Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Anarchy in the U.K. - The Story of Two Canadians at Firefest (Photo Galleries by Shawn Irwin) Part 2 of 3

Still reeling from Friday's concert events at Firefest we arose on Saturday morning and again raided the Hilton’s breakfast buffet.  We greeted several folks that we had already met and even a few new ones as we ate or passed through the hotel lobby.  As we were looking to take up residence at a
Meister & Scott
lobby lounge couch to make as much use as possible of the lobby provided free wi-fi services, Shawn, his eye ever scoping out concert shirts excitedly pointed to a gentleman.  "Hey Rich look at that one!", he excitedly called out, gesturing towards the gentleman.  I followed his pointing finger and boldly approached the fellow as I exclaimed "That's a great shirt!".  Perhaps a little shocked or apprehensive at the way I descended on him, he looked up from his seated position at a little table as I passed him my Decibel Geek business card.  The dawn of shock waved over his features as he exclaimed, "No way!".  Yes, Scott from Scotland, it turns out is a faithful listener of the podcast and was sporting the newest version of the Decibel Geek t-shirt (one of which I even still do not own).  *Disclaimer*-Your eyes are playing tricks on you, there is no height difference in the photo of Scott & I and no the Decibel Geek t-shirt has not been proven to make you taller!  If you want to look as cool as Scott, you can get your own Decibel Geek Swag here.

 It wasn’t long before we were out to wander the streets again, this time in search of a used record store that we had heard about in hopes of uncovering some European gems not readily available on the North American side of the pond.  This venture awarded us nothing other than a nice morning walk for our troubles.  Well now what?  We have time to scout out England’s oldest pub, Ye Olde
Meister's classic tourist photo
 Jerusalem?  Of course we do it’s Ye Olde afterall, so we have to see it….lol.  A couple of classic English red call box tourist photos along the way seemed in order as once again our spirits were high.  Always making friends we had a nice music chat with some Swedish fellows over a pint before it was time to snap some photos in the pub and mosey back to the hotel and prepare for the day.  Along the way we passed through the Crowne Plaza lobby and spotted a rather tired looking Ted Poley (turns out he had just got off the airplane).  We approached and struck up a short conversation with the charismatic performer.  As we thanked him and backed away not wanting to take up too much of his time we turned and ran into someone else waiting for an elevator.  Shawn said hello and asked, “Black 'n Blue right?”  To which the gentleman responded, “No, I'm Bruno.”  Good job Shawn, you just messed up with Danger Danger’s Bruno Ravel….lol.  To Shawn’s credit he covered it well with “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.  You look different than your pictures in twenty year old albums, I haven’t seen you in years!”  I should also admit that I didn’t know it was Bruno Ravel either, but I was fortunate enough to keep my mouth shut!  A couple of the H.E.A.T. boys (bassist Jimmy Jay and guitarist Eric Rivers) were also floating around and we took a few moments to shower them with accolades based on the wicked show we had seen last night.

Joining the line outside of Nottingham Rock City we chatted with folks as we filed into the venue.  Right off something I noticed today was the incredible stickiness of the floors!  It was not like this
Waiting in line for Rock City-photo by Shawn Irwin
yesterday, and even though we’d seen musings/warnings of this on the Firefest Official group Facebook page before leaving Canada, there were not words accurate enough to describe just how sticky it was.  Let’s just say that I paused and tightened my shoe laces for fear that I would lose a shoe to the sticky quicksand.  Again a beeline directly to merchandise, the young lady proprietors of which have been extremely friendly and helpful. Shawn came away with a Black 'N Blue shirt today, a band he’s been wanting to see since the 80’s.  Heading upstairs and back to nearly the exact same spot, we were ready for the first band of the day.  This time we had pockets full of sandwiches, in case we ended up here for another 10 hours, see we do learn lessons from yesterday!

Rage of Angels was up first today and once again I was not very familiar with the band, only a little YouTubing prior to leaving Canada.  What I did know was that the guitarist for Rage of Angels is Ged Rylands, who provided keys for Tyketto’s Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 performance in
Rage of Angels - photo by Shawn Irwin
which I dubbed  them "The hands down best show on the boat"!  Rage of Angels' set was quite good and I was able to catch some song titles such as "Dreamworld”, “See You Walking By”, “Falling” and “Through It All” before our Canadian friend tapped us on the shoulder.  Also a member of the crew for Firefest, our friend handed Shawn a photo pass to allow him to go into the photo pit.  Awesome, thanks!  Maybe we missed a song during that brief exchange but I think “Over and Over” was the next ditty before they invited guitarist extraordinaire Tommy Denander (who appears on more than 100 albums each year!) up on stage for “Spinning Wheel” to wrap things up.  Definitely another band to investigate closer as they sounded really good and their music was catchy to say the least.
(Rage of Angels (Escape Music)) (Rage of Angels Facebook)

With Shawn ready to enter the pit, (sounds a bit like Star Wars or something, eh?) I was now free to make use of my VIP wristband and investigate the vantage points afforded by the upper balcony.  After being afraid to miss something and therefore not eating yesterday (there is no food inside Nottingham Rock City), we had gotten smarter and stuffed some market bought sandwiches into Shawn’s camera bag.  So, we made a plan to reconnect at the end of a set near the photo pit if I got hungry. 

From The Fire was next and a band completely unknown to me this time.  They started out with “Hold On” before the keyboardist offered the band's thanks for being here, it only taking 24 years for them to make it to England.  Throughout the next few songs they lost my attention, but gushed thank-yous after every one, to which the audience responded in kind.  To me they exhibited very
John McCoy - photo by Shawn Irwin
little stage presence and were rather stationary as I wandered around the balcony, running into Mike and Angela from Canada.  Apparently, as I found out later on, the bassist for From The Fire had been a legend of some sort, John McCoy.  The name is unfamiliar to me but I've been told that I need to rectify that immediately and have had buckets of shame hurled upon me for my lack of knowledge.  “Over Your Head” was a song title that I caught before they invited a special guest up on stage for the next one.  They had my complete attention once again as she was beautiful, even from this distance away.  Unfortunately I missed it's title, but Issa sang with From the Fire on what was probably their best tune yet, maybe that’s just because I was paying better attention?  My focus again wandered afterwards, but the fans on the floor were absolutely loving it.  I may have appreciated From The Fire more had I been down on the floor instead of chatting up in the balcony, my mistake.

Boulevard - photo by Shawn Irwin
Boulevard was the next band and I was surprised to find them being Canadian!  How had they not crossed my path?  Question answered quickly during the opening number.  They were a little too light pop for my particular tastes, but damn, the singer had a good voice.  Actually the whole band was super tight and I found myself toe-tapping right along.  “Dream On” led things off and I made a point of the saxophone player on stage with them, not something I usually see during my concert attendances.  They graced us with songs such as “Lead Me On” (for which the video that I took should soon appear on Decibel Geek's YouTube Channel channel), “Where Are You Now” and “Crazy Life” among others.  I marveled at how awesome my fellow countrymen were sounding and after talking to some folks around me on the upper deck I learned that Boulevard had issued two albums in the late 80’s early 90’s, something that I will definitely be searching out even though they are a little lighter than my usual fare.  They deserve support for the
Boulevard - photo by Shawn Irwin
obvious sheer talent on stage right now and sometimes it’s nice not to bang heads all day long.  The harmonies, fantastic sound and incredible melodies made for a thoroughly enjoyable presentation that I was sad to see the end of.  Boulevard announced their first single from 1988, “Never Give Up” to end the set, which I actually did recognize, probably heard it on radio when I was 15 years old.  Great set Canucks, you have my respect and I'm not the only one.  In a fun poll on the Firefest Facebook page Boulevard placed #4 out of votes from almost 150 attendees!
(Boulevard Facebook)

I headed down from my perch on the upper VIP balcony and to the side of the photo pit to meet Shawn and see how the day was going for him so far.  And I cannot tell a lie, it was time to eat and he was in control of the supermarket sandwiches…lol.  Along the way I met some more new friends and got talking to one guy, possibly due to the Brighton Rock shirt that I was wearing, but I don’t remember exactly.  After a few moments the Decibel Geek business cards were in my hand and ready to pass on, always promoting the podcast/website.  After the gentleman read the card he looked up and said that he had read some of my reviews before when he’d seen them pop up in the side column or news feeds!  Awesome, and he promised to check out the podcast show now as well!  After gathering sustenance from Shawn it was time to get back upstairs for a good railing spot for Babylon A.D.

I remember in high school at the age of 15 or 16 there was this other kid, a kind of a loner, that I’d befriended somehow.  We would always talk music, even with our little knowledge in those times and one day I was cutting through the high school cafeteria on my way somewhere or other when he stopped me.  I remember clearly he was sitting alone at a long table, his dirty blonde, larger than life mullet in all its glory, nearly taking on a personality of it’s own.  Greeting him I asked what he was listening to, to which he responded "Babylon A.D." and passing me the earphones.  “The Kid Goes Wild” was the song playing and I was quickly hooked and begging for him to “dub” me a copy if I gave him a blank cassette.  After all that time this was to be my first experience with Babylon A.D. live, something that was filled with apprehension.  Would they still have it or would it be a train wreck?

Derek Davis-Babylon A.D. - photo by Shawn Irwin
Appropriately, “Back In Babylon” was the opener and I had the video camera rolling.  They hit the stage like a lead balloon as the saying goes.  Like a smack in the face they woke up the entire place pounding out that first track followed by “Hammer Swings Down”.  On “Shot O’ Love” next, I thought momentarily that they sounded almost a little Tesla-ish at points and I’m not even sure where that came from!  Definitely a high energy in your face performance and the crowd on the floor was with them every step of the way as several around me up on the balcony commented, “wow”.  I got the video camera ready again for “Bad Blood” from the band’s sophomore effort, 1992's Nothing Sacred.  Staying with that second album netted a bit of a sing along (or was that just me singing) with “So Savage the Heart”.  I held out hope of hearing “Take The Dog Off of the Chain”, my top pick from that Nothing Sacred release.  Back to the debut for “Maryanne” and then "Love Blind" close on its heels.  I was surprised when the single and probably most well known Babylon A.D. composition of “Bang Go the Bells” found it’s way into the set
Robb Reid-Babylon A.D. - photo by Shawn Irwin
 next.  Surely this can’t be the end of their stage time already?  Thankfully not as they continued with “Sally Danced” and “Desperate” before the one that got me hooked that day in the school cafeteria with “The Kid Goes Wild”.  It appeared that frontman Derek Davis even did the speaking parts totally live, which if I'm not mistaken originally belonged to the late Sam Kinison, .  In any case the whole thing sounded incredible, just like playing the album!  With one final song, that I didn't recognize, running them a little over time, I think, they exited the stage leaving the crowd bewildered at the hammer that had just swung down on them.  What a great set, well worth the 25 year wait and now I’m more excited than ever to see them again on the Monsters of Rock Cruise 2015!  Perhaps we'll hear "Take the Dog Off of the Chain" on the cruise guys?
(Babylon A.D. Website) (Babylon A.D. Facebook)

Ronnie Atkins-photo by Shawn Irwin
It was time now for Pretty Maids, a band that I’d seen at Sweden Rock 2014, but Shawn had been waiting a long time to see.  I held my spot at the railing refusing to leave for a bathroom break or beverage.  Hey, if I could hold out for nine or so hours yesterday…….  I saw Shawn in his glory in the photo pit from my vantage point, as I awaited what I knew would be a great show.  I think I may have created a festival monster as Shawn has been repeatedly thanking me for making him come to Firefest and also talking about other events like Frontiers Rock Festival, Sweden Rock and Melodic Rock Fest.  The "Danish Dynamite" led out with “The Mother of All Lies” from their incredible 2013 Motherland album, which made my list for top of the year that year.  It seemed Ronnie Atkins may be having some vocal issues, but it didn't detract from “Nuclear Boomerang” for me at all, so happy to see this awesome band live, I wish they’d make the trek to Canada someday.  Drummer Alan Tschicaja was almost animalistic behind the kit as he pounded away for “Love Games”.  I was able to capture the awesome, but more mellow “My Soul to Take” on video, hopefully the camera didn't pick up my tone deaf singing as well.  While it was very well done I’m not generally a big fan of cover songs in a short festival set, but nonetheless Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In the Wall Part 2” was next and sounded great as the crowd sang along.  That lead us right into “I.N.V.U.”, an awesome track off of 2010's Pandemonium.  Motherland’s “I See Ghosts”
Ronnie Atkins-Pretty Maids - photo by Shawn Irwin
was the next treat in the Maids’ bag of tricks, “Sad to See You Suffer” following right behind.  After some “hey, hey, hey” chanting with the audience they ripped into some “old shit” with “Rodeo”.  “Little Drops of Heaven” and the John Sykes cover that the Pretty Maids have really made their own, “Please Don’t Leave Me” kept the crowd singing along before they wrapped up with “Futureworld”.  Thank you Firefest they proclaimed as they took a final bow with the Monty Python ditty, “Sit On My Face”, playing them off stage.  Fabulous presentation by yet another band that does not receive the accolades they so rightly deserve on this side of the pond.
(Pretty Maids Website) (Pretty Maids Facebook)

Having seen Black 'N Blue several times through the Monsters of Rock Cruises I decided to vacate my railing position and visit the gents, receiving some compliments on my Brighton Rock shirt along the way.  Learning from yesterday's experiences (although not learning quite enough to leave the venue to void my bladder), I waited for a spot at the stainless steel trough and kept well away from the toilet stalls.  I touched nothing in there but still felt creepy and gross even after I had exited.  Heading back up to the balcony I ran into Mike on his way to the Pretty Maids signing/meet & greet and I decided to tag along.  This seems like as good a place as any to mention that most bands would perform a meet & greet/signing session shortly after their set in the basement where the lovely ladies were minding the merchandise stand, all this included in the admission price of Firefest.  Unfortunately The Pretty Maids did not come out for a signing, but I was able to be briefly introduced to Kieran Dargan, basically the driving force behind Firefest if I'm not mistaken.  Thanks for this Kieran, every moment of it from start to finish, so sorry I didn't make it over here sooner.

Jamie St. James-Black 'N Blue - photo by Shawn Irwin
I was back up on the balcony in time for Black 'N Blue to start off with "Get Wise to the Rise" directly followed with "Stop the Lightning".  Frontman Jamie St. James' vocals were just as clear and taught as I imagine they were in his days of youth and the rest of the band were certainly together as well.  "Autoblast" was next up and I remembered that guitarist and fellow Canadian Stacey Blades was filling in on this Black 'N Blue show.  The video recording began with "Rockin' On Heaven's Door", watch for it and other videos from Firefest coming soon on Decibel Geek YouTube.  "Nasty Nasty" was next in line, one of my favorites for sure, but it doesn't top "Miss Mystery" for me.  The awesome "Chains Around Heaven" took us through to "Target" from 2011's Hell Yeah! release, a less than favorite of mine.  Back to the good ole stuff with "The Strong Will Rock" from their 1984 debut, but my attention was becoming distracted as Mike and I took turns refreshing
Jamie St. James-Black 'N Blue - photo by Shawn Irwin
the others beverage and I think I missed a guitar solo while it was my turn at the bar.  "Wicked Bitch" followed and forget what I said about "Miss Mystery" as my top Black 'N Blue song as "Wicked Bitch" clearly tops it.  Stick around, "BnB" has so many great songs that my favorite may yet change again folks!  "School of Hard Knocks" and the MTV hit "Hold On to 18" brought the regular set to a close, but an encore soon followed in "I'm the King".  OK, so my favorite didn't change again while writing this, but as I think back "Chains Around Heaven" would also be a fine selection and then there's also the un-played "Violent Kid"..........
(Black 'N Blue Website) (Black 'N Blue Facebook)

I rushed down to see what Shawn thought of the Black 'N Blue set after waiting and wanting so long for it.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up were all the answer I needed!  Afraid to get caught downstairs and miss his photo opportunity for Firehouse, he asked me to see if Black 'N Blue were doing a signing for him.  Off I went to discover that the area was closed off for the night, probably in preparations for the selected audience acoustic after show performance I presume.

C.J. Snare-Firehouse - photo by Shawn Irwin
And with the set changes still basically staying within the 20 minute allotment (how the hell do they do that?  I have some clubs here in Toronto that need your assistance!), this last one of the day seemed about ten minutes behind, still very good.  I had not overly been a Firehouse fan until I caught some of their performances aboard The Monsters of Rock Cruises and now looked forward to this headlining set.  Firehouse opened up with "Shake & Tumble" and I was quickly toe-tapping and tone deaf singing along from my railing spot, amazingly still vacant by the time I got there.  "All She Wrote" followed with "You're Too Bad" sitting in the third song position.  Vocalist C.J. Snare announced that after being one of the first headliners at Firefest the band felt privileged to be included in this Final Fling .  After ripping through "Rock On the Radio", Snare slid over and behind the keyboard as guitarist Bill Leverty handled the vocals on "Holding On".  Once again, not being a particular fan of lengthy solos my attention began to wander during Leverty's
Bill Leverty - photo by Shawn Irwin
"Holding On" solo which seemed to me to go on for a rather long time.  Proclaiming that Kieran was forcing them to drink Guinness they downed their glasses and cited next year as the 25th anniversary of their debut album.  With that it was time for "When I Look Into Your Eyes" which had a good portion of the crowd singing right with them, including me, the ballad-hating, fueled by beer, tone deaf guy.  "Door to Door" was the next selection featuring drummer Michael Foster on vocals which also, unfortunately, featured a lengthy drum solo and jam session that definitely went on for an eternity.  "Hold Your Fire" was up next, "Don't Walk Away" right behind it, but these two offerings from the initial two Firehouse releases did little to bring me back from oblivion.  Whatever the previous two songs did to bring me back was destroyed in "Trying to Make A Living" and a keyboard solo, what a colossal bore!  The well known Firehouse classics "Overnight Sensation", "Love of A Lifetime" and "Reach for the Sky" did little to recapture the audience as evidenced by the person at the other end on the VIP balcony with their laptop open, and no they were not filming.  "Don't Treat Me Bad" including a little Edgar Winter Group cover of "Free Ride" in the middle closed the show without an encore.
(Firehouse Website) (Firehouse Website)

Jamie St. James & Stacey Blades
Not as ravenous as we had been yesterday, we decided to head over to "the curry place" (The actual restaurant name eludes me) as we'd heard it was the place to be.  Spotting Coney Hatch drummer Dave "Thumper" Ketcham at the next table I advised Shawn who had his back turned.  As he swiveled I realized that bassist Andy Curran was also seated at the table with another gentleman who I assumed would be the new guitarist.  After a brief chat with our hometown boys, we wished them well and bade them goodnight.  Not ready to end the evening as yet, we headed over to the Crowne Plaza for some after party activities.  Shawn was in his glory as we spotted Jamie St. James and took a few moments to thank him for tonight's event.  Another fellow Canuck was right there as I greeted guitarist Stacey Blades and both Shawn and I did the photo thing with the guys.  I had a few brief moments to chat with Stacey during which he told me that he had basically had one rehearsal for the show, acoustic at that!  Wow, it all sounded great to me so excellent job sir!  Greeting some other
Derek Davis & The Meister
friends which included Autograph bassist Randy Rand among others we mingled, beginning to wind down from the day's awesome concerts.  Deciding to take our leave, we passed by Babylon A.D. vocalist Derek Davis on our way out.  We took a moment to shake his hand and offer thanks for a great show and looking forward to MORC 2015 Cruise.  I told him my story of walking through the high school cafeteria and my Babylon A.D. introduction all those years ago.  Derek was a really cool guy and thanked us for our support as well.  He reached in his pocket and awarded me a guitar pic quickly followed by a copy of his 2012 issued solo CD, Re-Volt.

Top bands of the day-Shawn:                      Top bands of the day-Meister:
#3-Babylon A.D.                                              #3-Boulevard  
#2-Pretty Maids                                               #2-Pretty Maids
#1-Black n' Blue                                               #1-Babylon A.D.

Gallery of Shawn Irwin's Photography: Firefest, October 25, 2014 (Arranged by order of play)

Look for videos from the whole event coming soon to Decibel Geek's YouTube Channel

The Meister

(The Meister on Facebook) (Meister on Twitter)


(Firefest Website) (Firefest Facebook)

(Fireworks/Rocktopia Website) (Fireworks Magazine Facebook)

(Blackstar Amps Website) (Blackstar Amps Facebook)


Unknown said...

you missed sunday??? schoolboy error,it was the best day ;)


The Meister said...

Hey Carl......this is only part 2 of 3. Part 3 (Sunday) will hopefully be posted live on the site in the next few days. Thanks for reading

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