Just 24 hours ago South of Salem were on the huge outdoor stage at Stonedead in front of a crowd of 5,000 people, and that environment is where you are likely to find them in future; but today they are here to entertain the RockWich faithful. And that is exactly what they did, in spades. Given their recent rise in popularity, the band could easily have pulled out of this gig or have coasted through on autopilot. But that is not the South of Salem way: vocalist Joey Draper is quick to acknowledge that they would not be on the cusp of much bigger things were it not for the loyal fans who have turned out to all those small gigs and support slots over the years. Consequently, the spook show was firing on all cylinders as the band raced through the highlights of their debut album, The Sinner Takes It All. Those B movie, schlock horror lyrics and ear worm riffs sound terrific in the smaller confines of the clubhouse, where you can get up and personal with the band. Each band member is up for it, engaging with the audience at the barrier and all the way to the back of the packed room. I seriously doubt that you will be seeing these guys on small stages once their second album, Death of The Party, drops in January, so today was a special moment for everyone present.
Hollowstar have been absent for a while, and I had feared that they might have joined the ranks of those bands that go on hiatus never to return. Thankfully, they are back and rearing to go. The room emptied out somewhat after South of Salem, but those who stuck around were treated to a passionate set that incorporated two new songs and well as a cover of Simple Kind of Man. The band clearly have a lot of pent up energy after all those months off taking care of domestic life (both Joe Bonson (vocals/bass) and Phil Haines (guitar) are new dads), and they are determined to give us their very best. Before beginning Good Man Gone, Joe explained how starting the band helped him to get through some difficult times grappling with his mental health. With the arrival of his new son too, Joe is in a very happy place and this clearly spills over into the performance tonight. New music is promised next year, which hopefully means that we will see more of the band on stages up and down the country if only to avoid nappy changing duties!