Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Stone Free Festival 2016 - Festival Review: Part 1


Photo Credit Noizze

Stone Free Festival is a weekend of Rock and Roll held indoors at what used to be the millennium dome (wondered what happened to that). Of all the festivals I have been to, the only ones indoors tend to be set up like a long gig on a night and don't really feel like a festival. However, I happened to notice on the line up screenings of films which really intrigued me. First up on the Saturday was Prince of Darkness (1987) which features Alice Cooper and on Sunday we have Excalibur (1981). The headliner on Sunday, Rick Wakeman, was featuring many songs inspired by the arthur legend. So these films were not only a nice addition to the festival, they were relevant to the main acts. Despite being indoors, this festival felt a lot like any other festival but with the advantage of being closer to civilisation. Specific shops and restaurants were just outside the main entrance and felt just as much a part of the show as everything else. Especially as a special Entrance stage was set up here. Unfortunately I did not get chance to see everything so I want to apologise to any band that I am unable to cover here. We also had a limit on the photos that we could take.

Photo Credit Noizze

Despite the excitement of the festival feel and great fun vibe that was instantly accompanied by the music, shops, restaurants and special screening; we managed to catch The Lounge Kittens. Now, their music is exactly the kind of thing I've wondered if anyone had actually tried to do. Lounge rock covers in harmonious singing. It's nice and fun and easy and the crowd really get into it. As interesting as it is from a musical standpoint I find the songs to be a bit hit and miss and would be very interested to see some of their original songs. This isn't much of a criticism and they definitely are worth a look, particularly for something different.
Facebook: /TheLoungeKittens

Photo Credit Sandra Sorenson
Of the main stage acts, first we have Blackberry Smoke. I am genuinely surprised to find out that they've only been around from 2000. They have a maturity with their music that harps back to a smooth time of Hard Rock that dates back to 1970s. They manage to capture the best of this sound and play it so well that I am surprised they're relatively fresh. The smooth and calm nature of their performance makes for good music and a good listen but doesn't quite push the crowd to energetic dancing. However, it's always difficult as a first band on and they certainly open the Main Stage very well.

Facebook: /BlackberrySmoke

Photo Credit Noizze

Apocalyptica are a four piece Cello and Drum band that originally started doing Metal Covers. Probably the hardest band on line up they feel almost as if they're about to push things too far. They're known as an energetic band and their power on stage will eventually get you. They opened fairly slowly and I was surprised to see the lack of audience involvement. At one point they point out that we're seeing the 20th Anniversary of their first album 'Plays Metallica by Four Cellos' and I was still surprised the lack of singing from the crowd of some of these classic songs performed so well by the band. Perhaps the audience weren't ready for something quite so metal but it was a lot of fun and the addition of songs like 'Hall of the Mountain King' – a classical song – made a large impact. Their vocalist Franky Perez being a large support and a new energy to the band for some of their more recent works and he adds something but it always feels slightly apart from the band, it not quite melding in the most effective way. Wonderful performance if only a bit of a slow burner for the crowd.
Facebook: /Apocalytpica

Photo Credit Sandra Sorenson
The Darkness recovering from Apocalyptica make for an awkward change over but they give it their all in a very interactive performance. However, a huge problem for me is their attitude and specifically of their lead vocalist – Justin Hawkins. I am actually quite surprised by how he spoke to the audience but most of all of how it my opinion of them. It made it sound better when he said he had to “cut it short because apoca-fucking-lyptica overran by 15minutes!” They do their thing and it hits home for quite a few but there's a sense that they're riding on some of their earlier work and finishing on their most famous song almost felt like going through the motions. Strangely good live whilst being a huge disappointment as well – strange mix indeed.


Photo Credit Noizze

Saturday's headliner was a huge act for the festival and I was very excited to finally see him. I've heard so much about his live shows and what they do and what energy you get from it, could it really live up to it? Alice Cooper is a huge name in the rock world and his live shows sum up theatrical music. This is a performance you just have to see. Snakes, Puppets, dance and violence as well as some genuine magic – i'd love to know how he decapitates himself. This is all just a small part of what he does live. I was very touched by his tribute to those we've lost – Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Lemmy. The covers were brilliant and really started to tip the crowd over from just moving to really moving. It's so hard not to get swept up in just how stunning it was to see. How does one dance and sing to it all when the performance must be witnessed. Now it's also easy to forget that Alice Cooper is more than just one man, as much as he may be the focus, his band performed wonderfully and Nita Strauss, the most recent addition to Alice Cooper, was simply stunning. Her guitar work was incredibly impressive. I am so glad to have seen Alice Cooper, the legend lives, the original nightmare, in all it's glory.

Facebook: /AliceCooper

Photo Credit Noizze

The review will continue with part two next week.



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