Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
After roughly eight months of hard work, endeavour, commitment, dedication and, no doubt, some off the Richter scale stress moments, Dementia Aware Fest 2015 finally became a reality for organisers Dave Evans and Richard Forbes. We had an awesome eight band line-up on the main Roadhouse stage with three more acts performing in the intimate acoustic area. The musical extravaganza was set on its way by Wolverhampton rockers Shyyne, with Toni Gayle’s blonde locks flowing, he led the boys in an energetic seven song set which nicely warmed up the gathering crowd. A polished set of songs from the new album ‘Worlds Gone Crazy’ and some old favourites, including ‘She’s The Girl’, was met enthusiastically by the Roadhouse crowd and rightly so.
Up next was Fahran, a hard rock unit hailing from Nottingham, playing earlier than scheduled, apparently due to them having another engagement later in the evening. A particular favourite of Dave Evans, Fahran dished up a lively portion of hard rock which maintained the pace set by Shyyne. Drummer JR was particularly energetic, so much so that at times it was hard to tell which was moving faster, his hair or his sticks! The thirty-five minute set nicely showcased their latest album offering Chasing Hours, which seems a good listen. The bands’ many influences shone through from time to time, but given they include Foo Fighters, Black Stone Cherry and Metallica in a rather extensive list I suppose it’s an inevitability. That said, Fahran have a great sound, and solid playing along with plenty of chunky riffs kept the audience interested throughout the set.
East Midlands band Chemikill have recently undergone several personnel changes with only Gaz Wain and Damo Russell enduring. Most definitely purveyors of heavy metal, Chemikill has amassed a fair following with its hard-hitting, kick-ass brand of no-nonsense music. With song titles like ‘Martyr’, ‘Psycho’, ‘Valkyries’ and ‘Demons’ you get an idea of what they’re about. When I last saw the guys I thought they had just about got the perfect balance and sounded awesome. I just felt that on this showing a little bit of the tightness was missing, but I’m sure that with more gigs and Gaz and Damo at the helm this will be short term. Chemikill has some great songs that drive along relentlessly and the metal-world needs to hear them.
Crows And Crosses from Kidderminster were soon tuned up and ready to go, although bassist Matt Walford seemed to have an issue with a lead or some other piece of kit and this seemed to continue throughout the set as the sound was most definitely lacking those low notes which I felt took something away from the music. Slower in tempo than the previous bands Crows and Crosses had some good stuff going on, and recent vocal recruit Tommy Strix could certainly hit and hold a note! The atmospheric ‘Search For Answers’ stood out for me. These guys were also lined up to play an acoustic set later in the evening, so just time for them to grab a quick beer and a cheese roll before going at it again.
Next up was a band shortly to call it a day. Devil Red has but a handful of gigs left and tonight guest vocalist Graham Purcell had the honour of fronting the band as they support a cause close to them. From what I heard tonight it seems a shame that the end is near, although they would probably admit we didn’t see them in absolute top form. A quick listen to their excellent Invictus E.P. – we heard tracks tonight – will confirm what the band is/was capable of producing. That said, Graham Purcell deserves tons of credit for the way he attacked the songs and I hope the rest of the band bought him a beer or two. Good luck to all in their respective future ventures.
Vicious Nature is a band I have followed for a while now and, like a fine wine, they seem to ever improve with each “tasting” and I’m sure vocalist Andy Pyke must feast on a diet of shrapnel and razor blades as when on stage the man just oozes metal! As front men go he is up there with the best. But this isn’t a one man band as they proved tonight. Opening with the title track of their last EP Salvation, the guys were straight into their groove and never looked back. Jon “JB” Brown’s stick work along with Mark Culley’s bass drove the heavy riffs which complimented the vocal lead so well. Andy Southwell worked his white Jackson Vee really hard and injected some fine solo breaks into proceedings. Eight songs and close on fifty minutes just flew by and for the fans out there I did hear mention of a live EP being a possibility.
I was looking forward to seeing the next band Falling Red, as I had missed them at HRH Sleaze in March due to timetable clashes. The guys have been receiving rave reviews wherever they have played and from the opening song ‘Break Me’ you could see why. They hit the stage determined to leave their imprint firmly etched on the event. The forty-five minute set mainly showcased their latest album release Empire Of The Damned which, judging by tonight, is well worth a listen. With the whole glam/sleaze rock thing as popular as it ever was, Falling Red must rate as one of the top UK bands in the genre. They also played a superb cover of Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’. Vocalist and front man Rozey took no prisoners with his energy and delivery and the rest of the band weren’t too shy either, making them a good band to watch as well as listen to. With a return journey to Cumbria to look forward to, I just hope they’d save a little bit of energy for the drive!
Final band was a favourite of mine (yes I may be biased), and sadly tonight they were having to play a reduced set, due to a slight over-run and the impending Roadhouse curfew. Nonetheless, with songs of the calibre that Daylight Robbery has, the people who had remained until the end were always going to get an aural treat. Unfortunately, with Tony Nicholl still recovering from a long and intense chest infection, the lead vocals weren’t at their powerful best, but being the trooper he is he battled on as he led the band through an eight song set made up of tracks from the Falling Back To Earth and Cross Your Heart albums. The band were right on the money tonight with Mark Carleton and Colin Murdoch giving superb vocal support and Dave Billingham throwing in a few extra keyboard embellishments from time to time. Drummer Chris Miller kept it all in check with his excellent stick work. I’m sure we all wish Tony a speedy return to full voice as soon as possible, because we need to hear this band as they want and need to be heard.
Let’s not forget the three acts that did their thing on the acoustic stage – The Blacklist Saints, Crows And Crosses and James Walker. It’s always good to hear music played with a different twist.
And so the curtain came down on an amazing day of music provided by so many people happy to help further the cause of Dementia Awareness and once again the rock fraternity has shown its true colours. As Dave Evans himself has said “music has an answer to everything”. Let’s hope so Dave and let’s also hope that awareness has been spread a little bit more after today.
Initial estimate is that £1000 had been raise by the event, with money still coming in. To everyone that made it all possible —YOU ROCK!