And so we reached the Sunday morning church service, with Mars Hollow doing the honours this year. I had really enjoyed their debut album and was looking forward to seeing them live for the first time – not for the first time over the weekend, and not for the last time on the Sunday, I was not disappointed. Their set was stuffed full of energy and certainly did the job demanded by the Sunday morning slot – piercing guitar, rumbling bass, biting drums and flowing keyboards all combined to produce a sharp sound which bounced along uptempo as their tracks built in layers and then burst out. The driving sound took us through a great selection from both their debut album and their new album (which was on pre-release at RoSfest, and very quickly snapped up by me !), and kept everything upbeat, lively and rocking. The audience were clearly enjoying it and the band were feeding off that energy and sending it back with interest, pushing along hard with the sound really soaring in places as everything came together for a perfect start to the day.
There was no let up after that because District 97 were another band I was really looking forward to seeing for the first time, although I had been disappointed to read that they no longer had the cellist in the band. As it turned out, I was left wondering how she would have fitted into their sound. They thumped in hard to start their set and it continued like that through to the end – another performance spilling over with energy, and not least from their lead singer, Leslie Hunt, who never seems to stop moving…and moving well – yes, she really is dancing to Prog ! And it is a hard sounding Prog, very much in the progressive metal mould, a complex sound, with a dynanism matched by their buzzing lead singer, wonderful melodies driven through with a metal edge, and all this from a band who are so young – it is great to see, and there is a certain pop sensibility to Leslie’s performance which should make them widely accessible. There is a power within their songs, but they know how to add variety, different textures and rhythms, to set them apart from much within progressive metal, while clearly demonstrating the technical prowess which is often associated with that genre. And their sound is tight through this performance, including new material as well as tracks from their debut album and a stunning version of Back In N.Y.C., which sees Leslie in a duct tape top. But it is their performance as a whole, and not just that bit of theatre, which leads to the huge applause at the end of their set. Definitely a band to look out for in the future.
It had been a little while since I had last been able to see The Reasoning, and this was far removed from The Peel. Of course, they have come a long way over the last year, so I was interested to see where they were with the live performance. Unfortunately the guitar sound was too loud against everything else for me, often drowning out the vocals, and, to be fair, Owain Roberts did not seem happy with what was happening. They have a hard sound these days, very hard at times, which for me is a move away from their first two albums, but they kept their set well balanced and it had a good flow to it. There is no doubting the technical ability of anyone in the band, and they do create some wonderful melodies, driven along by a thunderous rhythm section, and the audience do get carried along as the set proceeds, and not least because of Rachel Cohen’s very engaging between song banter. But for me where they really hit home is the melodic interplay between the keyboards and guitar, then the various vocal strands they bring into that, and that certainly seems to produce the biggest reactions from this audience as well, which means that the set justifiably ends on a real high.
A very good friend of mine had told me that I would enjoy Quidam, and he was right. There was so much for me to enjoy within this performance – a very engaging frontman who was intent on making sure the audience got everything they could from the experience, the addition of flute and violin within the sound, a couple of songs sung in their native Polish. Their sound is very melodic, drifting and floating at times, but also with a heavy edge when it is needed, and at times it rattles along. They know how to keep things moving and varied, and do combine all the instruments very well, producing a wonderful, infectious sound – I lost count of the number of times the audience were clapping along to their tracks, even during the new ones. There is a warm feeling to what they are producing tonight, even within one very poignant moment when singer Bartek Kossowicz talks about the loss of a child. The atmosphere they are creating so very easily flows into the inclusion of Riders On The Storm and Hush, a stunning organ sound and everyone is standing up in the theatre, absolutely loving this. They finish their set with a track which shows all of their variety, swaying along to start with before discordant sounds come together, and as the violin screeches higher with the guitar Bartek comes to sit at the front of the stage, and is gradually joined by the others. Stunning. There is one more stunning moment to come – a lovely cover of Wish You Were Here with full audience participation, and the final part being repeated over and over. It really was a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.