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  HIGHWAY TO HELL 5
Day One


Johnny Main: Photos by Dutch Michaels

johnny main



highway to hell 5

The final seventeen bands competing in the annual Highway To Hell 5 descended on the Classic Grand in Glasgow for a two day shoot-out that would see the overall winners crowned.

Billed as Hard Rock Hell's very own rock factor, except there are no manufactured bands here, Highway to Hell is a tightly fought contest where the stakes for the winning acts couldn't be higher – a worldwide record contract and the chance to appear at some of the UKs most exciting festivals.

As normal with the competition, each band had a twenty minute timeslot where they could perform their very best material showing off their signature riff, stage presence, HRH image and the tightness of their performance. The only proviso was that they had to include one cover song in their set, and this threw up several unexpected numbers during the course of the weekend. Unlike previous years, however, there were no official judges so everyone who attended had the future of the competing bands in their hands.

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The following was written as each act performed and a list of the overall winners can be found here.

highway to hell 5

Beautiful Strangers, a five piece rock outfit based from Swansea, were the first act on stage and immediately kicked the event into gear with 'Shame Shame Shame'. Michael James gives it everything from beginning to end while Stuart Dade Davies points out towards the crowd to elicit a response from them.

Their 'Dagger' was a slower tempo but it still managed to retain a heavy edge to it while 'Domino' had James taking centre stage for his solo before stepping aside to give David Davies a short solo too. New track 'Crash and Burn' gave guitarist Richie Lewis a spot on the limelight while James once again gives everything with a great (if slightly low in the mix) solo to close the song.

The band's cover was a novel version of 'The Look' by Roxette – not a bad cover by any means but the band seen to rush through it as though it's the song they're least interested in playing. All in all, though, a solid start to preceedings.

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highway to hell 5

Leicester based The Midnight Dogs were up next and showed their enthusiasm from the first chord to the last. Bass player Steve Wonderwood was quite happy to jump in with backing vocals and still found time to have a mid-set conversation with guitarist Scott Cadenhead during set opener 'Sick Of It All' before very clearly demonstrating his talents with his guitar solo.

A cover of The Rolling Stones' 'Dead Flowers' had Cadenhead orchestrating some feedback during the intro (a very difficult thing to do in a live situation) before the song bursts into life. Once again, it's Wonderwood was found trying to steal some of the glory during the chorus as he shared sharing the microphone with vocalist before the solid rhythm of the track (almost) has the heads banging onstage.

'Love Runs Cold' slowed the pace with some great guitar from Cadenhead and new addition to the band Jean Pierre Abilio before the track bursts into life as the audience down the front starts dancing. All in all a lively performance from a good time band.

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highway to hell 5

Describing themselves as an "Alternative Rock outfit that have an explosive live show", Dead Audio Saints are certainly a quartet who are all show with no bluff. During opening number 'The Purge', vocalist Danny Jones used every tool available to him and he's the first band member to press the flesh with the public (and ultimately the people voting for the bands).

'Forever' is much slower in pace and bass player Corey Jones and Tyla-Joe Connett thankfully lose their masks they had donned for the previous number before the band showed their full power of their performance. You can tell how much this means to every member of the band as they give the audience exactly what they want - a performance and not just a band playing tunes.

By the time they get round to their cover song, Jones says "we could play a rock or thrash cover" but elect to play something a bit more left field 'Paparazzi' by Lady Gaga. Jones gives the crowd an evil stare during the number that is certainly different and is obvious that the band have a sense of humour.

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highway to hell 5

Hellion Rising are one of many bands performing who hail from Newcastle they have the venue jumping around straight away with 'Goat Charmer'. Matt Adamson has an excellent voice and demenour a he encourages the crowd to get involved - something they are more than happy to do.

Giovanni Camillo plays a great solo before retreating to the back giving the stage back to Adamson who negotiates a wordy verse before one of the best blood curdling screams of the weekend! 'The Beast' has the band use every inch of it the stage with to their advantage and 'Just For Tonight' from their first EP has Camillo standing legs apart(ala Rick Parfitt) thrashing his guitar smiling looking he's having the best time before he's joined by guitarist Davey Reay in some twin guitar harmonics.

To me, even this early, it was clear that they are one of the bands of the weekend and if they don't play Glasgow again then it's a terrible shame. Wrapping up with a storming version of Andrew WKs 'Party Hard', they leave the stage to rapturous applause – and whatever the final results, they are winners in my book!

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highway to hell 5

Four piece North East of England rockers Lyxx were crowned winners of the Manchester Hard Rock Rising Competition in 2012 and so their place here is well deserved. 'Over You' shows this band have the talent to take them far, but for me, it's 'Thrust' that was the winner in their set.

Vocalist/guitarist Steph Flesh throws out the some solid guitar riffs before lead guitarist Izzy Dead pulls out a mean solo. 'You'll Get What's Coming To You' (available on a free download) is where the pace really picks up, though, with the band settling into the groove as the Emma Venom makes the best of the in-house kit.

The bands cover is the perennial Twisted Sister favourite, 'We're Not Gonna Take It' and it's a faithful rendition which has the crowd happily singing and shouting along before Dead playing the guitar solo without a tremolo (full marks for skill). The bands final number, 'Wanna Be Me', has a good groove to it and I'd be quite happy to travel down to Newcastle to see them play a longer show.

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highway to hell 5

Thrash Metal band Die No More were formed just two years ago and are currently based in Carlisle, so it wasn't a long trip north for them. One of the few heavier bands of the weekend, this is one band whose heavier brand of Metal certainly grabbed the attention of the audience.

After opening with the fast and furious 'Oblivious', their second number, 'Dark World', was unfortunately hampered by feedback. Ever the professionals, though, the band carried on regardless with vocalist Marc Farquhar trying his best to get the crowd going. A cover of 'Electric Crown' by Testament came as a pleasant surprise simply because bands don't tend to cover Testament songs and the band managed to do the song justice.

Lead guitarist Kev Smith plays a great solo whilst bass guitarist Martyn Simpson prowled the stage deep in concentration. Their last number 'Council Of War' came just as the band seemed to be settling into the groove which is a shame but I'll certainly be keeping tabs on these guys in the future.

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highway to hell 5

The Deadhearts were another Newcastle band and during 'Wasted' guitarist Dagan Wilkin seems to be playing as though his life depended on it while frontman/guitarist John Arkle does his best to get some interaction going with those wedged against the crowd barrier. The chorus is easy to remember and has some of the audience dancing and singing along before Arkle pulls out a fantastic guitar solo, where he has a bit of fun teasing the crowd with some classic riffs.

Wilkin really trying his best to enthuse the crowd throughout the set and bass player Nasha and Wilkin having a bit on fun whilst drummer Nikky Watson pounds out a solid beat at the back before Wilkin and Arkle bring the focus back to the front of the stage with some great twin guitar work.

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highway to hell 5

Black Star Bullet are Coventry based four piece rock band hailing from Coventry and their performance started well before the musicians nightmare (the demon of feedback) threatened to derail their set. As a tech runs onstage to try and fix the problem, the band continue on, no doubt hoping that this hasn't dented their hopes of winning.

'Catch The Bus' has Andy Tite on vocals but the microphone doesn't work which is really unfortunate as the band carry on as best they can. As a cover song they chose 'Killer' by Seal which is another interesting choice and it's well executed. By now, the band are back on form but you can see their confidence has been knocked by the issues earlier in the set, and it's a shame because this band have genuine talent but they seem to have the gotten the shit end of the deal tonight.

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highway to hell 5

As in previous years, after the main finalists have finished their scheduled sets, the audience are treated to an OYR (Off Yer Rocka Records) Secret Session and this was given to one of the hardest working young bands I know, The Amorettes. Hailing from Edinburgh, the trio have been busy building a solid reputation through their recorded output and live gigs as well as building a fan base since they formed in late 2010. Their debut album, 'Haulin Ass' was released in 2011, which set them out the rock and roll highway.

With a recent performance at Bloodstock Festival under their belts and three gigs in as many days just gone, there is no doubt that the band arrived at the Classic Grand well rehearsed, and what they gave was one of the best performances I've ever seen them do. With a full hour of stage time, the band pulled no punches with a good helping of material from their debut album. 'Boxticker', 'Too Much Is Never Enough' and my favourite from the album, 'Whoot Woo', were greeted like old friends by the audience and the band looked like a well oiled machine as they jumped from song to song.

highway to hell 5

Drummer Hannah McKay, almost hidden at the back behind a veil of dry ice, doesn't miss a beat as she powers away throughout the bands set with hardly a pause. The other part of the engine room in this power trio is her sister Heather on bass guitar. When she's not got her foot on the monitor at the front of the stage (ala Iron Maiden's Steve Harris), she's head banging away furiously whilst still managing the keep the bass rhythms solid and tight. The final piece in the puzzle is vocalist/guitarist Gillian Montgomery who keeps the crowd entertained with her between song banter as she jokes with the crowd but let's not forget that she's such a great vocalist too.

With the planning already started for their second album we're treated to some as yet unreleased material. 'Get What's Comin', 'Rock Me Roll Me' and 'Grab The Bull By The Horns' go down well even though some of the audience may be unfamiliar with them. With a gig diary filling up nicely over the next few months, including a gig supporting Pat McManus, some more festival appearances and their first ever headline gig at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, not to mention the release of their second album, the future looks very bright (and busy) for the trio.

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Highway To Hell Online:
Official Website: http://www.hardrockhighway.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hard-Rock-Hell/173693426021837

Band Online Links:
Beautiful Strangers – http://www.facebook.com/beautifulstrangersuk
The Midnight Dogs – http://www.facebook.com/TheMidnightDogs
Dead Audio Saints – http://www.facebook.com/DeadAudioSaints
Hellion Rising – http://www.facebook.com/hellionrisingofficial
Lyxx – http://www.facebook.com/LYXXROCK
Die No More – http://www.facebook.com/DieNoMore
The Deadhearts – http://www.facebook.com/thedeadheartsUK
Black Star Bullet – http://www.facebook.com/blackstarbullet
The Amorettes – http://www.facebook.com/theamorettes


13.9.2014









 


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