Blue flag Trecco Bay with spectacular views across the Bristol Channel at Porthcawl, South Wales played host to the seventh annual Planet Rockstock. Storm Atiyah brought heavy rain and strong winds but the bands played on.
Gold ticket holders had the bonus of kicking off their weekend on Thursday evening with Deever, Hollowstar, Wille And The Bandits, Matt Mitchell And The Cold Hearts and Bad Touch. They also had the privilage of acoustic performances on Friday morning by Hollowstar, Salvation Jayne and Jack J Hutchinson.
The weekend for us Silver ticket holders started on the Main Stage on Friday evening. JOANovARC, the new queens of rock, started proceedings and were very well received by a sold out weekend audience expecting to be rocked solid. Shelly Walker formed the band way back in 2004 but following a change of personnel earlier this year they have stepped up to the plate and are now gaining some serious recognition. Debut album Ride Of Your Life was produced by grammy winning producer Gil Norton at the legendary Rockfield studios in Monmouth.
The Laurence Jones Band are always good and this was the first time I had seen them since the departure of Greg Smith due to illness and the addition of Di Reed on vocals. Laurence, still only 27, has six studio albums under his belt already. Laurence has always had his roots in blues but has steadily become more radio friendly and with his latest eponymous offering is really getting some attention.
Local boys Those Damn Crows stood in for H.E.A.T. at the eleventh hour and were one of the highlights of the weekend. They did not have too much time to get things together but took full advantage of this surprise opportunity on the main stage. The atmosphere was electric as this was a home gig for these boys. Vocalist Shane Greenhall was a perfect front man for this band and he even managed to go walkabout to get really up close and personal to the appreciative audience.
The Quireboys, not a favourite of mine, so some time out. I can, however, report that they were well received as indeed they always are. Skid Row, not to be mistaken for 70s legends, are a template glam metal band and with ZP Theart at the helm on lead vocals they did exactly what it said on the tin and sent everyone home happy.
Saturday started early at 10:30am on the 450 capacity New Rock Stage. The message was that as soon as capacity was reached a one out one in system would operate. I may be wrong but I don’t believe this system was ever required over the weekend which was welcomed. The strategy was therefore to get in the queue early as to miss the 450 cut off would leave quite a void. Somewhat surprised to find less than a dozen likeminded people in the queue at 10:00am.
Sons Of Liberty, old kids on the block were first on and gave us a great set . Rob Cooksley on vocals had real character and Andy Muse on guitar was surely Jack J Hutchinson’s doppelgänger but with an additional twenty years under his belt. Scarlet Rebels, by contrast, were the new kids on the block as indeed were the remaining bands appearing on the New Rock Stage over the weekend.
Jack J Hutchinson has found his comfort zone as he has traded the blues, which was the base station of his early career, and taken on board his many influences from the golden era of rock, the 70s, and carved out his own style. He has a mighty rhythm section in Luke Lazarus Michaelides on bass and Felipe Amorim on drums and they have become best of buddies.
Heavy rockers from the Black Country Liberty Lies gave us a maximum power set without taking breath it seemed. They were followed by Kent band on the upwards spiral Salvation Jayne. Such was the spot on scheduling always in evidence at Planet Rock events they suffered as a consequence of an unfortunate five minute overrun on sound check.
Salvation Jayne had to sacrifice the last number of a very full on power set. Again this band enjoyed an earlier life on the blues scene but made a wise decision, it would seem, to move into a genre that was, shall we say, more appealing to a younger audience. Chess Smith reminds me of Debbie Harry in many ways and with the very talented Holly Kinnear on guitar, Dan Lucas, who can hold his own on guitar, drums and keys, settles for bass in this band and works beautifully with Tor Charlesworth on drums.
I have seen Dead Man’s Whiskey many times and very recently in fact so sacrificing their set gave a good opportunity to rest tiring legs and to find time to take on board nourishment. At The Sun was also sacrificed. It so happened I missed a real treat as many suggested they were the best band on the New Rock Stage over the weekend, ho hum.
Fully recharged I made my way to the main stage in time for the first of five bands, Vega. The angelic Nick Workman had the crowd eating from his hand as he led these melodic rockers through a perfectly formed thirty five minute set. I had heard many good things about the Virginmarys and they well founded. Ally Dickaty on vocals and drummer Danny Dolan, who was forever willing to leave his stool in order to hit the drums with every ounce of energy are for want of a better description a great thrash punk band. Dolan did conserve a little energy in order to bang a gong at the end of the set.
Kris Barras Band was on fire and probably the best I have seen them. They now have Billy Hammett on drums which has added a little more weight to the rhythm section alongside Elliott Blacker with all the moves on bass. Barras’ voice was on top form, not always the case as his heavy touring commitments takes its toll on his vocal chords. Kris is so popular on Planet Rock these days they have even given him the opportunity to shine as a DJ.
What was scheduled to be a brief visit to the Sports Bar gave me the opportunity to watch the Anthony Joshua fight. It was a tiresome affair albeit with a favourable outcome. I decided to call it a night but first popped my head around the corner to watch the end of Last In Line’s set. What I hadn’t realised was that this was a band formed by ex members of Dio, thus the rapturous applause from the crowd.
I also missed the Saturday headliners The Temperance Movement. This turned out to be a bit of a result and Phil Campbell has subsequently posted a public apology for his performance.
Sunday had another early start on the New Rock Stage but the experience on Saturday gave me the confidence to arrive just before the first band performance. Wynt, a fairly new young Welsh band with a Welsh name. Take your pick, translates into English as breath, smell, flatulence or wind. Nonetheless they were very good with boundless energy, especially for such an early Sunday morning start.
Blackballed, a band I had seen once before and I was impressed then and even more so second time around. I was not alone judging by the applause when they closed their set and the queue for merch.
Edenthorn, a family affair from the north east, Kyle Michael Tague very impressive on lead vocals, his brother Mark on drums, certainly the best looking bass player of the weekend Faiba Gardner and her brother Dylan on guitar. Third place in the Planet Rock Awards Best New Band category and easy to see why with a great set showcasing new album Exist and 2015 release The Maze and an excellent cover of Another Brick In The Wall well and truly driven by Faiba’s great bass.
Hunger prevailed and you certainly had to choose your moment to squeeze in eats, such was the quality of the lineup. I chose to miss Temple Of One and only caught the last number in Collateral’s set- they went down a storm by the way. I was eager to catch the final band, The Howling Tides, as what I had heard was excellent and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The Dust Coda opened the evening’s proceedings on the main stage before Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics gave a performance which was to be one of the highlights of the weekend. I had seen them once before on the Introducing Stage at Ramblin’ Man Fair but they have developed into a damned good entertaining band. Buchanan is a flamboyant showman with a great sense of humour, his sister Laurie shares guitar duties with Tom McCarthy and fends off the fake threatening gestures from Mart Trail on bass. It seems this was the bands final gig before taking a hiatus and they were making sure that they went out with a bang.
Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown had recently gone down a storm supporting Airbourne and it was so good to see them again. I have watched them develop into a great rock and roll band since my first encounter in 2016 at the Boston Music Room, Tufnell Park. We quite often see vocalists and guitarists leave the stage and wander into the audience but Caleb Crosby is the first drummer I have witnessed doing so.
To bring this most enjoyable feast of quality music to an end we had one relatively old band in Dan Reed Network followed by an absolute legend in Uriah Heep. Dan Reed first formed his funk rock Network in 1984 in Portland, Oregon. It was quite evident that a fair contingent of his devoted fan base was in the house. I got the impression that everyone knew all the words to all the songs…….except me. I did see these guys support the Rolling Stones in the 80s but will be sure to catch them next time they return to the UK.
I grew up listening to Uriah Heep and to be completely honest, I could have provided a complete track listings on their first seven studio albums before recollecting the periodic table from chemistry lessons. I would have had the thumping rhythm of Gypsy going through my head whilst sitting for my Chemistry CSE…..say no more. Entering their 50th year, the band is working on its 26th studio album. Canadian Bernie Shaw has been on vocals for the last 35 years and with the only original member, guitarist Mick Box looking good at 72, they sent tingles up my spine with a nostalgic ninety minute set. Another successful Planet Rockstock came to an end.
A big hand for Planet Rock DJ Wyatt Wendel who cycled 2,000 miles in two weeks, sometimes in horrendous weather conditions, to get to Rockstock and has to date raised £100,000 for Mind, the mental health charity.
Photography and words by Phil Honley of Planet Rockstock at Trecco Bay, Porthcawl on 6th – 8th December 2019. Phil has his own photography site here: http://www.gigsnapz.co.uk.