Z Rock Festival 2012 – Day 2 Review @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton – 6th May 2012


Review by Woody

So I awaken to a dull thudding in my head, which as I struggle to open my left eye I mutter “I’m never drinking again, ughhh”. As I roll face first onto the floor I knew today was going to be one of those days and as time was ticking I needed to get my ass into gear to get back to the Robin for Day Two of Z Rock. Now in true warrior style I battled the hangover from hell with ease, contrary to rumours you may hear this didn’t involve antacids, strong painkillers and a pair of pliers to open my left eye. So as I’m pounding as much water into me as I can, I pop onto facebook and I notice Summers have posted they are now first band on at 1:15, a quick albeit blurry look at my watch meant I was going to struggle to get back there in time. So it was back the Robin, Batman! Although on my way over that Pot Noodle I’d just had didn’t seem to have been such a good idea after all.

So up first is very young British band, Summers, who I unfortunately arrived late for so I missed the first few songs in their very short set! I had voiced my worries to friends the previous day that I feared they could be too similar to Def Leppard to really make an impression on me, as the Lep influence is very prominent on tracks I’d heard.

As I watched their performance, the Leps influence is very apparent, most notably in front man Crash’s vocals. That said I didn’t find them clone like at all and some of the songs seemed to have a more contemporary pop rock feel to them and I found myself very much enjoying their performance. The band seemed comfortable on stage and it would be really interesting to see these guys playing to more than a handful of people, I have a feeling they could be an explosive live act.

The song that stood out for me was ‘Shot In The Dark’, a real melodic beauty and far more impressive live than I’d heard on the net! We also got ‘Superhero’, ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Terminator’. The crystal clear keyboard friendly sound at The Robin fitted the band perfectly and I hope they come back again, a young band with a bright future I think!

The organisation, schedule and running times just went straight out the window today, with the crowd having very little clue as to what was going on all day long!

Up next with sleaze rockers Wildside Riot fronted by Rocky Shades formerly of glam rock stalwarts Wrathchild. If I’m honest I was expecting to really dislike this band, given my own taste in music I presumed these guys would hold very little interest for me. Whilst I wouldn’t go nuts about the guys I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed their performance far more than I thought I would.

A solid bunch of musicians and regardless of the lack of an audience Rocky still put on a flamboyant and energetic performance. It was the more overtly melodic songs played that caught my attention like ‘Wasted Lust’ and ‘Babe I’ve Got To Go’. The solitary Wrathchild track ‘Trash Queen’ did absolutely nowt for me and although it was dedicated to a few hardcore fans in attendance I thought it was an awful song.

I used to be a massive fan of recently reformed Scandinavians Hush circa their debut album ‘If You Smile’. I have to say these were one of the bands I was most excited about seeing and they didn’t disappoint putting on a great full force performance, the only down side was that the sound wasn’t quite right for them and a few technical hitches prevented this from been a perfect performance.

Although I was shocked that ‘Don’t Say Goodnight’ was omitted from the set list I was overjoyed that they played my favourite song ‘Heaven Ain’t That Far Away’ which I hadn’t expected, so that more than made up for it. We also got ‘Believe’, ‘Good Enough’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Til We become The Sun’, ‘Baby’, ‘Talk To Me’ and ‘Restless Ones’.

I really hope these guys can get back over to the UK in the future as I really enjoyed them and hopefully next time they’ll be able to play to a larger audience.

After the anti climax of Paul Sabu’s headline performance the atmosphere of anticipation and excitement was understandably completely void in the venue as we awaited Paul’s second set of the weekend. As he was introduced we were informed that Paul realised he had fooked up last night and he would be rectifying this now with a greatest hit’s set! Given that today’s attendance was noticeably smaller than yesterday, this wasn’t met by the cheers you may have expected.

Sonically the band were spot on; as musicians they are great you can’t knock their talent and Sabu’s voice was bang on. Although the sound was good the band seemed lifeless, almost deflated in their performance. Obviously the lack of crowd response didn’t help and again Sabu seemed noticeably disappointed, the gaps between songs getting longer through the set!

A drunken local then staggered to the front and was requesting AC/DC and cursing Paul as his song ‘requests’ were been ignored. He was shortly escorted from the venue… ahhh only at Z Rock… these little things make life worth living, I shall of course be out drinking with Uncle Jack this weekend although I denied all knowledge of knowing who he was at the time, Jack ya drunken bum ya, the meth’s is on you this weekend!

To be fair I enjoyed most of the songs that were performed old and new, even though Sabu’s latest ‘Bangkok Rules’ is getting a bit of negative press at the moment I actually quite like it, a nice energetic collection of ballsy rockers. So we got ‘Scream Until You Like It’, ‘I Wanna Touch’, ‘Code Blue’, ‘I Believe In You’, ‘Just Ask’, ‘Bangkok Rules’, ‘Race To Nowhere’, ‘Angeline’, ‘Heartbreak’, ‘Rock Don’t Run’, ‘Rocked & Loaded’ and ‘Black The Jacks’.

In fact the only song I didn’t like was ‘Black The Jack’s’, it’s not a great song and it doesn’t allow Sabu to showcase his vocal abilities, as a fellow fan stated to me he’s too good a singer for a song like that and I whole heartedly agree!

Now as I was informed by another member of the crowd, Redrum who had been postponed from yesterday would now perform and then merge straight into Michael Bormann’s solo set. Remember Michael was originally slated to headline the Sunday, and had I not been told by someone close to the band I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on! I heard a few disappointing things and it was clear that both bands’ trips to the UK weren’t as good as they should have been.

From their performances though you wouldn’t have had a clue of what was going on behind the smiles, so it’s a heartfelt hats off to Michael and all the members of bands for showing true professionalism and putting on a show for the hardcore few who were in attendance.

The sound wasn’t quite right again, unfortunately the same for so many of the bands playing. Add to that some technical hitches both bands must have thought the gods were against them. But they continually braved the storm and made the best of a bad situation. I really hope this experience hasn’t put off Michael and Redrum from returning to the UK in the future, hopefully in better circumstances.

Sound and technical hitches aside I enjoyed both bands immensely, and thought it was a nice touch when members of both bands performed together as the set crossed from Redrum to Michael Bormann solo. No offence to Redrum but I probably enjoyed Bormann’s solo set just a little bit more, it even saw Michael take to the drum kit for the final song whilst the drummer held his mike aloft for him to sing at the same time! A great moment to witness!

I had been talking to a friend of the band, and not long after his set Michael comes over and say’s “Hi, I’m Michael”, I reply with an obvious “I know” and got my photo taken with him too. These moments add to what was a great weekend and experience, anyone who knows me knows I avoid having photo’s taken with bands as I have self image issues so never carry a camera, I just think it’s unfair to expose my excessively good looking self on the world… shhhh let me have this one! Thankfully though another friend of Michael’s used her camera and sent me the photo afterwards!

In true Z Rock style, Bai Bang have their fair share of troubles, most notably that their drummer had decided to ‘do one’ back home, for and this is the official statement “personal reasons”. Luckily the band’s guitarist is also an accomplished drummer, so they still play on. Although Bai Bang have been going for many years I’m not what you would call a huge fan, but their latest album ‘Livin’ My Dream’ combines their established sleaze sound with a far more direct commercial melodic rock sound that really appealed to me, so I was hoping for a few tunes from that tonight.
Due to the Festival’s running times going totally pear shaped, bands were now having to play far shorter sets in order to squeeze everyone in before the venue’s 1am curfew. So we get a short but very sweet set from Bai Bang. Sound wise the band is treated to typical high quality Robin standards with the more melodic songs sounding outstanding. So power ballad and set highlight is without a doubt ‘Die For You’, this song is probably my favourite from their last album and it came across stunningly well.

We also got ‘Are You Ready?’, ‘Rock It’, ‘Only The Good Die Young’, ‘Put On Her Dress’ and ‘I Love The Things You Hate’.

Next up and running well over 3 hours late is Newman, anyone who knows me knows I’m a massive fan of Steve going right back to his debut album. So the anticipation for tonight’s rare live appearance is making me happier than a pig in shit, I have seen the band once before at JB’s but in the intervening years they have seen a few line up changes and have become a strong live band garnering much critical acclaim for their recent performances at Firefest. I also strongly recommend you get your hands on Newman’s live CD ‘Another Step Closer’ which you can get directly from the band at www.newmansound.com/Shop

I had bumped into Steve earlier during the band’s signing session, thankfully I managed to keep my inner fan boy under control and enjoy a conversation with him and thank him for coming up and playing and also apologise about the poor turnout. I think the band as a whole weren’t expecting much so weren’t overly disappointed but that said I’m sure they would have liked to have seen a few more of the fans they have won after their recent successful live excursions.

I have to stress I was disappointed they didn’t get to play for the hour they were initially meant to get, but I enjoyed every last minute of the their performance. The sound was spot on and they played insanely well, regardless of the very small audience still remaining in the venue they played as a whole like true professionals. A few hardcore fans gathered down the front, myself included, and if I’m honest the wives and girlfriends were there too.

So Newman and co were accompanied by my normally sedate self doing my best ‘I can’t sing for shit’ miming and hand clapping at every request, well there was no one there to see so no reason to be embarrassed!

An absolutely amazing class filled performance in which we were treated to ‘Killing Me’, ‘Every Moment’, ‘Pray For The Day’, the every reliably crowd pleasing ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Primitive Soul’, ‘Coming Home Tonight’, ‘Heaven Knows’ and a storming performance of ‘One Step Closer’. Steve dedicated ‘If It’s Love’ from his debut album to me and asked me if I was having a good time, whilst this was a really cool moment for me it was also sadly indicative of how few were in attendance that he could pick me out and acknowledge me in this way!!

With it being close to midnight and after a very long weekend I decided to call it a day before final act Dynazty could hit the stage.

From a totally personally perspective I had a wonderful weekend, met and spoke to some great people, saw some great bands and I had a total blast. That said the festival was far from successful and it would be total madness for it to continue in its current format. It just isn’t financially viable and everyone ends up losing in the finish, without more investment or support it would be foolish for the event to carry on. I also have to point out what an amazing venue the Robin is, it’s a really friendly and relaxed place and I have never felt so comfortable at any venue as I do here, now if we can just bring over the JB’s spirit the place could be truly magnificent.

It is sad as it will make a massive dent in my gig calendar and I shall miss the opportunity to see so many bands that can’t tour the UK and rely on events like Z for the chance to play in the UK. I shall miss Z Rock, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed some brave souls may step up to the plate to keep melodic rock LIVE in the Midlands, otherwise it’s just a matter of time before the party ends and I ain’t ready for bed yet!