclaiming sold out shows for Queen this summer. We wonder how many going to these shows are aware of the burgeoning rock revival that is currently underway in the underground scene. If they don’t now then many will come to find out in the coming months.
Welsh hard rockers Beth Blade and The Beautiful Disasters have journeyed eastwards from their Cardiff HQ and it’s now their turn to turn matters up to eleven with their melodic hard-rock that is chock-full of hard-hitting riffs and sing-a-long choruses. It doesn’t take long for them to get their hooks into the ensemble blasting through ‘Hell Yeah’ and ‘Bad Habit’ before weaving well received new tracks ‘Give it All You Got’ and ‘On and On’ into the set between ‘Down and Dirty’ and ‘Ready to Rock’, tracks destined to become classics. Out front Beth engages with the crowd between songs and has the New Cross singing along but we’re all put to shame as Stonewire’s Sky gets into the groove with us all! In fact this typifies the vibe that has run throughout the entire day with musicians ‘sharing the love’ on and off stage with one another and equally so with promoter Andy Cavendish.
As Sunday evening begins to slip away so the crowd begins to thin; no slight related to anything musical it’s merely New Cross’ geographical location and its position within the transportation network. Folks are chasing their last train or connection; some have travelled considerable distances.
Those that remain are treated to performance royale from headliners Burnt Out Wreck as tight an outfit as we’ve seen all day. A slick performance throughout their nine songs that are lifted with one exception off their 2017 debut album ‘Swallow’; this exception being an absolute surprise of a set-closer and an anthem that is defining of the NWOCR movement. Before then we are treated to cracking renditions of ‘Swallow’, ‘Flames’ and Rocking Man’ that have New Cross rocking. All too soon the day is coming to an end and singer Gary Moat is announcing their last number; and what a number to close the entire day’s festivities on! Heavy Pettin’s 1985 anthem ‘Rock Ain’t Dead’, penned by Moat, is a perfect way to rock out the day; Burnt Out Wreck have injected new life into the number and their polished performance shows they mean business. It’s a track that totally summarises the revival rock is currently undergoing! On today’s showing it’s a genre in good health.