St. Leonards Farm Park, Ferndown


It’s Saturday morning and the forecast says today is going to be even hotter than yesterday, with temperatures tipped to exceed 25 degrees here in Dorset. After getting a seriously painful cancerous melanoma, on the top of my head, a few years ago due to not wearing a hat; I have made sure I have plenty of sun cream, which I will apply on a regular basis, and of course, I have a hat on!

Today at Love Rocks we have a mouth-watering line-up to once again enjoy and I’m here early to catch the first of these at 11 am. These are North Devon rising stars “Ethyrfield” who guitarist Ben Cornish has the wonderful claim to fame that he was mentored by the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. The three-piece includes Ben’s brother Zach on vocals/bass and Dan Aston on drums. They are most certainly the youngest band on the bill, who are influenced by the progressive side of the Rock spectrum with a side serving of 90’s Grunge. The two brothers combined with two very different but competent vocals; which is complemented by all three whose musical skills on their own instruments are most impressive. Take the track “Remembering”, it has a slow moody start before the pace increases featuring alluring rhythms and atmospheric guitars, which come together celestially. They continue to impress with other well-constructed tracks including “The Hunter” and “Bitter Wishbone” from their debut album “In Delirium” which is released this month.

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On the second stage zestful singer/songwriter Verity White takes to the stage with her band, she is dressed in orange dungarees and sporting a huge smile. With her husband Alex White by her side on guitar, she spreads large amounts of joy across the Love Rocks crowd with some fantastically delivered tunes. On her first set of the afternoon her passionately delivered vocals radiate straight into the hearts of much of the audience, who genuinely lap up all that she has to offer. Verity sings some rather openly honest lyrics on gritty tunes like “Face It” and “Exhale”, along with a further impressive newer tune called “Time”.

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Next up are local band “Black Tree Vultures”, who themselves have been through a difficult period when their bassist and vocalist left just after the release of their third EP. This drive from the remaining members Jonno and Aaron to continue is still very strong and after some auditions they recruited suitable candidates who are displayed for the first time here today. With Jake Waters on bass and former music producer Tom “The Goblin” Jobling on vocals the band come out on stage and show themselves to be fighting fit. These guys work fast at shaking off any doubters with some seriously hard rocking, we are not only treated to a select few tracks from their past releases but we get some brand new material recorded with this new line-up who have only been together a matter of months. These include “Here Comes The Man” with a fantastic Lenny Kravitz-style guitar riff and a preview of a track from the next EP “Don’t Think”. After a massive fork in the road the Black Tree Vultures show themselves to be in fine form and ready for a positive future.

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“Saints of Sin” arrive like coiled springs and despite the high temperatures, the South Coast four=piece bound onto the stage with a huge wave of energy, performing their opening number “Heart Attack”. Frontman Rui in his Panama hat and Hawaiian shirt is bouncing all over the stage, giving the audience plenty of encouragement to get involved. Brothers in arms bassist Ash and guitarist Sparxx show some impressive seemingly choreographed dance moves, while drummer Josh competently keeps everything in line with some excellent sticks work. These guys are great fun to watch providing some wonderful early afternoon entertainment, with some original numbers including the euphoric “We’re on Fire”, “Stars in The Sky” and a wonderful reworked version of “Uptown Funk”. During the last number the band (all except drummer Josh) leave the stage and perform much of “21 Shots”; energetically running around through the audience, finally leaving the stage to plenty of positive support from the delighted audience.

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Verity White returns on the 2nd stage with some more of her flamboyance, the temperature onstage is clearly getting to her and without any notice, she pours a refreshing bottle of water over her head before continuing with a short set full of exuberant Punk Rock attitude. This is shown in large amounts in the rebellious “I Don’t Care” and crowd-pleaser “Alibi”. Personally I have never seen or even heard of Verity before this event and with her two splendid sets during today’s festival, she and her band have made me want to hear more. The audience is also clearly on her side and seems very disappointed when her set comes to an end. A glorious talented entertainer with plenty to give and someone who is clearly destined to perform on much larger stages in the future.

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With a short break until the next act arrives it’s time for some sustenance, I head once again over to the small converted horsebox for a jacket potato with chicken curry filling which was super tasty and most welcome. As it is super-hot today I have swapped the pints of cider for plenty of water – as I’m just 51 years old I need to keep my strength up to enjoy 9 more sets. Today also seems a much more sociable day and after my initial shyness of yesterday, I get talking to plenty of really interesting people who are willing to provide me with loads of interesting stories. There is a long-haired paramedic from the west-midlands who currently lives in Cornwall, whose Grandfather was a photographer for West Bromwich Albion Football Club and a wonderfully animated old gent who used to date the wife of Andy Scott of Glam Rockers Sweet. The best stories of the day though come from photographer Lynn Burt who used to work for legends Status Quo (you must ask her about the Francis Rossi doughnut story) or about the time she met Lionel Richie and she just said “Hello”.

The music continues with Sam (vocals/guitar), Harriet (bass), and Jess (drums) of “Häxan” who power their way onto the main stage with a no-nonsense set full of raw youthful energy. Performing tracks from their debut long-player “White Noise”, the Darkness-tinged creations show plenty of ability and a stage presence akin of much more experienced acts. There are many standout moments including the ingenious middle eight on the track “Nine Lives”, along with last year’s single “Skeletons” with its thunderous rhythms and soaring vocal.

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Love Rocks favourite “Jack J Hutchinson” returns to the second stage for an initial acoustic set with his band. Jack’s unique style and appearance draw people from all over the site to be in his presence to listen to what majestic music he has to offer. As usual, he charms the audience with a host of awe-inspiring tracks that have been selected to match this rather chilled afternoon, perfect for this sunny afternoon.

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After seeing these guys at the Planet Rock Winter’s End Festival in 2019, I was more than impressed with what they have to offer and filled my boots with their back catalogue marveling at the guitar skills. Today they arrive after not playing a gig in a very long while and are keen to get back to what they love doing. While in lockdown they have been busy putting out an acoustic album and writing some new material for a new album and today we get a glimpse of what to expect with a brand new song in the form of the beautifully atmospheric song “Road to Nowhere”. Henrik and Did provide many goose bump moments with some brilliantly creative guitar work that pushes boundaries with emotive ambiance. Henrik’s ethereal vocals power their way out from the stage and into the hearts of the audience, it’s hard not to be moved by his perfect delivery. If there was any justice in this world “Empye” should be performing on the same stages as some of their peers; bands like “Alter Bridge” and “Disturbed”. Their music needs to be played in arenas and stadiums, but for now, a campsite in St Leonards will have to do and every audience member has been enthralled by the magnitude of their performance.

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Another new act to me is “Doomsday Outlaw” which is made up of five very unique individuals who could have been plucked from five very different bands. These guys each bring something very different to the table and create distinctive hard rock with a special edge. The groove-laden tunes revive the sun-drenched audience who crowd in front of the stage and find it hard not to be taken in by what these guys have to offer. Though they seem to be casual, quite laid-back chaps they however really know their way around their stagecraft, providing some great entertainment with tunes like the uplifting and infectious “Runaway”. (a track which I cannot get out of my head since leaving the festival). They have also been making use of their lockdown period and we get to hear a new track called “Turn Me Loose”, seemingly for a new release later this year. Their set is far too short and I think the audience would have loved another half dozen tracks to quench their thirst, however, this is a festival and we have a matter of five more acts to follow.

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For the 2nd time today “Jack J Hutchinson” and his band takes to the stage, this time it’s a full electric set on the main stage, and his acoustic guitar is safely stored in its case while his collection of electric guitars are brought out. The popular “Deal with The Devil” from the “Paint No Fiction” album gets another outing and the track shows Jack cranking up the volume with some stunning guitar work, which all the guitar geeks in the front row seem to lap up. We also get a preview of the new single “Call of The Wild” which is due out soon and it has an accompanying video that was filmed right here in Dorset. Things take a much heavier diversion with “Sleep, Awake, Obey”, the song has a Metallica vibe, coupled with Jack’s own trademark uniqueness. As with the first set, it’s a pleasure to watch this guitar master at work, and with his faultless band, he provides one of the spectacles of the weekend.

Jack J Hutchinson (2)
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After a long journey down from South Wales “Scarlet Rebels” are rewarded with one of the best receptions of the weekend from the Love Rocks crowd, who show the band just what they have been missing while they have been away. The band light up the main stage with the benefit of their three-guitar sound, with a string of melodic gems that get the crowd singing along.

The momentous “Let Me In” is one of the key euphoric moments of the weekend that I will long remember. With the smiles on the faces of the audience and the sheer joy of a band getting back on stage; reveling in their live performance that they all truly love, the band delivers some new material in the form of “Storm” showing a continuation of their excellent creative skills with a tune with an immediately hooky catch and some fine vocals from frontman Wayne Doyle. These guys deliver in all areas and leave the stage after a triumphant return to live music with a very positive outlook for the future…if fellow Welsh band “Those Damn Crows” can make that leap to the next level, then I’m sure “Scarlet Rebels” won’t be far behind.

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Standing here with a brief break in between bands I am pondering all the effort and patience that has gone into making this festival actually work, some people originally purchased their tickets in 2019 and after a world pandemic, we are back here. I have put on many events myself on a much smaller scale and even those take some organisation. Just think; when an event is canceled Jim Love has to contact each band and give a new potential date, then each band’s spokesmen have to communicate with each of its members. That is not to mention all the security staff, stallholders, volunteers, photographers, stewards, bar staff etc. T-shirts, flyers, posters, and social media have to be all amended too. So if you see Jim out at a gig, shake the guy’s hand and buy him a well-earned pint – just let him know his efforts are appreciated. He is a total music fan and despite all he has to do during the festival, he does his best to see as many acts as possible.

Elles Bailey like many of the other bands on the bill has not played a gig in ages, she has also recently had a baby so being back on stage with her band is both welcoming and a little strange. We all of course can forgive any errors; due to as Elles puts it she has “Baby Brain”, which has clearly muddled with the usual thought process. As a father to two, I totally get this. The barefoot singer provides some beautifully soulful, enchanting vocals and she proves that she has lost none of the charm that we saw back in 2018 when she graced the Love Rocks stage in 2019. With songs like “Medicine Man”, “When I Go Away” and the wonderfully executed blues classic “Howling Wolf”, Elles continues to show what a true talent she is.

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You’re three weeks away from your first gig since lockdown and you clearly can’t wait to perform and your guitarist quits….what do you do? Well, that just happened to tonight’s penultimate band “Hollowstar” as guitarist Tom Collett chose to depart to focus on other areas of his life. This provided the band with a conundrum, however long-time friend of the band Carl Ledger stepped into the breach. The band arrives on stage to yet another wonderful welcome from the crowd and Carl is grinning from ear to ear like the cat who got the cream. “Hollowstar” is one of those bands that you would put money on to make it big. They have the songs and put on a great live performance. Tonight is of course no different with frontman Joe Bonson putting in a fantastically energetic shift with some fine vocals, along with guitarist Phil Haines who is clearly bonding with his new partner in crime. We are treated to a very emotional version of “Feel the Burn”, which sees virtually the whole crowd singing along. There is also the powerful “Good Man Gone”, which sees a few sentimental tears from the audience as we all think about love ones we have lost. All in all, I feel “Hollowstar” put in one of the best performances of the weekend with a set that had everything.

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Tonight’s headliners are the “Kris Barras Band” and with its frontman currently labeled as being one of the best UK Blues guitarists, we are most certainly in for a treat. The Torquay/ Devon guitarist is ably backed with his multi-talented band featuring Josiah J. Manning (Guitar), Kelpie McKenzie (Bass) and Billy Hammett (Drums). Former Martial Artist Kris takes his guitar with his muscle-bound arms and shows us all exactly why he is bestowed with so many accolades. With his unmistakable voice and majestic technique, he delights everybody with a performance of the highest quality. Effortlessly delivering tunes like ‘What a Way To Go’, the clearly autobiographical “Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Through My Veins” and personal highlight “I’m Gone”, featuring some wonderful slide work. A fantastic way to end what has been a brilliant festival.

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Tickets will be on sale shortly for next year’s event, which will be on 24th and 25th June, be sure to book early as past years have sold out.

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https://www.facebook.com/theloverocks
http://www.theloverocks.co.uk
https://sanctuarypromotions.co.uk

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

Love Rocks

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