With suitable tunes on the car stereo we headed over to Prestwich, Manchester for the Rocksector Records annual get-together, ‘SOS Festival’. Now in its ninth year it has a new home and has moved out of the now demolished Civic Hall to the equally salubrious Longfield Suite which over the weekend proved to be a great choice, despite it being hidden in the middle of the local shops and none of the local taxi drivers knew where it was!
One thing above all – that has always stood out for me about SOS – is that technically they do things right and lay on one of the best sound and light rigs I have seen for a festival this size and it puts many a larger venue to shame.
The stage plan followed the tried and tested one from the old venue with the centralised mixing desk and main and acoustic stages all in the same room, the only real change was the bar and seating area but also in the main room which seemed to work really well.
Looking through the line-up before the event there was certainly enough that I knew to bring me here, Massive Wagons, Bigfoot, Absolva, The Idol Dead and that’s before I find new ones.
Friday afternoon, and while the rest of the world is carrying on with the drudgery of getting home from work, we’ve hit the beer ready for the festival to open. The Friday night music evolved from people arriving early and now is an integral part of the festival ensuring that by the time festival openers Vice kicked off on the acoustic stage there is a decent, well-oiled, crowd.
Last year they played a full on metal set on the main stage so it was great to see them play a stripped back set, also nice to hear they have a slot at Bloodstock this year. Most of the acoustic acts only get two 15 minute sets which can be a bit restrictive but it seems to fit in with the festival timings.
Time now for a full on thrash assault on the senses as Beyond Salvation hit the main stage and kick off with the ‘The Escapist’ from debut EP, ‘Assention’. Still a relatively new band they have a great full on classic thrash sound and Jon’s vocals do manage to make it through the hard riffing guitars. Title track ‘Assention’ is a cracker and really shows what they can do. A great set to properly wake up the ears.
We were now treated to a great acoustic set from a band I only really found out about earlier this year, Cadence Noir who have a great mix of deep and moody gothic metal and eerily haunting fiddle playing, two things that seem to work and fit together very well. Acoustic or full on, plugged in, they are a great band.
It could almost be a double headliner for the final bands of the evening, Absolva and the newly reformed Babylon Fire.
Babylon Fire after a short hiatus return reenergized, and with a new vocalist Gaz to take them forward. Hard edged metal with slightly melodic vocals works well and with a few new tracks thrown in there to tease us it’s a blinder of a set and definitely the busiest crowd of the day. ‘Blood In Blood Out’ closes the set for this welcome return of an awesome band.
A hard act to follow but fellow label-mates Absolva take it in their stride. Having seen them a few months ago with Blaze Bailey I’m quite accustomed to their sound and style, Chris shows off his skills as a damn fine guitarist and they manage a quick cover of ‘Fear Of The Dark’. The beers flow and the bands play out an awesome day.
Saturday morning and with the first full day of the festival ready to start the punters are already here in good numbers and with people travelling from as far as Inverness and Belgium.
IDestroy are a three piece punk band from Bristol who I know about due to Becky Baldwin (Triaxis, Dorja) being on bass. Tight punchy delivery with a slight pop edge and Bec’s dry vocal delivery fits the music and style perfectly. ‘Vanity Love’s Me’ from the new EP is a great track and shows the style off perfectly, it was definitely worth the wait to hear them.
Aonia are not really for me; brilliant at what they did but I do struggle with the whole operatic/symphonic metal side of the music.
On the Acoustic Stage The Matchstickmen had a full drum kit and I think the acoustic format didn’t really work for them this time. In comparison A Jokers Rage had the whole live stage and used every bit of it which included their trademark smoke towers. Having seen them a few times this year now I’m definitely coming round to their style and their alt-metal sound. A great lively set, ‘Bounce’ gets everyone jumping around and Zakk is a great front man and works the crowd well.
Ritual King a tight three-piece heavy blues rock outfit definitely got the attention of the crowd. The whole stoner/blues/rock scene is having a great resurgence at present and with a tight three-piece band like this the result is awesome.
John Sloman was a great catch for the festival, playing material from his newer ‘Don’t Try This At Home’ and ‘Dark Matter’ albums. It would have been nice to slip in a few Uriah Heep tracks for the uninitiated.
Scottish rockers Attica Rage finished off tonight, hot on the tail of their latest album Warheads LTD. They pulled in a great crowd and kicked out one of my favourites ‘Killer Carousel’ alongside new single ‘Warheads LTD’ which has a great thick riffy sound to it.
Sunday comes around all too quickly, is it really the last day already? There are a lot of weary people around today but the music will soon sort that out. Over weekends like this there is so much to take in that you do miss some of it and you just have to hope that it’s not the must-see set of the weekend.
Kicking off today are a band I saw a few weeks ago at Breaking Bands Festival, and they have signed with TBFM for management, Hells Addiction. No frills old school rock and roll, with more riffs than you can bang your head to.
The crowd soon warm to them, Ben certainly commands the stage and he knows how to work the mic stand, Liam and Dan’s guitar work link up well which gives a thick riffy sound. A great, well received, set for such an unholy time on a Sunday.
Slowing things down a touch Diggeth take to the stage and follow on in a similar vein as Ritual King yesterday but with much darker Clutch-esque sound to them.
Matt Jones had already had a few acoustic slots yesterday but with his full band Twisted Illusion, and their prog sound, very convincing.
I’ve seen Bigfoot a few times now and always liked their old school rock n roll approach and sound, like Massive Wagons they are a great northern rock band. From the crowd reaction I saw a band that was not far from those headline slots, with great stage presence and great tracks.
Most of the set came from EP ‘Stone Soldiers’ and my favourite – ‘The Other Side Of Paradise’ – played out an awesome finale. I doubt I’m the only one to predict huge things for these guys.
Now for an injection of pure adrenaline, The Idol Dead are one of those bands that can take any stage and instantly fill it with energy, from opener ‘Buckle n Howl’ to ‘I.D.O.L’
Tim and KC keep the riff count high as vocalist Polly Phluid teases and gets up close with the crowd. This is high energy punk/rock played by five guys who stay true to the music and with flashes of their trademark lime green everywhere in the crowd.
One of my favourite bands around at present are Massive Wagons, currently on tour with Ginger Wildheart and with a night taken out for SOS festival. It’s been three years since they last hit the stage here and boy have they grown musically with the release of ‘Welcome To The World’. They give 110% in their no frills, hard rock n roll delivery.
Final acoustic session of the weekend and Chris Appleton is joined by his brother Luke, who is fresh from an Iced Earth gig the day before. The first time we saw them together was in Fury UK many years ago and since then they have gone their separate ways so it’s always great to see them together again.
Knock Out Kaine and Dean Foxx bring the full ’16 Grams Of Heart Attack’ and a taste of rock and roll glam from the Sunset Strip to Manchester – a furious set to close the festival.
SOS 2016 was a huge success. With a great new venue and many more new fans the 10th anniversary next year is going to be a big one.
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley
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