My first High Voltage festival – and third weekend of Rock, starting with Sonisphere, then the Histon Billfest and now on my way to Mile End Tube for High Voltage. The previous two weekends had raised the bar pretty high, but the line up over the next two days was packed with quality acts.
Leaving Mile End the website had said a 10 minute walk to Victoria Park – I walk quick so beforehand I translated that to a two minute walk around the corner, but true to the word it was a decent walk of probably just shy of a mile by the time you’d reached the gates. Entrance was fast and simple – for a festival the fastest I’ve ever experienced. And friendly too, not something you get much at large events.
First up Michael Monroe was doing his thing on the main stage – he seems to work on a festival sized stage better than that of s small venue and for the one song I saw he was great. And then to the Metal Hammer stage where Attica Rage were making a decent heavy racket.
Grand Magus are at the HMV stand early afternoon so I use the rare opportunity to get them to sign a couple of CD sleeves I’d brought with me (I’m such a metal dork) – but they rock, and they will deafen me with their riffs later.
On the prog stage were one of my favourite bands even though I’ve only seen then live once before – Anathema. There is a moving moment when Dreaming Light is dedicated to the terrible events in Norway the day before. They capture an atmospheric sound and the set is largely from their last album – a long way from their death metal days -the set and musicianship stunning with each song an epic masterpiece.
On the main stage Thin Lizzy appear to be playing at a quieter volume that you’d expect this afternoon – but their music doesn’t really on headbanging loudness for effect. A young lady asks if she can sit on my shoulders but I decline, at over 6ft myself I’d block out the view for a large triangle behind me, but she is soon up there on another chap and appearing on the big screen herself. Michael Monroe is the special guest for dancing in the moonlight on sax.
I never saw Lizzy with Phil Lynott, but Ricky Warwick makes an excellent substitute – loyal but with his own take on the songs, and Macro is superb on the bass. They’re back in the UK early next year so I’ve purchased my ticket.
Neal Morse was the surprise hit of the day. I found myself strangely drawn to the prog stage several times and although I don’t know a single song he’s done (not even Spocks Beard) his set was enchanting – I later check the HMV tent for his material but they have none. Neil jumps into the audience and sings in a circuit of the crowd with camera capturing the whole event, his band was pretty huge and filled the stage and the sound was just as large. The Internet awaits for me to check out his stuff.
On the main stage it’s Slash belting out Rocket Queen, I’m a fair way back as you’ll see from my snap but I liked the silhouette on the big screens captured in the pic. I miss the end of his set to get down to the Metal Hammer stage for something heavier.
I witness Grand Magus setting up on the metal hammer stage before the metal really begins. At times slow paced, heavy swedish metal – for a trio the sound is epic. The themes are heroic and so is the music, Hammer of the North… The crowd is the largest I see at the Metal Hammer stage all weekend – I’m happy that I’ve finally seen them live.
Day Two – Today would be busy – lots of clashes and minutes between great artists but first up Heaven’s Basement.
They rocked as Hurricane Party, they totally rocked as Roadstar, they were awesome as Heaven’s Basement but this was the first time I’d seen them in a couple of years and the lineup had changed severely – lots of new faces but the same high octane rock’n’roll attitude was in abundance. The crowd thickened very quickly around the front and HB shirts were all over. I wish they’d play the title track RoadStar – such a classic and probably one of the songs that I’ve never not had on my ipod nano. What I can’t work out about Heaven’s Basement is after years of quality gigs why are they first on the bill? If any band deserve to get to the next level it’s them.
I said today was tight and now it was straight down to the Metal Hammer stage for new band The Treatment – I’d read reviews that were good but not yet heard this new band, as they are reportively from Cambridge I was keen to check them out. They rocked – they could have been Heaven Basement’s younger brothers, and they drew an impressive crowd, Cambridge’s very own Motley Crue.
Over at the HMV signing tent Black Spiders were scribbling on CDs – I got them to deface my Son of the North Cd before going up to the main stage to catch Saint Jude. never heard of her, but what a great performance, slightly jazzy slow rock, perfect chill out for a day in the sun.
There’s more than just music at High Voltage – there is Morris Dancing, slightly gothic style. And real ale – the fact that the real ale tent always appears rammed and the lager tents look empty should be a good indicator that more real ale at rock gigs is good!
Gentlemen’s Pistols are on the Metal Hammer stage with a guitarist that looks familiar – it’s Bill Steer or Firebird! Another quality band belting out heavy bluesy old style rock. The sun is burning the back of my neck, but who cares, this rocks. And then it’s down to the prog stage for an act I’ve always been told are great live but I’d never seen.
Mostly Autumn – a colleague (Pete) had told me for a long time that I need to see this band live, and he was right. Awesome performance, seriously prog – the music was intense, multidimensional soundscapes. When Olivia came onto the stage and every camera or mobile phone in the crowd was raised to capture the moment. I find myself torn – this band should have been on the main stage, and I want to stay for the whole set, but I can purchase it on CD and something explosive is about to happen on the main stage, something I never thought I’d see again, something that was the initial sole reason for my coming this weekend.
You’ve been Thunderstruuuuuck – the killer intro music for the greatest band in British rock. Entering the stage to Backstreet Symphony Thunder are the band that should never have split, they rule. During Back Street Symphony the PA cuts out a couple of times, but the audience sing to meet the audio levels – who cares, it’s Thunder and they are on stage. Every song in the all to short set is a classic, the Devil Made Me Do it, Gimme Some Loving. Guitars are above heads and Thunder shirts at todays festival are probably only outnumbered by Jethro Till Shirts. Signalong classics, I decide to go and sit back on the grass in the sun and enjoy one of the finest rock bands from a distance.
I miss the Black Spiders as I just couldn’t miss Thunder, but it says something about the volume of the Metal Hammer stage that Blood of the Kings came bouncing up the hill.
High Voltage was possibly the best festival I’ve attended – the smoothness of entry, the quality of the food stands, the people there, the vibe, the fact that they had cleaning gell near the convenience facilities and last but definitely not least, I didn’t see a single band that I walked away from. It was quality throughout, and reintroduced me to some bands that have led me to go online and order some Mostly Autumn and Neal Morse CDs. Mostly Autumns performance lead me to buy a Sunday ticket for next weekends Cambridge Rock Festival.
Mostly Autumn – http://www.mostly-autumn.com/
Anathema – http://www.anathema.ws/
Heaven’s Basement – http://heavensbasement.com/
Grand Magus – http://www.grandmagus.com/
High Voltage the Festival- http://www.highvoltagefestival.com/