St. Leonards Farm Park, Ferndown

So finally; after a very long wait and a full-blown world pandemic blocking its way, Dorset’s “Love Rocks” festival is finally here. Jim Love along with his team has pulled out all the stops to put on a safely organised event, that adheres to all the government rules and regulations that have been put before them. For all of us to be back in a field celebrating our love for live music after being robbed of it for so long is quite a strange feeling. Like many of the attendees turning up here for the event, I venture onto the site with some nerves, feeling a bit apprehensive being around so many people after my 18 months or so incarcerated within the confines of my own home. The event unofficially kicks off the Thursday evening with a low-key warm-up evening, featuring The Outlaw Orchestra and Miss Kitty.

With the weather forecast predicting temperatures in the mid-twenties and sunshine all the way, the official opening day Friday is looking good. There have been many changes to get us to this point and the obvious one is the fact the whole festival site is outdoors, compared to last year being undercover. This allows more space for people to act on the social distancing laws and of course, to top-up on our suntans! The music kicks off promptly at 11:30am with Cornwall three-piece “50 Year Storm” who blow away the cobwebs with some real three-dimensional, non-streamed live music; with some particularly powerful vocals, coupled with some really creative modern atmospheric electronica and Blues-infused guitars. Their highlight-filled set includes a powerful number called “Cold Teeth”, along with a much rockier number called “The Fanlight” and some effect-filled dirty blues in the form of “Sweet Louisiana”…..a great start and another new band to further investigate in the future.

50 Year Storm
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Next we head over to the 2nd stage as “Blues Master” Mike Ross and his band take to the stage for a sun-soaked set that really sets the tone for the weekend ahead. The audience is entertained with some Southern Americana-influenced tunes that perfectly fit the chilled afternoon vibe with Mike excelling with some awe-inspiring guitar skills. We are treated to tracks from last year’s album “The Clovis Limit Part two” including the wonderfully emotive “Hammer”, “Don’t Say a Word” and a clear crowd favourite “The Loser”. After Mike leaves the stage his musical brother from their band “RHR” Troy Redfern steps up for the first of his twos sets here on the second stage. Like Ross, Troy has the Blues pulsating through his veins and provides some wonderfully charismatic entertainment for the highbrow audience. Troy’s band members come with a huge pedigree and we are honoured to be in the company of Darby Todd on drums and bassist Lee Pomeroy, who between them have performed with a huge array of great names. With his huge technical know-how Troy takes us through a set featuring nice effects from his array of guitar pedals at his feet and an expert lesson on the slide guitar. The trio work together like a well-oiled machine and by the looks on their faces, they are all totally thrilled to be back on stage once again doing what they love.

Troy Redfern
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While I am personally so focused on the music, it seems almost remiss of me to forget the audience. With such a diverse background of people from all walks of life; along with many familiar like-minded faces, it’s always my aim to meet new people. However; the length of time that I have been away from these types of situations, it feels hard to fall back into the social aspect of these type of events. Anxiety is a weird thing that plays with your mind and if you are prepared to take the plunge, any worries that you have will be alleviated. A lot of these people are of the same mindset and I promise if you make the effort you will meet some lovely people who share your enjoyment of live music. It will also mean if you return next year or meet them at another event, you once again have a starting point to build your confidence with.

Once again with our focus turned to the main stage with four-piece “Amongst Liars”, who take to the stage for only their 2nd ever gig and waste no time in grabbing the crowd’s attention with some high energy execution. The melodic sound of Leo’s guitar, coupled with infectious rhythms and Ian’s powerful vocals show even in their early stages that they know how to entertain. With decent songs like “Burn the Vision” about fake news and mental health-themed “Mind” they show a great mixed set of diverse influences. One of the bands of this year’s line-up “Gorilla Riot” have had to pull out as covid had “breached their bubble” and the band have had to self-isolate.

Amongst Liars
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Organisers hurriedly found a suitable replacement in the form of Surrey band “Blind River”, who take to the stage with a huge energetic momentum. Frontman Harry Armstrong and his band waste no time in getting the crowd whipped up with some hard-rockin’ big tunes that pull much of the crowd away from the seats to the front of the stage, including plenty of understanding “Gorilla Riot” fans. The two Gibson guitars of Dan Edwards and Chris Charles provide some huge unified riffs on enthralling tracks including the excellent “Can’t Sleep Sober” and the chilling “Waste of Life”. The band leaves the stage to some serious applause from the crowd with Harry yelling “stay beautiful you sexy bastards”. The crowd then move to their right to the 2nd stage for another set from Troy Redfern with his notable band who continue right in the same vein from where they left us.

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It’s 4:30pm already and it’s time for “Collateral”, a band who with their twin-electric guitars and a single acoustic guitar take elements from many areas of the Rock spectrum; notably the 80’s, Southern Rock and Metal which makes for an eclectic sound. It’s difficult to fault any area’s of the band’s performance and it is clear from the first number that the crowd is clearly loving what they do. Even if you have not seen these guys before, their songs have such an infectious makeup that you will soon be singing along with them. Songs like “Mr. Big Shot”, “Midnight Queen” and “Merry Go Round” show the band has so much to give. It is difficult to take your eyes off frontman Angelo Tristan who oozes rock n’ roll charisma and provides some very fine multi-range vocals too. Liverpudlians “Revival Black” seem to be ecstatic to be out of lockdown and back on stage, with more combined hair than any other band they perform a mixed set which includes some brand new tracks from their next album. As one of the major players in the NWOCR they champion the brand with some fine twin-guitar Classic Rock performed with lots of unique scouse charm.

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The festival site has plenty of options for those in need of refreshments with a burger van, a freshly made pizza place, a converted horsebox selling breakfast baps & jacket potatoes, and a well-stocked bar full of local ales, ciders, and lager. With so much to choose from I opted for a slightly healthier Jacket Potato with an unusually tasty haggis and mayonnaise filling, along with a few well-earned pints of cider. The only things I felt were missing were a stall selling proper coffee (for those who’ve hit the wall experiencing tired moments) and an Ice Cream van as I could have murdered a Calipo or a Mr. Whippy 99 in this heat! Suitably refreshed my mind returned to the music and the final four bands of the evening.

Mike Ross & Troy Redfern return to the mainstage with their band “RHR”; like two cowboys duelling, the left and right handers respectfully complement each other with some seriously scintillating guitar work. It is like a full-on Psychedelic Blues jam session with each frontman taking turns in the spotlight. Many of the songs come from their 2018 “Mahogany Drift” (which also featured Jack J Hutchinson), including “Home On Judgement Day” and the brilliantly executed “Ghost Hound Rider”.

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After really enjoying listening to this year’s album release “Mojo Skyline”, I was particularly looking forward to watching London rockers “The Dust Coda” and their time was now. Like most bands on the stages this weekend they have not played a gig in over 18 months. However, that did not stop them coming out of the traps at a fair pace, looking very cool and relaxed in their surroundings. Clearly confident with their abilities and the songs, they proceed to blow away the cobwebs with a fantastic set full of sleek swagger. The band Adam Mackie (lead guitar), John Drake (vocals, rhythm guitar), Scott Miller (drums), and Tony Ho (bass guitar) earn my accolade of band of the day with a really memorable set that includes album opener “Demon”, earworm “Rolling”, the uniquely brilliant “Dream Alight” and a song dedicated to those currently having a hard time coping with life, “Bourbon Pouring”. Like me the audience really appreciated all the band had to give and gave them a thunderous reception as they leave the stage.

The Dust Coda
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The penultimate band of the evening are Cornwall’s “King Creature”, they seem clearly pleased to get out of their currently over-crowded County (due to the G-7 Summit) to be with us today. I’m positive that they are one of the heaviest bands that have played here at the Love Rocks festival and with Jim Love sporting a “Slayer” t-shirt today; is this possibly the shape of things to come? The very likeable frontman/bassist Dave Kellaway has a fantastic vocal range; somewhere between David Draiman and James Hatfield, executing some tremendous power with each number delivered. Dave is complimented by two wonderfully skilled guitarists in the form of Matt Karl Vincent and Mike Stennett; whose heavy melodic riffs drift atmospherically out into the warm evening air over the heads of the audience, while Jack Bassett thunderously pounds on the drums. The style is fully embraced by the crowd who feature many head bangers, shaking every last bit of dandruff out of their hair! Their hour set includes tracks “Desolation”, the brutal “Beautiful Fatality” and set closer “No Getting Out Alive”.

King Creature
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“Bad Touch” are tonight’s headliners and they arrive on stage full of smiles and clearly raring to entertain a real live audience. For a band that usually performs on a regular basis, for them to say that this is their first gig in over a year is totally irregular. Frontman Stevie Westwood and his band of merry men step up to the challenge to deliver a memorable headlining set full of highlights. The band from Norfolk who grew up listing to classic bands like Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Free and Lynyrd Skynyrd use what they learned from the greats to carve out their own unique brand of rock n’ roll. They have a dynamic stage presence like no other and perform with so much natural ability and passion, it’s difficult not to enjoy what they do. On a return to the stage on a Summer’s night like tonight the band is clearly gobsmacked by the stunning reaction that they get from the delighted crowd. The mixed set features a whole host of various tracks from all areas of the band’s career including “Sweet Little Secret”, “I Get High”, a spirited cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” and an energetic cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’. They bring the opening night of Love Rocks to a close with a fantastic party atmosphere.

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Words, Pictures & Video by David Chinery (Chinners)
Pictures by Lynn Burt

Love Rocks