Friday 4 December
This is the third year for the Planet Rock annual festival and the second year at Porthcawl. I thought last year’s line-up would take some beating and, although thinking 2015 was a weak bill by comparison, I was proven to be wrong many times this weekend.
First up on Day 1 (discounting a gold ticket-only pre-fest bash the previous night) were the band hotly tipped for 2016, including in our own reviewers’poll.
Inglorious feature one of the most powerful bluesy/rock voices I have heard since the heady days of Mr Coverdale in his prime: Nathan James. Bursting into the recently released ‘Until I Die’, Inglorious instantly dispel any hype or false rumours: guitarists Wil Taylor and Andreas Z Eriksson tear out the riffs and work in unison whilst Colin Parkinson and Phil Beaver seal the tight rhythm.
The band’s version of the Toto song ‘Girl Goodbye’ left pretty much everyone wide-eyed and open mouthed and I was left thinking the early plaudits are well justified.
John Coghlans’ Quo came on to pretty much play all the old Status Quo classics from the era that he was in the band, whilst the songs are familiar to anybody who has at least played air guitar to any Quo standard over the past 40 years.
Back in the country not long after finishing his Joe Satriani support slot, those who had seen Dan Patlansky on that tour knew what to expect: a three piece from South Africa redefining the blues rock genre with his sometimes smooth as silk vocals and sometimes frenzied and powerful guitaring.
2015 has been a big year for Dan and it seems that 2016 will continue in the same vein with a King King support slot in May. An eight-song set which lasted around the 40 minutes mark and, such was his absorbing playing, those 40 minutes flew by.
Highlights included ‘Bring The World To Its Knees’ and ‘Backbite’, whilst ‘My Chana’ demonstrated his showmanship – a truly gifted musician who put the spark back into Planet Rockstock.
If Dan Patlansky was the spark then The Dead Daisies were the fuel that ignited Friday evening, something of a supergroup featuring a who’s who of rock royalty and a lot of punters’ tip to steal the night.
Opening with a firecracker in ‘Mexico’ from their latest album , the band set out their stalls early and gave a masterclass in being a festival band. Bass legend Marco Mendoza prowled the front of the stage straddling the monitors like a modern day Lothario.
Add to that one of the hottest guitarists out there in Richard Fortus who appears like a jack in a box on his side of the stage. An almost unrecognisable John Corabi is far more suited to The Dead Daisies material than he ever was with Motley Crue and it gives him the opportunity to show us what a great voice he has. Although more often than not my gaze was taken by Brian Tichy on drums, who gave one of the best drumming displays I have ever seen.
The set was littered with monster songs, ‘Midnight Moses’, ‘Lock N Load’, ‘Devil Out Of Time’. The band included a handful of covers including ‘All Right Now’ which had Mendoza walking off stage to play the unmistakable bass line mid-way through the song in the middle of the crowd.
A poignant and timely reminder of the recent attrocities in Paris when Corabi introduced and dedicated ‘With You And I’ to the fallen brothers and sisters of the rock fraternity, and supported by every hand in the 1500-strong crowd.
Headliners for the Friday were Rockstock favourites FM, having appeared at the first one and then standing in at short notice last year. It seemed fitting, therefore, to offer them the top slot this year
Again, they never disappoint. Running almost an hour late the crowd were a little tired and a few having succumbed to the demon alcohol and retired to their caravans early after the set by The Dead Daisies.
The guys hit the stage running with the thumping ‘Digging Up The Dirt’ and ‘I Belong To The Night’ and the crowd instantly entered into singalong mode.
Having just completed a European tour, this was the year closer for the guys and we pretty much get all the favourites. Crosstown Train/ Don’t Stop / Burning My Heart / Bad Luck to name a few, all the songs guaranteed to get you in a festival mood.
‘All Or Nothing’ was particularly satisfying to hear and it still sounds as good as it did 20 years ago. Steve Overland’s voice was, again, nothing short of stunning and 30 years after their debut release Indiscreet, they show no sign of ageing or faltering.
Saturday 5 December
Making an early start on a somewhat windswept Sunday morning I was surprised that the assembled multitude had forsaken the relative comfort of their caravans to catch the up and coming bands on Stage 2.
These included The Mojo Sinners, a blues based rock trio led by David Williams who succeeded in totally waking up the sleepy heads who were trying to recover in the corners of the room whilst playing some stunning stuff on the guitar in the same vein as Dan Patlansky.
For the prog rockers we had The Ghost Community, I remember Planet Rock’s very own Darren Redick talking highly of these guys back in July at the Steelhouse Festival. Vocalist John Paul Vaughn has a voice not unlike Geddy Lee and the overall sound took me back to early Rush/ Marillion, although nothing really exciting visually.
Fireroad returned this year to a fuller second stage audience and they’d just completed an acoustic support slot with the Quireboys on their UK tour.
Mixing up their usual running order brought a freshness to the half hour slot and focused on their debut album with only one new track , ‘Minute’, from the soon-to-be-released sophomore album, but giving an indication of the progress this band have made over the last year.
Their infectious style of classic honest rock n roll with an abundance of melody totally won the crowd over and had a lot of people milling around at their merch stall.
City of Thieves are also a band attracting a lot of interest in the rock media lately, playing at Hard Rock Hell in November to glowing praise.
They will inevitably be compared to Airbourne especially with Jamie Lailey’s gravel sounding voice; he must have gargled with lighter fluid before coming on stage. The double sting attack of Will Richards and Adam Wardle on guitars is nothing short of an assualt on your hearing, these guys were LOUD.
Tracks from the EP release ‘Incinerator’ went down well with the fans and I don’t think it will be long before this band grab a decent support slot where their energy and songs will be far more suited to a larger venue.
Back on the main stage and American metallers Gun Metal Gray had the task of opening up and didn’t disappoint. They would have also left with a fair few more fans than last year when they played the second stage.
Intense looking guitarist Nick Wright reels off the Maidenesque/Megadeth riffs with ease which doesn’t really give us a true representation of his ability until the set closing instrumental where he truly shone.
Whilst never being a fan of the thrash/heavy style of rock, I am sure this set left a lot of people asking why the band haven’t been over here more frequently.
Heavens Basement don’t seem to have the best of luck with line ups. I have caught this band a couple of times in the past, mainly at festivals and – to be honest – never that impressed although that might be more to do with their previous frontman.
Stand in vocalist Danny Worsnop did a fantastic job and in my opinion adds something extra that had previously been missing, He has much more swagger and stage presence and much more control in his vocals. A setlist full of grunt and energy including I Am Electric / Can’t Let Go / Lights Go Out In London, and the stalwart set closer ‘Fire Fire’.
The crowd went crazy for this high energy set and they were the perfect follow-on to Gun Metal Gray. If Heaven’s Basement are looking for a new vocalist then they really don’t need to look any further than Danny as they have a perfect fit.
Joanne Shaw Taylor – and her style of blues rock – has certainly grown in stature this year and she evidently impressed the Rival Sons-awaiting crowd.
When Rival Sons did appear the crowd had amassed and the intro music from ‘The Good,The Bad and The Ugly’ heralded their arrival.
Jay Buchanan, normally a very intense entity on stage, seemed a little more relaxed and jovial tonight conversing with the audience a lot more that when I saw him last; a modern day Jim Morrison in his stage manner whether it be writhing around the stage or wrapping himself around his mic stand, though at times he reverts back into a trance like state, his head in his hands as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Scott Holiday – looking resplendent in his tailored suit and cap – is vastly underated in the guitar world, making his craft look effortless, equally impressive in the heavy riffing or soaring solos. Smiling and chewing gum throughout, Holiday , is the epitome of cool.
A typical Rival Sons audience are not there to go crazy, they are there to get lost in the music. And with the guys on stage for 90 minutes it wasn’t until ‘Torture’ that we got the first crowd participation with the chorus being chanted back whilst things slowed down with the beautiful ‘Where I’ve Been’. ‘Keep On Swinging’ brought their appearance at Planet Rockstock to a close and the band a well earned break after a busy year of touring .
When catching the Rival Sons in Swansea for the first time a few months ago, I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. I needed to see them again and, after tonight, I am left thinking Rival Sons are one of the hottest bands on the Planet right now and a fitting headliner on Day 2.
Rival Sons setlist. Electric Man /Good Luck/ Secret/ Belle Starr / Pressure And Time / Face Of Light / Manifest Destiny pt 1 / Torture /Rich And Poor /Wher I’ve Been / Tell Me Something/ Keep On Swinging.
Sunday 6 December
Stand-out bands on stage 2 today came in the shape of Buffalo Summer and Dirty Thrills. Both bands delivered exactly what avid rock fans want; sets full of energy and great songs.
Buffalo Summer, having been on tour for the better part of November with Scorpion Child and Crobot, proved more than match-fit. The tightest I have ever seen them play with shining performances from Darren King (bass) and Andrew Hunt on vocals who coaxed and cajoled the crowd. No mean feat given the early hour.
A new song or two were played and they seemed a little more in the 70s classic rock vein and with a little less emphasis on the southern style. Being local boys Darren informed us that playing Porthcawl for them was like “playing ***king Disneyland”.
A return must surely be on the cards for Buffalo Summer and preferably opening the main stage.
Dirty Thrills are one of those bands that when the music starts playing, you either rock out like a maniac, as many did, or you stand there open mouthed unsure of what you are seeing.
Bass player Aaron might have the fanciest footwork since Fred Astaire whilst Jack (guitar) and Louis (vocals) give him a run for his money. Their attitude is infectious, and their style of classic rock merges well with a bluesy undertone giving them a unique sound all of their own.
On the main stage Scorpion Child are first up today, a five piece out of Texas and also very influenced by the 70s rock style, both visually and musically.
Aryn (vocals) sounds like a young Robert Plant and if you have to compare Scorpion Child to any band then think a young Zeppelin with a Rival Sons guitar sound fused with heavy keys.
Crobot‘s Brandon (vocals) instantly endears himself to the home crowd by flying the Welsh flag from his mic stand for the first three or four songs while guitarist Chris Bishop is either high jumping off the speakers or into the crowd whilst still playing a solo.
A ferocious set containing ‘Chupacabra’ , with a riff that worms its way into your head and stays there all day. A special mention must go to the bass player Jake Figueroa, who thought fit to enter the stage and play the set in his boxer shorts and a pair of converse, a style I have never had the misfortune to witness before. Crobot demonstrated there are a lot of original bands out there who don’t necessarily get the exposure they deserve, dress sense notwithstanding.
I thought the vocals let down Danko Jones, seeming to verge on a rap or spoken word rather than singing. They did go down quite well with the crowd.
I knew that WWE wrestler Chris Jericho fronted Fozzy, and his band – for me – turned in the performance of the weekend. Jericho has brought some of the wrestling showmanship and spectacle into the Fozzy show and they absolutley nailed it.
Fozzy isn’t all about Chris Jericho. Billy Grey and Rich Ward are the six string gun slingers and throw all manner of shapes on stage and with Randy Drake on bass and Frank Fontsere on drums provide impressive backing vocals.
Any band that can get 1200-1500 rockers singing along and hands clapping to the unusual cover of SOS by Abba have to be applauded. Highlights of the set included ‘Enemy’, and ‘Lights Out’, two slices of hard rock with bucket loads of melody.
The Darkness have always been the proverbial marmite band, love them or loathe them, a bit too gimmicky perhaps for many tastes.
After the very Celtic intro music, they kicked off with Dan Hawkins’ opening riff to ‘Barbarian’. Justin dressed in a sky blue satin suit obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously as he chicken steps along the stage during the solo of ‘Growing On Me’, and his interaction with the crowd is hilarious. When he picks up his guitar to solo he shows how accomplished he is, even if his vocals are an acquired taste.
‘One Way Ticket’ and ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ follow and I found myself waiting more for the comedy moments than the music. But even Justin’s japes had worn a little thin by the time he appeared in a red coat holiday blazer and white tennis shorts.
Another great Planet Rockstock was done and dusted and, whilst initially sceptical of this year’s line-up, I think it surpassed the previous event.
If the weekend belonged to Inglorious, The Dead Daisies and Fozzy it was also an opportunity to search out and savour new bands amongst the more established.
Review and photos by Darren Griffiths
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