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Cambridge Rock Festival

Festival feature & interviews

Festival review

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Cambridge Rock Festival 2007 18 August 2007

Charlie Barker

I had the good fortune to catch two sets by Charlie Barker over the weekend, on two different stages, in completely contrasting circumstances. The first was a rather unfortunately timed slot in the early hours on Stage 3, where her quieter approach made unlikely listening for the assembled crowd, most of whom had undoubtedly sampled many of the 70+ real ales available. On Saturday afternoon, when she opened the proceedings on Stage 2 it was an entirely different kettle of fish.

Charlie Barker, photo Ian and Clare Pollard

Situated within the main restaurant, Stage 2 was an ideal setting for folk singer/songwriter Charlie Barker and her acoustic guitar. A good sized crowd fully appreciated her gentle, good natured approach and meaningful lyrics. Not normally enamoured by between song chitchat, I was surprised to find Charlie both humorous and informative, finding myself trying to pick out the storylines within her songs. She was a breath of fresh air, a welcome change of pace and fully deserved the rapturous applause she received.


You would be hard pushed to notice from the tight performance they displayed here that PUCK formed as recently as October 2006. This female fronted melodic hard rock band could well prove to have been one of many people’s highlights of the weekend.

PUCK, photo Wolfie

PUCK, photo Wolfie

Resplendent in a Dennis the Menace style top, vocalist Amy Jay was chock full of spiky attitude, leading the band with passion and talent aplenty.

Slightly punky in places, reminiscent of early Foo Fighters meets Slash, they have it all. The tight riffing helped along by a great rhythm section and with Amy Jay’s voice similar to, though a touch more powerful than Avril Lavigne’s all made for a fantastic set. They went down well with the sizable audience, so much so, that the crowd called for the well-deserved encore. One they really didn’t expect, or prepared for and they were forced to replay opening song All That You Are.

25 Yard Screamer

South Wales seems to have quite a healthy prog scene at the moment and was well represented at the festival (The Gathering, Karnataka, Man etc) Listing Marillion, Rush, Yes, Queen and Dream Theater among their influences, Carmarthen trio 25 Yard Screamer certainly set their standards high, but boy can they deliver.

25 Yard Screamer

25 Yard Screamer, photo Ian and Clare Pollard

They have the ability to bring the current Marillion sound to mind, with Boy In The Window, a melodic nicely mid paced song lapped up by the audience. The power of early Rush was in evidence throughout, they also allowed hints of Metallica to creep in occasionally. In this set of slightly under an hour they managed just 5 tracks. Not a remarkable feat by prog standards until you consider their first 2 were both around the four-minute mark, a fact joking referred to by guitarist and singer Nick Jones.

The powerhouse of the band is drummer Donal Owen and bassist Matt Clarke, both passionately pumping out the ever changing rhythms. Unfortunately the 30-minute title track from their album Cassandra wasn’t played in its entirety, rather they neatly snipped two segments from it. As a taster for the album, their show certainly got me salivating and judging by the brisk trade in CDs afterwards, it was more than just me they tempted.

GRTR! Best of 2007


Natascha Sohl, photo Ian and Clare Pollard

Natascha Sohl

The only disappointment of multi-stage festivals such as this is that no matter how hard you try it’s practically impossible to get around every band you want to see. Decisions have to be made, sometimes for the flimsiest of reasons one band is preferred to another. These plans always seem to get revised, such as happened on this occasion. I had fully intended to watch perhaps 15 minutes of her set, and then go into the main arena to watch the night’s headliners, The Australian Pink Floyd. Though, by then it was too late, I was totally captivated.

Having previously only heard “Hands Off My Past” from the GRTR! Rising Stars CD, I had expected someone of the Alanis Morissette ilk, though whilst I would say there were some similarities, it was a pleasant surprise to find there is a whole lot more to Natascha Sohl. With feminine aggression, passion and sexuality in equal measure, more than once bringing to mind Gwen Stefani, she completely stole the show.

Natascha Sohl, photo Wolfie

Stunningly good looking, she was totally at ease delivering a vocal performance as good as any over the weekend. Charismatically commanding attention as they performed a set packed with 12 outstanding tracks, including, Body Beautiful, If I Was A Boy, Naked and the title track from the much-anticipated forthcoming album, Dirty Little Word.

Fresh from a stint in the USA, playing summer camps in Maine, Natascha and the band Si Jones, Mick Goodman, Roger Davis along with stand in drummer Joe Yoshida should be totally convinced that they are heading places. Thoroughly entertaining with a set heavily based on her upcoming album, It’s a shame more people didn’t catch this hour long set from someone, who can truly be classed as a rising star. In the not too distant future, there will be plenty of people kicking themselves for missing this opportunity!

Sunday 19 August 2007


This Peterborough-based band had hot-footed it from the recording studio prior to their set in Godmanchester. That hard work manifested itself in a tight and polished performance.

Respond, photo Ian and Clare Pollard

It is perhaps surprising that the band have never released an 'official' CD (although this will be remedied in October). Their blend of melodic rock evokes a less frenetic Pat Benatar at times, with Hayles not dissimilar to that singer in appearance.

Hopefully the CD will - deservedly - widen their circle of fans.


Another local band, Taildragger brought their highly enjoyable brand of 12 bar boogie blues to the second stage. Again, a great piece of scheduling found them in complete contrast to those playing on the main stage, which probably boosted the size of those in attendance. A highly entertaining set, enjoyed by all, especially by those seen to the back of the hall with air guitars in hand.


Sacred Heart, photo Ian and Clare Pollard

Sacred Heart

Having recently self-released the album Shake to critical acclaim, Sacred Heart deservedly took their place as the headliners and closers of the Rising Stars stage.

Drawing heavily from this recent release, guitarist vocalist Paul Stead led the band through a set oozing class obviously grasping this opportunity with both hands.

In contrast to tonight’s other headliners, Sacred Heart trimmed any fat from their set, cutting the chatter and crowd participation delivering exactly what people want to hear, the music. Even lead guitarist Mark Stephenson’s solo was kept to the absolute minimum, much to the amusement of the rest of the band.

Sacred Heart, photo Ian and Clare Pollard

The seven opening songs lifted from Shake gradually build up a head of steam, culminating in the storming 1000 Tears, before the promised “cheesy ballad” of Maybe slows the tempo once more. The first non-Shake track Lay It On The Line is next up, a real crowd pleaser followed by two more ‘Shakers’ Paradise and the wonderful Tonight.

Anthemic Rock And Roll Away closes the main set to great applause. Maybe, it’s because the band mentioned wanting to catch Thunder, that the calls for an encore were the loudest witnessed over the weekend, though more likely the audience were simply showing appreciation for what was indeed a fine display by a band destined for great things. Either way, they were rewarded with a show-stopping rendition of Promise. Great stuff!

Review by Dave Hunter

Photos © Ian and Clare Pollard, Wolfie

Festival feature & interviews

Festival review


GRTR! Crew at Cambridge Rock Festival

The GRTR! Crew assuming the position:
(left to right) Ian Pollard, David Randall, Bill Leslie and Dave Hunter, photo Clare Pollard

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