Sixfields Rock Fest: A Review by Peter Dennis

It’s time Northampton had a proper, regular outdoor music festival with camping, stalls, beer tents and all that good stuff. With a friendly atmosphere, original and tribute acts plus a healthy dose of local talent Sixfields Rock Fest has all the essential ingredients to fill the void. Hard rock and metal acts are criminally overlooked at local mainstream festivals so this event is here to redress the balance.

Kicking things off in fine style are local band NUMB. Armed with a huge beefy sound they’re guaranteed to wake everybody up and blast away any hangovers. Fronted by a charismatic vocalist the audience soon warm to the band their infectious tracks like ‘Cartel Part 2’ while closer ‘Burn’ caps an energetic set.

Via Dolorosa fuse alternative rock with post-punk attitude and play with an unbridled enthusiasm. Making their second appearance at the festival and by third song ‘Control’ they’ve won over any doubters. Their sombre lyrics are tempered by their raucous sound and ‘Throw it Away’ is a fitting tribute to a friend lost to cancer. ‘Toy’ rounds things off leaving the audience wanting more.

White Coast Rebels come on stage earlier than billed and bring a good time 80s glam vibe  with a sound that draws equal influence from Motley Crue and Skid Row. Very metal, and proud of it, the band haven’t come to take prisoners and the audience are treated to plenty of shredding, flying follicles and devil horns. New tracks such as ‘Power Inside’ sit well alongside the bands older material and this entertaining band should definitely be on your watch list.

Spreading the Disease hail from Dover and have a sound that really packs a punch and their set is a thirty minute pummelling. With original tunes like ‘Words Unspoken’ and ‘Method to the Madness’ it’s obvious why the band are attracting the attention of the national media. The band weld a metal sensibility to hardcore energy and mix gruff vocals with clean singing and the resulting songs like new single ‘Greed’ are simply ferocious.

Northampton’s very own Over The Influence are a band creating big waves on the local rock circuit and surely it’s only a matter of time before they break on a national level. The group draw a big crowd and ‘Take Control’, with its melodic hooks and memorable melodies, sees the band play with an undeniable chemistry. Singer Bex has wonderfully soulful vocals for which, a nice cover of Black Stone Cherry’s ‘Me and Mary Jane’ is the perfect vehicle. It really captures a smokey, southern rock vibe and raises the temperature by a few degrees on an already sweltering day. Future mayhem beckons.

Empyre are another band from Northampton’s fertile music scene. Armed with great tracks like the atmospheric ‘Stone’ the band can’t go wrong. Empyre have been championed by the BBC and they’re a competent band who can sludge like Black Sabbath or rock out like Guns N’ Roses equally well. The group have a very hypnotic sound that gently reels the audience in before landing a killer blow and their original tunes such as ‘Homegrown’ are the very epitome of cool.

As their name suggests Johnny The Fox pay homage to rock legends Thin Lizzy. ‘Waiting for an Alibi’ opens proceedings and is followed by live favourite ‘Rosalie’. With a musical heritage played this well the band can’t go wrong. The band play a faithful tribute: close your eyes and it really could be Thin Lizzy on stage. Johnny The Fox are smart enough to mix the greatest hits with more obscure cuts like ‘Suicide’ ensuring their set appeals to both Lizzy aficionados as well as the casual fan. A carbon copy of ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ means no one leaves disappointed.

Stormbringer are a bundle of energy and have many fans in the audience. Tracks like ‘Through These Eyes’ exhibit a real groove beneath their sonic fury. After selling out The Roadmender earlier this year it’s obvious the band are on an upward trajectory and they have great original tracks like ‘Smother’ with which to propel them. ‘Dying Breed’ from their latest album shows another facet to the bands sound by introducing some acoustic guitar and ensures their set ends on a high.

Oliver/Dawson Saxon feature Graham ‘Olly’ Oliver and Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson who both played with Saxon back in their 80s heyday. There has been some friction between the two versions of Saxon now in existence but in whatever incarnation they’ve always been the perfect festival band. As dusk descends the band hit the stage and launch into ‘Rock N’ Roll Gypsy’ and pull in the biggest crowd of the day. Consummate professionals the band play a ‘best of’ set culled from their 1979-1986 glory days. ‘Strong Arm of the Law’, ‘Denim and Leather’ and the anthem ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’ still sound fresh and generate a rabid response. The whole band gel well together and round things of nicely with the title track from their 1980 masterpiece ‘Wheels of Steel’.

The jury is out on tribute bands. To some people they are little more than vaudevillian pantomime while to others they offer an opportunity to see their heroes in an intimate setting. I, like most fans of music, fall into the second category. However when the Food Fighterz hit the stage all questions to the validity of such bands are dispelled. Playing a faithful homage to Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters the band give the crowd exactly what they want as tracks like ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘Rope’ prove to be the perfect soundtrack to a Saturday night and provide a fitting end to an excellent day.

Peter Dennis.

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