Cambridge Rock Festival 2011 – Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn live at the Cambridge Rock Festival

It’s been a few years since I went to the Cambridge Rock Festival (or Rockinbeerfest as it was back then) and seeing Mostly Autumn on the bill justified the £35 for a ticket to Sundays performance.

First of all, the organisation of the festival is superb.  Easy to get to, no big queues to get in, no one to tell you that you can’t come in with a bottle of pop in your back pocket.  On entry you can buy beer “tokens” at £10 for 3 pints – that’s an extra pint for your money compared to normal festival prices and what’s more the bar is a real ale bar (so the beer is good) and the use of tokens mean that bar service is speedy.  There are quality food stands within  as well and I had the best smoothie ever, strawberry, honey and cinamon.  Programmes detailing all bands with all stage times in were just £2, there is a lot to be said that is right with the Cambridge Rock Festival and I haven’t even started on the music yet!  And it’s in Cambridge.

The first act I saw on this Sunday I enjoyed from the sitting on the grass outside Stage 2’s tent.  Later metal newcommers the Crimes of Passion rocked the crowd on Stage 1 with tales of touring with Saxon, fresh high octane old school heavy metal packed with complex fast riffs (think Maiden, Helloween, Saxon) and finishing with an awesome cover of Dio’s Holy Diver that pretty much blew everyone away in the middle of an afternoon, fists in the air metal, that’s how I like it.  New album is out in October so I’ll be sure to check that out.

On the Access to Music a young band are rocking out and a pleasure to watch in the sun – but I have no idea who they were.  But here’s a snap of then, lead vocalist in an old school Def Leppard shirt – they rocked.


Similar to the High Voltage Festival the festival was a case of running between two stages to catch the best of quality acts.  CREDO on stage one had a proggy feel, possibly slightly celtic.  Over at Stage two Bad Influence take to the stage with Thunder’s Harry on drums pumping out some loud dancy blues, but after a few songs I return to Stage one for Mr So & So.  Argh decisions, it’s back to Stage 2 for Bad Influence and then back to stage one for the end of Mr So & So’s set.  The best of both worlds, well as best as you can get!

The band I’d come to see were Mostly Autumn and before they came on stage there was a moving talk from the charity Pilgrim’s Bandits about the excellent work they do – not a charity I’d come across before but they raise money for brave forces victims who have suffered injury and take them out on adventures and confidence building exercises – the website where you can find out more is here


Mostly Autumn are on stage just before 7 and the tent was packed.   The band were awesome and this was the greatest festival live performance I’ve seen this year – fantastic atmospheric prog rock from a band with 7 highly talented musicians.  What more could you ask for – Olivia the perfect front woman captivates the crowd, Bryan’s floyd style soaring guitar tones, Anne Marie takes centre stage for a flute solo, Iain Jennings superb tones from the keys.  Most of the material is familiar to me featuring heavily from the Go Well Diamond Heart album – but Evergreen really stands out from Heather’s era.  I never saw them with Heather up front (I regret not taking more notice of colleague from work Pete’s suggestion that I must see them live) but I’ve got an exciting time ahead exploring the back catalog.


My regret for the festival – not going for the weekend, what an awesome no fuss festival.  And in a rock music fan moment I had my snap taken with Mostly’s Olivia – check out my cool Pythia shirt!

The festival really was different to other festivals, it felt less corporate oriented (or not corporate at all I should say) which could be due to it’s size – you can just sit back and enjoy great music, beer and food.  Let’s hope the line up next year looks good!

Cambridge Rock Festival :

Mostly Autumn:

Crimes of Passion:

Autumn Leaves:

Andrew Stawarz Photography has some pictures on flickr of the event:


High Voltage 2011 – Thunder, Mostly Autumn & Anathema, Heaven’s Basement

Mostly Autumn live at High Voltage  Anathema live at High Voltage  Heaven's Basement - live at High Voltage

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 - High Voltage signing

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.

Anathema live at High Voltage

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.

Thin Lizzy live at High Voltage

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.

Thin Lizzy with Michael Monroe live at High Voltage

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 live at High Voltage

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.

Slash at High Voltage

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.

Grand Magus live at High Voltage Grand Magus live at High Voltage

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.

heaven's Basement live at High Voltage Heaven's Basement liev at High Voltage

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.

the Treatment live at High Voltage The Treatment live at High Voltage

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.

Moris Dancing at High Voltage

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 live at High Voltage Mostly Autumn live at High Voltage

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.

Thunder live at High Voltage

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 Crowd

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 –

Anathema –

Heaven’s Basement –

Grand Magus –

High Voltage the Festival-

Sonisphere 2011 – Anthrax, Arch Enemy and Motorhead

Motorhead live at Sonisphere Knebworth 2011

Friday 8th of July – Thrax, Megadeth and Diamond Head

Sonisphere 2011 – and I find myself back in the queue for buses at Stevenage station amongst the metal masses.  The queue is big, and despite there being several buses packing the fans up and whisking them away to the festival as quickly as possible the waiting time is around an hour.  But spirits are good – music is playing from out loud from smartphones, and there is a collection of metal shirts from gigs gone by.  There are loads of bands playing Sonisphere so I’ve only written about a few that I wanted to write about.

Diamond Head Live at Sonisphere

The one thing Friday could have done with is some earlier bands – but what a band to kick a festival off with at 3pm, Diamond Head..  They rocked, the Prince, Helpless, Am I Evil, Metallica may have boosted the audience for these songs but it’s great to hear them from Brian Tatler’s band, superb.

Joey from Anthrax live at Sonisphere 2011 Knebworth

Anthrax followed – three years at Knebworth park now – for three years just seeing one band listed on the bill has made me want to attend.  Thrax.  And today its a limited edition thrax with Andreas Kisser replacing Scott Ian whilst Scott takes time out with his new arrival.  What a great version of thrax to see – when else would you get to see Thrax with Andreas playing some Sepultura!

Frankie Bello live at Sonisphere 2011 

This was a great performance,  being a Bush era fan for years I never thought I’d see them as such an awesome band again with Joey up front.  Fight Em is the new track, Only is the Bush era track, Madhouse is as classic as ever.

Dave Mustaine Megadeth Sonisphere 2011

Next up Megadeth, and Dave Elfeson is back , Dave Mustaine with a cool flying V double neck and they pound through the classics, Wake up Dead, Holy Wars, Symphony of Destruction, In my Darkest Hour, a Toute le Monde.  One song I’ve always wanted to see Megadeth play live is Mary Jane, we didn’t get it and I didn’t expect to, it didn’t matter as they rocked. And we get a new song from their next album, I miss the title but I think it was Public Enemies.

Black Breath Sonisphere 2011 Knebworth

After being down the front of this huge crowd  for three awesome bands I went to get some space rather than hanging around for Slayer, something was happening at the Jagermeister stage so that was my next chosen destination, Black Breath were about to hit the stage.  A great thing about Sonisphere is that you can walk into unexpected gems, last year it was Audrey Horne, this year Black Breath.  Very heavy metal from Seattle, singer Nate McAdams pointed out “you’re all here and you could be watching Slayer, but we thank you for being here”.  Awesome.

I went for a wander after Black Breath’s all too short 30 minute set was over, time for an ice cream.

Sonisphere Knebworth Crowd 2011  Sonisphere Knebworth Crowd 2011

Have you ever experienced the power of Slayer from 500m?  Ever heard the Raining Blood riff thudding across a field?  I hadn’t, wow that band are powerful, it’s even more haunting from a distance than close up.  I continue to wander round the tends but I don’t get into all of the music here, lots do.

Saturday 9th July – Duxford instead

 Lancaster Bomber from BBM5 Duxford 2011 

Saturday I missed, I fancied going to the Duxford Air Show for a different form of loud heavy metal!  That was followed by an evening at our villages Feast event listening to a cover band.  I missed the Black Spiders but High Voltage in two weeks.

Sunday 10th July – Arch Enemy and Motorhead

Back to Stevenage station for the bus queue.  There was a smell in the air as I got off the coach at Knebworth, a smell familiar to those who live near fields that have natural products spread on them, the smell of a festival 3 days mature.

Volbeat live at SONISPHERE Knebworth

First up, I want to see Arch Enemy but before them Volbeat take to the stage.  Who?  Volbeat – lucky find number two at the festival.  Punk meets Almighty meets Motorhead – these guys as main stage openers were an awesome start to the day.  We even get blasts of Slayer and Motorhead during their set.  I didn’t expect much, I was wrong, they rocked.

Arch Enemy live at Knebworth

The crowd thickened for Arch Enemy, were they too low on the bill?  In their Khaos Legions leathers that rock the main stage and makes the mosh pits that I avoid swirl.  Angela Gossow prowling round the stage, we hear that they’ve had no sleep since playing Sonisphere Sweden yesterday, but the show is still high energy.

Arch Enemy Live at Knebworth - Angela Gossow Arch Enemy live at Knebworth - Michael Amott

Michael Amott shreds away, guitarists in the crowd watching in awe .  Genuinely intense, awesome.

After this there weren’t many bands I had on my list for a couple of hours so I joined the queue at the Arch  Enemy signing tent, did I need them to write their names down for me?  Probably not, but I had time so why not, and it was cool to shake their hands.

Sonsiphere Crowd Knebworth 2011

Next up I find myself in the Bohemia tent for some comedy which was brilliant – no idea who the comedian was (thought that Justice was Tallica’s last decent album), it left time for a slice of Pizza before the most exciting new band from down under were about to come on.

Airbourne Live at Knebworth 2011 Sonisphere

Airborne leapt onto the Apollo stage as if they’d just been let loose – running across the stage like  animals just released from a cage.  If they were a band to play songs with the riff’age and charisma of ACDC without being ACDC it’s airbourne.  Rock’n’roll swagger and riff’s a plenty, the crowd this was pretty thick.

Motorhead Live at Knebworth

The final act I was really looking forward to seeing – Motorhead.  Lemmy came onto the stage and had the sad announcement that Wurzel had died this weekend.  If there was one band member I’d have liked to have seen join a band it would be Wurzel rejoining Motorhead – when i got into Motorhead (mid eighties) he was their axe man alongside Phil, he was the first rock star guitarist I’d seen live (with Motorhead at the Corn Exchange).  There was an initial gasp and a massive cheer when Lemmy dedicated the set to him.

Motorhead Knebworth with Fire Dancer Sonisphere

Motorhead as ever were perfect, fantastic lyrics and solid rock’n’roll tunes, in a hour long set we get all the classics and the best, One night stand, Going to brazil, and the awesome Get Back In Line from their last album.  For Killed By Death they are joined by fire breathing dancers – very rock.  Motorhead are loud perfection.

My feet hurt by this point – I’d been up on them most of the weekend.  After Motorhead’s performance nothing could top that, my Sonisphere was done, I was happy.  Will I be back next year – well, I’ll look for decent bands on he lineup, but 3 ourt of 3 Sonisphere’s have been great so far.



Arch Enemy:


Diamond Head:

Duxford War Museum:

A tour of history in and around Edinburgh

A holiday in central and southeast Scotland in June provided a great opportunity to explore some of the rich and fascinating history in the region, and read some of the great ghost stories.  So, in this post I visit 5 castles, 1 palace, a WW1&2 airfield and two notable pubs.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle
History: Possibly the most important of the castles in Scotland and has a history that reads like a who’s who of history, Mary Queen of Scots loved it, was crowned here and sent James there to grow up, William “Braveheart” Wallace grabbed the castle after the battle of Stirling bridge, James V and IV hung out here and the Scottish Highlanders used it until 1964.
Ghosts: Possibly Mary Queen of Scots or her lady in waiting have been seen (throughout the trip I had a feeling Mary’s ghost was fairly busy in Scotland) – known as the “green Lady”, ghostly footsteps coming from floors above and apparently a highland ghost that can be mistaken for a tour guide.  There is also a ghost photo of what looks like a ghost of a regimental guard walking through one of the arches.
Walking Around: Stirling Castle is possibly as big as Edinburgh castle; walking up, it’s surrounded by steep hills so ideal for defence.  We’d made the trip on the train from Edinburgh and the Scottish summer rain had just started as we approached the castle.  A few of the inner buildings have been restored to their medieval styles, and the knights and ladies have been replaced by costumed actors to give an impression of life.

Stirling Castle with ladies inside Stirling Castle with throne Stirling Castle with Knight inside

Still – they give good shelter from the pouring rain that we endured on the day of our visit.  Away from the redecorated sections were many lower areas, down to the simple rock, that’s how I like it.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

History: Built from the 14th century onwards.  Mary Queen of Scots came here to seek refuge and whilst here her advisers secretly agree to murder her husband Lord Darnley, her son James VI planned his marriage to Anne of Denmark here.  It was also used for the filming of Ivanhoe in the 20th century.

Craigmillar Castle looking down
Walking Around: Of all the castles we visited on our Scotland trip Craigmillar was the best to walk around, we caught the bus up to Edinburgh hospital and it was just a short walk up the hill from there.  Inside the castle there are lots of spiral stair cases with views over in the sea and Edinburgh from the battlements, being slightly tall I’m not a massive fan of ancient spiral staircases as I tend to bang my head on the low ceiling above but these were quite spacious with wide steps.  What I really liked about this place was that it was fantastically intact so not a complete ruin, but it hadn’t been redecorated either and was largely original rock.  I get a buzz from walking through the rooms imaging the historical figures that would have walked through these corridors.  The prison down below with it’s low ceiling and lack of any sunlight gives a feeling for what it would have been like should you have been caught stealing someones turnips in the middle ages.  Some rooms were labelled, others left it up to you to imagine what they might have been used for.  It’s now inhabited by various gulls and pigeons that gave us a bit of a fright as they jumped out at us whilst exploring the upper floors.

Craigmillar Castle  Craigmillar Castle Prison

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

History: Here since the 11th century and rebuilt in stone since the 14th century Edinburgh castle sits happily on a massive rock which is a sight that always impresses me when I arrive at the train station in Edinburgh.  Playing a part in many historical conflicts, the castle has a history of being destroyed and rebuilt – for the last time in the 17th century when Oliver Cromwell  moved in.

Edinburgh Castle

Very busy on the day

Ghosts: A legend of a piper that was sent down to check the length of a discovered tunnel, the idea being that he’d play the pipes and people above ground could trace his progress – only the pipes stopped and he never returned.  No one dared mount a rescue mission although his pipes can still (it’s said) be heard.  There is also a phantom drummer, a headless man and a phantom coach pulled by black horses that goes rattling off down the Royal Mile. A spooky place!
Walking Around: Going in just before the 1 o’clock gun probably wasn’t the best plan for a quiet look round the castle, the place was completely rammed with others also keen to explore the historic location – it’s not as easy to soak up the historical when the place is so bustling with other tourists who like me have been drawn here today.  Like Stirling, investment had been made in many areas to give the castle a medieval feel.

Edinburgh Castle Gun 1

Putting the big shell in the cannon

raising the barrel of the cannon

Raising the barrel of the cannon

1 o'clock cannon goes bang


There was lots to see in the castle I took a trip down into where the prisoners of war were kept in the vast vaults below the castle.  There is also a military history museum where they have many exhibits from the two world wars and the participation of the highland guards.  The Crown Jewels are on display but there’s a big queue going in so I give that a miss for another time.  Today I was happy to just stand up top with the cannons on the battlements and admire the views in all directions.

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

History: Built by a Norman Knight in the 12th century, captured by Edward the 1st in the thirteenth century, Robert the Bruce ordered its destruction in the fourteenth century, and it came under siege from Cromwell in the seventeen century.  Also in the seventeen century, witches were imprisoned here by witch finder John Kincaid.

Dirleton Castle  Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle Murder Hole

Murder Hole for dropping rocks on intruders

Walking Around: Not too far to drive from Edinburgh, Dirleton is set in some beautiful gardens.  Standing itself up on a rock Dirleton is still in great condition, a well preserved ruin set on a large rock.    Entry is via a timber bridge across the ditch where a drawbridge would presumably of once been used, as you enter you can see the murder hole above you where rocks and oil could have been dropped on those attacking the castle, ouch.  Similar to Craigmillar, you can walk around Dirleton and get a real buzz for the history walking around the place.  Particularly when you go down into the dungeon and see the entrance to the pit (you can’t get into the pit – I wasn’t keen on doing so).  The dungeon was dingy enough and I was glad that I had company down there.  The gardens surrounding the castle are a treat themselves and if the web is to be believed they feature the world’s largest herbaceous border.

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle

History: in the fifteenth century James IV lays siege, in the sixteenth century gunners fire on English ships as they engage with the French near the Bass Rock (you get a great view of the Rock from here!), Mary Queen of Scots visits in 1566, the castle enjoyed 300 years of both sieges and banquets before the castle is wrecked by Cromwell’s big guns in 1651.

Tantallon Castle

the window where ghosts have been photographed - not today!

Ghosts: There is a great photograph of a ghost looking down from one of the windows sadly on the day we went it didn’t make an appearance for my picture on the side.
Walking around: Walking up to Tantallon I am immediately struck by its awesome red sandstone walls.  Despite Cromwell’s best efforts there was still lots to see at Tantallon, and you can get very high. Too high for my liking.  Those with vertigo might have problems just looking off the cliff edge from the gardens above the Forth estuary, standing on the battlements I decided against going up to the top of the mid tower.  Gannets and Gulls around the castle have homes and we were shouted at several times during our visit.  Down below you can see the dark and confined prison for common criminals, though you received better treatment if you were a criminal of higher class!  With the views I think parties (or banquets!) back in the fifteen century here would have been quite amazing.


Tantallon Castle Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle

The view from (almost) the top

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace
History: William the 1st “The Lion” sealed a charter in the twelfth century here, James III added to the palace including the SW tower, Margaret Tudor received the palace as a wedding present, James V remodeled it in the fourteenth century, and Mary Queen of Scots was born here, in the sixteenth century Anna of Denmark spent time here with her husband James VI, In the seventeenth century Oliver Cromwell decided he likes the palace so much he turned it into his own residence and adds fortifications.

Linlithgow Palace Linlithgow Palace Fountain

Ghosts: A blue lady that walks from the palace to the nearby church of St Michael, and a ghostly figure at the top of one of the towers.
Walking Around: Linlithgow was a joy to look around, in the centre a courtyard with original fountain.  All four walls are intact and we explored up and and down the spiral staircases to see kitchens, halls and lodgings.  Down below the ground the wine cellar was seriously huge, and the palace even had its own brewery – they must have had some great parties here back in the day!

Linlithgow Palace
Outside the palace we visited the “Four Marys” pub for lunch where the food was great, as was the beer I enjoyed my Belhaven “Four Marys” beer.  Linlithgow is only a couple of train stops from Edinburgh so was well worth a look.

Pubs: The Last Drop & The White Hart Inn

Inside the last drop - enjoying a pint of bellhaven best

Inside the last drop - enjoying a pint of bellhaven best

History: Two pubs on the Grassmarket near where many executions took place in the seventeen century.  The cellars from the White Hart Inn date to 1516, and the body snatchers Burke and Hare would apparently lure victims back to their apartments before murdering them and selling their bodies.  Cromwell also liked to have a few pints here – maybe if he spent more time enjoying Belhaven Best and less time popping his guns at Tantallon the castle would have lasted a bit longer.
Ghosts: The Last Drop has a small girl ghost, someone who calls your name out to you.  Reading Alan Murdie’s book “Haunted Edinburgh” it is suggested that the White Hart Inn could be one of the most haunted pubs in all of Scotland, a “shadowy form” at the doorway behind the bar amongst other spooky occurences.

   Last Drop White Hart Inn

Drinking: Can you beat a pint of Belhaven Best in Edinburgh? Probably not and that’s what I was enjoying in these taverns on the hot days that we were visiting.

East Fortune Airfield – home to the Museum of Flight

East Fortune Airfield
History: One of the best preserved airfields from the 1st and 2nd world wars.  Constructed in 1915 to help Britain defend from the attack of German Zeppelins, in 1919 the first British airship to cross the Atlantic set off from here, during the second world war it served as a training base.

Control Tower

Walking around: I think old air fields are fab – the feeling of abandonment and imagining what they would have been like only 70 years ago with the roar of engines from the big bombers, chocks away!  Across the fields you can still see the control tower, scattered all around the air fields are the shelters from attack.  The filling station with pipes coming out of the ground remains.  Inside the hangars are a range of planes old and new including Concorde and the Jaguar below.

Inside a hangar at East Fortune

Everywhere you look there are buildings that probably haven’t changed very much since the second world war.  We were invited inside to see the reconstruction of a fully operational Sopwith Biplane – a definite highlight of the trip seeing such an old plane being constructed by hand – a project that they’ve been working on for 8 years.

Sopwith Biplane project at East Fortune Airfield

And there my trip to historic Edinburgh comes to a close.  On our last night we see the Red Arrows flying over the city in preparation for the next days “Armed Services Day”.  As our train pulled out of Edinburgh at noon on Saturday the Red Arrows do a fly past (for us!) up the Royal Mile.

Essential Reading:

Alan Murdie’s “Haunted Edinburgh”

The great guides on Dirleton, Tantallon, Craigmillar castles and Linlithgow Palace published by Historic Scotland and available from the locations.

Castles by Plantagenet-Somerset-Fry

Gordon Rutter’s Paranormal Edinburgh

Black Spiders – Cambridge Haymakers – 10/5/2011

Black Spiders live at the Cambridge Haymakers

I got a bit held up before the gig tonight so to get there mean’t driving (and as a consequence no ale – d’oh) – the haymakers car park was a bit rammed as you’d imagine but I found an empty layby just down the road.

First up Federal Black , the bass is up loud and in my ear but they sort that soon and they play a storming 30 minute set.  There music was straight heavy rock – reminded me of early Almighty shows, and they had some awesome guitar Quo’esque guitar moves with big grins.

Japanese Voyeurs live at the Cambridge Haymakers 10/5/2011

Following Federal Black are Japanese Voyeurs and standing with one ear almost on the PA it’s kind of loud, too loud – I move, that’s better.  metal edged annoyed grungy PJ Harvey with frequent headbanging.   They power through an all to short 30 minute set

I first saw the Black Spiders as a support act at the Cambridge Junction – they became my new favourite band after that one set, the ultimate in heavy rock’n’roll – and possibly alongside Pythia as the most exciting new band I’ve heard for years.  They put out a few EPs that were just tasters before the awesome Sons of the North CD, so having the chance to see them in Cambridge tonight was a chance not to be missed.

Black Spiders live at the Cambridge Haymakers  Black Spiders live at the Cambridge Haymakers

Stay Down with its audience participation, fingers in the air and just complete rock attitude comes second in the set tonight, there’s a track that’s been on my ipod for the last year and just calls out for having the volume turned up whilst listening to.

Black Spiders live at the Cambridge Haymakers   Black Spiders live at the Cambridge Haymakers

On stage they are explosive – being restricted to the small stage is no problem to them, guitars are being thrown in all directions for the whole set, standing on the amps Pete Spiby almost vanishes into the ceiling whilst guitarist Ozzy Lister ventures out into the crowd.

We sing KISS’s Black Diamond – only it isn’t a diamond we’re singing about, “ooooh, black spider”.  Kiss get a great song “KISS tried to kill me” all about a bizarre dream involving Gene and Paul but it “wasn’t Ace’s fault“.

Black Spiders live at the Cambridge Haymakers

Just like a woman is dedicated to the women in the crowds by Ozzy Lister to celebrate his “15th” birthday.  Blood of the Kings with its high tempo almost bouncing chorus is the ultimate in high octane metal.  Drummer Tiger Si pulls faces like a crazy animal and between songs is hanging onto the ceiling and surveying the audience to ensure that everyone is participating and enjoying themselves.

Stay Down there’s a brand new force in town” from their classic Stay Down sums it up – the Black Spiders rock and are probably the most exciting new band you could hope to see live right now.  They have big beards, rock’n’roll attitude, a fine set of hard rocking tunes and did I mention big beards?  The next day my ears were ringing – it was worth it.

Black Spiders:

Japanese Voyeurs:

Federal Black:

Video for Just Like A Woman – Go on – check them out!!

Firebird – Cambridge Portland Arms – 5/5/2011

Firebird live at the Portland Arms Cambridge

The first great thing about going to gigs at the Portland Arms in Cambridge is the short bus ride to the venue, the second is the great ales they sell and the third is that they manage to attract some really great bands.  Tonight’s trip was to see Firebird – heavy bluesy jam style rock from an all star band fronted up by Carcass grindcore legend Bill Steer.  Carcass’s Descanting the Insalubrious was a well played record during my youth – at the time we were searching for the most extreme metal and Carcass were the most extreme we could find, but tonight couldn’t be further away from that.

Buzzard King live at the Portland Arms Cambridge

Firs up we have Snakerama for some slow metal with deathly growls from frontman Gaz – dirty and heavy stoner rock.  Following Snakearama Buzzard King take to the stage for another session of heavy stoner with a more classic rock feel to many cheers from the crowd.

Bill Steer live with Firebird at the Portland Arms Cambridge

Firebird’s set kicks off with For Crying Out Loud from the Double Diamond album – galloping classic rock blues bass lines and the great lyric “But for cying out loud you won’t change me“.  The latest album Double Diamond gets a fair few songs in the set – Soul Saviour, Bright Lights, Ruined and we get a new song Bird on a Wire which is tonight available on 7″ vinyl.

Firebird live at the Portland Arms Cambridge

The music was  Zeppelin meets Cream, Purple even faint shades of very iron maiden ( or at least image a mellow version of Prowler) – Firebird are a pounding three piece.  The audience, chilled out supping file ales and cheering enthusiastically.  There was no devil horns, no moshing just appreciative head nodding and foot tapping.

Bill Steer played an old style Les Paul for the whole set, Greyum May (ex Ozric Tentacles) with an Gibson SG bass and Ludwig Witt (Spiritual Beggars) pounding his drums looking vaguely like Ginger – I wonderred if this is what it would have been like to have seen the likes of Cream in 70s.  As a guitarist Bill is an awesome player, but there is no posing muppetry, just a broad happy smile

Firebird live at the Portland Arms Cambridge

Sipping a couple of Abbot ales and watching this band slide through an hour set was a pleasure.  I got my digital camera out to take a couple of snaps for this blog and it felt totally out of place, it was the only one I could see in the room – I think it would have been more appropriate had it have contained a 35mm film.  For the final jam of the night Bill Steer puts down his guitar and plays the harmonica.  We get an encore – and for the first time ever in my 21 years of going to gigs it felt like a genuine unplanned encore in response to the crowds enthusiasm and they got back up to play a unprepared song.  I leave with a vinyl copy of Double Diamond, A great night.

Firebird Myspace:

Firebird on RiseAboveRecord (where you can buy their vinyl!):

Buzzard King:


Serenity and Delain – London 02 Academy – 30/4/2011

Delain live at the O2 Academy London

First time for me tonight at the 02 Academy Islington, not far from the Angel tube station where I join the reasonably young metal crowd queue queuing past the shopping complex.  It’s early doors tonight and early curfew tonight – this is a combination I like as it means getting back to Cambridge at a decent hour.  So from 6:30 we weave into the venue and on entering the 02 the first thing that hit me was the size – it looked very small for tonight’s line-up calibre – I’m guessing probably only 750 capacity.

Lost In Thought - London 02 Academy London

Opening the evening are Lost in Thought – melodic progressive metal with a singer who’s almost air raid siren force vocals really stand out.  Their material is unfamiliar but they set the scene well.

Serenity live at the London 02 Academy 2011
The first band I was here to see tonight was Austrians Serenity on the strength of their Death & Legacy CD I had a feeling they’d be pretty awesome live.   Tonight in an all to short set  we are taken on a fast galloping musical race through gothic history with a band that look as if they are straight from the 18th century’s upper class.

Serenity live at the London 02 Academy 2011

I read a comment recently that there won’t be any more great rock frontmen of the likes of Bruce Dickinson or Steven Tyler, tonight Serenity’s George Neuhauser proves that wrong as he commands the crowd with awesome vocal talent and a huge stage presence.  Rarely can a support band get the a crowd so pumped up with fist in the air punching.  With huge high octane symphonic choruses the band are grinning, the crowd is grinning and something that you don’t normally see at rock gigs – the security is grinning.  We are even treated to Lisa Middelhauve (Xandria) joining the band on stage for a couple of numbers including Serenade of Flames.

Serenity live at the London 02 Academy 2011
I only have one Serenity CD and I wish in hindsight I’d used the merch stand opportunity top buy another, still that’s what great about the web.  With the collision of symphony and metal Serenity are definitely one of the finest bands I’ve seen.

Delain's Charlotte Wessels live at the London 02 Academy 2011 Delain's Charlotte Wessels live at the London 02 Academy 2011 Delain's Charlotte live at the 02 Academy London 2011

Most people are here tonight for headliners Delain – after their triumphant set at last years Sonisphere I was keen to see them again.  Their crew turn the stage round in a very short period and the lights dim before 9pm for their grand entrance.  The band kick off and there is a huge cheer and arms in the air when Charlotte hits the stage  every mobile phone in the house seems to be in the air to capture a snap of the moment.  She she pretty much has the audience within her hand for the entire show.

Delain's Rob live at the London 02 Academy 2011With just a couple of albums and not a bad track on them, tonight has the enthusiastic feeling of a greatest hits set – each song greeted with a huge cheer and sounding like a classic.  New guitarist Timo Summers is rocking stage left tonight and in a very metal moment bassist Rob Van Der Loo stands on the front box to be blasted by smoke.

We get new tracks –  Devil out of me(?) – a heavy pounding metal anthem and another very dark one that didn’t have a title but for tonight they called it Honey.  For sure the new album will be tops.

So I head back to Cambridge – what a great night of symphonic metal in London.



Lisa Middelhauve:

Lost In Thought: