Live Review: Dementia Aware Fest at The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton on 14-01-23



Outstanding music, raising awareness and funds - a very worthy combination

Dementia Aware Fest is an annual, nationally touring charity festival event that visits several cities around the country. Its aim is to raise awareness and to raise much needed funds for those professionals who work with the victims and families of this awful disease.

It is notable for the amazing line-ups that the team put on for each show, and this Saturday in Wolverhampton was no exception, with a roster of the highest quality ERB bands available. Add to those the inimitable compèring talents of Pete K Mally, and with so many good friends in attendance, it was going to be a day of the highest order, and all for nothing more than £10.

First band to hit the stage were the young local four-piece Tender Vendetta. Opening an event like this is never easy, but the room was already nicely filled by the time they took the stage. They have been together for about 18 months and it is clear they have been working hard in that time, as they have a clutch of very good songs which have a really cool, scuzzy, early Guns N’ Roses vibe to them, with a smidgen of Nirvana running through. They have a bit of the required ‘attitude’ on stage and a drummer that can pull off the ‘wearing shades, indoors, in the winter’ look. All this is okay as they have the songs to back it up, especially Pretty Dangerous. There’s some smoking guitar playing going on here, and it was a surprise to hear from the band afterwards that they think this is one of their weakest tracks. With an EP out soon, I think these lads will certainly be a band to be watching and those that made the effort to get in early were certainly appreciative.

Brighton 5 piece INDYA are the project of vocalist Laudez Rose. She is a striking individual, (think Amy Winehouse meets Joan Jett) who marries the smokiness and edge of both of these icons with considerable effect.

It is fair to say that it would be unfair to make any judgements on the band based on this set. Two days before, their drummer and guitarist departed and they arrived in Wolverhampton with only two rushed rehearsals with the replacements under their belt. Their set was then bedevilled with technical issues, with Laudez’s vocals being difficult to hear and the backing track they were using failing. This left Laudez clearly discomfited throughout the set, which was clear in her faltering attempts to interact with the crowd.

Looking beyond all this there was certainly some really solid music of interest to take in. Fill Me With Your Love has a dark, industrial menace to it and Ignite It drifted seamlessly in and out of ska punkiness, with some fierce staccato vocals over the top.

As I said, I think judgement will be reserved, and this performance will not put me off going to see them again.


Pete K Mally provided a superb introduction for the next band, reading an ‘excerpt’ from The Ginger Whinger’s book Spare where apparently during a conversation with The Duke of Cambridge and future King, his brother extolled the virtues of the best band in his Dukedom. Suffice to say, The Hot One Two did not let down the heir to the throne as they smashed it, there is no other way to put it. This was probably the best I have seen the guys play. There is an added confidence about the band now and this shone through as soon as they launched into the superb Playing With Fire. Even on such a tiny stage the band are constantly moving around, interacting, finding time for throwing synchronised guitar shapes and posing for anybody pointing a camera at them. It was a set of huge energy, fun and even bigger smiles.

The band can pull all this off without any sense of fakery, as Simon West possesses a superb gruff growling voice and in Nick Manners and Kev Baker they have possibly one of the best guitar pairings around at the moment. How Kev doesn’t pull a muscle in his face with his ‘gurning’ is a mystery.

They raucously rolled through the set, including Demon Daze and Rolling Stone, before leaving everybody breathless with the finale of Tie Me Down.

The guys shared that the year ahead will be a very busy one for them, with lots of releases and shows planned. Based on today, 2023 could well be the year that The Hot One Two make real strides forward.


Previously I had only caught a couple of songs from Circus 66 when they played Breaking Bands Festival last year, so I was looking forward to seeing them properly this time. I was certainly not disappointed.

The four-piece from Maidenhead delivered an assured set of hard rocking, dirty grooves even though guitarist Matt admitted afterwards they were a little rusty after the Christmas break. As they careered through A Thousand Miles From Home and Prince Of California, those of us singing and clapping along would never have noticed. The Mistress of Ceremonies Annabelle was taking no prisoners with everyone expected to be engaged as she prowled the stage. Such was the energy she was putting in, she joked how her make-up would have her looking like Alice Cooper by the end of the set. This lady possesses a voice that could eviscerate you at 100 paces and we were all in danger. But she showed her gentle side as she stepped down off the stage to allow a young lady at the front to sing some lines with her. Kirsty, I think her name was, was probably the most made up person of the weekend and this act shows how bands understand the sheer importance of the connectivity between themselves and their fans.

Circus 66 closed out with A Little Bit Of Magic and Jekyll Or Hyde with Annabelle letting off a confetti cannon which engulfed the whole room. When Circus 66 are fully back in groove we will all be in for a hell of a show.


Stu, Luke and Tomas are three of my favourite people on the scene, so it was going to be good to see them for a chat and a catch up as well as enjoy another cracking White Raven Down set.

The guys had a crappy journey up to Wolverhampton, what with vehicle breakdowns, the M6 behaving as it usually does, and the local traffic being all snarled up as a result of the Premiership Primadonnas being on parade across the road at The Molineaux Stadium.

All of this notwithstanding, the guys put all of this to one side like the real pros they are and gave everything as always.

Last years album Don’t Shoot The Messenger was one of the highlights of the year, and we were treated to some of the stellar tracks from it. The opening salvo of Mind Reader and Price You Pay always hit the mark, with Luke and Tomas laying down rhythms that shake the foundations of wherever they are playing. The gathered throng then got fully involved with a cracking rendition of Salvation with Stu really showing what a classy guitarist he is, and leading us all in singing. My personal favourite Void And Flame slowed things down a fraction, with its wonderful proggy overtones. Maybe a musical direction the band will follow more in the future? Who knows.

As always we had Stu join us in the crowd, where there wasn’t a great deal of room for him, as by now the place was properly full. They left us with a blistering Lost Your Hold. White Raven Down always deliver, never disappoint and make any good day into a great day.

As the stage was cleared, it was at this point that Katie Richardson from Hellfire Music Entertainment (and White Raven Down PR) was dragged up on stage to have a chorus of Happy Birthday sung to her. As expected, there was the suitably embarrassed thanks to all and a lot of love shown to someone who is hugely popular.


During the day it was noted that Gypsy Pistoleros had the most t-shirts being worn by people, so it was clear they were going to be warmly appreciated. I only caught the second half of their set as I was in need of some sustenance, but it was obvious that everybody was well into it when I returned to catch them bringing their Cinqo de Mayo madness to The Giffard.

This band are clear that they don’t want to fit into any ‘scene’ or be pigeonholed, they just want to be taken for what they are. With essences of Faster Pussycat and Enuff Z Nuff being mixed with the tequila fuelled Mexican sound, they certainly stand out, as I am sure they would want to.

The Ballad Of Tommy Shelby was superb and to finish off with a raucous race through Livin’ La Vida Loca was a little slice of genius.


The day’s music concluded with the opportunity to see Beth Blade and The Beautiful Disasters for the first time. In the days leading up to this show, Beth had been laid up in bed poorly sick, but none of us would have been any the wiser after being pinned to the back wall by a set driven with great passion and energy. On a day of big smiles from many people, I don’t think anybody matched Beth’s at being on that stage.

This young lady has the spirit of Suzi Quatro running through her, and it might be her name above the door but this is a tight collective, a band that are playing as much for each other as for the audience.

When you have a last album as stunning as Mythos, Confession, Tragedies and Love it was no surprise that we were treated to many tracks from it

There is a reason why The Otherside opens the album, as it arrives at the station on a huge chugging riff and a howl from Beth, and it was the perfect way to open the show. 2017 album title track Bad Habit had the dust blown off it in no uncertain terms with its tale of how you just know when somebody is not right for you. This was immediately counterpointed with the fantastic Tonight I’m With You which always reminds me of something The Bangles could have done with the amps cranked up. Beth and the guys were clearly having a wonderful time, with Luke and Dan either side of her being all rock star cool whilst slaying the riffs and rhythms.

My fave track off the latest album, Sin Eater was delivered with the venom and fire that the subject matter demanded, leaving those that were still standing reeling. It was no surprise that Beth needed a moment to catch her breath as she perched on the edge of the stage with her acoustic guitar. She called her Mum forward to act as mic stand as she poured all of herself into Hold Your Heart.

It was then back to business with the run to the line taking in This Bitch Bites which had the ferocity of terrier with a rat in its jaws, and then with glasses raised to our icon Lemmy, we bounced through a rollicking Jack And Coke. This was a superb start to the year for the Beth and the band.


The day concluded with some sincere and well deserved thanks from the stage. Firstly to those at The Giffard for hosting such a fantastic day, the bands for giving so much of themselves and then to those in attendance for helping raise much needed funds. The big thanks to the day was reserved for Dave Evans, the man whose vision this all was. He had intimated that he was considering stepping down, but was hopefully convinced to continue such amazing work.

I would encourage you to check out this year’s future Dementia Aware events, as you will be guaranteed a superb day that will not break the bank, and you would be helping a great cause.

So with the music done, it was time to take ourselves downstairs to the bar and disco and continue the party into the early hours. The sacrifices I make to bring this to you all … are all done willingly!

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