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Gig Reviews...Cambridge Rock Festival


Photos by Noel Buckley

Photo Gallery by Noel Buckley

Friday 6 August

Saturday 7 August

Second Stage highlights


Sunday 8 August
Review by Mark Taylor

I stayed up late on the Saturday night, chatting to Micky Moody and Neil Murray about the early days of Whitesnake into the early hours followed by listening to Chantel McGregor doing her acoustic thing from the comfort of our backstage camping area.

I drank another bottle of wine whilst chatting to our photographer for the weekend Mr Noel Buckley, later joined by fellow reviewer Jim Rowland.  The reason I needed a good bottle of red was for some Dutch courage as Buckers was sharing my tent for the night.  Not a pretty sight.

IO Earth, photo by Noel Buckley

With little sleep i was awoken at 11am by the sounds of IO Earth who were playing some progressive jazz.  Think Courtney Pine playing with modern day Marillion and you get the idea.  The six piece band lightened up the day perfectly.

Panic Room, photo by Noel Buckley

A band who will be surely playing higher up on bill in the future were Panic Room.  Connected to the family tree of Mostly Autumn, Anne-Marie Helder takes the leading role in this band who were captivating today.  There are lighter similarities with Opeth as the band go from full on assault metal to intricate ballads.

Kyrbgrinder, photo by Noel Buckley

It's very rare to see a band whose singer is also pounding the drum kit.  The London trio Kyrbgrinder were one of my surprises of the weekend. Johanne James certainly kept a threshold on things grabbing out attention throughout with his demands. 

Solid drumming with funky riffing metal, the band sounded like Living Colour whilst driving down the motorway with a flat tyre without a care in the world.  World War III could certainly flare up again in October when the band release their next album 'Cold War Technology'.

Breathing Space, photo by Noel Buckley

When Olivia Sparnen left Breathing Space to go full time with Mostly Autumn, I felt it was going to be an uphill struggle for Iain Jennings' band. With new singer Heidi Widdop the band still gathered a large crowd but the band still need more time together to dip over the radar.

Andrew Lock writes

A huge show this for Breathing Space as with line-up changes the band now has both a new vocalist Heidi Widdop and guitarist Adam Dawson, Heidi is part of the family already as a vocalist with Mostly Autumn in the early days while Adam has been playing guitar live since he was 14 years of age.

Heidi has a powerful singing voice and particularly excels at the rockier numbers, of which the set had plenty including the opening number 'Below the Radar', the title track from the band's latest and in my opinion strongest album to date.  The second track of the set and another album title track the gentle starting 'Coming up for Air' which soon builds up to the catchy rocking live favourite.

Photo: Andrew Lock

The momentum was kept going with two more up more up-tempo tracks from the latest album with 'Clear' and 'Run from Yourself' (outstanding pop rock chorus on this number), and as would be the case with previous vocalist Olivia with Mostly Autumn later in the evening, Heidi seemed to show no nerves and took complete control of the stage as did the impressive new guitarist.

Photo: Andrew Lock

Next up the only visit in the set to the band's debut album and a change of pace with the beautiful and delicate 'No Promises' with exquisite keyboards by Iain Jennings.  This was followed by the first new song of the set 'Silver Skies' an impressive piece of music written by new boy Adam. I must say that on hearing the other new track 'Lips' played later in the set and with the performances of both the newcomers joining the other outstanding musicians in the band the future looks very bright for Breathing Space.

Photo: Andrew Lock

Before the aforementioned final track of the set Lips, two stunning numbers from the bands Coming up for Air album possibly Heidi's best vocal performance of the set and a number where she really let rip: the powerful 'Searching For My Shadow' and my personal favourite Breathing Space song and for me one of the most up-lifting pieces of music ever made 'When I Hold on to you' (such a fabulous track to play if you ever feel a bit down).

Great to see this band in such good form and with their style of pop/rock for me they are filling a gap in the rock market.

Mark Taylor writes

Walking around the site, I didn't expect to see ex Premiership footballer Dion Dublin who in his time has played for Manchester United, Aston Villa, Celtic, England as well as playing for local team Cambridge United.

Dublin was here with a stall promoting his Musical devlopment 'The Dube', which is basically a percussion cube played with your bare hands.  It actually sounded quite good.  For someone who once made a career out of something that is round, he could be setting himself up for life now with something that is now square.  A lovely chap.

Keith Airey, photo by Noel Buckley

Making their debut was Aireya 51.  Fronted by guitarist/singer/songwriter Keith Airey last seen playing with The Zombies who has made a living doing session and live work for some of the biggest names in pop and rock.

Promoting his new album 'Crimson Tear', Airey was also joined by his daughter Olivia on bass and his Zombie mate Steve Rodford on drums.

Playing some catchy Radio 2 friendly rock with some Rory Gallagher inspired guitar solo's.  Later joined by his brother Don Airey of Rainbow/Deep Purple fame on the keyboards gave the band a much fuller sound with some swirling Hammond work on 'Long Hot Summer'. Well worth investigating.

Praying Mantis, photo by Noel Buckley

It was a busy weekend for Praying Mantis who played Colchester the night before but earlier on the Saturday played with Danny Hynes in Paddy Goes To Holyhead here at the festival with their brand of sham rock'n'roll.  A selection of Irish tunes played with a metal edge that went down to great applause. 

Today the band were sticking to their day job. Opening with 'Children Of The Universe' a song that sounds better with time thanks to singer Mike Freeland's soothing vocals.  With new songs from their latest 'Sanctuary' Praying Mantis are slowly building themselves a bigger fanbase than their heyday.

Hazel O'Connor, photo by Noel Buckley

Changing the flow of rock music was Hazel O'Connor & The Subterraneans.  Celebrating the 30th anniversary of her iconic film 'Breaking Glass', together with her band Hazel O'Connor brought the hit making songs like 'Eighth Day' and 'Will You' into a new leash of life.

O'Connor has a charming and endearing nature about her which we all warmed to.  A great set which saw many queuing for O'Connor's autograph after the set.

After the noise generated by the audience after Hazel O'Connor, they were soon stunned into silence by The Enid.  A wall of orchestral symphonic sounds where the audience listened intently.  The only noise coming from the crowd was the dropping of jaws.

The Enid, photo by Noel Buckley

Starting with movements from 'Aerie Faerie Nonsense followed by sections from the new 'Journeys End' - all met with rapturous applause. Robert John Godfrey who looks like the geezer on the back of a ten pound note, took the microphone and said ''This is the only time you'll here me speak as we only have one piece of music left, however it's a very long piece of music'', before introducing his new band members.

The band then went into 'In The Region Of Summer Stars' which took me into astral skies.  The band really do belong at the Royal Albert Hall.  A stunning performance.  The journey is nowhere at it's end just yet for The Enid.  My band of the weekend.

Ending the festival were Mostly Autumn who have upped a notch since the full time recruitment of singer Olivia Sparnen who now takes the main focus and makes the photographers happy with her long straight blond hair slim-line body and looking great in her black number complete with black thigh length boots (Deep breath now lads.).

Mostly Autumn, photo by Noel Buckley

Joined by Panic Room's Anne-Marie Helder on the flute and keys and Gavin Griffiths on the drums, guitarist and vocalist Bryan Josh led his band through a set focusing on their twelve year career.  The band should be soon be reaching their pinnacle when they release their next album judging by this performance.

'Heroes Never Die' was the last song and was made more poignant by the appearence of 26 year old paratrooper Ben Parkinson who suffered 37 terrible injuries including the loss of his legs after an landmine explosion in Helmand province in Afghanistan.  Ben Parkinson was here as guests of the Cambridge Rock Festival who were heavily supporting the Help For Heroes campaign.  The biggest applause of the weekend was for Ben.

For a festival run on a low budget, quality music was here in abundance.

GRTR! at Cambridge Rock

They came to rock...GRTR! survivors Mark Taylor, Noel Buckley and Jim Rowland


Review by Mark Taylor

Additional reporting: Jim Rowland, Andrew Lock

Photos by Noel Buckley/GRTR!  All rights reserved. (except where indicated)

Photo Gallery by Noel Buckley

Friday 6 August

Saturday 7 August

Additional view (Mostly Autumn)

Additional view (Panic Room)

Second Stage highlights


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