LIVE: Croydon Rocks Festival 2018
As we mentioned in our preview in the run-up to the event, Croydon Rocks is definitely a festival that’s growing at a healthy rate under the watchful eye of its organiser, the Fiascos’ Richie Hudson. Following on from last year’s event which saw Warrior Soul, the Ramonas and the Main Grains among others detonate the Cronx, the event has returned for a second year with a stellar-looking line-up and the prospect of much alcohol-based lunacy…
The Saturday for your correspondent gets off to a good start with the Soho Dukes featuring ex-Drugdealer Cheerleader bassist Bomber, who put in an enjoyable half hour set of Dogs D’Amour/Quireboys indebted sleaze-rock. Sure, it could have been transplanted direct from 1989 if you want to quibble, but there’s nowt wrong with that as long as you put a decent amount of energy and some killer hooks into your tunes, and make no mistake, these guys definitely do. A band I’d happily go and see again.
Chasing Dragons are probably the band on the day most likely to catch on with the younger Kerrang! readership, with their skull-crushing riffs and Nightwish-indebted sense of theatre. There’s plenty of stagecraft and attitude on show here, but for me, they’re kind of lacking a killer tune to really round the whole package off. Still, there’s plenty here who seem to like them so I wouldn’t bet against them being on their way to bigger venues in the next 12 months.
In contrast to Chasing Dragons, the Spangles are clearly more of a keep it simple and rock the feck out kind of band, and seeing their set today has me looking forward to checking out their album when it hits the shops (oh okay, the Pledgemusic e-mail accounts) next month. Tunes like Taking Pictures and POTUS have a vitriolic energy about them, but a definite knack with a killer tune which has been a feature of Polly, Ginna and Ben’s history in the Main Grains, the Idol Dead and Phluid. Definitely one of the more enjoyable sets of the day.
Perhaps inevitably, late additions to the bill Tenyson struggle to follow that a bit – they put on a workmanlike set of 90s influenced alt-rock, but it lacks a bit of the sparkle of the last three bands. It’s not for a lack of effort, but today perhaps just wasn’t their day.
The surprise package of the day, possibly even the weekend, are the Weird Things, whose rocket-fuelled take on pop-punk reminds you of the Love Zombies, only with a much more all-killer-no-filler set of tunes. A new album is due early next year and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for it – in the meantime, I can safely say that I heartily recommend giving this lot a listen when you get the chance.
The Fiascos were always likely to be at an advantage playing to a hometown crowd tonight, but they absolutely nail it with a storming run through their entire back catalogue, with the likes of Built For Speed, Seen Your Face Before and Destroy The Radio going down a storm with the Croydon crowd and getting them the best reaction of the day so far. Another band with an album due in early 2019, and on this evidence it should be well worth the wait.
On then to our two visitors from LA, and first up are Junkyard, a band who I’ll admit to not having seen live before, but who well and truly storm it with a good mix of new songs from last year’s comeback album High Water and old favourites like Simple Man, Blooze, Shot In The Dark and Hollywood rocking like an absolute bastard. Make no mistake, these guys are still a damn good live proposition and well worth checking out.
By now it’s late, most of us have been drinking for far longer than is advisable, so what better way to round off the evening than a band where pretty much every song is about getting absolutely wrecked on whatever you can lay your hands on? Step forward Jizzy Pearl and Love/Hate. Although there’s a couple of newer numbers here, the highlights of the set mostly come from the band’s first two classic albums with the likes of Yucca Man, Tumbleweed, She’s An Angel and the call-and-response ten pints classic Fuel To Run all sounding absolutely spot-on. With a supremely tight band backing him up, by the time Pearl and co have rounded things off with Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?, Wasted In America and a thunderous Blackout In The Red Room, we have well and truly been rocked and it’s surely got to be time for bed. Hold on a second, did someone say something about an after-party in The Ship? Ruh-rohhhhh…
Come Sunday, it’s pretty easy to tell those who are here for the weekend from those who’ve just got day tickets – those of us who were at last night’s event are the ones shambling around the venue looking like extras from the Walking Dead. Having spent most of the early part of the day comatose in a Travelodge room, your correspondent ends up not making it back to Croydon Conference Centre until about 5pm – due apologies to Vampirok, Psychobabylon and Junkyard Choir whose sets I missed, it was all the Jagermeister’s fault…
The evening starts off then with The Kut who I’ve seen mentioned on bills a few times, but haven’t actually seen live before today. I’m pleased to report that they very much deliver on the brief of starting the day with a bang, as their set packs an undeniable punch. Sure, their template is undeniably the early 90s when Hole and Babes in Toyland were at their peak, but they definitely put their own stamp on it with the result that the likes of Badman, I Want You Maniac and Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll blast through and stick in your brain nicely. Their debut album has just come out, and hopefully we should have a review up on Pure Rawk in the next few days.
If there were any cobwebs still lurking in this reviewer’s brain then they’re comprehensively blown away by the Witchdoktors, who bring the pure undiluted spirit of rock ‘n’ roll last seen hanging around Soho’s Denmark Street to Croydon for tonight. The likes of Jack Hammer, Voodoo Eye and No Pain No Gain pretty much challenge you not to break out your dancing shoes and start grooving and they deservedly get a standing ovation from those present. Definitely one of the weekend’s standout sets and no mistake.
It was always going to be difficult to try and follow what had come before at this point, and although both Blind River and Flight 16 give it a valiant go, their more straightforward grunge-indebted brand of rock just sounds like a bit of a step down from the early part of the day. Blind River, who come across like a cross between Reef and Soundgarden, are the better of the two as despite the lack of a real standout tune in their set, they at least have a bit of stage presence and do their damnedest to work the crowd up. Flight 16 meanwhile are closer to the more down-to-earth stylings of Pearl Jam, and although there’s no lack of effort, they just sound a bit out of place on this bill unfortunately. Sorry guys.
From the moment The Men that Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing blast on with A Clean Sweep and Hidden, you’re in no doubt that they mean business tonight, and that they’ve definitely been missed in the eight months or so since their last tour. Mixing old favourites like Charlie and This House Is Not Haunted with soon-to-be-classics such as Supply And Demand, Baby Farming, God Is In The Bottom Line and the chantalong Obscene Fucking Machine, they really are on top form tonight and get my vote as band of the weekend. An encore of Margate Fhtagn after the traditional set closer of Brunel, which sees the group organise the whole venue into one massive moshpit during the closing section, really is cherry on top of the cake.
It might seem a bit strange to finish the weekend off with an acoustic set, but the truth is that after the sheer chaos of The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, Tony Wright‘s unplugged turn at the end of the evening works just perfectly to wind things down. Drawing on both of his solo albums to date, the likes of Great Horton (a song which I’ll freely admit always makes me nostalgic for my teenage years drinking at Bradford city centre pubs), Self-Portrait, The Blues and Opposites Attract all work well in the live arena, and Tony and Milly’s onstage banter is never less than entertaining. We also get a clutch of Terrorvision classics to round the night off with Perseverance, Tequila and Alice, What’s The Matter? all getting a run-out in acoustic form.
And so to bed, worn out, rocked out, but grinning like an idiot. Make no mistake, this was a fun weekend and if next year’s event is up to this standard then you really owe it to yourself to make the pilgrimage down to the Cronx to check it out.