Gig Pigs Wales
After a short break for a bite to eat, we retook our seats for Apocalyptica. I had been sceptical about this act - to me, cellos and rock music are poles apart.
They are billed as a 'Finnish Cello Metal Band'. Imagine Metallica tracks being played on a cello. Not even gracefully seated, but energetic, unique, and off the scale. It was an amazing performance. Sometimes, its nice to be wrong!
Franky Perez (Vocals)
Eicca Toppinen (lead cello,vocals)
Paavo Lötjönen ( rhythm cello, vocals)
Perttu Kivilaakso (lead cello, vocals)
Mikko Sirén (drums)
Next on our packed agenda was an interview and Q&A session with Alice Cooper.
David Quantik had the honour of conducting the session, and drew many stories from Alice - from Keith Moon dressed in a housemaids outfit, to how the Hollywood Vampires began as a drinking club until he discovered that Johnny Depp could play guitar rather well. The audience of about 100 were entertained by a genuinely 'nice guy' in Rock and Roll. Alice also answered random questions from the audience. After about an hour, he agreed to sign pretty much anything people wanted, and a not very orderly queue formed. No-one was missed and our copy of 'Billion Dollar Babies, on vinyl, more than doubled in value at the stroke of a sharpie!
As The Darkness left the stage to rousing applause and cheering, the crew began to move quickly to prepare the stage for the highlight of the evening. To prevent the eagle eyed audience seeing what was going on, the customary shield was raised at the front of the stage.
After what seemed like hours, Alice Cooper and his band came onto the stage through a curtain of fireworks. Ever the showman, we knew we were in for a real treat. Beginning with 'The Black Widow, Alice takes us through a string of his music, pausing only to allow his band to take centre stage in solos. Nita Strauss delights with her versatility and energy as she delivers blistering solos whilst striding round the stage and making it her own.
Things calm down a little while Alice takes a seat on an upturned and battered trash can to sing 'Only Women Bleed' only to kick it across the stage as soon as he is done.
Alice is the only person to die on stage several times a night and everyone cheers his demise and resurrection - his band seemingly helping the sources of his death as part of the show.
He also pays tribute to those lost to the rock world. While tombstones bearing the names of Keith Moon, Jimmy Hendrix, David Bowie and Lemmy appear at the back of the stage, he delivers a montage of Pinball Wizard, Fire, Suffragette City and Ace of Spades.
As he closes his set with 'Schools Out' accompanied by the entire audience, there are cheers and demands for an encore. In the brief seconds the lights are down, the only song that could possibly follow that was 'Elected' with the accompanying show parodying the upcoming US Election.
Alice for president. He'd get our vote!
Alice Cooper (Vocals)
Chuck Garric (Bass)
Ryan Roxie (Guitar)
Nita Strauss (Guitar)
Tommy Henriksen (Guitar)
Glen Sobel (Drums)
Saturday 18 June
It was then time for us to take our seats in the main arena for the nights packed agenda. First up were Blackberry Smoke, who had flown in that day at the start of their UK tour. They were late on stage - apparently due to being held up at Heathrow. Despite the late start, they gave us a blistering set of Southern Rock including some of their better known tracks such as 'Six Ways to Sunday' and 'Rock and Roll Again'. This is the sort of music that, even when you are sitting down, your feet just want to join in. The audience really seemed to enjoy the music from these guys from Atlanta and gave them rapturous applause as they finished their set.
Charlie Starr (Lead Vocals, Guitar)
Richard Turner (Bass, Vocals)
Brit Turner (Drums)
Brandon Still (Keyboards)
Paul Jackson (Guitar, Vocals)
Stone Free Festival 2016
This is the first 'Stone Free Festival'. Our decision to go was based on the two 'one off' performances that were advertised. First was the only UK performance of Alice Cooper in 2016, and second was the world premier performance performance of the reworked Rick Wakeman classic 'The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table'.
There was a wide selection of music on both days, with two stages as well as the arena and a lounge offering alternative entertainment. Day 1 was primarily 'Rock', and Day 2 ran a more 'Progressive Rock' programme.
First up for us were Jackaman. This band first came to our attention when they were announced to play at Rockstock (our annual rock Christmas get-together!) Having now seen them live, we can say that Rockstock is in for a real treat.
Wow - Lynne Jackaman has got a strong voice! Their music has a soul/blues feel rather than heavy rock, but they gave a powerful and moving performance, with some tracks benefitting from the inclusion of the soulful sound of a saxophone.
Their short set was very well received by the lunchtime crowd.
The Virginmarys are from Macclesfield and were named 'Best Breakthrough Act' at the 2013 Classic Rock Awards. It is easy to see why. They were next up and couldn't have been more different. Their sound is what could be described as 'angry rock' and the three of them put all their energy into their music. Danny Dolan (Drums) is the sort of drummer that wants to be heard. If that means standing up to hit his drums a bit harder, then he isn't afraid to do that, even if causes his drum tech a few headaches!
They set the Indigo Lounge on fire.
Ally Dickaty (Vocals, Guitar)
Danny Dolan (Drums)
Matt Rose (Bass, Vocals)
The penultimate act of the evening was The Darkness. They are a band with a chequered history, having been on the UK and international rock scene since 1999 and with a string of hits behind them meant that they are bound to give us a great performance. The release of their album 'Last of our kind' in 2015 brought the band back into the limelight after a bit of a lull.
We had last seen them at Rockstock in December where they had been heralded as hugely entertaining, and had performed a great set. This outing was no different. Justin Hawkins was on great form, as flamboyant as ever in his skin tight outfit complete with gold codpiece, engaging some members of the crowd in the way that only he can get away with. Some people commented that if he had engaged in a little less banter with the front row, he would have been able to get another song in before timing got the better of them.
Beginning their set with 'Barbarian' and finishing with ' I believe in a Thing called Love' gave us a great variety and, overall, they were great to see again.
Justin Hawkins (Lead Vocals, guitar)
Dan Hawkins (Guitar, backing vocals)
Frankie Poullain (Bass, backing vocals)
Rufus Taylor (Drums)