Published on February 2nd, 2018 | by Gary Spiller0
Giants of Rock Festival Review – Day 1
Pre-Giants of Rock festival expectations were high for me – great headliners, exciting and varied outfits on the Intro Stage, an excellent crop of bands in between, and the prospect of meeting up with friends old and new alike, at what is now a deservedly lauded festival. Giants of Rock delivered on all fronts I’m delighted to report. The first rock festival of the calendar is now firmly established and does exactly what it says on the metaphorical tin. It’s not going to break the bank for us punters but it never fails to provide quality musical entertainment.
Friday’s, now traditional meet up at the Inn on the Green, was like a gathering of a rather large family, a lovely continuation of the camaraderie of the fine, unofficial, facebook group associated with GOR. The social aspect of the festival is now as equally important as the music. It’s a beautiful transformation from the early Giants of Rock where most of us were complete strangers. The bond created by this group is now etched into the very fabric of Minehead’s jewel in the holiday crown. Take a bow Messrs’ Saville and Beeson for creating the group.
Opening the entire proceedings for 2018 were Devonian youngsters Ethyrfield, eagerly awaited after they’d stunned me with their support slot with Bad Touch last year. It’s fantastic to see how far they’ve come in the months since then, and they thoroughly deserved the adulation they received from their hard-rocking set garnished with the influences of Nirvana, Black Sabbath and Diamond Head. In fact, ending with the latter’s, ‘Am I Evil’, brought the place down around us! Fronted by brothers Ben and Zach Cornish, guitar and bass respectively, they are ably backed by drummer Dan Ashton, who at 14 years old is the youngster of the trio! In fact, their combined ages doesn’t even reach this scribes age!
Next up were Mancunian proggers Scarlet Castle, very spiky and extremely talented, they took the Minehead faithful out of their comfort zone with their set which certainly challenged even my varied musical tastes.
Eschewing a clash with FM, I remained with the Intro Stage to witness Somerset rockers Kikamora steam roller in with a high energy set, featuring with some absolute belters like, ‘Old Rosie’, off their excellent debut EP, In The Henhouse. Fronted by the affable frontman Wilf Kite, who can belt a song with the best of them, 2018 promises much following a well-received performance at November’s Hard Rock Hell. Lead guitarist, Jimi Bessant has a composed swagger that complements his six string talents nicely, whilst rhythm guitarist Dan Marshall, along with bassist Rob Ives, and drummer Rich Wilson, lay down a solid foundation that isn’t going to be shaken. A personal highlight of their sparkling 45-minute set is the penultimate song, ‘Half Rats’, featuring the talented saxophone playing of Frankie Povey.
Closing Jaks’ opening day were the hard-rocking quartet collectively known as JoanovArc; these London-based ladies certainly know how to rock but suffered the cruel fate of clashing with the end of FM’s set and the opening songs of Magnum’s. Having seen them tear apart the Fuel Club, Cardiff last Easter, I was going nowhere and wasn’t disappointed. Formed 14 years ago by sisters Sam and Shelley Walker (bass and guitar respectively), they have gigged and worked hard since. Joined by drummer Deborah Wildish later that first year, and guitarist Laura Ozholl in 2009, their collective experience shone through in a highly polished set featuring some tantalising new material and established favourites like ‘White Trash’ and ‘Seeds of Summer’.
Suitably and richly entertained by the very future of our beloved rock we moseyed along to Centre Stage for the closing songs of Magnum, one of my all-time favourites. Having followed them since 86’s Vigilante album, something seemed a touch adrift up on stage. The material was fine, including new song ‘Show Me Your Hands’, and classics like, ‘Les Mort Dansant’, ‘All England’s Eyes’ and set closer, ‘Vigilante’. The normal Magnum chemistry didn’t appear to be coming through however, and I couldn’t put my finger upon it. Bob Catley’s vocals, although defined by the advance of age, were fine but something seemed to be missing. This remained a mystery to me for a while until it transpired that the Midland pomp-rockers had been plagued by technical problems that saw them exit stage to facilitate rectification. Knowing Magnum of old, I felt certain that a mid-set break along with these unwelcome gremlins would more than likely have had an effect upon their return to the stage. Such a shame all around, but not knowing the full facts I’m not going to lay blame at any door.
Looking forward to Welsh rockers Those Damn Crows’ set, we headed to Reds and we were most fortunate to catch the last half hour or so of Martin Turner ripping through some quality Wishbone Ash tracks centred around their 1972 top 3 album Argus. Not a group I know an awful lot about but boy this band rocked! Reds was bouncing, and the reception was magnificent; a perfect antidote to Magnum’s struggles.
Final band of the day was the first of last year’s Intro Stage winners, Welsh scamps, Those Damn Crows. Much anticipated, these five young Welsh lads didn’t disappoint. Following a terrific 2017 after their Minehead success, they have grown in belief and stature, and their catchy sing-a-long anthemic rock has won them many plaudits and fans with stellar performances the length and breadth of the country, culminating in a barnstorming set at Hard Rock Hell.
Enigmatic frontman, Shane Greenhall, engages the Minehead crowd from the very off with his stunning vocals and personable charisma as his cohorts alongside truck through opening track, ‘Don’t Give A Damn’. Some new material like, ‘The Fighter’, is woven into the set nestling neatly between established soon-to-be classics like, ‘Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Dead’, which strikes a resonant chord, and ‘Someone Someday’, that has the appreciative crowd lapping up each and every note.
Guitarists Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas and David Winchurch are on top of their game, and with a hard-hitting rhythm section of bassist, Lloyd Wood, and drummer, Ronnie Huxford, this Bridgend outfit have the perfect recipe for future success. 2018 promises much for them. Another brand new one in the form of the catchy, ‘Devil in My Pocket’, leads into four more ripsnorters from the Crows’ 2016 well received debut CD, The Murder and The Motive. ‘Fear of the Broken’, ‘Blink of An Eye’, ‘Breakaway’ and ‘One of Those Nights’ embrace the gathered masses in Reds who seem to be lapping up the infectious riffs and catchy choruses.
All too soon TDC’s terrific set comes to close and they depart the stage to well-earned applause. This punter is one happy rock duck who parties into the wee hours with several feathered Celtic friends in the mother of all parties. A fantastic way to get GOR’s proceedings underway.
Photos by Kelly Spiller