HELLFEST, CLISSON, FRANCE 20/06/2014
Started off early on the Wed with a day of “Infernal Love” rehearsal which involved going back over the album and working out how to replicate the album live for our forthcoming Sonisphere show. Thankfully everyone had been doing a lot of homework at home so once we got the gear fired up and the sounds tweaked, everything came together really well. Great rehearsal and boding well for the show.
After a civilised breakfast we got in the van and began the run down to Clisson in France. Been an age since we drove through London during daytime and Mark acted as our official guide to ‘Sarf London’. Nice to see a few of the old stomping grounds as well.
Drive to tunnel went smoothly and soon enough we were in France and headed to hell(fest). Amongst the crew there was a birthday so it was celebrated in fine style by speed drinking Jack Daniels and getting progressively more excited about seeing Maiden the following evening. Weather was lovely and again, the drive during the hours of daylight was pretty cool.
We (finally) managed to locate a bar which was showing the England match and over a civilised meal we watched the English team get thrashed. It almost came as a blessing when the manager came over to tell us we couldn’t watch the 2nd half as the ‘karaoke’ was due to start. Exit a few disgruntled English crew but at least we had full bellies and plenty to rant about on the rest of the trip. Finally got to the hotel just after midnight (sadly not two minutes to) and hit the sack for a most welcome sleep.
Blistering hot today and it was a long slow crawl driving into the festival. Being the first day it wasn’t that chaotic backstage and it was nice to see all the dressing rooms were laid out in an almost open plan way, with a central bar and café for catering. Good vibe and after getting the relevant passes, it was a hot and dusty hike up to the stage to watch the end of Conan’s set. The tent was rammed and the hot claustrophobic air in there only added to the encompassing, oppressive noise from the band. It was fucking INTENSELY loud and the perfect way to get me psyched up for our show.
Backstage was stupidly hot so we went out into the press area and did a few quick but fun interviews and managed to catch a quick bit of some of the other acts. Really enjoyed Nocturnus AD, a blast from the early 90’s death metal past (their debut “The Key” is a classic, if somewhat hokey, blast of sc-fi influenced death metal) and one of those bands I’d never had a chance to see.
Met up with Diamond Dave who was over on a road trip for the weekend and Big Sean who was teching for Maiden. Great to see them both and we had a bit of a laugh and a bit of a weep about the football.
Up on the main stage Satan were doing their thing to a huge crowd and it was amazing standing side of stage and taking in the full spectacle of the Rob Zombie and Iron Maiden stage sets.
When we hit the stage just before 5pm it’s hot, sweaty and dusty. Takes a few minutes to settle in on the big stage but the monitors are sounding good quickly and soon we’re deep into the set. Great crowd (as far as the eye could see, quite amazing), lots of dust kicking up from the moshpit and there’s a heartening cheer when Andy is introducing the songs. Anyway, don’t take my word for it you can WATCH THE WHOLE SHOW HERE
40-ish mins seems a bit short after our recent longer headline shows but we’re not complaining so after we’re off there’s time for dinner and a quick birdbath shower. Hooked up with Paulo from Trivium (who’s a fellow contributor to Bass Guitar Magazine) to discuss the pressures of meeting deadlines and bumped into fellow Dragonforce and Crossfaith bassists which resulted in a low-end chumfest.
After we managed to catch most of Impaled Nazarene (killer set and kittos for the beers after chaps!), Electric Wizard (awesome) and Godflesh. Hung out with the Conan folk for a while and between beers managed to catch Maiden from out front and a bit of Slayer.
By this stage the backstage had thinned out and rather than face being the last men standing we thought it would be time to hit the road and get at least a few hours sleep before contemplating the long road home. One hell of a fest!
Food rating: 8/10 Excellent! Nice restaurant style food onsite.
Shower rating: 5/10 Far too hot in the backstage so the whole place was a complete sweatbox.
CHAOS FEST, GUERNSEY 27/06/2014
The following weekend I was on a flight to Southampton and then a small plane onto Guernsey to meet up with the rest of the guys. They flew in a bit earlier so they’ve already been onsite and are back relaxing at the rather cool holiday apartments we’ll be staying in. The flight into the island was quite spectacular…clear blue sea and lots of little islands dotted around.
Picked up by Lorna who’s to be our chaperone for the next 24 or so hours and up to the festival site it is. Again the drive round the island provides more spectacular sea views and the festival tent itself is situated on top of a hill overlooking the sea with only a lone lighthouse in view. Check the gear quickly (we brought our own amp heads but the cabs and kit are hired) and nice to see we’ve got a T? logo on the head of the bass drum..attention to detail, love it.
Write a set list for the shows and as the “Infernal Love” album show is the following week we slot a few of those songs in just so we can get them road-tested a bit before Sonisphere. Get a couple of guitars back down to the chalets to do some run throughs/warm up and then have a nice bit of dinner over in a restaurant overlooking the bay. That’s good fun and its highly enjoyable watching the tide move quickly out and the town getting revved up for its Friday night.
Back up on the hill SPunge are rocking the crowd so we check a bit of that out and I get a chance to catch up with Mark from local hard-core legends Insurrection. Back in my tape trading days I wrote to Mark looking for a copy of their demo (the good old pre-internet ‘soap the stamps’ days) and he very kindly sent me back not only their demo but a copy of their album which, at the time, was just about to come out on Peaceville. Great to finally meet him after 26 years and its lovely to see he’s a complete gent and the band are still going strong, quite surreal to meet someone you wrote to such a long time ago
Soon enough SPunge are winding up and we go through a few of the last minute set tweaks in the dressing room. Again an up for it crowd in for the show and despite a few bizarre technical problems (BOTH our bass and guitar heads blew up during the set) the show goes off great. Really enjoy playing the “IL” songs again and it’s a good atmosphere in the crowd, with plenty of diehards and fresh new faces alike singing along. Quite an amazing reaction for a first visit! Afterwards have a bit of a post mortem as to the source of the technical problems, the only reason we can think of is that at the top of a mountain/cliff the power supply might have been ‘spiking’ and fried both the heads. Bear in mind my Warwick head has never cut out or even had a blip in nearly 10 years of service, it’s a strange anomaly that both it and the guitar heads would go at the same show (the power surge theory is borne out a bit later when an engineer looks at my bass head to find one of the circuit boards inside is complete toast). Anyway, at least we have a few days to get them looked at before Sonisphere.
After the show we hang out for a bit, the wind is getting up so we nip round to front bar of the tent where it seems to be a bit busier and a bit warmer. A few drinks there and we’re quickly back off to the chalets to get a bit of sleep. Big thanks to Chris for inviting us over and looking after us so well, much appreciated.
Food rating: 8/10 Lovely dinner in restaurant overlooking the beach/harbour/bay.
Shower rating: 9/10 Like the rest of the accomadation, immaculate.
SONISPHERE, KNEBWORTH, UK 06/07/2014
We hooked up in London the following week for the 2nd of the “Infernal Love” rehearsals and worked on a few of the tweaks that we deemed necessary after the Guernsey show and sorted out all the intros/outros for the show. Spent a bit of time double-checking all the new bits of gear (and the bits that had blown up at the previous show) and getting them wired into the live rigs as well…sounding awesome and it was good to have Pete our lighting guy down to sit in on the rehearsal for him to get a better idea of what the set was sounding like and who would be doing what and where onstage.
Early night and then we drove up on the morning of the show, arriving just as Gojira were destroying the main stage. Quick reccy of the area, some lunch, a quick trip to wander round the festival site and then started doing some festival press. Did a signing first and met a few familiar faces, a big WOMble contingent out in force which was great to see and plenty of vintage T? shirts on display as well.
Hung out with the Kerbdog lads as well…always great to see them and this was to be my first time seeing them since they reformed. A few more quick interviews, catch a bit of Dregens set over in the Jager tent then watch the Kerbdog show from side of stage and a bit from out front. Sounds great and they have a good energy to them, really impressive and good to see the crowd rocking out.
A few more interviews (including a rather fun Gibson ‘Band Mates’ interview)…
…then we finally get into our dressing room and have a bit of time to unwind and start warming up for the show. The Bake In Black pastries are getting a pasting and there are ample star spotting opportunities from our dressing room vantage point.
It’s an amazing sight walking onstage to see the tent packed and a very up for it crowd. Bear in mind we never played the ‘full’ album ever before and some of the songs only got played once or twice (never in the case of “Bowels Of Love”) they are greeted like old favourites.I don’t think we ever wanted this show to be a reverential plod through the material, we wanted the show to be a celebration of the album and a party with all the fans who’ve stuck by us and that album over the years. Which is exactly what the show ends up being! Sonisphere is in fine voice so there’s plenty of singing and a rather raucous mosh pit at times. As we have an hour slot and the album runs to 50 minutes we actually found ourselves in the rare situation of being able to drop a few more songs in. We hadn’t anything rehearsed so just went for a very spur of the moment one/two of “Potato Junkie” and “Screamager” which seemed to finish off the show in fine style. Even dropped a bit of “Creeping Death” into the very end of the set to whet the appetite of all heading over to see Metallica.
After a quick drink in the dressing room myself and Tom Dalgety head off to catch a bit of Beastmilk (their album is fantastic) which sounds ace and a pity we only see the last song. As they finish we hear the start of Metallicas set so Tom and head down the front to get a decent look (and a decent bit of volume) for Metallica…i’ve seen Metallica countless times since my first encounter (Ulster Hall, Belfast 15/09/1986..Master Of Puppets tour, Anthrax supporting, 12 days before Cliff Burton passed away) and this definately ranked right up their. Band sounded great and it was LOUD.
Afterwards hung out a bit in the dressing rooms and reflected on what a great show and amazing audience we’d had today, nice one folks, let’s do it all again sometime!
Food rating: 6/10 Festival catering, hits the spot and coffee was good.
Shower rating: N/A Didn’t get a chance after in the wind down/rush to see other bands.
Rock Herk, Hasselt, Belgium 19/07/2014
This one’s a flyer so an early start to Belgium means we all assembled the night before at the airport hotel. Had a quick catch-up with Dave and Claire (our ‘super-sub’ crew) then a bit of sleep before the 6am start kicked off.
Out of Heathrow there were lots of thunderstorms and quite a bit of turbulence so it was really very very welcome when the plane actually touched down in Brussels. Suitably shaky it was a swift drive up to Hasselt where we got checked into the hotel and worked out how best to keep out of the heat (30 degrees?). Went for a nice walk round the sleepy town centre, looks like everyone else was hiding in the shadows so it was a quiet stroll round the place. We’ve been in Hasselt quite a few times before so it was nice to wander about and see a wee bit more of the town than on previous visits.
When we get down to Rock Herk God Is An Astronaut are already on and after a quick bite of dinner head over to see them and check out the stage we are due to be playing on. The band sound fantastic, I’m a recent covert of only a few years and their live show is quite impressive, need to see a full set sometime soon.
A quick wander through the crowd and chat with a few familiar faces then see a bit of Feed The Rhino whose high energy assault is going down great with the crowd. First time seeing them live and again, killer stage presence and lots of energy. Say hello to them afterwards and nice to see they are a bunch of lovely chaps as well, top blokes.
Spend the hour before our show alternating between warming up and getting a look at the Sore Losers who are rocking. Never heard or seen them before but first impressions are VERY GOOD! Perfect festival band and they get the crowd going brilliantly.
Our own show goes great…by this stage of the festival run everything is really tight and we can have a bit of fun with the songs and change things round a little. Play the two new songs we debuted earlier in the year and also do the ‘string’ version of “Diane” which I don’t think we’ve done in Belgium since the 1995 “Infernal Love” tour. It goes down great and it’s on a massive high we leave the stage!
Hang out a bit afterwards and get our stuff tidied up in the dressing room. There’s a kind offer for a late supper in the catering area but to be honest after jumping up and down for 75 or so minutes the last thing I want to do is have a sit down meal.
Spoke to Sam from the Muzikdroom who’s been a great host to us over the years and caught up a bit with him before a trip over to check out Shy FX. Soon enough the festival was over and we we’re shuttling it back to the hotel, job done. Belgium you were lovely yet again!
Food rating: 7/10 Nice pasta and good salad selection. Hooegaarden Rose in bottles as well, perfect summer drink.
Shower rating: 6/10 Standard hotel show, marked down due to stinginess with the towels.
Kuopio RockCock, Kupio, Finland 25/07/2014
Really looking forward to getting back to Finland for this festival, our club shows there are always great fun and it’s nice to be heading up North to see a different part of the (huge) country. We travel in the night before and (bar a ridiculously tight onward connection from Helsinki to Kuopio where we all had to sprint from one end of the terminal to the other) get settled in the hotel. Funny to see how light it still is at 3am and it leads itself to a rather fractured sleep.
It’s brutally hot outside so I venture into town to see what going on and also to check out Record Shop X which the name might suggest is a record shop. It’s got a great selection so I have to reel myself in as it would be very easy to spend a lot of money on all the goodies they had in stock. Walk down towards the water near the hotel and it’s quite beautiful down there…not a cloud in the sky and gangs of excited locals hopping on and off boats. Bump into Andy who’s heading for some lunch at Sampo so join him for a bit and then back to the hotel to try and shake off the oppressive heat.
Down at the show it’s insanely hot as well and our dressing room (a converted metal container) is like an oven…every time we put the a/c unit on, it blows a fuse so we decide it’s probably better just to suffer outside. Take a walk down past the seating stand and down to the other stages to catch a bit of Battlebeast who are highly entertaining in an Accept/Priest kind’ve way and then over to the main stage for Haloo Helsinki who are great. Really enjoyable.
As we hit the stage the sun is right down low behind the audience so for most of the set I cant see a thing, just a huge retina scorching red ball which with the heat makes it one of the physically hardest shows I’ve done in recent years. Thankfully the crowd were well into it and that took the edge off the horrible dehydrated feeling I had throughout the whole show. The strange layout of the bar area was odd as well, only people over 18 were allowed in there..sooo…we know the Finns (cultural stereotype klaxon*), just like the irish like a drink so the majority of the crowd was shoehorned into the cordoned off bar section which was over alongside the main seated stand. It made for a bit of a weird dynamic as 80% of the crowd was far over stage left watching from behind a security barrier. Anyways, the show went great, fired in some earlier tunes like “Meat Abstract” and “Nausea” alongside some of the brand new tunes like “Still Hurts” and “Insecurity”. All go down great and we eschew an encore by just playing straight through for the allocated 75 minutes.
Offstage the heat is still ridiculous but at least the sun’s gone down a bit and we head over to the catering to get some well needed dinner. Chill out for a bit and then have a taste of the Impaled Nazarene beer that Kossu has brought me…its good stuff, a dark ale and it’s the perfect drink to wile away the rest of the evening with a few trips out front to check out headliners Popeda who are going down a storm. Nice one Finland, hopefully see you next year!
Food rating: 7/10 Great stuff though if I’d eaten at Sampo would probably be a 10
Shower rating: 8/10 With the heat so intense the hotel shower was a godsend.
Text and pics by Michael McKeegan