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GIG REVIEW: Headbangers Balls, Bristol, 13th July 2013

Headbangers Balls Bristol

This is the second show of the tour, it started last night in Cardiff and is also the first of three all day events spread out over the tour the others being the Camden Underworld show next Saturday (20th July) and the Grand Finale in Birmingham (17th August). Andy had asked me to act as stage manager for the all day events, something I was more than happy to agree to so I hadn’t intended writing this review but Scotty’s car broke down last night so he couldn’t come. Given the slightly different perspective I have on these gigs, the lack of coverage by the rock media at large and most importantly the quality of the bands and the importance of the cause I thought it only right to put “pen to paper” and write a review of my own.

I arrived at the venue about 1pm and met up with Andy and Dave (Cleaves), ROF’s sound man who is running the mixing desk and looking after the live sound for the events. After a quick chat about how we were going to run the day I introduced myself to the bands, most of which had turned up early and were as eager as us to load into the venue and get things underway. The venue eventually opened at 2pm and Dave and I went inside to take a look at the stage and room layout before starting the load in. The venue itself is fairly small as is the stage so it was going to be very important that we ran a tight ship for the day. Fortunately Andy has secured a backline sponsorship for the entire tour from Its Backline who have provided the drum kit and Music Force who provided all the cabs & heads. So once we’d built the backline it was just going to be a case of swapping “breakables” between bands. This worked really well and we managed to keep the changeovers within the allotted time throughout the day.

First band up were Cheltenham based Welcome Back Delta who hit the stage running with their mix of rock, blues and dirty metal. I’ve been playing their tracks a lot on the Sunday Service & Teenage Kicks shows so it was great to see them perform live. The crowd that had up until now been relaxing in the sun came in and gave the band some great support. The band played an enthusiastic ½ hr set that had everyone rocking, a great band to open the event, not too heavy but fast paced enough to get the crowd fired up for the day.

Next up were London based One For Sorrow who describe themselves as “Stoner Classic Rock Metal”. There wasn’t much Stoner on show during their performance which turned out to be another blistering set that thoroughly entertained the crowd. Racing from one track to the next, vocalist Joe Thompson commanded the stage and delivered a performance that was impressive for a relatively new band. The sound they produce as a four piece band was outstanding and this is largely down to the obvious skill of guitarist Jason Putter, a really solid performance from a band who will also be gracing the New Blood Stage at this years Bloodstock Festival.

By now everyone had settled into a comfortable routine, the bands were spot on during changeovers and every one of them was mucking in to make sure everything was running smoothly, the audience too were popping out for smoke breaks and chats during the changeovers and coming back in as soon as the next band started their set, it was great to see the support shown to all the bands by everyone there, fans and fellow band members alike, I’ve not seen this kind of support at many gigs over the last few years and it just goes to show how strongly everyone involved with the Balls feels about the events.

The next band to hit the stage were Parasitized. These guys looked a little frayed around the edges when they’d first arrived at the venue, not surprising considering they had just travelled down from Hull, in an old camper van, on what was so far the hottest day of the year. All that was forgotten though when they started their set. If anyone thought the first two bands of the day had set the pace, they suddenly got a rude awakening. Parasitized hit the crowd with something akin to a turbo charged chainsaw! Jaws dropped around the room and their opening number was met with stunned silence before the ever growing crowed showed their appreciation with a roar. For track after track the band kept up the pace and it wasn’t until midway through the set when I stood there grinning from ear to ear with Scott (Fires of Tartarus) that I realised the band perform without a Bass player. A truly outstanding performance from a band that had pulled out all the stops to be part of the show.

Another quick changeover saw the band that had given me the most worries of the day arrive onstage. Tempestora had arrived Ninja Style early in the day and had sat sorting their gear out in the holding area. Being the headless chicken I am at these events meant I hadn’t noticed and Andy and I had started to make arrangements to pull the next band forward while waiting for them to “arrive”. The lack of mobile signal only made matters worse as we were trying to contact a band that were already in the venue and sitting less than 10ft away from us. All was sorted though and Tempestora took to the stage bang on time. How I missed Sam and his Bass Guitar I’ll never know, he’s a tall lad and that Bass is bloody monstrous, if there was a rock band in Game of Thrones they would be using that guitar. The set was another fast paced affair, not as brutal as the previous bands but just as technical and was met with unanimous applause from the crowd. These guys are among the best of the new school of UK Thrash combining the speed of the original movement with the ability of the newer breed of technical metal bands.

Fires of Tartarus were up next and after covering themselves in cornflower (ask the band why they do it coz I have no idea) they took to the stage which by now was scorching hot. This is a band that we feature heavily on the Friday Frenzy so I was really looking forward to their set. I certainly wasn’t disappointed as they played many of the tracks we play on our show. There is more aggression in their live performance than on their recorded tracks and once again this got the crowd fired up especially towards the end of their set when Scott, as one of the band members on the tour who has survived Testicular Cancer, gave an impassioned speech thanking everyone involved with the tour. It truly is an honour to be working with people like this who have gone through so much and are still able to get up on stage and deliver a superb performance.

It was now time for me to see what would be my last full set of the day. Great Western trains seem to think that no-one returns to the ‘Shires after dark so I had to dash off to the train station for about 10pm or face sleeping rough in the middle of Bristol. Primitai are a band that have slipped under the TBFM radar, I was aware of them through Headbangers Balls but I have to confess I’ve not had a chance to really listen to them before. This was a real eye opener for me, the band are excellent, they gave a superbly polished hard rock performance and from the first song had the crowd firmly in their grip. Massive vocals are the standard for this band along with their near perfect guitar solo’s and driving rhythm section, this was one of the highlight sets for me. Please don’t think that I thought any less of the other bands that played, each and every one played and gave their all for the cause, it’s just that Primitai were the band I was least familiar with and the quality of their performance was a genuine surprise.

After one more quick change it was time for Reign of Fury to take to the stage for their set. The band was greeted with a huge cheer from the crowd, everyone present was fully appreciative with what they (and Andy) have taken on with this tour and the respect and admiration was easy to see. I only caught the first two numbers before slipping away but once again they showed what a solid team of musicians they are. As with Fires of Tartarus who were on earlier in the day their live show is heavier and more powerful than you would imagine it to be if you have only listened to their studio material and it was with a heavy heart that I left the gig.

Seprevation finished off an excellent day of music from some of the finest bands currently working the UK Rock and Metal scene. Having spoken to some of those who were still there after I’d left, they played an excellent set and finished off the event in style. I’m gutted to have missed them but it couldn’t be helped, I’m certainly going to make sure I get to see them soon though.

The next stop for me is the Camden Underworld this coming Saturday (20th July) and if todays event in Bristol is anything to go by its going to be epic. I know a lot of TBFM listeners and DJ’s are going to this show to support the cause so hopefully we will have a near capacity crowd, these shows are really not to be missed, they genuinely are showcasing some of the finest bands in the UK at the moment while raising much needed funds for a very worthy cause.

I really should also give a shout out to the unsung heroes of this event, all those people working in the background giving their support to the Balls, I’ve already mentioned Its Backline and Music Force who are providing the backline for all the events but I’d also like to say a huge thank you on behalf of everyone involved to all the tech crews at the venues and the venues themselves, to Metalhead Media who are filming at every Ball and who will be producing a DVD of the shows, to Dave Cleaves who worked tirelessly throughout the gig to make sure every band has the best possible sound, to Geoff Baehr who is photographing every show and to everyone else who is helping out with merch sales, raffle tickets and all the other things that are making these shows as good as they can be.

If you are a fan of Rock and Metal and one of these shows is on near you make sure you get to it, you will see some of the best the UK Rock & Metal scene has to offer and you will be part of an exclusive club that are showing this tour its support. You won’t read much about it in the mainstream rock media, as they seem to be an apathetic bunch who seem to be deliberately ignoring these events and even those who have shown an interest can’t be arsed to attend the gigs (over the first 3 shows there were 15 no-shows from media people who had requested press access) so it is down to you lot to show the support the bands and everyone else that is involved with the tour truly deserve.


Photo courtesy of HEADBANGERS BALLS

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