Published on February 4th, 2018 | by Gary Spiller0
Giants of Rock Festival Review – Day 3
The final day of any festival is a bitter sweet one for me, and even though Sunday in Minehead dawns bright and breezy, along with the added bonus of no hangover and feeling a damn sight more human than 24 hours previously, I can’t shake this feeling. There’s so much great music and friendship to look forward to but it’s tempered with the knowledge that tomorrow brings the trek back to reality.
Still there’s the tantalising prospect of 12 more hours of quality rock ahead of us as I saunter over to Centre to see London-based KilliT, the third and final winner from last year’s Intro Stage. Since last year’s storming set swept them to victory last year, KilliT have undergone a couple of personnel changes, with guitarist Claire Genoud and bassist Ben Smart being welcomed into the fold. They bring with them energy and enthusiasm which sees them fit in perfectly alongside engaging frontman Gaz Twist, who certainly packs a punch with his strong vocals, six-stringer extraordinaire Niro Knox and solid as a rock drummer Pete Jean. This five-piece deliver a tight and polished set to get the day’s rocking underway with a fine performance. Firm favourites like ‘Take the Power’ and the title track from their 2016 highly-acclaimed debut album, ‘Shut it Down’, are complemented well be the new material which is well received by a healthy sized gathering that grows song by song. Interesting to see Claire and Niro exchanging the lead guitar roles in this new material; all bodes well for a successful 2018 for KilliT. Their accomplished set comes to an abrupt end when towards the end of their final number Claire misjudges the edge of the stage and takes a sickening tumble a few feet down crashing into the barrier. Mercifully her guitar takes the brunt of the impact and clearly dazed and shaken she’s led away promptly by the Butlins’ security. Speaking to the band later we’re very relieved to hear that Claire has suffered little worse than a really sore wrist and some bruising. Her guitar’s neck has broken completely away from the body but she’s hopeful that it’ll prove repairable.
Next up is Bradford blues prodigy Chantel McGregor. Her set is personally much anticipated following seeing this personable Yorkshire lass tear up the stage at last year’s Hard Rock Hell Blues in Sheffield. What became quickly apparent is that there has been a large rock element mixed into her on-stage repertoire; something which caught me most pleasantly by surprise. I’m suitably stunned as Chantel seemingly effortlessly tears through tracks like ‘Take the Power’ and ‘Walk on Land’, the opening and closing tracks respectively from her second album Lose Control. For me it’s the new track, ‘April’, that leaves my jaw on the floor of the arena; a totally stunning instrumental that is rapturously applauded. Her affable chat between songs is heartfelt and sincere as she enquires about the GOR ducks! First rule of duck club …. don’t ask about the ducks! Unless you really want a potted history of how this feathered water borne critter became to be the adopted unofficial mascot of this festival that is.
Taking a break to gather our collective senses following two magnificent sets we ready ourselves for the much-anticipated, Black Whiskey, who have the task of opening up Sunday’s Introducing Stage. Having missed these London hard rockers at November’s Hard Rock Hell following an ‘incident’ involving four egg cups and several bottles of spirits, which saw a large chunk of Saturday evening ‘disappear’, I wasn’t about to miss these four gents in action a second time! Opening up with some new material, demonstrating self-belief in their undoubted abilities, it’s evident that vocalist Simon Gordon is influenced by classic British rock and metal. There’s definitely a knowing nod to Rob Halford in my humble opinion. Guitarist Kev Ingles has the composed swagger of Joe Perry and can lay down blues-soaked riffs with the best of them; the rhythm section composed of bassist Craig Nabbs and drummer Rich Bannister lay down a powerful groove. 2015’s debut album, Heavy Train, was warmly received and it’s the title track and the rifftastic, ‘Devil Rides’ that steal the show.
Following on from Black Whiskey’s excellent performance is going to be no mean feat but we have Manchester based quartet Mohawk Radio up next. These alt-rockers have been gaining rave reviews with their live shows and their 2017 EP, Shoot From The Hip. A most appropriate title given the energy they exude as they launch into set opener ‘On your Knees’; a neat spiky intro reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand at their finest gives way to a powerful song that gets it’s hooks into you from the very off. Bermudan-born singer Mia Page is the focal point with her commanding and enchanting presence and soaring vocals that entwine passionately with her husband James Gregory’s addictive riffs and melodies. Their chemistry is clear to see; shining as equally as Mia’s stunning glittering coat.
Bassist Conor Marsh and drummer Dave Quinn are as dependable a rhythm section as I’ve seen all weekend and their skills complement those of Mia and James in a most natural manner. They roll into ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ with the gathered ensemble in Jaks transfixed by Mia’s vocal strength and range; this is a showing to behold; we are witnessing something most special.
The next two tracks ‘Ready to love’ and ‘Deserve’ are, like the preceding two, from the Shoot From The Hip EP and continue to demonstrate the eclectic range of influences that this fast-rising outfit draw inspiration from. This is melodic hard-rock with a twist for the new century; a bright future beckons.
Mohawk’s material is catchy and infectious; at once accessible it leaves me hungrily waiting for more. The second half of Mohawk’s 45-minute set, beginning with ‘Itch’, features a couple of tracks from their 2014 debut EP, Halfway to Heaven in the form of darker rock offering ‘Oblivion’ and the melodious set-closer ‘Lifetime Sunshine’. Rocking tune ‘Rock n’ Roll Heaven’ is followed by the romantic infused ‘2 Million Heartbeats’. Mia humorously shatters the illusion by informing us that drummer Dave had discovered that this was the amount of heartbeats in the life of a fly! Mia’s vocals are a beautiful hybrid of Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hyde, Cher along with an undercurrent of Souixsie Sioux in the very humble opinion of this scribe, and she, along with her three musical colleagues, has produced a truly standout performance.
Buzzing from two stellar performances we decide to quietly slip away from Jaks for some grub; we felt we wouldn’t be best placed to give fair attention that both Anonymous and Piston deserved. Hearing good review with reference to both of these bands ensures we will catch up with them both very soon.
Suitably sustained we head to Reds for the final three sets of not just the day but the weekend too. Centre Stage with Big Country, Slade and Nazareth is an excellent lineup but we plump for Deborah Bonham, Snakecharmer and festival closing act Bon such is the high level of quality on offer.
I fell in love with Deborah’s blues rock at the very first GOR and she never disappoints; this is her fourth GOR appearance following on from slots at the first three and each one has been received in the same warm, loving manner. The definitive highlight of a beguiling set is the passionately delivered ‘No Angel’ with Deborah in fine vocal form accompanied by husband Peter Bullick with a sensational six string performance.
Snakecharmer are next up, the penultimate act of the weekend, and they give a solid account of themselves with their own material woven around versions of Whitesnake classics of the ilk of ‘Here I Go Again’.
Closing up GOR 2018 in an energetic and party-mode set are AC/DC tribute Bon. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Powerage, this no frills band rip through the album in its entirety from a triumphant rendition of album opener ‘Rock n’ Roll Damnation’ right through to its closing number ‘Kicked in the Teeth’, They’re in no mood to mess about and a stonking cover of ‘Sin City’ demonstrates this perfectly. Their homage to one of AC/DC’s classic albums ends but their set doesn’t, much to the distinct pleasure of the Reds audience. ‘Highway to Hell’ breathes fire whilst debut single from 1974 the cheeky ‘Can I Sit Next to You Girl’ surprises most. All in all a fantastic way to end the weekend after last year’s prog clash to end all prog clashes which had this pen wielding rock duck seeking alternative sanctuary. Shall we do it all again in 2019? Counting the days down already.
Photos by Kelly Spiller