Gig review: SOS Festival, Manchester, 20-21 July 2013

SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

Now in it’s sixth year, SOS festival is a chance for Rocksector Records to showcase it’s impressive repertoire of rock and metal acts alongside other established and emerging artists.

Tucked in a pocket of Radcliffe, within ten miles of the centre of Manchester, is the town’s civic suite which, if it weren’t for the posters of rock icons and gig adverts plastered all over the walls, it could be seen as a bit “phoenix nights”.

The transformation then is a welcome pumpkin-to-carriage styled one. The main room is a perfect fit for the acts that will grace it. With the main stage at one end and the acoustic stage at the other, there was rarely silence between electric sets as the acoustic stuff helped keep you amused.

John Doyle, SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

John Doyle handled this job brilliantly well with two early afternoon sets of covers including everything from Queens Of The Stone Age, Bon Jovi and Wheatus to the Foo Fighters and Eurithmics/Marilyn Manson.

The sun at this point was at its hottest, only magnified inside the now sweaty venue. Consequently, several bands on earlier in the day suffered. It was simply too hot to stay inside all day which meant there was always a large crowd outside drinking, smoking and socializing on grass verges.

Eocene, SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

Eocene, hailing from -the United States of Newcastle upon Tyne,- were one of the bands to suffer from this. Vocalist/guitarist Leon Fussel, wielding a beautiful, natural wood finish Gibson flying V lead his band from the front, carrying them like a general and his cavalry.

Their hard rock sound, with its distinctive metallic edge got the backing of the crowd that braved the sauna that was the main stage, but you couldn’t help share their disappointment that there weren’t more people inside. Covering Velvet Revolver’s Slither, complete with wah lathered solo, to close their set was an inspired choice that took the set to another level.

Massive Wagons, SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

As Massive Wagons take to the stage, they seem deserving of a much higher slot. Pulling one of the biggest crowds of the weekend they are greeted with rapturous cheers; their merciless, classic rock groove exploding the place instantaneously. Airbourne may be carrying the torch for hard, no-frill rock n’ roll these days, but Massive Wagons do the same with so much more charisma and swagger, without sounding too much like their idols. Definitely a band to watch out for.

But, in their own charming way, it was Wizz Wizzard who won the Saturday. With a sound taken from the NWOBHM era, they have healthy helpings of Judas Priest and Saxon all the while sounding individual.

At a glance, singer Wizz could be mistaken for Ronnie James Dio and he holds the crowd emphatically. By the end of the set there are a mass of horns in the air and the band are able to walk off stage triumphantly.

Simon Dunkerley writes: Before we went I looked through the lineup and band Bio’s, when I read about Sweet Taste I thought “Yes that’s my type of band”. So now looking forward to hearing them we saw them chilling outside before the gig and went over for a chat, great guys and so full of passion for their music.

Apart from chatting about general music and Belfast with them it was also good to hear about their influences and the effort they have put in gigging to get their name noticed. Niall Graham – Vocals, Christopher Seaton – Guitar, Mark Russell – Bass and a stand in drummer Rory Newell,  play 70′s style rock with a modern groove and feel to it; similar in fact to ‘Buffalo Summer’ who we recently saw in Manchester.

Sweet Taste, SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

Over the weekend we got a great live set and also two acoustic sets. Niall has a great voice a collection of poses and stances that could give the great frontmen of the 70′s a good run, a great looker and flamboyant to boot make for an exciting show.

Seaton plays a mean guitar, great rhythms and riffs where needed and also the delicate plating on the acoustic set. Mark on bass did describe himself playing in the style of the great John Entwhistle and this was evident in both his stage manner and his playing. Suited on stage and tight precise bass playing held the backline together.

At present they don’t have a permanent drummer but for this tour Rory Newell took to the skins providing a steady backline along with Mark.  These guys currently have an EP available ‘Hit the Spot’ is out now and available on iTunes and from Rocksector. Happily we will be catching up with these guys later in the year at one of their haunts, The Limelight in Belfast, when we are over to see The Answer tour and these guys will be there as punters to watch them.

Fantacist, SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

With the band celebrating their birthday, Fantasist ditched their usual tuxedos for morph/birthday suits. The band’s unpredictability, their light-hearted outrageousness makes them so damn enticing and their live shows are just phenomenal. Tonight was no exception as they produce a set full of complex time signatures that is tighter than a duck’s arse. They’re just a joy to watch on every level.

Triaxis‘ acoustic set managed to capture the mood of the audience perfectly; with a stunning cover of Iron Maiden’s Wicker Man ending a crowd-pleasing set.

Dave Evans, SOS Festival, 20 July 2013

The turn out for Saturday headliner Dave Evans was somewhat disappointing, with a large crowd still outside. It showed on the singers face although he still produced a quality set of AC/DC classics alongside some of his own solo material.

It was a headline slot that finished his current UK tour and also coincided with his birthday. Meanwhile Chris Appleton and Chris Needham both unleashed terrifyingly good improvised solos as they always looked to out-do each other in a friendly competition.

It would have been a sensational watch had Needham’s sound not been lost in the ether somewhere; it craved more volume to draw the outside crowd indoors. A good performance, but they’ve been better.

Candid Iniquity, SOS Festival, 21 July 2013

Sunday was a much heavier affair altogether and Candid Iniquity got the ball rolling in stylish fashion. Even with a stand-in vocalist they were able to tear through a brutal, aggressive and thrilling show. They even had two toddlers there to watch them.

Arguably the weekend’s heaviest band, My Wooden Pillow lived up to their Mr Creosote heavy reputation. It marked their first show with new drummer Nikk who kept the band tight, but they’re music seemed a little lacking in melody for it to be a truly memorable set.

Incassium, SOS Festival, 21 July 2013

Having recently been added to this year’s Bloodstock bill, Incassium arrived at SOS with a chance to both warm up for BOA and to show a local audience just how good they are.

Frontwoman Sharleen Kennedy is the epitome of what this band is all about. At times screaming like a banshee, at times melodic and beautiful, her commanding stage presence left you glued to your spot, the cool outside very much an afterthought.

Throughout the weekend, the crowd were treated to a ton of bands of a supreme quality at a bargain price. The festival is growing with age and is poised to be an equal, if not bigger success next year.

Yet, the music is not the sole vehicle that has driven this festival through 6 successful years. What makes SOS so enjoyable boils down to the people involved.

Sunday headliners Babylon Fire had no reason to be there on the Saturday yet were seen chatting to fans and fellow musicians all day. It was a recurring theme for so many of the artists who constantly rubbed shoulders with their fans and label-mates; everybody was a friend.

There were no egos. No one was bigger than anyone else. It was just a great big social gathering of like minded metalheads and rockers who were uniting for two purposes, and two purposes only: Music and alcohol.

Simon Dunkerley writes:

With the season now being swamped by festivals it’s easy to see how some can fall under the radar because there not picked up and touted by the big commercial companies. But this in itself also means that you come across gems like SOS festival.

I can’t believe it’s in its 6th year and I hadn’t come across it before as I always keep an eye on the festival scene and especially when it this local to me. So what is SOS festival, it was the brainchild of Mark Appleton and Lynne Hampson of Rocksector Records to showcase their bands and also a pick of some of the local/emerging and International touring bands.

The venue for this weekend is the Civic Hall in Radcliffe, which turned out to be a great venue. The setup consists of one main room with the main stage at one end and the acoustic stage at the other , how does this work I hear you ask;  well the acoustic session fill in between the main stage which means there is always some music to see and hear.

While on the subject of seeing and hearing the sound and light setup for this festival could put much bigger festivals to shame. The sound was spot on all weekend, loud and crisp and detailed when it needed to be and the lighting was amazing, great atmospheric lights, smoke and good front lighting meant you could see the artists even though were shrouded in great lighting. As a photographer it was a pleasure to work the event.

For me being a big AC/DC fan it was great to see and hear Dave Evans perform some of the classics form the early era of the band and also to hear him play music from current album Judgement Day.

All in all a great festival in both bands and organization. Definitely one on the list for next year, dates have being announced as 19th and 20th July and again at Radcliffe Civic, 20+ bands for the £15, bit of a no brainer really.

Review by Phil WellerAdditional reporting: Simon Dunkerley
Photos and Gallery by Simon Dunkerley


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