ROCKMANTIC ON THE ROAD at the Empire, Rochdale on 1/6/18-2/6/18

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An array of upcoming British and European bands take over the Empire club in Rochdale, as the first ever Rockmantic on the Road festival rolls into town. An offshoot of the main festival, which takes place every February in Carlisle, 12 bands will play over the weekend, and we’ll be treated to headline performances from Brit hard band Fahran and Norwegian sleaze rockers The Cruel Intentions.

Opening up the weekend are Concrete Kingdoms, a 5 piece band from Fife, Scotland. After a set of their own material – their debut EP is due out in August – they get the early arrivals in the crowd warmed up with covers of Billy Idol and Neil Young.

Tomorrow is Lost are tipped for bigger things. Frontwoman Cass King has a great voice and the bands youthful looks are matched by their energy, winning over everyone in attendance. Despite only forming last year, they have a great natural chemistry on stage. We are the Lost and Insane are the highlights, if you dig bands like Halestorm be sure to check these guys out.

It’s very hard to believe there are only two members of Rival Bones if you don’t witness them play with your own eyes. It’s probably lazy to compare them to Royal Blood but the similarities are too hard to ignore. Frontman/Guitarist James Whitehouse’s vocals are powerful, as are his riffs and he is backed up well by Chris Thomason on drums. You Know Who You Are is a set highlight. Look out for them to make serious waves when they release their debut album.

Stevie Pearce can usually be found playing in other bands (Warrior Soul, Love/Hate) but is here with his solo project “Stevie R Pearce and the Hooligans”. Brash, in your face and confident – with every right to be – it’s good, solid rock n roll, with elements of punk and even country, was thrown in here and there. Their take on Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison is absolutely awesome, and Bad Day has a classic “Whoa…” that’s impossible not to join in with.

Fahran round off the evening, delivering a set mainly comprised of debut album Chasing Hours. A second album feels overdue – Chasing Hours was released in 2014 – but the follow up should be out before they make their appearance at this year’s Bloodstock Festival. We see a brief taste of that album with single State of Mind, with that gaining some mainstream attention making the Scuzz TV playlist, they’ll be hoping to reach bigger audiences with their next release. Matt Black’s vocals are quite distinctive, slightly higher than you’d expect to hear in most melodic rock bands, giving them some individuality. I Heard a Joke Once and A Thousand Nights are the stand out tracks of the set.

Onto Saturday, and we start with The Sourheads. It’s quite hard to pinpoint them to a specific genre, their origins started as more of an Indie band, and that still comes through at times, but combined with a grittier edge. Frontman Jake Coxon puts everything into this performance, shirtless, dripping in sweat and on his knees during Demon, you almost think he’s going to summon one. A really interesting, unique band to kick off the day.

Deep Shade had that Queens of the Stone Age vibe, and while they are all good musicians and had some catchy tunes, they didn’t really seem to have their own identity, and there wasn’t much to get me out of my seat.

A late addition to the bill, Digital Criminals made the long way from Pontypool, Wales to be here. They describe themselves as “a female fronted Alt. Punk Rock band that packs a Pop Punch!” Which is very accurate, and their whole performance was just really fun to watch. Emily Bates‘ voice is pretty wide-ranging, managing to stay far enough away from sounding too poppy on the insanely catchy Move It, but punchy enough to match their heavier side on Sink Down Low.

There’s a lot of people here to see Knock Out Kaine, with the band taking a break from live performances for the foreseeable future to concentrate on recording their 3rd album. They get the dancefloor going with their 80’s rock-inspired anthems, Boxes proving the most popular.

In both looks and sound, Swede’s Confess also have that 80’s vibe. They have two albums of really solid material, and manage to sound relevant despite their obvious inspirations from the past. The highlight for me was when they took it down a notch on Get Lucky. Shout-out to the band’s drummer Sam, who also fills in on drums for tonight’s headline band.

The Cruel Intentions were the perfect band to end this festival and had the whole room bouncing from the start. They’ve just signed a record deal with Indie Recordings in their native Norway, and they have an impressive list of singles already in the bank. It’s proper Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll stuff – Lizzy Devine’s vocals have that sort of perfect snarly, gravel-like tone that goes perfectly with the themes of the songs. Pretty much all the singles they have released are played, including latest single Reckoning, while Accidentally Intoxicated summed up most of the crowd by the end of the evening!

Rockmantic on the Road was a really well-run event, showcasing some great up and coming bands alongside some more established ones, and I hope to see it return next year.

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