This event was the inaugural Les Fest and was the brainchild of organizer Dave Ritchie who after too many bottles of wine one weekend thought it would be a good idea to organize his very own music festival. As he admitted himself, most people would have gotten up the next day and forgotten all about the idea, but he decided to stick to his guns and create not only a brand new Rock and Metal Festival, but the only one of its kind in Scotland.
A mere ninety days later and Ritchie has a not only a venue, but more than twenty bands (from up and coming local and national bands to established acts) and sold over four hundred tickets – and all without the huge budgets that the Download or Sonisphere Festivals have each year.
Although Lesmahagow may seem a strange place for such an event, it's central Scotland location makes it easily accessible from both Edinburgh and Glasgow and the venue itself has the added advantage of being indoors – quite a bonus on what turned out to be the rainiest weekend of the year so far in Scotland.
'Metal To The Masses' was the tag line for the first day of the festival, so there's no surprise that a lot of the bands on that day came from the heavier end of the Metal spectrum.
Unsigned Glasgow based Bekon (pronounced "beckon") managed to get an appreciate audience for their early set. Gary Thomson does a good job on vocals whilst the twin guitar set up of Mark Coyle and Mark Chorley does work very well. Having formed only two years ago and been gigging just in the last twelve months, this band certainly seem very together well as a unit. Their musical influences may be varied, but this a band that can certainly write a good solid Metal tune. I'm sure I'll be seeing more of them in the future.
Deadly Inscription, who were up next, are a young Paisley based four piece Metalcore band and were also very good. 'Woke Up Dead' is one of their faster songs and this seemed to get the crowd going. Vocalist/bass player Stuart Carlin works hard on engaging with the crowd, and the band as a whole did well to entertain the small but appreciative audience. It has to be said though, that drummer Colin Campbell is a worthy asset to the band – watching him powering down the drum beat on 'Substance' was especially great.
Lost Persona are a young four piece Progressive Metalcore band from East Kilbride who have in their midst a great frontman/guitarist in the shape of Tony Dunn. He shows great dexterity during the song 'A Fool And His Money' and 'Blood On Your Hands' whist still managing to sing the complex lyrics, and Chris Dunn also does a good job on guitar. Again this is an up and coming band that I hope that we'll be seeing more of in the near future.
Glaswegian four piece Colours To Shame lean towards the more extreme side of the Metal genre and gave a good solid performance, especially in the case of bass player Blair Thomas. Drummer Graeme Stewart is a firm asset to the band as he managed to keep it all together despite the limited drumkit and the numerous time changes in the songs. There was some good guitar work from Thomas Cairney and Rory Doherty, especially in the track 'In Search Of Sasuatch' which was one of the best in their set.
Fire In The Empire
Fire In The Empire were a late addition to the festival line up after one of the bands originally slated to play had to pull out and the band had travelled up overnight from Chorley in Lancashire especially for this performance. They are a four piece band who are very much in the vein of a solid old school Heavy Metal band. Drummer Dean Marshall seems to be having a lot of fun at the back whilst working hard punching out the beat and Mick McCullagh on vocals/lead guitar has some well produced solos.
The band sound like a cross between Metallica and Iron Maiden and get a really good reaction from the crowd - certainly the long drive is going to pay dividends for them as they seem to have gained a lot of new fans through their appearance here – the band are one of tonight's highlights for me.
Let's Play God had a sizeable and noisy crowd for their appearance here. Hardly surprising, I guess, as the Glasgow based band seem to have quite a large fan base here. Singer Rob Grinch uses this to his advantage to really get the crowd going - at one point he's singing whilst clutching on for dear life to the lighting rig above his head. Drummer John Coll show great dexterity as the band (completed by Gregg Clark on guitar and Chris Clarke on bass guitar) pile through their short set including 'Forcefed', 'Judgement Day' before ending with 'Spineless'.
Let's Play God
It's another Glasgow based band, Dirty Rose, who are the second last act on tonight's bill. Veterans of many gigs in Glasgow (including a high profile support slot to L.A. Guns), the trio produce a solid no-nonsense forty minute set. The set itself is well received with a good mix of original material being bolstered by a couple of cover songs (in this case 'Metal Militia' by Metallica and Black Sabbath's 'Supernaut').
As far as the original songs go, though, it's 'Bite The Hand That Feeds' that seems to go down the best. Bass player/vocalist Alan Clarkson does very well to get feedback from the audience and guitarist Craig Murray has some very good guitar solos, although drummer Steve Morrison's odd drum sound is rather distracting – although this is a minor quibble. Overall, the band gave a good solid performance overall, and one that they can justifiably proud of.
Tonight's headliners are Attica Rage who are well known from numerous festival dates all over Britain (including High Voltage and Hammerfest), and they are worthy of their headlining slot here tonight. As part of the support for their 2011 album, 'Road Dog', most of the set was culled from that album, and a trio of cover songs thrown into the mix for a good measure.
Kicking things off with '36 Insane', the band power through their well rehearsed set. Richie Rage on drums and Colin Wilson on bass guitar are a solid foundation for the twin guitars of Jonny Parr (also on vocals) and Stephen Bell to bind together a solid and powerful band. The band even manage to add in a brand new song (from their soon to be recorded album) called, well 'New Song' (c'mon, if it's okay for Metallica it's okay for Attica Rage, right?) alongside fan favourites like 'Back To The Old School' and 'Altered Reality' before wrapping their set (and the night) with a superb version of Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid'.
Certainly the biggest band on today's bill, Attica Rage bring to an end the first ever day of Les Fest in triumphant style.
Let's Play God
Fire In The Empire
Colours To Shame
Attica Rage – www.facebook.com/AtticaRageOfficial
Dirty Rose – www.facebook.com/dirtyrosemusic
Let's Play God – www.facebook.com/LetsPlayGod
Fire In The Empire – www.facebook.com/fireintheempire
Colours To Shame – www.facebook.com/colourstoshame
Lost Persona – www.facebook.com/lostpersonascotland/info
Deadly Inscription – www.facebook.com/DeadlyInscription
Bekon – www.facebook.com/bekong
Click here for Day Two...