Paul Gambuccini recently claimed that “the rock era is over” but it would seem that the legions of fans and performers, young and old, that flocked to a sun-blasted Victoria Park in London for the second annual High Voltage Festival, didn’t receive that particular memo. Sponsored (and probably curated by) Classic Rock Magazine, this celebration of all things Rock laughed in the face of such ludicrous claims with the a line-up that contained both established and up and coming bands — some of which, as you’ll find out later, have begun to write their own chapter in the Rock n Roll bible.
Kicking off the weekend festivities early on Saturday, Finnish superstars The Von Hertzen Brothers (7) took to the Prog stage and delivered a high-energy, if slightly theatrical set. Taking cues from Pop, Metal and eccentricities of Prog, this quintet were probably deserving of a higher slot on the bill as they definitely knew how to work the stage and the crowd. In their native Scandinavia they’d probably headline, but they clearly reveled in delivering their music to a UK audience. It went down well too, the sheer infectious nature of their stage presence blowing away those initial Saturday morning cobwebs and any lingering skepticism.
Amplifier (8), probably the most aptly named band of the weekend, quickly followed on the same stage, arriving dressed in uniform suits and black ties stitched with their enigmatic Octopus emblem. With only 30 minutes stage time, this Mancunian quartet had to cherry-pick the best songs from their last record, which clocks in at a mammoth 2 hours long. And they did just that, treating us to some of thickest riffs this side of Tool and trippy Hawkwind-like choruses about Space and Time and other dimensions. In other words, they were brilliant.
Rival Sons (6) are currently big news in Rock circles. Is their Led Zeppelin swagger a mere copy or is it a homage to their heroes? Are they just media hype (their new record ‘Pressure and Time’ looks set to steal the show at the Classic Rock Mag Awards later this year and they’re also in the running for best new band too) or are they the real deal? . It was difficult to tell with their mid-afternoon Main Stage slot. Their sound is undoubtedly classy, they’ve got the hooks and they know every trick in the book, but much of their output was lost in the wind (though I gather this was a common complaint of that particular stage) and they were, perhaps, over-awed by the occasion. As it would transpire later, they were able to redress the balance.
Following a quick stop at the beer tent, a mammoth detonation of metallic proportions somewhere in the distance soon had us heading towards the Metal Hammer Stage, where Ravens Creed (7) set about pulverizing our brains into mush with a barrage of brutal riffs, pounding drums and devastating roars. They were undoubtedly one of the heaviest bands of the weekend, yet there was something positive and heart-warming about their message even though it was difficult to decipher what they were on about!
With Thin Lizzy flogging their dead horse on the Main Stage, those with a bigger sense of adventure could be found with their jaws on the floor witnessing one of the finest bands they’re ever likely to encounter. Triggerfinger (10) barely warranted a footnote in the festival billing amidst heavyweights like Dream Theater, Slash or Judas Priest, but this suave, impeccably dressed Belgian trio delivered the set of the weekend in my view. A spectacular 45 minute performance sealed with panache and passion and everything you could possibly wish for from a Rock n Roll band. Their tightly-performed, bluesy songs rock in all the right places and are not without a sense of self-deprecating humour, with their Guitarist/Frontman toying with the crowd during and between songs via witty stage banter and sharp dance-moves, adding to the fun. While they’re definitely moving in their own direction, loose reference points would include Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion and Rory Gallacher. However, mere words simply cannot do these guys justice it should be your new lifetime ambition to witness this trio live.
Though it was tempting to see former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash over at the main stage, a flyer found on the ground soon pointed us in the direction of the small and unadvertised Ace Cafe Stage, where the God of Hell Fire himself Arthur Brown (9) performed an up-close, personal and high energy set. Backed by a youthful and supremely talented band, Brown wowed a packed tent with his superb, falsetto voice, crazy energy and eccentric songs. Following on from Triggerfinger this was another major and unexpected highlight. To see a performer of this quality on such an intimate setting was nothing short of sensational and he would have given any band on the Prog Stage a run for their money.
The disappointment of not being able to see Electric Wizard, who were stuck in Norway following last week’s tragic events was soon tempered by the news that Rival Sons (9) were to stand in with an impromptu headline set on the Metal Hammer Stage. And they took to it like ducks to water just as the sky began to darken, providing the perfect setting and atmosphere for The Sons to blow away any doubts and misconceptions from their earlier main stage set with an incendiary performance of the highest order. Perhaps this was the moment when they finally arrived? See the video below for hard evidence, believe the hype.