|Guilfest 2011 - Stoke Park, Guildford - 15th-17th July 2011|
|Written by Ross Welford|
|Thursday, 28 July 2011 05:00|
Guilfest is probably not a festival you'd associate with metal and rock acts, surely not one UBER ROCK would be interested in?? You'd be wrong.
The fact that Guilfest is in its 20th year will tell you how successful it is but the beauty of this festival is, not only does it have the most random acts over the weekend (Glastonbury has got nothing on this eclectic line up), but it is a family friendly affair where all generations can congregate and enjoy themselves - stroppy emo Son, pop loving Daughter, rock dinosaur Dad and gay icon loving Mother all get a slice of happiness at one small sized festival. Far from being a small fish in an ever growing large pond, previous years' headliners include Motorhead, The Beach Boys, Blondie, Billy Idol, Madness and Supergrass.
So what could I expect at this year's three day festival and what would you lot like to know about??? Well, not only have they added the Vive Le Rock stage (1 of 8 stages) that would feature punk from the like of UK Subs, Anti Nowhere League and Neville Staple, Gallows, Funeral For A Friend and Skindred on The Big Cheese Cave stage (?), Adam Ant, PIL, Hugh Cornwell, Vintage Trouble, Saint Jude on the Good Time Guide stage and Roger Daltrey performing Tommy and The Who's greatest hits along with a bit of an indie vibe in Razorlight. With over 200 acts performing and a great deal to keep any punk, metal and rock lover happy, you now need to hear the bit that will keep you awake at night......the other bands that will be playing include (gulp) Peter Andre, Erasure, James Blunt, N Fuckin Dubz, Chipmunk, The Blow Monkeys and, of course, no festival is complete without Pendulum, this time doing a DJ set (haven't these chaps got homes to go to occasionally??).
So with deep breaths and money for beer, we enter Friday's line up... I've written down ADAM ANT as my main band of the day - for many reasons - but after a whole new backing band replacement and various accounts of the Dandy Highwayman being "So Punk" this has led me to believe mums in summer dresses wanting 'Prince Charming' are going to get a rude awakening by a sneering fucked up version that will be singing punk songs instead (fingers crossed eh!). Voodoo Johnson also appear shockingly low on the bill but get my pencil of death circled around their name. No one else seems to take my fancy so I'm going all out to wing it and see some new stuff......
The first thing I should say is that there is glorious sunshine beaming through Guildford and, once getting our bearings, the beating drums from the Vive Le Rock stage drift through the air and drag me straight there....I get there to hear it's only a soundcheck but Christ this lot sound good. "You want another? It's only soundcheck but if you promise to come back when we're on we'll do some more for ya." As promised, a mere half hour later we venture back to catch said punk band, the glorious opening to our day that are On Trial UK. Songs include (I'm guessing) 'My Life' and the by now growing crowd favourite, 'I Am Pangarian'. Quality fun punk and with a quick introduction to band mascot Ratboy, they unveil a 6ft poster of their new cd - A massive vagina which the crowd lap up (not literally) and as a 50 year old woman walks out in disgust, the rest roll around laughing at a great band that entertained and sound good. A mere 30 second walk away, we enter the Cheese tent - a tent that's for some reason been turned into a gay disco looking venue inside? Regardless, Voodoo Johnson are up and the conclusion I get from this UK lot are that put simply, lead singer Nik Taylor is the only reason to stay; yeah they sound good but the three guitarists are so bland no one notices them on stage even when there's a solo going on. New song 'Dogs Of War' from their forthcoming album was probably a highlight of their brief set, a Sabbath-esque take on their usual grunge rock style. Like I said, great singer, average band.
A quick walk for a beer and we sit down to watch Lawson, a young Snow Patrol-ish type of band, perfect for a Friday in the sun, that seem to keep the growing crowd happy (but not us, we want more ROCK!!). As we venture around I hear the strains of pounding drums and full-on rock and as we enter the tent to the end of a blistering song, I find one of the best bands of the day - Southampton's What Is Life For? Iron Maiden guitars plus melody with a Foos rock sense. Top band that got me so excited I accosted the manager for a chat and cd (review soon Uber Folks). Only gutted that I missed the start of their set. I promise myself I'll be seeing them again. How Wayward Chile get a slot this high up on the second stage is a bit baffling but I'm not here to moan, I simply find a young band that offer up classic rock and whilst guitarist Jack Charlton is a top player, I get so annoyed and it's summed up by my non rock partner in crime for the weekend who says "Singer's a bit of a dick, isn't he?" Yes, the curse of lead singer disease strikes again along with a Slash wannabe on his right. Both good yet neither as good as they both think. The young crowd like them, so what do I know?? Next up on the main stage are Little Fish, a three piece that make a big noise with a slight Siouxse and the Banshees vibe yet it's not exactly uplifting stuff that the crowd would probably prefer? Probably would've been amazing in the dark tent and don't be surprised if you hear more of them in the future. I was going to watch the Lambrettas but two songs on, I'm just not getting it so walk through the packed out tent to follow a bunch of 14 year olds getting excited (Not like that you freaks!) Every single teen from Guildford must be in here to watch Welsh band Attack! Attack! A heavy as fuck Fall Out Boy sound that gets a pit whipping up and the security guard earning his money. GREAT band. Another band I'll be checking up on. As the skies open Echo And The Bunnymen are on the main stage - probably the reason the rain came if you ask me? I then catch a band called Primate who have a slight Spin Doctors vibe, some top guitar work and a slight tweak occasionally to the vocals and they could be half decent. If it hadn't have rained I'd have missed them so thank the weather. My Passion are about to play and although I've had the misfortune to see them before, the weather and time slots dictate I'm about to see them again. Electro dance rock just seems random to me and they certainly ain't The Crue - sorry but maybe I'm getting old. Enough. I catch the first few songs of Daltrey's rock opera Tommy and the place is absolutely packed but it just sounds a bit dated to me and Adam Ant is about to start so I'm off (A friend later told me that Daltrey was his usual amazing self).
Now I've seen LOADS of Adam Ant tattoos and T-shirts all day so I'm guessing the dandy highwayman is going to get a decent crowd. I'd be right (I'd be interested to see how many Funeral For A Friend got whilst both headline acts were on other stages?).This being only his third ever live festival (including the ill fated Live Aid) Adam arrives and is on top form and in good spirits. Gone are the dramas of previous concerts of the past year and he delivers mainly a hits set that includes 'Dog Eat Dog', 'Antmusic', 'Car Trouble', 'Kings Of The Wild Frontier', 'Goody Two Shoes', 'Wonderful', a blistering version of 'Christian D'ior', then non pop hits 'Deutscher Girls', 'Plastic Surgery' and 'Never Trust A Man'. Cheeky and sexual throughout and proof what a great frontman he is when on form, Adam Ant may not deliver a flawless performance that perhaps the rest of his era's bands would perform these days but as Adam said himself "I'm a punk rocker."
A great first day that proved a lot of rock is on offer at one of the last independent UK festivals but I'll leave it to the Ant master who summed it up perfectly..........
"I've got two words for ya........ Fuck Glastonbury."
As the rain beats down on my tent like the sound of Cannibal Corpse on an instrumental break, I unzip the front to look out at the sodden ground that has made everything under foot muddier than you can imagine and as I breathe in the morning air whilst being freezing, I take a moment to sigh "This is what makes a festival".....Actually that's total bollox, I'm holed up in a 5 star hotel looking out of the window thinking "Have I really got to go and see NDubz in this?" that and the fact that the beer here is cheaper!!! (Say what you want but when I see Vince Neil, Mick Jagger and Slash in a tent, I'll consider it too).
Regardless of the weather, we brave the all day forecast of rain and get straight into it with Draven on the main stage and considering it's pissing down, the sound they're creating is pretty impressive, the singer is a bit shouty for this style but a small tweak and maybe we'll be seeing more (to be fair to them I only caught the end of their set). The rain's holding off slightly so we make a break for the Vive Le Rock stage where we find one of the heaviest bands of the weekend, Accident Gallery. Hardcore punk in the style of early Suicidal Tendencies with a very angry sounding frontman that leads the band from the front with a presence that is ably backed up by his young bandmates. Considering the amount of people in here, they play like it's the Marquee or CBGBs and get a good response from a mainly non hardcore audience - apparently an album is being recorded so look out. How do you follow that assault of the senses?? With an AOR melodic cowbell loving band called Summers, that's how! This lot have watched waaaaayyy too many Bon Jovi videos and are cheesy to the max with lyrics such as "Rock me, Rock me, Rock you repeat repeat etc etc" BUT I kinda liked them. Not edgy at all and the fact someone behind me says they're the rock equivalent of Glee may sum them up but I bet they can achieve a small grasp on the ladder of parp. It must be noted that this is the only time on any of the stages that the sound is a bit shit and that did them no favours.
The sun has blessed us with its presence and the band that take the credit for that are Saint Jude on the second stage. Playing to a decent mainly non rock crowd, they effortlessly play their upbeat Black Crowes style music with aplomb and the voice of Lynne Jackaman is as powerful as anything we'll hear all weekend. The crowd simply loved their short set. After a brief beer or two and some food (can they not sell anything under £4.50 here??) we venture to the Cheese tent to be met by an excited crowd that's building quickly. There's a lot of smiles and eager faces to see a band that quite frankly blew me away. The opening track is so hard hitting that the ground is shaking and people simply pour into the tent to see and hear what all the noise is about. Think Pendulum/Prodigy but with a distinctly more rock edge and you'll be close. The pit is going mental, the wall of death is virtually half the tent (respect to the 50 year old dad looking after his son in that AND with a smile on his face), they even chuck in a cover of Nirvana's 'Breed' in their very own style and every single person in this place is wide eyed and feeling it. Everyone leaves feeling that they've just witnessed something very special indeed - I know I did. The band.....SUBSOURCE. Fucking immense.
After that we grab a little DC Fontana, an eight piece mod soul collective that get the nod of approval from those in the know but meets us with a shrug of the shoulders and a "Shall we see what else is on?" We walk all of 2 minutes to the Surrey Advertiser stage to catch the last three songs from an impressive band called Underview. An Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, Oasis style band that were pretty damn good - a shame we didn't see more. Well worth a little look on Facebook if you like that style.
You want proof of how important the Sex Pistols were? You want proof of how loved they are?? Well try getting into the Vive Le Rock stage to watch The Sex Pistols Experience. The first time this weekend that you couldn't actually get into a tent, so much so that the stewards dismantle the sides of the tent so as to keep the baying crowd outside happy by giving them a small glimpse of the fake heroes. They sound a carbon copy of the originals and although no one outside can still realistically see, it's still 30 deep outside as everyone sings along to 'Anarchy....' Up next, Uber Rock faves Dinosaur Pile-Up. A small crowd decend on the band and although they sound great, every song simply sounds like Nirvana and I mean EVERY song. We leave half way through their set to watch the start of UK punk legends The Anti Nowhere league and although nowhere near as many people are here as for the fake Pistols, they deliver a professional set that gives the crowd exactly what they want starting with the anthem 'We Are The League' quickly followed by 'Nowhere Man', 'We Will Survive' and 'This Is War'. Impressive.
On to the final stretch and as we walk through the youngsters and mums walking to see Peter Andre, all the indie kids walk the opposite direction to see main headliners Razorlight. They start off to the impressive size crowd with 'Stumble And Fall' and 'In The Morning', both sounding pretty much as you'd hear them on the album. We listen to a couple more songs, the titles of which I have no idea, and walk away to see Skindred but first we need to walk past and witness the excitement that travels around with the Andre circus. Jesus Christ, the women love this bloke, the organisers have booked an act guaranteed to entertain and he's certainly about to do that for all pop fans. We quickly pass a young band called Second Time Around that look like they're about to be savaged by 13 year old girls (it was like Beatle mania for fuck's sake!) and we eventually get to Skindred and a fully packed tent awaits their introduction. Even the soundman got a round of applause for his checks, that's how pumped up this crowd is. Skindred immediately get the crowd going and every teen with a rock sense is here to jump, mosh, sing and all out enjoy themselves. I'll be totally honest, even after four songs all delivered with perfection, I'm thinking I've heard something similar today and better. I realise that that's quite a statement as Skindred are known for playing great sets and this crowd lapped up every note but such was the impact earlier in the day from the band SUBSOURCE, that to me, they definitely won the day.
Another top day.
Sunday was the day I was most up for before I got here. Gallows at a place like this must be mental, surely?? The trouble was James Blunt, UK Subs and PiL alongside Gallows were all headlining - I knew tough decisions lay ahead...................
A drizzle of rain was what beckoned us into day 3 and, as we get there, an Elvis tribute seemed in full swing. If it was Tortelvis doing his Dread Zeppelin thing or if the beer tent wasn't under cover, then I'd have probably stayed for more. After a quick pint we marched on through the rain to the always interesting Vive Le Rock stage and to be honest, we found a band from Alton that gave off a Gaslight Anthem vibe that were ok at best and when they unleashed an ill advised cover of Bruno Mars' 'Millionaire', we simply just thought "No" - I never even bothered to check who they were - a first for me this weekend! Next up were Four Short Of A Miracle on the Cheese stage and they delivered a set of American teen rock that the young crowd seemed to enjoy but did nothing in particular for me...............
Obviously we then caught a bit of the Blow Monkeys (Told you this place is random) and the sun comes out beneath the black clouds to ensure their brand of '80s pop funk gets a surprisingly big crowd hip swaying and nodding along. After a couple more beers and with no real intent on seeing anyone in particular, we venture back to the Cheese tent to see four teens with nice boy haircuts just about to plug in and play. Fuck me do they not look like they play! Local band A Wolf Like Me are so professional and sounded so good that they've put to shame some of the bands I've paid to see before now. Although not really sounding like either band, nods at a hard edged Lostprophets sprang to mind and one outro was more akin to Di'anno style Maiden! Fan fuckin Tastic and even better, they actually sing so you can hear the words (God, I get tired of grunts when they're not needed). I grabbed a copy of their EP just to hear more so expect a review of that soon enough. Guilfest really has thrown up some gems this weekend.
After a blistering set, the bad news gets told - GALLOWS HAVE CANCELLED DUE TO FRANK BEING TOO ILL TO PLAY. Yeah right.....Gutted. Genuinely gutted.
The show must go on! So what cheers me up about half hour later??? A three piece band on the second stage called Avondale45 who've got a midget on drums - Don't let that fact deter you from what a great band they are. Social Distortion, Green Day are obvious influences. Just check out the great track 'Joey Punk' for further proof (As I scribble down midget/dwarf on my notes, Gem says to me, "What's the difference between a midget and a dwarf?" "About 2 inches" I reply! haha Sod off, Gallows just cancelled, I needed cheering up). As the skies open we hit the Bacardi tent for a Mojito - why not, eh? UK Hip Hop star Chipmunk is strutting his stuff on the main stage and although if it was TV I'd turn it off, you can't help but notice the large crowd loving his raps, beats and showmanship. Fair play I thought.
The next hour is filled with piffle and we have the misfortune to hear a truly awful cover of Britney's 'Oops!...' courtesy of Joana And The Wolf - made Darius seem less of a self indulgent twat. The Saw Doctors 'entertain' on the main stage whilst we refuel and then the skies show some love again for Vintage Trouble. The swagger of James Brown coupled with the rock sound of this band is just infectious. Every person in the crowd gets their funk on and smiles galore beam all around before all couples in attendance throw knowing glances at each other during '24/7 365 Satisfaction Man'. It's not every band that can get crowd participation with seemingly no effort but getting them to sing "123, put your pelvis in me" was a masterstroke. Yet another triumph as the VT juggernaut gathers speed.
Proof that Guilfest is fun for everyone comes as Erasure take the main stage, we head to see Brooklyn's Cerebral Ballzy. There is hardly anyone here for the hardest band all weekend (them or Accident Gallery?) but fuck, they rock! The singer looks fucked and when he's not singing, it looks like he's in a coma (cerebral palsy?). The crowd hardly move which the Yanks seem to find strange yet by the end of their set, the still small crowd applaud which is met with "You guys are alright" from the band. One thing I have realised is how big an influence Suicidal Tendencies have had on this style of music - They never really got the credit they deserved I feel??
You fuckers ever heard Hollywood Rose?? Ok, maybe I've got too excited but my point is they weren't the finished article - if you liked that, then some teenage '80s obsessed lads by the name of Twisted Virtue may tickle your fancy? I'd seen these lads walking around the festival all weekend and got accosted by the bass player simply because I had a 'Generation Swine' Crue shirt on - I'd promised we'd go see them and I hoped and slightly prayed they were half decent. They ROCKED. Although a short set, covers of 'Deuce' and 'Detroit Rock City' from Kiss were simply great to watch but it was their original song 'Grindhouse' that I loved best. It instantly sounded like the Sea Hags to me. Gotta love that, right?? Result. Keep working on those originals lads - top stuff.
I thought we'd catch a little bit of the UK Subs before Pil but we couldn't even get in the tent (second only to the fake Pistols for attendance this weekend on that stage). Obviously life in the old skool punks and their fans still. A good ending for the Vive Le Rock stage and I'd be amazed if they didn't come back next year.
So the final band we watch is Pil and a considerable crowd have flocked to see Mr Lydon and co. The rain has started to filter down but not enough to drive the crowds away (James Blunt also had massive crowds on the main stage in case you're interested?) Now, what could we expect from the former Pistols man?? Not having a massive knowledge on Pil, I was intrigued by it all and instantly, you can see why the punks must have hated him for this band. Didn't he recently say "Pistols for cash, PiL for love"?? Well the hypnotic trance that they sent every fan into was a pleasure to witness and be part of. Every type of music fan must have been represented in the crowd and every one of them was in the palm of Uncle Johnny's hand. Their set simply flew by and the track 'Warrior', was simply outstanding and every punk, rasta, hippy, OAP, schoolkid, cock rocker, skinhead, mod and dance fan in attendance left knowing that Pil really were a band to close this stage and festival and prove that Guilfest really can cut it amongst the ever growing corporate festivals out there.
How can I sum it all up??? All I can say is that in three days, I've seen some great bands and performances, I've smiled lots despite the rain and the pleasure of having SPACE to walk in to was a breath of fresh air that just doesn't happen at the massive rock festivals. Without even trying to find any, I was amazed at how many metal, rock and punk acts were playing. You may not see U2, Metallica or Slipknot but you will love this festival and the casual friendly family atmosphere that it's held in.
Photo Credits : Sara Bowrey (PiL, Crowd), Veronika Moore (Adam Ant, Little Fish, My Passion, Roger Daltrey, Vintage Trouble)