Live Review: Nozfest at The 1865, Southampton on 13-08-22

Nozfest 2022

Written By: Scott Brett & David Chave

Photos By: Pacific Curd Photography

The third edition of Nozfest saw a sold out 1865 venue in Southampton on a very hot summer’s day. There was visible relief from the audience members as they walked into an air-conditioned environment. Promoter Jodie Bowie assembled arguably her strongest Nozfest line-up thus far, albeit slightly affected by two bands pulling out due to COVID-19, one on the day. Ethyrfield was replaced and Collateral covered with extended sets by the final few bands. In reality, you couldn’t see the joins and the event ran smoothly, with great sound and atmosphere.

Unfortunately, openers Ethyrfield were one of the bands forced to withdraw. However, we were thoroughly entertained by their replacement, The Outlaw Orchestra. Orchestra might be considered a misnomer for a three-piece. However, when you consider the various instruments the band play on stage, then maybe the orchestra moniker is not too misplaced. The band consist of Ryan Thundersmith who plays drums, bongos, percussion and adds backing vocals. Lead singer, Rocker Dave, plays bass and guitar using a Boss octave drop pedal (for the more technically minded among you). The band are completed by Banjo Pete, on guess what, banjo, but also alternates between guitar, powerslide, pedal steel and backing vocals. The band played a fun mix of original songs and cover versions in a heavy grass style, all interspersed with some of the best between-song banter, making them a fun and invigorating opening act for the festival. The following day, they were off to shoot their Christmas song video with Kris Barras in the hot August sun; rather them than me!

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Hitting the ground hard, Dead Man’s Whiskey made an early play for set-of-the-day, dishing out some thumpingly good-time rock ‘n’ roll to get the blood pumping. Frontman Nico Rogers masterfully stage-managed proceedings, with him and his boys bringing us up to boiling point one minute, with cuts such as Racing Bullet, War Machine, This Fight and Sleep When I’m Dead, then tugging at our black heartstrings the next on Make You Proud, a song that obviously means a great deal to him personally. The latter leading to a foray into the crowd to give a hug to someone with a similar attachment. A warm, intimate moment of shared experience – a snapshot of what this scene’s all about! A high voltage, memorable set, played with absolute conviction.

Dead Mans Whiskey @ Nozfest-2
Dead Mans Whiskey @ Nozfest-9
Dead Mans Whiskey @ Nozfest-8
Dead Mans Whiskey @ Nozfest-11

Gallows Circus are one of those bands that never let you down. A solid rhythm section of drummer Steve Kitchener and Rich Tunbridge on bass lay down a superb platform for the excellent guitar work of stand-in Joel Gibbins and the wonderful vocals of Ian Day, one of the best on the circuit. Day’s visual transformation in the past year from long haired and clean shaven (well, with large sideburns) to close cropped and big bearded in the past year may give the impression that they have a new singer; that is, until he starts to sing and you realise that he is still the same treat to watch and listen to. The band’s riff-driven rock translates so well from recorded to live and their set is comprised of songs mainly from their two EP releases. They are definitely one of the highlights of the day and always a great addition to any festival.

Gallows Circus @ Nozfest-5
Gallows Circus @ Nozfest-7
Gallows Circus @ Nozfest-9
Gallows Circus @ Nozfest-10

“SEVEN!” That was the cry that greeted Scarlet Rebels as they hit the boards, referring to the lofty chart position their latest, greatest album, See Through Blue, had reached. The Llanelli dragons breathed electric fire on an already scorching day, delivering a set of black to white, and everything in between. From raucous rousers such as I’m Alive, These Days, Take You Home and AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top, to the melancholic beauty of Heal, Wayne Doyle and the guys oozed the confidence of a band whose star is very firmly in the ascendency. The ‘Rebel’ alliance will definitely have grown in number after today!

Scarlet Rebels @ Nozfest-6
Scarlet Rebels @ Nozfest-7
Scarlet Rebels @ Nozfest-8
Scarlet Rebels @ Nozfest-9

For nine years, Western Sand have plied their trade through various line-up changes. It all started for the band jamming to Mississippi Queen and it seemed fitting, if not bitter sweet, that particular cover featured in their last ever set under that band name. The future will see them continue under the name of Black Water Redemption, also the title of the second song in their set at Nozfest. The festival was a fitting final hurrah for the band, as they featured at Nozfest promoter Jodie Bowie’s first ever event. There were several audience members wearing the band t-shirts and a few more left with them as freebies were thrown into the audience. They closed their set with Nothing to Lose, which in light of their decision to end the era of Western Sand, might be interpreted as being their perspective.

Western Sand @ Nozfest-4
Western Sand @ Nozfest-15
Western Sand @ Nozfest-9
Western Sand @ Nozfest-8

With a wild splash of graffiti-coloured fashion, and some of the cheeriest smiles seen for miles, The Hot Damn! rocked onto the stage to deliver their upbeat, vibrant variations on a theme by the happy emoji. The entertaining four-piece proceeded to fire off their brand of addictive, musical M&Ms with an energy that suggested the blue ones must’ve been their food of choice in the green room! Even an impromptu, riotous appearance by Massive’s Brad Marr modelling their own fetching merch couldn’t put them off their stride – tracks such as Dance Around, Going Down, Catch Me If You Can and new choon Live Laugh Love, as well as popular closer I Didn’t Like You Anyway, were all dispatched with phenomenal verve.  A blazing set, in blazing blazers, on a blazing day!

The Hot Damn @ Nozfest-10
The Hot Damn @ Nozfest-13
The Hot Damn @ Nozfest-11
The Hot Damn @ Nozfest-14

Intense. Committed. Primordial in part, yet peppered with subtle, deft flecks and catches that elevate them way, way above the norm. Every so often, a band breaks loose from the swirling maelstrom of raging rock to claim a place at the head table. Florence Black are just such a band and take to the stage next in an atmosphere that, at the very least, can be described as ‘highly charged’. From the off, the Welsh trio find their jackhammer groove, dishing out granite-hard renditions of Zulu, The Deep End, The Light, and the sublime Sun & Moon from their masterful Weight Of The World album, alongside obligatory Budgie cover Breadfan, to a crowd that just can’t get enough. With minimal dialogue between tracks, the lads leave their music to speak for them, and they’re very much speaking the language of those gathered, judging by the frenzied reaction they’re getting – Florencemania, to coin a phrase! Time constraints unfortunately rein in the set prematurely on this occasion, but, as sure as eggs are eggs, I’ll most assuredly be joining them on their October tour for the full-fat version!

Florence Black @ Nozfest-1
Florence Black @ Nozfest-12
Florence Black @ Nozfest-11
Florence Black @ Nozfest-13

Three times Australian band Massive have re-scheduled their UK tour and they nearly had to do it a fourth, due to a long term hand injury to their bass player in May and a refused visa for their lead guitarist, eight days before they were due to travel. However, frontman and rhythm guitarist Brad Marr and drummer Andrew Greentree pressed on, recruiting the accomplished Marius from Germany on guitar. Scott ‘Deggy’ Chegg from Gorilla Riot has been deputising on bass for the tour. Unfortunately, Deggy was unavailable for Nozfest, so guitarist Laurie Buchanan from The Hot Damn! stepped in on bass and looked to the manor born. Massive are no nonsense, balls to the wall, no frills, rock ‘n’ roll. The only let up was an acoustic interlude mid-set for a charity collection for Kayla’s neuroblastoma campaign (check out their socials for more info and how to contribute), during which Brad performed (with help from the audience) his take on Bohemian Rhapsody.

Massive @ Nozfest-8
Massive @ Nozfest-16
Massive @ Nozfest-9
Massive @ Nozfest-14

And so it fell to Glaswegian heavy-hitters Mason Hill to close out Nozfest version 3.0. The penultimate act from the year before, these highly likeable, Celtic charmers have worked tirelessly since to claim top spot this time around, and most deservedly so! In taking their line of addictively catchy, rousing stadium fillers to every corner of this isle, they’ve garnered a following a certain Wallace would be proud of, evidenced today by the sheer volume of their tees on display. Right from the get-go, Scott Taylor and his troubadours pumped renewed bounce into some weary legs, motoring through gems mined, in the main, from their chart-crashing Against the Wall album. From DNA, We Pray and Find My Way, to Broken Son, Hold On and the album’s title track, the guys animated their most accomplished work perfectly. With new song Freaking Out sliding into the mix, they had the crowd singing along in lung-busting unison, with James Bird on lead throwing out some impossibly intricate runs and riffs. Majestic, effortless, bombastic – all descriptives I’d label this performance with, right from the first chord to the last. Couldn’t think of a better way to end the day. My advice: move mountains to experience ‘The Hill’ live!

Mason Hill @ Nozfest-4
Mason Hill @ Nozfest-7
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Mason Hill @ Nozfest-11
Mason Hill @ Nozfest-15

Nozfest now commands a permanent ‘X’ on a lot of peoples’ annual gig calendars and, after the latest incarnation, it’s easy to see why: cracking line-up; friendliest crowd; amazing venue; stunning air-conditioning (a life saver!); and attentive staff. Promoter Jodie Bowie’s fiery passion for what she does has built a solid brand and it’s been a real pleasure to have witnessed her baby growing up to do her so proud. Rest assured, ERB will be there every step of the way as Nozfest takes its next huge strides in cementing its place at the heart of UK rock ‘n’ roll festival royalty. We’re already chomping at the bit for next year!

Jodie @ Nozfest-1
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