It is that time in the space/time continuum when we transport ourselves to the the outer reaches of the cosmos (well, the outer reaches of Bromsgrove) for the Sonic Rock Solstice. Tent up pretty sharply (I have discovered the less I do, the easier it gets erected!). Into the very good nearby Boat and Railway pub for our starters for ten, and at £2.80 a pint it is an easy choice.
Friday. Tom Ashurst. From the venerable Hawklords, Tom gives us a brief but decent start to the weekend. Just him plus acoustic guitar plus loops. And people pay £100.00 to see Ed Sheeran do basically the same?! Occasional dodgy lead break, but anyone who gives the early Floyd’s ‘Matilda Mother’ an airing can be forgiven. Shackled Four young men who have probably slept with their dads’ Metallica cds under their pillows. T-shirts a-plenty for sale. But original material, so deserve an audience, Guitarist changed his Flying V at one point…for another! (Guitarists may agree that he must be a masochist! They can be buggers to keep in tune!). A couple of festival-friendly covers to finish via Black Sabbath and Motorhead , sorry, no prizes for guessing. They went down well. ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’. The food-based frolics of Sister Sandwich. Merciless rewriting of the likes of the Ramones, Clash, Billy Idol, White Stripes…even Britney Spears and Ricky Martin aren’t spared. When I say they do ‘I love sausage rolls’ by Joan Jett and ‘Meat Meat Meat’ by the Damned you will get the idea. A lot of the lyrics were a bit indiscernible but gloriously bonkers. Capt Roswell and the Lost Alien Tribe. The Hawkwindy stuff that most of the audience have come for. It is not easy to do a twenty minute number using one chord, usually E. Song titles? Not a bloody clue. Use the words ‘Space’ ‘Cosmic’ ‘Sonic’ ‘Interstellar’ ‘Voyage’ and ‘Traveller’, throw them up in the air and select three at random. But it is great! Dr Hasbeen’s NASA Conspiracy Project. Quick second appearance for Martyn Hasbeen (does he only pay himself one lot of travelling expenses?!). A few more chords this time, ‘Little Green Men’ is never far away. I bought a couple of Dr Hasbeen’s cds , £2.00 each, for the car…sorry, the shuttle craft. Senser. Plenty in for the headliners, the back of a t-shirt told me they have been here before. Big musical intro before male and female made dramatic entrance. They launched into a tuneless tirade that I believe is classed as ‘Rap’ (?). I would suggest there is a letter missing from the start. Awful. Goodnight.
Saturday. Greenfire. Five piece outfit with female singer. Loud! Happy Graveyard Orchestra. Unusual line-up and unusual songs. Not as loud! Did I hear a drum and xylophone solo?’ Idiosyncratic’ is probably a good description , nice version of ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’ too. Sloth Metropolis. Have seen them here before,very theatrical but not for me musically. Rhythmic Raymond admitted he had bought a cd last year but has not played it. Orange Clocks. Complicated explanation to start with , regarding (I think) a 1973 record about a monkey that never made it onto German tv. Hence, Orange Clocks have revived it as ‘Tope’s Sphere 2’. And they were about to unleash the full lp on an unsuspecting room. It seemed like a sort of cosmic version of ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and not only was it visually great, but the music was pretty good too. Completely crackers but really enjoyable. Seemingly they added a bit more at the end too. Best so far. Babel. Stoke Prior regulars, they put a lot into the visual elements of the show. Pre Med. Seemingly been going since 2004, this is a relatively recent incarnation (I overheard). Boasting a 5-piece standard prog line-up, the female vocalist had a good voice. They rocked more than the Mostly Autumn extended family genre. Both Ray and Her Ladyship discerned a hint of Lene Lovich on one track. ‘Ace of Spades’ got another outing at the weekend. Fierce and the Dead. Very popular but I just don’t get them. Totally instrumental 4 piece with decent tunes that seem to be crying out for someone like Robert Plant to come hurtling out of the speakers. But it never happens, and to be fair to the members, they say they don’t want a singer. So it is up to them. Lacertilia. Welsh 5-piece, 2 with no hair , 3 with lots. And a few beards. Ironically, my first impression was what the previous lot may sound like with a singer! Imagine Black Sabbath on speed (instead of cocaine) and a singer with a better voice. Her Ladyship was impressed (but her father was Welsh ). Quantum Fantay. Anyone who has come from Belgium deserves at least a decent look. Their footballers do! Plenty of merchandise. Tangerine Dream-ish keyboards with loud almost funky bass.. And on came a very strange frontline! Ultimately a totally instrumental musical show but with a unique mime (?), puppet(?), circus(?)…I don’t have an adequate description. Four musicians grooving along, seemingly oblivious to the mayhem in front of them! If they are on Youtube, give them a look…now! ‘Chopsticks and Gongs’ had a very oriental feel. ‘Skytopia’ was about 20 impressive minutes. And then some stilts. Very good, good capture for the weekend Martyn! Evil Blizzard. Much anticipation, before 6 beings from a 70s Hammer Horror film came on stage. Metal with lashings of ham. Sorry lads, we were just too tired , had to head off .
Sunday. Crossroads 531. Starting with ‘Bullfrog Blues’. we got a set of blues-rock stuff from the late 60s/early 70s. Songs from Cream, Groundhogs,Gallagher, Free, CCR and Hendrix. Though not all of them the usual ones you expect from a pub covers outfit. Plus ‘Matchbox’ and a Racing Cars song. They also had an unexpected goth girl stage dancer. She is, actually, a pleasant and highly-educated woman but a comment ‘Doesn’t she look a dick?’ had some validity. The trio did well, especially being almost strangers to themselves! A sensible easing in to a Sunday afternoon onboard the craft. Vulcan Death Grip My intuition told me this was not going to be bluegrass! Two 6-strings plus keyboards and FX. Couldn’t make out any lyrics, they played 2 numbers, each about 20 minutes long. If it was both sides of a single, I have this vision of putting them on a pub jukebox in Newcastle and walking out! Witchtripper. Thankfully not on at midday! Fresh-faced, short-haired drummer sitting behind a couple of tattooed serial killers. Legs akimbo up front of course. Drummer was a real extrovert, in fact. He looked even younger when he put his specs on afterwards! Plenty of stick twiddling and standing up. Reminded me of Simon in the Hot Rods. They have made a couple of lps to date, I gather. I reckon each will have deafened half of Mansfield. ‘Attitude Adjustment’ finished a confident performance. Captain Horizon. 4-piece rock group, quite a few notches down from the previous occupants. Closer to the 80s NWOBHM groups. Original material but, sadly, not all that memorable. Members sloped off at the end to leave drumming finale. Dirty Flowers. Oh bugger! Saxophone alert! 5-piece, I lasted about as long as it took me to write the words ‘jazz’ and ‘funk’. Went to sit outside. Ray and I both thought we were hearing some Blockheads played backwards at one stage. Definitely not for me. Deepshade. 3 piece plus more smoke. They had that doom-laden vocal delivery that made me dash outside to look for an asteroid that had been knocked off course and was heading straight towards the Earth…with no Bruce Willis on hand to tw*t it with a baseball bat. But those in attendance enjoyed it. Sonic Black Holes Young men from Germany, I was intrigued to see them. Very 69 Pink Floyd sound to start, but without Rick Wright, without any vocals and much swinging of hair. So hardly like Pink Floyd then! Very interesting, but not quite enough to threaten world domination. Her Ladyship started to play with her phone at half-time. Music of the Andys. I will omit the apostrophe from the poster! Two Andys from Here and Now gave us a bit of noodling before the others came on. Here and Now. Many loyal fans here, including Channel 5’s Matthew Wright, plenty of t-shirts too. I remember seeing them at Blind Cat Festival and realised that I had never heard a thing by them before. Still not got round to it. Astralasia. A truly cosmic finale in store, there seemed to be an early snatch from Dark Side of the Moon. Thought the drummer seeemed to be working overtime, I stood up and discovered his name was Mr Commodore (come on, I am a pensioner!). A couple of females came on to wiggle and warble , it got to sound like someone had put on their ‘White Light White Heat’ lp and had played ‘Sister Ray’ at 45 rpm by mistake. A quite absorbing take on Alex Harvey’s ‘Faith Healer’, then Mr Commodore broke down! Everything stopped. Frightening that an electrical fault can completely flummox a headliner. So, after much sweating from sound man Snake, it seemed that some more traditional assistance from a Mr Mapex and a Mr Zildjian solved the problem (with help from their operator of course). A hint of ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ before what Her Ladyship briefly thought was Dr Feelgood but it was Donna Summer! And then…off goes the bloody fire alarm. Absolutely bloody farcical end to bloody good weekend. Kozmic Ken gave out his customary thanks to a couple of dozen in the audience, the rest had given up and gone .
All in all though a good weekend. It always is. Capacity for the venue is 499, the event seems to attract the right sort of numbers and the right sort of people.
1. Music. Not a complete weekend of stellarphononics. Everything from the lunacy of Sister Sandwich at one end to the full-on metal attack of Witchtripper at the other. Plenty of Hasbeeny stuff in between. Thankfully no Plastic Paddies and only the tiniest hint of reggae.
2.Camping/Security. We managed to get 3 full nights sleep, a definite first. One git had a music system blasting out at a level that would have dwarfed the Who…and he wasn’t even in his tent! Security were informed , one of whom said ‘It is a music festival’. Searingly incisive observation. Two went to investigate, and seemingly did nothing. Thankfully, it seemed that someone summoned the Lone Ranger and Tonto and the noise mysteriously ceased.
3. Bar. Her Ladyship got shortchanged by a fiver once, she was refunded without question. Very naughty to charge 10p for a plastic pot, but without telling you! Staff and prices in general have always been ok here.
4. Food. Much vaunted veggie shed shut at 9.00pm on Friday, ran out of food! OK rest of weekend. Prices far better than other fests we have been to.
5. Field layout. Maybe think about using a spray can to mark out ‘roadways’?
6.Tents. The afore-mentioned goth girl left a couple of tent pegs when dismantling her tent. I know because I heard her say that she had left one! Obvious she didn’t have a car and had never driven over a peg a similarly-thoughtless person had left. Her Ladyship and I are mere Bachelors, not Ph.D’s like she apparently is, but always make sure we don’t leave any pegs.
7. Toilets. I didn’t venture into portaloos. The sound of their being emptied at 6.00 am at the Acoustic Fest may be loud but is reassuring! We never got woken up here. Otherwise ok.