HRH Sleaze – Sheffield, O2 Academy – 2 September 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Saturday, 09 September 2017 05:00

The timing of the first iteration of the Hard Rock Hell franchise’s new bespoke themed weekend could perhaps have been seen as something as a gamble, coming as it did just a week after the (inaugural?) Hair Metal Heaven event within relatively close proximity. Were there enough fans, with enough cash to splash, to sustain both events? Would one or other of them suffer? The answers, as it turned out, were ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively: although crowd numbers did not quite match the “sold out” proclamations, HRH has its own solid fanbase – enough of them to ensure that the debut Sleaze fest was a triumphant success in its own right.


It’s an early start to proceedings: but, thankfully, Team Über had taken the precaution of travelling over the previous afternoon, and so we arrive bright and breezy and in plenty of time to set up camp before checking out the opening acoustic sessions. As with all such events, however, there has been a last minute change, and Kaato have pulled the plug (sic) on their set, leaving us to enjoy a foreshortened sessions of three acts – Daxx & Roxanne, Devilfire and Bai Bang: due to time pressures, the latter two sets are similarly cut short, but nevertheless get us into the mood for the rockin’ that is to come over the course of the next 11 hours or so.

New Gen


The focus remains on the Academy’s second stage for the first part of the afternoon, as the main one is not due to come to life for another few hours. As a result, there are very healthy crowds for the first three crowds. Kicking off the action proper are New Generation Superstars: there has been a lot of discussion, not least among your UR writers, about where the next wave of rock ‘n’ roll kingpins are gonna come from – well, these four lads from Nottingham go some way towards claiming that crown, with their cocky name alone… And they prove their worth to do so with their punky energy, dynamic stage presence and catchy-as-fuck songs which get the room jumping right from the off.


Anyone expecting some chilled Alpine groves from Swiss quartet Daxx & Roxane was sorely disappointed, as they bring a heavy blues crunch to their heavy bottom ended sound. Cédric Pfister has a great voice, with plenty of fluidity underneath its grittiness, while the band are tighter than a nun’s crack. Unfortunately, however, the band’s individual and collective energy doesn’t quite translate to their music, which just lacks that extra pinch of pizzazz to match the performance. And we never did find out which one of the four blocks was Roxane…


Bai Bang Acoustic 1


HRH have always been known for pushing the definition of the various genres they showcase to their absolute limits. Hence, the opening two acts don’t quite fit the “sleaze” description quite as tight as some of the T-shirts pulled over the middle-aged ponchos watching them. However, Bai Bang – and especially ridiculously tanned frontman Diddi Kastenholt – most definitely do, as they bring the first dose of Scandinavian sluttiness to the weekend’s proceedings. Their heavily Eighties-influenced street sleaze is like early Skid Row transported 30 years into the future, but with much more gristle and a lot less polish – although there is more than enough of the latter, especially in the carefully choreographed multi-part vocal harmonies and addictive melodies. These guys are definitely ‘Livin’ My Dream’, and enjoying every second of it!


Gasoline Queen 4


Fellow Swedes Gasoline Queen give BB some severe competition as the clock strikes 5pm and the main stage kicks into action in suitably rowdy – and LOUD – style. They may come from a sleepy town in the north of Sweden, but there’s definitely nothing lackadaisical about these five young men, as they bring big riffs with plenty of meat on their bones, couple with equally expansive melodies and gripping hooks galore, all delivered with a confident strut and swagger. One of the discoveries of the weekend, at least for this attendee.


Back in the second room, things don’t bode well for the returning Devilfire, as they are suffering major technical issues: Alex Cooper’s microphone initially is not working, and then continues to cut out sporadically – as do both the guitars – for the duration of the first song. But, they soldier on with a “fuck this” attitude and declare a ‘Revolution’: from then on in, it’s a blistering display of high quality melodic rock, with a dark fire in its belly, coupled with a suite of stunning songs that lodge themselves in your inner cortex for days afterwards. With a stunning debut album, ‘Dark Manoeuvres’, due on 6 October, these Brummie boys have definitely hit the ground running and soon will be a force with whom to be reckoned, mark my words.



Having pulled out of the morning acoustic sessions – perhaps it was too early a start after the revelries of the previous evening – Kaato push all the right buttons in regards to the sleaze model: punky riffs, a topless frontman (who can’t make up his mind if he wants to be Iggy Pop, Michael Monroe or Steven Tyler), beefy melodies and a devil may care (or doesn’t care) attitude. But, there’s just something missing: again, it’s as if the personal energy of the band members has got lost in translation when it comes to the music, which is formulaic and lacking in depth, resulting in many turning their backs and cramming into the second room for the finale there…


Because StOp StOp, on the other hand, have IT – in bucketloads! Energy, charisma, great songs, audience rapport, a sense of humour… it’s all there – and more! It’s a non-stop rock ‘n’ roll freight train, driven by an adrenaline-fuelled madman and fueled by the party spirit: kind of like T-Rex, Crüe and the Rocks jammin’ with a glammed-up Billy Joe pressing the pedal to the metal and getting ready to paint the town (and most likely himself) red! Yeah, it’s fun, and you can’t help smiling, but the songs are insanely catchy and get you instantly singing along, so much so that their set flies by and you don’t realize an hour has passed until Jacob has jumped off the barrier one last time! A brilliant, madcap and insane work of genius by the HRH crew in getting these Barceloningham transplantees to bring down the curtain on the second stage in fine style.



As the attention switches to the main stage for the rest of the evening, Wildside Riot bring the spirit of the ‘80s bang back to life, with Rocky Shades proving, once again, why he was, is and always will be one of the most dynamic and also infuriating frontmen in the British glam/sleaze scene. I say infuriating because he relies too much on his Wrathchild legacy… Yes, back in the day, they were the formative force in trying to make British sleaze seem relevant – but, that was then and this is now. Rocky’s rants – and there’s not just one, nor two but three of them – about the importance of his former band, and how they “destroyed” us back then, detract substantially from the relevance of his current project, who are tight and proficient. When Rocky concentrates on the job in hand, he does so with a practiced and professional ease, and the songs are appropriately and suitably catchy: premiering a new song only helps to demonstrate the need for this doyen of the scene to move confidently into the future.


Tigertailz 5


Tigertailz, on the other hand, demonstrate exactly how to respect your legacy and bring it kicking and screaming into the modern era, as the early pop of ‘All In The Girls In The World’ proves. They combine an almost perfect blend of new and classic material, with Jay smiling from ear to ear as he runs back and forth across the stage like a meerkat on heat, while Rob is on the form of his life. The energy on the stage is exuberant, as right from the off the whole room to life with the performance that this event has been crying out for all day.


There are many who would argue that the ‘Tailz lost their way during the “Jules years”, but this a band re-invigorated: the improvement, in both the band and Rob as a frontman (a role he took on amid much skepticism from many fans), is almost immeasurable and their set races by, with only the briefest pauses of breath during the immense audience singalong of the majestic ‘Heaven’. And, of course, there’s only one song that they can end the evening with, and in due course ‘Love Bomb Baby’ explodes over our faces with a raw rejuvenation that has almost every voice raised high in glorious rock ‘n’ roll revelry.


Vain 10


Now, one question that had bothered the minds of many fans, including myself, in the lead up to this newest of new festivals was “just how shit are Vain gonna be?”. The answer, thankfully, was not quite as bad as we had feared. In fact, they were substantially better. Yes, Davy Vain is not quite the svelte figure he used to be – only the gods know how many jars of Vaseline it took to squeeze him into thon red leather jeans – but, unlike many of his contemporaries, his voice isn’t quite shot to hell, and he carries things off with a relatively energetic aplomb.


The fact that three of the other four members of the band’s classic line-up are sharing the stage perhaps goes a long way toward explaining the tightness, in the musical department, of the overall performance. But, the main problem lies in the pacing of the set, and particularly in the fact that everything seems to be played at the same speed: the faster songs seem to have been slowed down, and vice versa with the slower tunes, to bring everything into the same plod along pace that, even after just one third of their allotted 90 minute slot, it gets all too samey and, to be brutally honest, as exciting as predicting how long it would take one of the resident drunks to fall down the steps outside the venue, which we tried not to do as we decide that enough over-priced, watered down lager was enough for one night and head back to the sanctum of our hotel to rest up for the next day’s madness…


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