Saturday, 31 May 2014

Monsters of Rock, 17th August 1996 – Castle Donnington Park

Second Stage: Cecil, Honeycrack, 3 Colours Red, Everclear, Type O Negative, Korn
Main stage: Fear Factory, Dog Eat Dog, Paradise Lost, Sepultura, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss

Donnington 1996 was to be the last of its kind for several years until Kerrang were to revitalise it with Download seven years later. Over seventy thousand people massed for a day of good, old fashioned heavy metal at Castle Donnington. The event was divided into the main stage, to be headlined by Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss, and the Kerrang stage, to be headline by Type O Negative. However, it was rumoured that at the last minute, Korn were to added to the bill. At the time, Korn were only just breaking through, but were receiving critical acclaim off the back of their cult debut album, and so demand to see them was sky high. As the two stages were to be run simultaneously, it was impossible to see all the bands on the bill. Fear Factory started the event with a great performance, which suffered only slightly due to their sound being more suited to an indoor show. Their highlight was undoubtedly “Scum Grief”. Dog Eat Dog were fantastic in every sense: their choice of songs being very well suited to a festival, audience, and their stage presence (particularly front man John C) was masterful. “Pull my Finger” and “Whose the King?” were well received. Paradise Lost played up to their gothic style well, particularly on “Once Solemn” and “Embers Fire”.

Having seen Paradise Lost, we managed to catch the end of Everclear’s set, which was very grungy, but not spectacular. Type O Negative played two songs, lasting over 30 minutes. They were interesting, but no more than that, particularly seeing as they were so inanimate and downbeat on stage. The crowd then dispersed for the stage set to be changed over and the sound checks to take place. Korn were due to headline the second stage around 20 minutes after the previous band and it was amazing to see that around fifty thousand of the crowd had gathered to see this almost unheard of band play. The sound check was the most bizarre I've ever heard, with all sorts of noises emulating from the guitars, and the bass was so low and down tuned that it shook the ground all the way back over the hill. Each band member entered one by one to play their opener “Blind” – I heard that twenty people were taken to hospital on this set alone. They played “Balltongue”, “Divine”, “Shoots & Ladders” and “Fagot”. It actually went on for longer than we had anticipated, and so we missed the musicians coming onto the main stage for Sepultura slot. Their show was marred by the death of Dana Well’s, meaning that Max couldn’t be present. Instead, guitarist Andreas Kisser stood in on vocals and did a good job, considering. They played a lot of materials off the Roots album, plus favourites such as “Kaiowas”, “Territory”, and “Refuse Resist”. 

Ozzy Osbourne is a legend. For a fat guy from Birmingham who can’t speak properly and waddles when he walks or runs, he has the most amazing stage presence. Kind of the opposite of Axl Rose in terms of grace, appearance and self-deprecation. “Perry Mason”, “No More Tears”, “War Pigs”, “I Just Want You” and “Paranoid”, were all fantastic. True he was aided by musicians such as Mike Inez and Mike Bordin, and his trusty water cannon, but it was a great set. There was a long pause before Kiss arrived, during which they blew up 4 massive inflatable Kiss dolls, and an aeroplane flew over the stage. Kiss themselves put on a typical stadium rock concert, complete with drum and guitar solos, and lights and explosions. They played (among several hundred other songs), “Shout it Out Loud”, “Black Diamond” and “God of Thunder”. Around midnight or sometime after, it all came to a close for another year (well, it was to be another seven years, but that’s another story).

9.5 out of 10 (the single day knocks off full marks on this occasion)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Fear Factory (supported by Manhole & Drain), 2nd July 1996 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

Having met two member of Fear Factory at the Exposure Rock Club in Merry Hill during Easter, I jumped at the chance to see them during their summer tour of the UK in 1996. I actually met them once more prior to the gig at an in-store signing session. I recall Burton C Bell signing my arm and telling me not to get any tattoos done as he regrets some of his (not sure if that was a joke or not). They were joined in the store by Drain, a female equivalent of Alice in Chains – who also happened to sign a copy of their debut album for me. In fact, I have a letter from their drummer, the only result of having sent a number of letters to various bands during this period. Manhole, a rap metal act fronted by Tarrie B also played and were solid, if unspectacular. Bit of a RATM rip off...

Fear Factory were brilliant, and were ideally suited to a loud, crisp sound that is possible in an average size indoor venue such as the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton. Highlights included "Dog Day Sunrise", "Replica" and the still-awesome "Self-Bias Resistor". 

8.5 out of 10

Monday, 26 May 2014

White Zombie, 13th May 1996 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Sadly I could not procure tickets to see the Smashing Pumpkins during their tour of Easter 1996 (particularly as they subsequently disbanded), so I decided to catch White Zombie. The decision was proved a correct one as they have also since split, and they were fantastic on the night. Despite the sound not being particularly crisp, Rob Zombie put on a brilliant stage show with all the extras, and they even threw in a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” for good measure. 

Highlights include "Super Charger Heaven" (DEVIL MAN!) and "ThunderKiss 65". Oh and I bought a WZ T-Shirt that I still have to this day - pretty good quality unlike some of the illegal cheap tat they used to flog outside the place.

7 out of 10

Friday, 23 May 2014

Napalm Death (supported by Crowbar & Face Down), 5th April 1996 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

At the start of 1996, the bass player in the first band I played in obtained 3 tickets for one of the Heaviest gigs one could possibly wish to attend. It was a spontaneous choice rather than pre-planned (to date I don’t own material by any of the three bands), yet it was well worth the trip. Face Down were a solid nineties heavy metal band in the style of Machine Head (NWOAHM - although not US), Crowbar (the self proclaimed “Heaviest Band in the World” – i.e their collective weight rather than their sludgy sound) originated from New Orleans and a personal favourite of Phil Anselmo. 

Napalm Death were, and I would argue to this day, one of the more interactive live metal bands one could see, due to their local connection, and also the lead singer, Barney Greenway’s, sense of humour. I recall "Greed Killing" being a pretty cool song, along with "My Own Worst Enemy."

7 out of 10 (the “metal” experience raises this a point)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Blur, November 25th 1995 – NEC Arena, Birmingham

Blur also played at the NEC Arena, and I caught them during November 1995. They dedicated the majority of the concert to songs from either Parklife or The Great Escape, but thankfully did perform several earlier songs, notably "For Tomorrow" and "There’s no Other Way". 

There was the unfortunate yet unavoidable overbearing of “teeny-boppy” girls who would now be enjoying X Factor, but these things are sent to try us. Very visual set with lots of references to pop art and mod imagery. Graham Coxon is a great guitarist though...

7 out of 10 (a rendition of Chemical World would have pushed this to at least an 8)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cast (supported by Heavy Stereo), October 19th 1995 – Northwick Theatre, Worcester

Cast played at the Northwick theatre in Worcester, and were supported by Heavy Stereo, one of the loudest bands I've ever heard live ("Chinese Burn" was a standout). 

Great gig from Cast, they played all the best songs off their first (and to date their only decent) album, and the crowd were lively in response (I even recall crowd surfing a couple of times – no wonder my back is crooked now). Highlights include History and Fine Time and I recall my ears ringing quite badly as we drove home in the gloomy Autumn darkness.

9 out of 10

Friday, 16 May 2014

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Jul 22nd 1995 – NEC Arena, Birmingham

One free ride along to see the customer facing half of Led Zeppelin (the benefit of having parents who enjoy music), Page and Plant effectively performed a Led Zeppelin concert with the exception of Stairway to Heaven and the addition of an extensive Indian and African orchestra, the support coming from Rusted Root, a percussive progressive rock band who were hampered by poor sound on the night.

A highlight was the excellent Kashmir, which lent itself perfectly to the backing musicians on display. The NEC packed on a balmy summer's night and I recall pictures of vintage performances from the late seventies, eighties and early nineties adorning the walls of the bars and corridors. Memories...

8.5 out of 10

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A New Series...Twenty Years of Concerts & Gigs

Life. Changes.

It came to a head following Christmas where I realised that with the imminent arrival of my second child I could no longer sustain a house packed full of relics from the past like some melancholy mausoleum. Especially when some of the stuff was worth a bit of money and we cannot afford to move house. So I began the clear-out, starting with a number of old annuals that I knew to be collectible.

Now, I am putting that process into overdrive. Having climbed into our loft last weekend, I practically suffered a panic attack at the state of our erroneous possessions – boxes, folders, bags and compartments packed with stuff that we will never use. Then there is the bigger picture – space – time – money – lifestyle. Yes, I have lots of interests, yes I like reading, watching films and collecting music, but the definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing time after time and expect different results each time. No, things are going to change and I am having a major clear out and will be reviewing the way that we exist. In the digital age, it is absurd that we have every shelf, cupboard, nook, cranny and crevice stuffed with garbage.

Anyway, enough of the dull tough talk. The point here is that I am constantly discovering things that I feel should be shared before moving on. Like a box file of all the tickets I have kept from concerts and gigs over the past twenty years. I’ve no idea why I kept them, and they have gone in the bin (or recycling bag I should say as they are paper and I am conscientious). But I did take a picture of each one and will make a brief effort to document them here.

So watch out for a brief series to start shortly....