Located in the scenic surroundings of The Cotswolds, Amplified is the newest addition to the UK rock/metal festival scene. For its debut, the festival managed to pull together an impressive line-up across the three days, which was spearheaded by the headliner’s Puddle Of Mudd, Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons, and Reef. They were then well supported by over 100 bands from across the UK and beyond, featuring a good mix of both established and upcoming acts.
The festival was kicked off on Friday by Bristol based band, The Vigil, who treated the crowd to some tracks which demonstrated their distinctive grunge rock sound from the main stage. They were then followed by the first of several all-female groups on the bill, Dorja, who opened the ‘Very Metal Art’ second stage with a well-received performance. Another band featuring early on Friday was the two-piece act, Rival Bones, who gave a very strong performance, and more than once, it was necessary to double check that there were not more than two musicians on the stage; such was the power they were generating. By now, the festival was in full flow with a good rotation of bands across the four stages and lots of variation in the music on show from the thrash influenced Damaj. It then moved to the hard rock sound of Fallen State, and the in-your-face attitude of Massmatiks: who gave a commanding performance on the ‘Shoot Your Hoops’ third stage.
It would be remiss to talk about the first day of the festival though and not mention the torrential rain that hit the site late on the Friday afternoon. For several hours, the weather pummelled the festival, and although many bands and fans soldiered on in the awful conditions, eventually all four stages had to be shut down temporarily. The show did eventually continue though, and credit must be given to all involved for their efforts in making sure the festival did not come to a premature halt. One permanent victim of the weather though was the ‘Very Metal Art’ stage, which did remain closed for the remainder of the weekend, although not before Northern Irish rockers, Trucker Diablo gave a typically thunderous and energetic set to those fans who braved the conditions.
The eventual solution to the closing of the second stage was to move it into the main beer tent for the rest of the weekend. This decision led to one of the highlights of the festival, as Acid Reign delivered what may turn out to be one of the legendary performances in the current short history of Amplified. In front of a packed crowd, the band powered through a relentless one hour set of thrash metal, as frontman Howard “H” Smith performed from both stage and bar in typically energetic fashion. They were followed by the day’s headliner, Puddle Of Mudd, who also played in the tent. They gave a strong and intimate performance with a set that included their big hits “Drift and Die”, “Blurry”, and “She Hates Me”. Frontman Wes Scantlin was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy the slightly unconventional surroundings that they ended up playing in.
Saturday was opened with another of the highlights of the festival, as Stevenage based metallers, Outright Resistance gave a memorable performance in what was, at times, some of the heaviest rain seen during the weekend. Although they were only on stage for 30 minutes, the band left a real mark, with vocalist Paige Lee leaving the stage at one point and singing whilst walking halfway across the festival site. The band finished their set with a cover of Limp Bizkit’s version of the George Michael classic, “Faith“. Other highlights on Saturday included a striking performance from the mask-wearing nu-metal group, Anti-Clone, and a riff filled set from Reign of Fury, who included a new song from their upcoming album, Exorcise Reality; due for release next year. Another of the effects of the earlier, adverse weather was that the change to the running order for Saturday meant that the sets of two of the most anticipated bands on the bill now clashed, leaving fans with the tough decision of choosing between Evil Scarecrow and Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons on Saturday night. Whilst Evil Scarecrow delivered their typically infamous stage show complete with crabs, robots and numerous other delights, Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons kept alive the spirit of Motörhead with classics such as “Ace of Spades”, “Killed By Death”, and “Born to Raise Hell“. This was played alongside tracks from their own EP and a cover of Black Sabbath‘s, “Children of the Grave“.
The final day of Amplified probably offered the most varied lineup of the whole festival in terms of bands with genres including hard rock, doom metal, punk rock, thrash/death metal, and dark/industrial rock all on show. There was also a bit more of an international feel to Sunday as sets from Australian rockers Massive and German band Unzucht was included on the lineup for the day. Highlights from Sunday included a typically raucous and fun performance from the aforementioned Massive to a catchy and melodic set from York-based rockers, Vega who certainly offered hints of Def Leppard throughout their time on stage. As with Saturday, the altered running order for the weekend again led to an overlap in the performance times between the final two headliners of the weekend: Reef and Diamond Head. While both bands have endured a hiatus at some point in their history, they are now both very much fully active, and this was evident in their respective sets on Sunday. Diamond Head, in particular, included both the classic hits, “Am I Evil?” and “Helpless“, as well songs from their recent 2016 self-titled release in their set, and immediately following, the festival announced that they are working on a new album.
Overall, the inaugural Amplified Festival was a success, and the organisers deserve great credit for overcoming the numerous issues that the weather, in particular, presented them. Any festival in its first year is never going to perfect but there was certainly plenty of positivity and potential on show across the weekend, and with a sponsor already secured for next year, the hope has got to be that it continues to go from strength-to-strength. I for one look forward to seeing what the festival has planned for 2018.