A New Day Festival - Day 3

Sunday 22nd August 2021

Mt Ephraim Gardens, Faversham

It was over to Stage 1 for the final opener of the weekend, Big River. "Good afternoon, did you enjoy the storm last night?", enquired the MC and went on to explain that they had received a number of e-mails asking why such a great band were on so early in proceedings? Fair play to him as he pointed out that they were all great bands, but they all couldn't go on together, and it was no slight on their part! Indeed, they are a great band, and we first came across guitarist Damo Fawcett when he played with his band at our WRC BluesFest at Gravesend's Leo's Red Lion just over seven years ago when he, headliner Aynsley Lister and The Mentulls Andrew Pipe, jammed together on a brilliant cover of Freddie King's 'I'm Tore Down'. Since then we've seen this band, consisting of 'The Voice' finalist/ex-Mick Ralphs Blues Band vocalist, Adam Barron, Damo, bassist Ant Wellman and drummer Joe Martin, on the London circuit numerous times, keeping the spirit and passion of British Blues/Rock bands such as Free and Bad Company, well and truly alive. And they certainly did that again with their forty minute set, as the guys, obviously fearing more rain, and thus wearing an assortment of different hats, dipped their toes into their astounding 2019 debut album, 'Redemption', plus a few of the eagerly anticipated newbies from their forthcoming second album. With one "great" Stage 1 band gone and six more "great" bands to come, this was going to be one hell of a final day.

With a massive thunderstorm, lightening, the works, overnight, fair play to the healthy turn out by the A New Day faithful for the first band up on Stage 2, The Sharpeez. In fact, today's itinerary looked more familiar, more Rock, and coincidentally, The Sharpees (with an 's' in the old days), were the opening band at our WRC Bluesfest on a very wet Saturday at Gravesend's Leo's Red Lion, almost exactly eight years ago, thanks to landlord Terry Lee (who we bumped into during Martin Turner's set on Friday). Indeed, it was good to see the band again and their "maximum R&B", although, we would also occasionally bump into frontman Bill Mead on the London gig circuit. Familiar tunes in their 40 minute blended set of Classic Rock, West Coast jangle and Rootsy Blues influenced attitude, included their opener, 'Heat Of The Night' plus 'Dr Feelgood', 'Mississippi Thrill' and 'Framed City Blues'. However, the band, consisting of Mead, lead guitarist Loz Netto, ex-Rory Gallagher and Nine Below Zero drummer Brendan O’Neill, Baz Payne on bass, and their outstanding harp player (apologies Sir, we didn't catch your name), also dipped into their latest album 'Wild One', including the title track, 'Losing Hand' and 'Automatic Mode'. A great start to the final day, just like eight years ago!

It was now time to make an appointment for a celebration of the music of Rory Gallagher - "Not just the notes - but the sound, energy and feel of Rory Gallagher, delivered by people who helped to define it ..." I think you would agree that particular piece of PR blurb nicely summed up what we were about to see, particularly as our MC friend once again observed that Band Of Friends could have been the headline band. Rory Gallagher? No shit sherlock! Indeed, the band had co-headlined the Chelsea Blues Festival the previous day with Jo Harman, so with a drum roll from Brendan O'Neill and a "Come on!" from Rory's bass guitarist Gerry McAvoy, we were transported into the Irish guitarist's rich legacy of eleven albums of inspired music, not forgetting the memory of his unforgettably energetic concerts. Also featuring outstanding guitarists Paul Rose and Stefan Graf, with a fresh approach and their own take, the one hour set flew by for the delighted Gallagher faithful. Next year the band will belatedly be celebrating Rory's 25th anniversary, with a worldwide tour. Do not miss it.

As alluded to earlier, today's A New Day menu was definitely more Rock orientated and ahead of Praying Mantis later on Stage 1, we welcomed onto stage another New Wave Of British Heavy Metal compatriot, Mythra. One of the most mystical British Heavy Metal bands, after mystically disappearing in 1981, their reformation in 2014 was a major event for many NWoBHM fans around the globe, given their legendary debut EP from 1979, 'The Death And Destiny', has cult status, apparently comparable to Iron Maiden's 'The Soundhouse Tapes'. Praise indeed! Indeed, their early 50 minute set was (other than Vambo the night before) the nearest we had to come a bit of gratuitous head-banging over the weekend, and frankly why not? The quintet, naturally all in black, not only looked mean, but there were also plenty of mean guitar harmonies and driving Rock. Consisting of John Roach (guitar), Alex Perry (guitar), Maurice Bates (bass), Phil Davies (drums) and Kev Mcquire (vocals), their strong and energetic set not only kept the crowd entertained, but also kept the NWOBHM flag well and truly flying at the same time. Just cannot wait for Praying Mantis later on Stage 1!

Suitably refreshed, it’s off to Stage 1 to see another WRC award winner, namely Inglorious, who won our 2015 Best Rock performance for their set at Ramblin' Man Fair. Their influences stem from the iconic Rock and Roll shrine of Rock albums from the 1970s - many years before the band members were born. Six years down the line and they are still a class act. It may now be a different line up, and a slightly different sound, but it’s still all about Nathan James and his incredible voice. Although, take nothing away from guitarist Danny Dela Cruz who partners Dan Stevens in a dual axe attack, Brazilian bassist Vinnie Colla and drummer Phil Beaver - great musicians all. "This is our first gig in 20 months, and it feels f***ing amazing!" shouted the understandably excited Nathan, before the band launched into 'Where Are You Now?', from their 2019 'Ride To Nowhere' album, which, we understand was not intended for his former bandmates! The hour long set included a number of radio friendly classics that had the crowd singing along with James, although never able to match his presence. Make sure you catch Nathan and the boys when they play London's Islington Assembly Hall on Wednesday 22nd September.

Where do I start with The Mentulls? OK lets go back to November 2012, when, as a birthday treat I took my Dad to see Focus at Chislehurst's Beaverwood Club. Guess who was supporting them? My dad, bless him, is an exceptional judge of good music (hence being a fan of Focus) and like I, was blown away by the Prog set from these young whippersnappers. The rest is history as the band played both our 2013 and 2014 WRC BluesFests, won our 2012 'One's To Watch' award and then went on to win our 2015 'Best Blues Performance' award. So naturally it was good to catch up with keyboard player Jamie Pipe on Friday, who had also been asked to step in and play for headliner Martin Barre that night. The first thing that hit me when they arrived on Stage 2, was that these whippersnappers were now grown men! Secondly, they had expanded from a trio to a four-piece, now boasting the soulful vocals and multi instrumental prowess of David Neil Crabtree plus Steve Gibson, currently filling the drum stool. However, it was such a pleasure to once again hear their own brand of Progressive, Bluesy/Rock, with Andrew’s searing, soaring guitar work plus Jamie’s Hammond, synthesiser and piano work, particularly on 'Reflections' and my favourite, 'Reflections 2'. The band are currently working on new material due for release in early 2022, but in the meantime you can catch them at The Tuesday Night Music Club in Coulsdon on 12th October.

Time to go back to Stage 1 and pray. Originally formed in 1973 by the Troy brothers, lead guitarist Tino and bassist Chris, Praying Mantis became one of the most influential bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Indeed, the brothers are still keeping the flame burning for NWoBHM, along with guitarist Andy Burgess, John 'Jaycee' Cuijpers on vocals and Hans In T' Zandt on drums, all remaining committed to the blend of melody and power in their music that has become a trademark of the Praying Mantis sound. In 2009 the London based band recorded the album ‘Sanctuary’, considered to be one of the finest albums of their career, and deservedly received positive reviews, as have two follow-up efforts, ’Legacy’ and ‘Gravity’. Indeed, the A New Day crowd witnessed the band return with an inspired, take-no-prisoners set, which was all the more amazing, given Vambo drummer Steve Price, after apparently having only one rehearsal, was deputising for Hans, as he was stuck in Holland along with Focus! Stand out from the hour long set for mine was 'Highway' from 'Sanctuary', which is also on their latest live album. 'Keep It Alive', so if you missed out today, then go out and buy it. You will not be disappointed.

Another band we were playing catch up with today were Pearl Handled Revolver, who we originally saw supporting Slim Chance at London's much missed Borderline, way back in January 2014. Yes, it was yet another case of going to see a headliner and coming away just loving the support band. Indeed, they have secured a deserved reputation for visceral, high energy live shows, with their unique blend of primal Blues, cult film scores, bare bones Stoner Rock and blackened Psychedelic Soul. Consisting of Lee Vernon (vocals/harmonica), Simon Rinaldo (organ/keyboards/bass), Andy Paris (guitar) and Chris Thatcher (drums), their back catalogue has understandably received widespread critical acclaim. Indeed, when we interviewed Mentulls keyboard player Jamie Pipe on Friday, Pearl Handled Revolver were one of the bands he was looking forward to seeing. Suffice to say that their 50 minute set list had the attentive Stage 2 crowd rockin' back and forth, that included the awesome 'Rabbit Hole', 'The Switch', 'Into The Blue', 'Devil Cast His Net', 'Siren', 'Belly Of The Whale' and 'Help Me Down'. Just make sure that you are quick on the draw when they play The Cavern in Raynes Park on Friday 17th September.

Who can forget 'that' distinctive, classic Big Country sound from the 80/90's? Formed in 1981 by two natives of Dunfermline, the late and much-missed Stuart Adamson, and guitarist Bruce Watson, the band went on to become a worldwide phenomenon with massive hits, driven by a shared vision of widescreen guitar melody, harmony and lyric. "Hello, so how you are all doing?" asked vocalist/guitarist Simon Hough. "So great to be back on the road after eighteen months of gardening and building sheds! It's also played havoc with my sex life - just ask Jamie's mum!" Despite this shocking revelation, guitarist Jamie Watson didn't miss a note as the band launched into their opener, that immediately had everyone jumping up and down to their trademark Celtic vibe. Also featuring the engine room of Mark Brzezicki on drums and Scott Whitley on bass, we duly marked off our Big Country singles bingo card as they played the classics 'Fields Of Fire', 'Chance', 'Look Away' and their awesome signature song, 'In A Big Country', plus a shedload more. If you missed them, and want celebrate with them on their 40th anniversary, then get along to Dartford's Mick Jagger Centre on Saturday 4th December.

Back to Stage 2 for the final time, and headliners that are going places - and all of them good. Winners of our 2018 WRC 'One's To Watch' award, following the release of their '4 Shots' EP, Collateral - previously known as the Angelo Tristan Band - are fronted by charismatic singer Angelo Tristan. Well I never. Looking like the love child of Steve Tyler and Jack Sparrow, Tristan and his band of rock and rollers look like they would fit comfortably onto to Stage 1! As it is, the six piece showed their undoubted talent, with guitarist Todd Winger playing a Jackson guitar through Orange amps giving the band an almost Metal sound, although they are clearly rockers (but definitely not wrinkly!). If you missed them, and it's a long way off, Collateral are special guests on H.E.A.T's UK tour in October 2022. Don't miss them next time around!

And finally to the conclusion of A New Day Festival on Stage 1 and headliner Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. Any mention of Steve Harley takes me back to the Isle Of Wight Festival weekend back in 2004 when the headliners were, unbelievably, The Stereophonics on The Friday, The Who on Saturday and David Bowie on Sunday. Early Friday afternoon, we dropped off our bags at our hotel on the other side of the island and foolishly decided to catch the bus to Newport, which took an absolute age. Suffice to say that when we finally got there we were greeted by Steve Harley singing the final bars of, 'Come Up And See Me - Make Me Smile'. We were not smiling then, but I was smiling during Steve's anecdote that he has son of 38 and is also a grandfather - "but I'm not the oldest person in this field", the waistcoat wearing seventy year-old cheekily added. However, the moment was also very poignant, as he introduced his next song, 'Journey's End', which he wrote for his son when he was at Uni, and dedicated it to all the parents/grandparents in the 'field'. It was one of the many highlights of an hour-long set, that included a remarkable string of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel classic hits, plus of course 'Come Up And See Me - Make Me Smile', which this time put a smile on my face, bringing the festival to a memorable climax.

And that was that. The end to a brilliant weekend. All in all a major thumbs up to the organisers, with an eclectic mix of music, superb set punctuality, awesome sound, good security, excellent stewarding (friendly and sensible) and a general happy feel good factor across all the punters (post-Covid no doubt). Congratulations to all concerned. Can't wait for next year.

AJ