Live Review: SharkFest 3 at The Station, Cannock on 14th /15th April 2023



14 awesome emerging bands at a fantastic grassroots venue - what more could you possibly want?

Your ERB team of Nick Ashton, Evelyn Barr and Craig Bailey, along with togger John Theobald head to the wonderful passion project of Mark Parsley and his lovely partner Sharon, namely Sharkfest 3. It has grown into a bit of a weekender, now taking in Friday night and all day across the Saturday, delivering 14 of the very best bands that any of us would want to see.

The success of any event like this hangs a lot on the quality of the venue and in choosing The Station in Cannock, Mark has made a fine choice. This venue works so well for an event like this; a nice wide stage and a room that is not too deep, so that wherever you are, you get a good view of the stage. There are sofa areas where you can sit, relax and take a load off the feet (essential on long days like Saturday) and high tables and barrels dotted around for placing your drink on, when you want to get a bit more animated. The venue has a good selection of beers, so that all tastes are catered for, the prices are sensible and the staff are incredibly welcoming and hard-working. The spacious room out back serves as a great relaxed merch area where bands can set up, meet and chat with people without getting blasted by the sound from the stage.

There are even a selection of cobs behind the bar (yes, Pete K Mally, cobs; not rolls, not batches or any other such nonsense) but the venue’s location is close to local places to grab a bite to eat.

Unknown Refuge

It’s Friday evening, and Bolton four-piece Unknown Refuge fire the first shots of the weekend. As I look behind me, it is good to see a substantial crowd for this young band. They’re a band I have seen a few times now, but this is the first time with this new line-up.

They open their set with the heavy and riffy Bad Guy, which gets plenty of heads bobbing along. Next up is their single from 2022, Drop a Gear, another heavy one, which the crowd thoroughly enjoy hearing played live. The face melting continues in their third song, Palace Walls, which is from their From the Darkness album and is definitely one to add to your playlists.

Graces is up next and this is closely followed by two of my favourite Unknown Refuge songs, Journey and Battle Hymn, the latter getting the crowd really engaged and singing along. This young band know how to work an audience, having fans in abundance going by the number of Unknown Refuge t-shirts that are on display. Next up we are treated to their latest single Bewitched and I for one am really enjoying this one.

This is a young band, really on fire right now and the audience is really enjoying their music. The final song is the real head bobbing Into the Light, taken from the From The Darkness album.

Evelyn Barr


Vocalist/bassist Stuart Corden sets out a simple agenda at the start of BLITZ’s set: “We’re BLITZ so you don’t have to be”, which tells you all you need to really know about this kick-ass rock and roll trio from Nottingham. They are here to party whether you like it or not, and they ain’t taking any prisoners. Diving headlong into opener Damage Is Done, it’s immediately obvious that that we are in for a set of high-octane riffs and pounding drums, courtesy of Kevin Simpson and Matt Davis respectively. The set list notes introducing One In A Million are pretty self-explanatory: riff, chant, hey. You can’t go far wrong with that approach on the opening Friday night of a two-day festival when the beer is flowing and the tunes come thick and fast. BLITZ are here for one reason, and one reason only: to have a good time. Stuart transports us back to Live Aid for some Freddie Mercury-style call and response “dayos”, which segue into Freddie Said. The set closes with I Believe, which is accompanied by the BLITZ banner declaring that “they can’t take our rock & roll”. BLITZ are not breaking any new ground; but if you’re in the mood for some no-nonsense rock and roll inspired by the KISS songbook, then look no further.


Nick Ashton

Black Lakes

There is a real air of expectation at the prospect of Black Lakes hitting the stage and blowing people away with the stunning songs from their 2022 debut album For All We’ve Left Behind.

As the intro to Avarice kicks in, all conversations stop and ears are pummelled by the machine gun drums and thundering riffs from Scott and James. Will prowls the stage, shifting seamlessly from spitting vocals into gorgeous melodies. The first blast has everyone transfixed and singing along to Fragments. Lee’s bass and Dafydd’s drums on this track are brutal. Will and James are buzzing as they engage with the crowd, knowing this set is way above their Planet RockStock appearance only a couple of months ago. Verity In Flames is a blistering contrast of Dafydd’s scream vocals and the melody of Will’s, with the latter having a serious raw edginess to it live. With songs like Divide and Landslide, Black Lakes have a depth of sound that crashes all around you and could fill much bigger venues than this. Such is the confidence of the band, they happily play new track White Noise, which is anything but. The finishing pairing leaves the crowd completely breathless. Deathrone and Dissident are huge hunks of moody, malevolent heaviness with Will and Scott’s intertwining vocals over brooding rhythms and chiming / crunching guitars. Tonight, I think Black Lakes could play for another hour and nobody would mind in the slightest.

Craig Bailey

Gorilla Riot

Some bands try too hard to portray a laid-back image; but not so Gorilla Riot, who are effortlessly cool and groovy. Vocalist/guitarist Arjun Bhishma leads from the front, as Kerosene Clown and Still Doing Time open tonight’s proceedings with a confident swagger. Following the departure of Liam Henry, lead guitar duties fall to Charly T. who is more than up to the task of driving their dirty blues sound. The band are working on music for their next album, and treat us to a preview of two songs tonight. Molotov Sister has a slow, bluesy groove which worms its way inside your head and refuses to leave. Over You has a laid back, Allman Brothers vibe – perfect for warm summer evenings spent in the company of a bottle of Jack. Inherent to the Gorilla Riot sound are drummer Will Lewis who has a deft touch, and bassist Deggy who grins all night from behind his sexy white Gretsch bass. Helping to round out the sound, Luci Vee provides welcome backing vocals. As the band move on to the swagger of Half Cut, the dual guitar interplay between Charlie and Arjun is glorious to behold as the serpentine melody wraps itself around the audience’s ears. Before long we reach the set closer Dirty, which includes a quick diversion into AC/DC’s Hell Ain’t No Bad Place To Be, before all too soon Day 1 of Sharkfest is over.

Nick Ashton

Zac and The New Men

We are gonna need a bigger boat for day 2 of Sharkfest!

After a lovely post breakfast walk, it’s back to the Station for day two, and the first band on stage are a new live band for me and despite a few technical issues they do not disappoint. Zac and The New Men hail from South Wales and they have a distinctly ’70s sound to them that I can relate to. They have a decent crowd to play to despite it being early on a Saturday afternoon.

First up is a brand new, never before played live song from the forthcoming debut album Reinvent Me called Say It. They follow this up with Atom Bomb and then the title track from the album Reinvent Me then it’s That’s OK.

They really involve the audience and that is evident in the next part of the set when it’s an audience choice of a cover song, by either Led Zeppelin: Immigrant Song or Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Chile and it’s clear that Voodoo Chile get the audience vote. Heading towards the final two songs of the set which are Deeper and the AC/DC-ish Begging for More, I look back to see a really appreciative audience for this young band. Would I go see them again? Yes I would … and so should you!

Evelyn Barr

Old Glory & The Black Riviera

Old Glory & The Black Riviera are the second new band of the day for me and, like Zac and his New Men, they hark back to a previous musical period. Opening with the rolling Black Crowes vibe of Jealous, they continue into the really cool fuzzy slide guitar of Two Hearted Woman, with its rumbling freight train rhythm. Jord Davies’ voice has a whiskey-edged rasp to it, which sounds pretty damn fine on Had It All. Jay Meehan throws out some more fine slide guitar which leads into the really hooky chorus of Dollar, and Waiting For You is a really nice mournful ballad. They pick it up again nicely with the wonderfully layered track Miracle which progresses into a mean solo. They close out with the kicking hillbilly bluegrass stomp of Where Did I Go Wrong, which rouses the crowd and has them clapping along. I would really like to catch these guys again, sat in a field with the sun on my face and a drink in my hand; they would make a damn fine accompaniment.

Craig Bailey

Electric Black

Returning to Cannock for just the second time, Electric Black are determined to impress with their brand of blues-based rock. Vocalist/guitarist Ali Shiach has a distinctive voice that would not seem out of place belting out AOR power ballads. Instead, he rides the riff-based groove rock supplied by guitarist Jonny Bryant with ease. Love is a Light (For The Lost) carries a message of regret for what could have been wrapped up in a seriously catchy rhythm. Despite experiencing problems with drooping cymbals, drummer Matt Butler nails the vibe of the song and battles on until help arrives. Next up is new song Maiden Party, which has an appropriately Steve Harris-esque bass line, thanks to Ryan Trotman. The band’s fashion icon, Ryan sports the coolest shades seen at The Station all weekend, although sadly he is not wearing his kilt this time out. Jonny breaks out what looks like an old cough-sweet tin to use instead of the more usual slide tube for some exquisite fret-work on Put It Down On Me. Up next is Homecoming, which tells a tale familiar to many of the bands on the festival bill: that of struggling to make headway in the face of an indifferent industry. Set closer Not Afraid To Die is all about living your best life and sees Ryan holding a lighter aloft longer than is humanly possible: the man must have asbestos fingers!

Nick Ashton

Waking The Angels

Next up at Sharkfest is another band that I had not previously heard of, I really do need to get out more! Waking The Angels is just so my thing … They are a traditional ’80s sounding band, a bit glam, so what’s not to like there! They begin with their latest YouTube video-available song, Can You See Me Now and I can see heads starting to bob along. Next up we hear Prisoner then Stand Back From The Redline which really go down well. Following those is Destination Love Affair, a song with a really classic ’80s sound, and this is where audience participation comes in. The band really get the audience gong with a sing-along and a couple of of very lucky people get t-shirts that are thrown out into the crowd.

There is so much love for this band, which you can see on the faces of those watching. Next up we are treated to a track called Throwing Stones and this is followed by a fantastic guitar solo in Gypsy Queen. They end their set with Moment In Time and the finale is their signature tune Waking The Angels. This band is a real crowd pleaser and one to definitely check out if you’re not familiar with, they are also so lovely to chat with.

Evelyn Barr

White Raven Down

Luke and Stu join Tomas at the drumkit as they gather themselves before launching into Mind Reader. This set the agenda, as the trio attack the song and show they are up for raising the late afternoon energy levels. It is great that the set list has changed around from previous shows, with the blinding All Day Long getting its chance to shine. Luke’s bass playing is immense as he seamlessly switches to playing like a rhythm guitarist, giving a weight of sound that most three-piece bands cannot match. Don’t Shoot The Messenger is an album of superb melodic heaviness and Salvation is a stand out for me as Tomas’s barrage at the outset pins people’s ears back. The crowd sing the chorus as they if they are “looking for the dawn of another day”. Demons At Your Door eases the pace fractionally, giving Stu the chance to show what an impressive guitarist he is. They close out with the pairing of Roll Of The Dice and Lost Your Hold, the latter has the crowd belting out the ‘whooaa whooaas’ whilst Tomas crushes us with double kick drum beats. I’ve seen White Raven Down a few times since Stu was thrust into the role of vocalist. It is to his and the band’s credit that they have continued to get stronger over this time and each time I see them I can sense the improvements in Stu’s delivery as a result of his hard work.

Craig Bailey

The Bad Day

As eclectic visually as they are musically, The Bad Day hit the stage on a mission to entertain. Vocalist/bassist Adam Rigg is an imposing figure in faux fur coat and flat cap, wielding a unique, Crom custom bass. Guitarist Nick Peck oozes cool while dashing off blues-tinged riffs galore. A herd of elephants could rampage through The Station and Nick would barely notice, such is his focus on the music. In contrast, on the opposite side of the stage, harmonica player Sam Spranger is a bundle of nervous energy. If you have never seen The Bad Day before, you might have wondered why Sam was doing stretching exercises before the set. Well, all is soon revealed as he dances and leaps around the stage without missing a beat. At the back, driving the rhythm, sits drummer German Moura, who is all smiles and a John Bonham-sized sound. So does this odd combination of characters work? The answer is a resounding yes! With a harder, more aggressive edge than on their recorded work, yet still with a blues-tinged soul and a summery vibe at times, The Bad Day treat us to an enjoyable and energetic set. At times they are reminiscent of Dr Feelgood, while at others of The Pogues, yet always with their own brand of storytelling mythos. A welcome break from straight forward rock or plodding blues, The Bad Day ensure that everyone has a very good day!

Nick Ashton

The Karma Effect

ERB Magazine issue 16 cover stars The Karma Effect hit the stage at The Station next and this is a band who formed fairly recently, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been lucky enough to see twice before. They’re a five-piece from Kent with a real classic ’70s sound and looking around, I can see the large crowd really enjoying the opening tracks of Wrong Again and Doubt She’s coming Home. Next up in the set was the really funky The River. This band has so much energy and are really interacting with a captive audience. Next up we hear Stand and then a real crowd favourite Steal Your Heart before the set finishes all too soon, with Testify.

This is a young band really enjoying making music and playing it live on stage. They really know how to work an audience, with vocalist Henry Gottelier getting the crowd to scream The Karma Effect back at them. They’ll have a legacy to leave for future generations, and as Henry says, “Its something for our future kids to know that we actually did something with our lives.”

You can catch them at Call of the Wild in Lincolnshire and also at LoveRocks in Bournemouth and later on in the year at Stonedead Festival in Newark. They are definitely a band not to miss on the live stage.

Evelyn Barr


I have seen Bastette a number of times at events like this, and I don’t think I have seen the same line-up twice. It is a credit to Caroline and those she draws to her that each time the performance and songs have not been diminished by the constant state of flux.

Caroline is a striking figure on stage. Tall and elegant with a mane of dark red hair, she’s a genuine presence on stage. She conveys the essence of the songs, prowling the stage and seamlessly switching personas from a kitten to a tigress. Opening song Fiction adds a sultry edge and an intense hostile attitude.

Hunter is a cracking track with chiming guitars and Poison hits hard with a chopping riff. A gem in a Bastette set is Sunglasses. It’s a beautiful song that has you feeling that you want to put your arm around the random person next to you.

Caroline conveys the angst of a tortured soul as Sick and Twisted’s ’80s sounding guitar loop plays through. Their songs have evolved since I saw them last, and live, the tracks have a lot more character to them.

Final track Roller drops with a seething solo and Caroline stands at the barrier challenging the crowd with her stares. The song eases down wonderfully before building to an impassioned climax. A great way to end what is a really enjoyable set.

Craig Bailey

Ashen Reach

Based on the number of Ashen Reach t-shirts in the audience, a lot of people are looking forward to witnessing the band’s performance tonight. Let me tell you, they were not disappointed. Opening with Fighting For My Life, the energy levels are through the roof immediately as Paddy Cummins and Joe O’Sullivan’s twin guitar attack and Kyle Stanley’s powerful vocals get the crowd headbanging from the very start. Next up is Epiphany, which send shivers down my spine every time I hear it. The power of the music and Kyle’s range demand attention, and you just know that there will be a line of new converts at the merch table at the end of the night. Prey follows with a tale of obsession, then we come to the highlight of any Ashen Reach show: Heir To The Throne. Driven by the powerhouse rhythm section of Jess Stanley on drums and Mike McCarroll on bass, this song is just huge live. Both band and audience give their all, with coordinated headbanging and everyone jumping as if their lives depended on it. All too soon we reach the epic Homecoming, which encompasses everything that is great about Ashen Reach: melody combined with metal-edged guitars, clean and harsh vocals, inventive drumming and driving bass. The band leave the stage with the promise of new music coming soon and I, for one, cannot wait!


Nick Ashton

These Wicked Rivers

Another band to have graced the ERB Magazine cover, on issue 12, were These Wicked Rivers and this is my first time seeing them and their now famous Grandma’s Living Room set and it is definitely something to behold.

They open their set with a real crowd pleaser in Shine On which is a real bluesy number and then continue with Evergreen and Force of Nature. Next up we’re treated to a brand new song in When The War Is Won. Next up is Black Gold which is a little bit different and that is followed by the sublime acoustic track This Train.

This Train is followed by That Girl which is dedicated to everyone in the audience. The stage chat is incredible and moving on to their last few tracks in the set we are treated to The Family and World in Chains.

The set finished up with Floyd and then Testify from their debut album Eden.

These Wicked Rivers are an absolutely fantastic way to end a brilliant weekend – you can catch them on tour through the rest of 2023 (dates on their socials).

Evelyn Barr

The weekend was a brilliant way to catch up with so many friends and make plenty of new ones, all to the soundtrack of some damn fine music.

Huge credit has to go the sound and stage team across the weekend. 10 bands across 11 hours on the Saturday was a major task, but the organisation and collaboration ensured that every band hit the stage on time. With Richard Brindley and the in-house team managing the sound, the quality was pristine. The attention to detail and clarity enabled very band member that hit the stage and present the very best of themselves. This along with the very well stocked green room ensured that there were some very happy performers.

Mark and Sharon have that astonishing altruistic view that real music fans seem to have. He is not looking to make money, he just wants to provide people with the opportunity to have a good time, and to give bands the opportunity to get out in front of people. He, Sharon and his daughters are soldiers in the army of unsung heroes that make our scene such a wonderful place to be, and should be recognised and applauded along with all those that gave their time and effort over the weekend. Without the likes of these amazing people we, as music fans, don’t get to do what we love so we should be hugely thankful, and support their efforts, not take them for granted.

Sharkfest 4 is set for 28th October with another cracking 10 bands lined up at the one-day event. Be sure to get yourself a ticket to what could be one of your most enjoyable days at a top rate venue, surrounded by the best of people.

Tickets available here:

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