SOS Fest XII – Part II – The Longfield Suite, Prestwich UK

The third and final day of SOS is more of a classic rock day, although it features fewer bands for me that I was aware of than yesterday. Today is more of an adventure day, and I’m hoping for some discoveries.

The first band for us today are old school metaller’s Gang, making another welcome return from France. Having first seen them here in 2014, I really like Gang and I was looking forward to seeing them again. They have a good quality NWOBHM classic feel to them, and it was good to hear some of the new songs from their upcoming album All For One.

They drew a good-sized crowd, nothing too fast or aggressive for the time of day, decent riffs and Solo’s building around some rather excellent Steve Harris style Basslines. It was also quite nice to see the return of the running gag between the band and the boss Mark Appleton of the bright orange Hawaiian shirt: a class act.

On the journey between stages to see Promethium, literally about 10 feet, it was quite notable the number of kids in attendance today was at its highest, a good 10% of the audience was a certified tripping hazard, and it was great to see the enthusiasm of the next generation of metalheads.

Promethium, I have been looking forward to, normally a metal band their previous acoustic set here was so well received it’s led to the recording of a soon to be released acoustic album Revisions. Just Singer Steve and guitarist Dan, they played reworked versions of the normally heavy ‘Tribute to the fallen’, ‘Nothing’ and ‘Shellshock’& ‘Rain’ amongst others. A few ‘technical issues’ aside, the set once again went well and had an almost grungy feel to it, especially the vocals reminiscent of AIC’s Jar of Flies.

It must be said that as a reviewer and photographer and as much as it’s ‘all about the music’ I really do love it when a band goes to the extra effort of putting on a show. When they’ve properly thought about every aspect of the performance. A few bands this weekend really did show the effort and attention to detail that makes them an absolute joy to photograph and edit. Ward XVI was definitely paramount amongst them, sandwiched in between the two Promethium sets they managed to impress despite having had a load of equipment stolen that morning.

They drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and it was well deserved. Playing mainly songs from the excellent Art of Manipulation such as ‘Crystal Ball’ & ‘Toybox’ their set tells the story of Killer Psychoberrie and their accomplice escaping from Ward XVI, murdering a victim ‘Donald Trump’ in this instance before being recaptured and subject to electro-shock therapy. Don’t get me wrong it’s got some elements of cheese to it, but it’s very well executed and hugely entertaining for the crowd, a difficult act to follow in all honesty.

Next on the main stage were Kaned, who I really enjoyed, they had nice high energy. The triple attack female vocals were very effective indeed with harmonies and range and variety on display meant that although cramped on the stage, they had an abundance of stage presence. The backing band were also good, showing some good guitar work, with a driving rhythm, they certainly impressed.

As one of the acoustic acts had apparently not turned up there was instead a very welcome ‘announcement’ on the acoustic stage, which rather than being an announcement instead was a hearty thank you to all the people involved with putting on the festival, particularly the lighting and sound which, it must be said of all the festivals I’ve been to over the year does rate amongst as the best I’ve heard consistently, and there’s not a year goes by without a photographer remarking that the lighting is an absolute dream. This culminated in the thanking of Lynne Hampson the brains behind the festival, which was a lovely gesture even if it did make her cry on stage. You couldn’t help but feel like part of the family at that point.

Black Whiskey I’d seen in previous years and whilst competent performers their Bluesy Rock isn’t for me, indeed a cursory glance of the audience suggests that having grey hair is a quite firm requirement, so I give it a year or two. Therefore, after grabbing some pictures I strategically chose that moment to offset the growing fatigue with a fuel break. Regardless of how well you’ve been looked after, reviewing a festival is a trial of endurance and pacing is important.

Fuelled up and ready to go again, we have Tequila Mockingbird on the main stage, or should it be The Amorettes, I’m not entirely sure since the two bands have apparently merged into one, or two depending on the billing. It’s all a little confusing especially when they cover an Amorettes song.

As paragraphs go, that last one was one of the more confusing I’ve had to write, but fortunately, there’s no convoluted explanation required to say that they really rocked on the stage. Feel good, sing-along, catchy chorus-based rock in all its glory. They have great harmonies and backing vocals, songs such as let the neighbours call the cops and a great cover of somebody put something in my drink, made for a damn fine rock ’n’ roll show indeed.

The last act on the Wizz Acoustic stage was festival mainstay Chris Appleton, taking up three sets like his Brother Luke yesterday, sandwiched between the remaining two Set on the Dean Hocking main stage. Chris as ever is excellent, playing songs from the variety of acts he’s associated with (Fury UK, Absolva, Blaze Bayley) as well as his solo work and some fan favourite covers such as ‘Children of the Sea’ from Dio era Sabbath and ‘Mama I’m coming Home’ by Ozzy. He’s always quality.

Penultimate main stage act Skam from Leicester have good bouncy energy to their set. Quite an approachable vibe, but still capable of being quite hard-hitting at times. The stage presence is quite dynamic, with plenty of animation, especially noteworthy is Matt Gilmore on Bass who aside from knocking out quite sublime bass lines, just doesn’t seem to stop running around, posing and throwing shapes.

After the final acoustic set from Chris Appleton, we get the Sunday Headliners and purveyors of ‘Beer drinking Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Massive at the earlier time of 21:00 for those who have work and need to travel back to various reaches of Europe.

To say they have stage presence is an understatement, and it’s not just an act for the stage, In the press area I saw far more of the diminutive lead singers enormous bare arse as he photobombed interviews than I ever wished for, although his compliments to my son about his artwork did make my sons day, so thanks dude.

Musically it’s pretty much Australian pub rock exactly as you’d expect, shades of Acca Dacca and Airbourne are rife. It’s cliché city and it works because they’re too rock and roll to care that it’s a cliché, which of course means we’re in danger of playing cliché inception, if we weren’t too pissed to care, because… beer!

Jokes about beer, songs about drinking, drinking itself, songs about drinking, having a beer break in the middle of the set, honestly there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this, but that’s common for the genre. What matters is that it’s all delivered with such passion and wild abandon that you get caught up with it, we’re here to have a good time, and a damn good time was had by all. In a festival which goes from strength to strength, Massive saw us off in good style. Cheers!

Same time again next year SOS? Abso-bloody-lutely!

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE