Cambridge Rock is one of GRTR!'s favourite smaller festivals.
Friendly, well-appointed and with a wide mix of upcoming, tribute, and
established bands. Keith Thompson bought a £20 tent and hit the
So we arrived at the Cambridge Rock Festival with promises of rain on
the Thursday and squally showers for the remaining three days at this
small to medium sized festival which caters for fans of old school
classic rock, melodic rock, blues and prog.
hastily erected the bargain Tesco tent which its makers claimed to be
for four people (or pixies) we took the short walk across the field to
the two stages.
Dave Roberts should take credit for this aspect of the event. The
ability to take your car to your tent and its vicinity to the stage is a
sign that he wants the fan to come first. Srange notion but worked for
Thursday 4 August
Floyd had just begun, so we were able to wind down from the four
hour journey with a trip through the greatest hits including an
immaculate rendition of 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' and 'Wish You Were
Here.' 'Astronomy Domine' from the Syd Barrett era though did veer away
from the tried and trusted set list offered by most Floyd tributes. 'One
of these days' was boomed along nicely with plenty of Dr Who frolics.
Another tribute in the shape of the Ultimate Eagles followed.
More fool me for whingeing at the phoney American accents in between
songs until I discovered the guys were from USA. Again, it was a safe
choice to open a festival of this nature and well received by an excited
during the set that I spotted fellow Merseysiders, The Clandoing
a Spinal Tap, having arrived in the back stage area in the dark and not
knowing how to get to the bar.
this rare protected species joined us for a couple of pints from a
healthy selection of 47 beers and a look at Thursday's headline, The
Now I was
looking forward to seeing this ubiquitous breed who laid claim to being
the busiest live band in the UK. Unfortunately working hard seems to
have taken its toll on performance. This is their 'farewell year' and I
could not help but offer a reason why. Stationary for the most part, the
highlight of the show was when they played each other's instruments.
complaining about the musicianship. Snail-Pace Slim's guitar shone out
particularly during 'Voodoo Chile' and the rhythm section thundered
verily as you'd expect. But our group of like minded souls agreed that
the performance was formulaic and lack lustre although not without its
all, full marks to the organisers for the band selection and on site
was opened by our convoy companions The Clan. A local band to me,
I am familiar with their live set but I was also pleasantly surprised
that the ominous honour of opening 'post toastee' was not such an ordeal
as it might have been.
outset, the anthemic 'Rock For You' was immediately greeted with passing
trade who were all curious and stayed for the whole 45 minute set. The
Clan claim nothing more to be a good time power trio without any
pretence yet exuding panache combined with enthusiasm, stage presence,
skilful playing and assertive song writing. Pies pasties and rock n'roll
says it all.
peaked during the slower more thoughtful 'Someone Else' which cleverly
merged into the break out bass line from Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain.'
Although I have seen this a few times, it still delights audiences from
Grimsby to Wallasey.
time the finale, 'The Few' had died down, it was clear that The Clan had
triumphed over potential adversity. A support slot to GMT will hopefully
bring more converts to the cause. Fighting Wolves followed with a
brash Foo Fighters style approach which flattered to deceive due to
technical issues, but they will live to fight another day.
rockers Sacred Heart held their own with very few departures due
to uplifting songs like 'On My Way' which would not look out of place on
a modern Journey album. Front man, Paul Stead doesn't stand on ceremony
dressed in football shorts and trainers yet this 'comes as you are'
attitude didn't necessarily mean lack of care in the performance on this
humid afternoon. 'Lay it on the Line' too crackled away with its
distinctive riff and heart wrenching melody.
left Mostly Autumn last year, Heather Findlay brought in a band
of stature which included Roger Water's regular, Dave Kilminster. With a
set of older Mostly Autumn tracks from the fledging era, this was also
an occasion to introduce the first solo album, 'The Phoenix Suite' to
was more Heart than Hippy. Heather's unmistakeable voice was in fine
fettle after a lay off due to motherhood and Kilminster's skilful guitar
playing was more raw than expected. Overall, a change in direction and
an opportunity to blood a refreshing AOR sound instead of an alternative
version of Mostly Autumn.
Lock writes: From the Phoenix Suite the up-tempo quirky 'Cellophane'
sounded fabulous as did the powerful rocker 'Red Dust', visits to her
Mostly Autumn years included one of the finest compositions from her
years with the band from the Passengers album the magical 'Caught in a
Fold' which was always a stand out number live in her days with the
also treated to a quality threesome of numbers from the Heart Full of
Sky album, two breathtakingly beautiful compositions Heather's 'Half a
World' and in my opinion Chris Johnson's finest composition from his
days with Autumn, the exquisite touchingly gentle 'Blue Light', and
finishing the set in spectacular style a complete reworking of 'Yellow
Time', light and breezy on the album but here rocked up and to my ears
echoes of Iggy Pop's Lust For Life running through it.
Photo: Andrew Lock
fantastic set by one of the finest female rock vocalist and writers
around, Heather in fine voice and as confident and at home on stage as
always with a top class band playing with her and what quality in the
lead guitar role with Dave Kilminster who has just finished his Wall
duties with Roger Waters, some of his guitar work was just out of this
I see a
big future for both Heather and Mostly Autumn, maybe the change has
invigorated both and for fans we now have even more great music to look
forward to from the ever growing Mostly Autumn family
Glorious farce, cleverly stage managed with just enough 'off the cuff'
wit to appeal to anyone of any age. I am now a fan.
really caught my eye until early evening and the arrival of John
Otway. Confession: I am not a fan. When he appeared at my local rock
club, Revolver, I didn't bother. Even though I, like most of us, laughed
at his legendary performance of 'Really Free' on OGWT.
though I had politely wished him a happy 60th birthday and, a pint of
Black Abbot in hand, waited for what I thought was simply going to be a
whimsical prelude to Eddie and the Rods.
the first time at this festival, I was happy to be wrong. Otway is a
brilliant raconteur who can make mincemeat out of the fickle music
industry using hyperbole and irony. He is allowed to rail. Two hit
singles and the 'Delilah' Weetabix tie-in that Otway reminded us got to
186 in the charts is his legacy. His self deprecation was infectious.
assisted at the front of his five piece band by Richard Holgarth (Eddie
& The Hot Rods) who interrupted him regularly when he was rambling on
with one of his many monologues, the whole set was a warm and
with ladders, a stooge roadie who was forced to sort out the mayhem
caused by tangled mic wires, miraculous forward rolls with guitar in
hand (aged 60) oh and 'Bunsen Burner' the other hit, this was a comedy
Horses' featuring an electronic device that goes 'weeehhhh weeehhh' was
hilarious but also professionally presented. Glorious farce, cleverly
stage managed with just enough 'off the cuff' wit to appeal to anyone of
any age. I am now a fan.
five songs I decided that putting your hand on your hip like Mick Jagger
and resembling David Johansen while your band mates stand still playing
two chords as you shout out irrelevant lyrics with 'fuck' in the title
does not make for rich entertainment.
that glam rock band Bubblegum Screw needed to do, as mid evening
headline, was to keep the capacity audience intrigued and upbeat. Cue
'Family Fortunes' buzzer.
When I am
reviewing, I allow for a couple of looseners before I start to draw any
firm conclusions. After five songs I decided that putting your hand on
your hip like Mick Jagger and resembling David Johansen while your band
mates stand still playing two chords as you shout out irrelevant lyrics
with 'fuck' in the title does not make for rich entertainment.
coming from an admirer of Alice, Kiss, Manson and The Sweet, so it's not
as if I didn't want to like these young pretenders. This was an utterly
depressing performance which succeeded only in sending most of the
assembled to Stage 2 to watch the proggish Paul Menel.
While I am
not familiar with his work, Menel's publicist dutifully filled me in
with his former IQ background. Our photographer, Noel Buckley and I
enjoyed a pint while we both agreed that Menel was one to look out for
and I will be playing some of his 'Three Sides to Every Story' on the
show. Think Asia or Transatlantic and you get an idea of the Paul Menel
& The Hot Rods proved that unlike their punk contemporaries, the
messages they conveyed were timeless, not ones which once pandered to
greedy tabloid media looking for cheap thrills in the mid 70s.
act, Eddie & The Hot Rods had an easy enough task in the sense
that Otway had warmed them up only for Bubblegum Screw to insult them.
original member Barry Masters and Richard Holgarth's healthy sardonic
wit, the band pumped through a surprising number of songs which I had
like a cliche but true nonetheless 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' sounds as
good live now as it did back in the day. Eddie & The Hot Rods proved
that unlike their punk contemporaries, the messages they conveyed were
timeless, not ones which once pandered to greedy tabloid media looking
for cheap thrills in the mid 70s. An uplifting end to the day.
Saturday 6 August
One of the
'joys' of reviewing and presenting is hanging around backstage for
artists to arrive or leave the stage. Wearing my radio hat, I found
myself reviewing the back of bands while our photographer Noel Buckley
did the front.
though was of the opinion that the back is not a bad place to be and you
can see on this page some of the results of that endeavour as we weaved
our way through the tightly organised backstage region, courtesy of our
ever helpful guide, John.
Unfortunately I missed Noel's recommendation, Remus Down Boulevard
but he reported that they played a rip roaring set which included an up
tempo version of 'Smoke on the Water,' the audio of which I heard at my
tent and did intermittently interrupt my brunch and pre-match rugby
report from Twickers. Praise indeed.
not down to pure luck that Steve Boyce is about to become known to
return, I was promised an interview with Steve Boyce and so it
was with this in mind that I checked out the set. Very much in the Gary
Moore mould, Steve and his original band from the 70's had reformed
initially to honour the passing of their drummer, Trev McBride and had
won the 'Reform Your Band' competition on another radio station.
bluesy rock at its best. It's not down to pure luck that Steve Boyce is
about to become known to thousands again. The last 'big gig' was as
support to Eric Clapton in Hyde Park. But having been asked to write the
song for the England Rugby World Cup bid, radio play beckons starting
with my own show next Sunday when I will exclusively reveal the song.
Even more news was whispered to me regarding a big name, but I am not
allowed to report it yet.
the stage presence but perhaps more cohesion in the writing might add a
new wing to Ebony Tower.
progressive pop again, somewhat of a theme for mid Saturday. Ebony
Tower's 'White Rabbit' proved to be the best received song in their
gorgeous Zanda King in suspenders and a kaftan, worthy of a Trojan
queen, would certainly launch a thousand ships, but perhaps not a
that she can't deliver. I am just not sure that castle keeper, Wilson
McQueen is the one to provide the killer notes that will captivate a
nation after 15 years trying. Help is not always an admission of
failure. Abrasion vs melody. See Waters/Gilmour. I liked the stage
presence but perhaps more cohesion in the writing might add a new wing
to Ebony Tower.
similar vein, this was Stolen Earth's first gig. Another band
with a former Mostly Autumn singer in the shapely form of Heidi Widdop
on vocals and acoustic guitar ably assisted by the none too shabby lead
guitar of Adam Dawson who particularly came to the fore in the final
track 'Perfect Waves.'
debut for the self styled atmospheric rockers who should do well on the
evidence of the cheers received by a good natured audience.
Lock writes: After the demise of Breathing Space it was great to see
several of that much missed band back playing together in a new project
Stolen Earth, and incredibly this set on the main stage at the festival
was their debut gig (no pressure then !!), not that you would know it
from their performance.
band seemed supremely confident in their music and whilst there are
slight echoes of both Breathing Space (quite understandable) and
possibly Mostly Autumn they seem to have a style all of their own and in
lead vocalist Heidi Widdop have an impressive centre stage presence.
opened with lively rocker 'I Live', before showing the other side of the
band with the slower paced 'Bitterness Fades' other highlights included
the atmospheric 'Silver Skies' and the beautiful 'Tuscany Sun' with some
sumptuous lead guitar. Apart from Heidi it was great to see ex-Breathing
Space members Paul, Adam and Barry back on stage and to welcome keyboard
player John Sykes to the family - the only one in the band not from the
Breathing Space days. Another excellent band to keep an eye on.
in Flight were next up. Hard rock with Bryan Adams look and attitude
coupled with a Thin Lizzy approach to performance. They can funk too.
SIF had their work cut out at the tea time slot but guitarist and
vocalist, Hugo Montgomery-Swan is an engaging chap who worked the
remaining audience well. 'Life's Prize' was the highlight of a well
chosen set which balanced acoustic integrity with high voltage riffs. I
will be seeking them out for my Rockwaves show.
Room's stall is more clearly laid out than either Ebony Tower or
Stolen Earth. The combination of atmospherics and melodic chorals worked
far more effectively. As an audience we felt engaged in the process.
track of the album 'Satellite' is case in point. Love from a distance is
a heady theme from Anne-Marie Helder that deserves the pompous treatment
it received from the rest of the band. It was refreshing to see keyboard
player, Jon Edwards integrated into the song structure. As Carl Palmer
said to me recently, many keyboard players these days seem to play a
supporting role despite the rich tapestry of colours open to them.
Room is a well thought through concept.
Paul Davies explained to me afterwards that he has gone back to basics
in his choice of guitar effects and this evident in his delivery which
was just enough to complement the skills of the other members. Panic
Room is a well thought through concept.
Lock writes: A welcome return to the festival for Panic Room after
their debut Cambridge Rock festival slot last year, led by the
magnificent Anne-Marie Helder, they are hard to categorise as their
sound touches on various genres of the rock spectrum but the one thing
both the bands albums and live performances all have in common is
Standout numbers in the set for me, the forceful and thought provoking
'Freedom to Breathe' the gentle 'Sunshine' and the one two punch of the
closing numbers, the heavy gothic 'Dark Star' and the exceptionally
dynamic piece of music that is 'Satellite' both powerful and beautiful
at the same time.
Airey's Aireya 51 picked up where Swans in Flight left off.
Better looking than Don (sorry Don), Keith forsook the West End day job
to hit the festival stage with aplomb.
It's a bit
rich to describe Aireya 51 as a supergroup, but let's say the cast was
well chosen with Wishbone Ash's Bob Skeet on bass and The Zombie's Steve
Bodford on guitar. The hard rock enmeshed with mystical themes work well
looks, Cherry Lee Mewis is yet another blues based female artist
who has turned to the Delta for her inspiration.
caught one song from the set but the appreciative crowd were content
with Cherry's voice which tonally reminded me of Connie Lush and I can
think of no greater compliment.
blues performed by young hearts like this inspires older hearts to turn
up at gigs, especially if they are as well crafted as this. Come on
Jools get a grip. Let's give this lady and the next one some exposure.
It can't just be GRTR that has good taste.
...let's swiftly lose any convenient notion that Chantel is some kind of
novelty act. She is right up there with the best and deserves our utmost
McGregor is GRTR!'s Artist of the Month and for good reason. No rock
star pretending here but instead a raw passion for the music. A giddy
persona but a seriously talented musician is what's on offer.
the album, 'Like No Other,' with its eastern leanings on the title
track, Chantel simultaneously gained the trust of the audience with a
smile and disarmed them with some terrific guitar licks.
It is easy
to forget that Chantel has jammed with the likes of Joe Bonamassa as
long ago as 2006 and now following his gig circuit of the same era. So
let's swiftly lose any convenient notion that Chantel is some kind of
novelty act. She is right up there with the best and deserves our utmost
Chantel McGregor showed tonight that she has the ability to hold an
audience's attention, write and present intriguing songs which touch
hearts and experiment with new techniques and styles. What more do you
want? The audience wanted another song. That's what!
were Larry Miller and the Quireboys. So prog was out then! Between them
we enjoyed a couple of good hours of blues based rock from Miller and
some emotion laden hard rock from Spike and his pals who now field ex
Glenn Hughes touring drummer, Matt Goom.
night was there for the taking and they took it. Looking around the
room, there were plenty of smiles for both bands from a jam packed
audience inside the main marquee and plenty more planted on picnic
chairs outside on this balmy evening.
Miller deserves greater recognition. I bet he is tired of hearing
that one. Forget for a moment the guitar work reminiscent of his idol,
Rory Gallagher. Songwriting is the key to Miller's back catalogue and
this was applied with passion. Professionalism too. Larry's sore throat
prior to the gig was never once held up as an excuse. In fact the effect
was to give Larry that Lemmy dimension.
Quireboys ended the evening with some great showmanship from Spike
in particular. This line up combines a youth and energy with some
healthy audience participation. Guns n' Roses should end their
bereavement period. Unlike seeing Slash, a Quireboys gig aint gonna cost
£40 odd. We wandered back to the tent satiated.