Les-Fest, Valley International Park, Crossford
Saturday 29th June
Johnny Main: Photos by Carlan Braid
This Glasgow three piece have a rich musical history over the years, and to me their inclusion on the bill was a surprise as I'd heard of them but hadn't actually heard any of their material. A chance encounter with them at the bar earlier in the day put my mind at ease as they spoke enthusiastically about their music, and the prospect of an interview with them confirmed that these are really nice guys – but can they still cut it live?
I'm glad to say the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Even though the sun was beating down outside, the band manage to pull an impressive crowd and got a good reaction from the first number, 'Destiny', onwards. Guitarist and front man Alec Pollock plays a lovely tuneful melody on 'Devil's Revenge' before drummer Jim Marshall crashes in with the main beat showing that although they may be a bit older than most of the other bands here, Chaser certainly have no qualms on showing their younger counterparts how to produce a crowd pleasing set with power and dexterity.
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The third spoke of the wheel in this band, is bass player Ian Tait who is just as solid and dependable and the other two musicians making this outfit extremely polished and thoroughly entertaining throughout their set. Some of the tracks aired in their set sounds like it could be an homage to tracks produced by the Canadian hard rock trio Rush, and there is no disservice intended to Chasar for the comparison – there are some great songs here with Pollock producing some truly electrifying guitar solos, much to the delight of the crowd.
'Kings' slows the pace down slightly and gives the band a chance for a breather, whilst we get some nice lyrical guitar from Pollock again as Marshall once again displays his prowess at the drum kit before we are introduced to a ballad - 'The Wizard'. With their tongues firmly in their cheeks, 'The Wizard' turns out to be anything but a ballad – in fact, it's actually a solid rock song which sees Pollock push his vocal abilities to the maximum whilst still pulling off a remarkable performance on guitar – something which has the air guitars out in the main arena!
This band has lots of experience, but that doesn't make them any less relevant to this (or any other) festival. Chasar embraced Les-Fest and in turn Les-Fest embraced Chasar making for quite a unique performance. The bottom line for me? I recommend that if you have the chance to see this band, then I think you should – it's as simple as that.
After the gig, I sat down with Alec, Jim and Ian to discuss their performance, what they have been up to lately and what the future holds for Chasar: "Recently we played the Hard Rock Hell Festival - twice, once in Wales and again in London", Alec tells me, and when asked how they got approached for those dates, he tells me it was with the help of Martin Jarvis (renowned Scottish Music professional) who personally helped the band secure a slot on the festival.
Alec confirms that "(Martin) knew the band from way back in the late 1980s and early 90s" before Jim adds that "he was one of the guys that was actually thinking of managing the band at that point in time, and last year, the second stage at Hard Rock Hell were doing a kind of a theme thing, where they were booking bands from that era."
"Thanks to him we were put on the bill", continues Jim," and we went down fantastically well - it was unbelievable. We were quite lucky, actually because with our set times on stage 2, we were on in between some of the bigger bands and we managed to really pack out stage 2. That gave us a great boost and in fact we were one of only two bands to be rated ten out of ten for our performance by Hammerfest magazine, so that was really great too."
By this time, Jim is in full flow and explains that "from this point on, what we need to do to progress our career is to get into the studio and do some recording - something that really means something now, y'know - something up-to-date. 'The Chasar' album that we have out is dated 1982/83, and a lot of songs we played tonight comes from that album but we have other songs that we need to record so that we can move on with that, and that's our main aim (for the future). Different things have been holding us back", he says without delving into specifics.
"It's great for these younger guys who are also playing here, but we were in that position twenty years ago when all we had was the band and nothing but the band unfortunately now with the band, that's no longer the case, but you still have plans and you have to move on with them.
"To record new stuff - it says a lot about who you are, where you are and where your career has come from..." At this point Alec interjects by suggesting that "we can take some of the order stuff and modernise it by re-recording it to give it a fresher sound" before Jim adds that "the original Chaser album was actually our demo tape and it was marketed and released as a cassette album by North American Phonograph (who became Columbia Records), and that's how that came about! It served a purpose at the time and we were all set to do the follow up album when we went our separate ways, as you do.
"What actually happened was that my brother (Peter Marshall) used to play bass guitar in the band in the band and (current bass player) Ian Tait was the original singer, but Peter decided to emigrate to Canada and at that point, we'd put as much time as we could into the band, but I think it was just the thing of playing the same dates for years that we just seemed to disintegrate as a band after he left. It's wasn't a case of having big fights", Jim assures me, before Alec adds that "these things happen sometimes and you just move on."
When asked how the Les-Fest appearance came about, Jim explains that he was "sitting at home in sunny Dunoon when I turned on Facebook and (Les-Fest founder) Dave Ritchie was on there too and he sent me a message saying "How would you like to play Les-Fest?" and he assured me it wisnae a joke and it was a serious offer, so I checked out the website to make sure and then next thing we know is that we agree and he's confirmed us right away to play."
"Y'see", Jim continues, "he (Ritchie) is a guy who used to come and see us play at The Heathery Bar in Wishaw, so he's obviously been a fan of the band for a long time and I take my hat off to him, because it's a great festival and there isn't anything else like this about in Scotland - it was a good crowd, a good solid stage and a great sound - he's done a really good job. My only regret is that I've got the car so I need to drive these guys home and I can't stay here and party!"
With that, I thank the band for their time and make my exit but not before reminding Jim that if they're invited to play les-Fest 2014 to make sure he leaves the car at home!
Thanks very much to Alec, Jim and Ian for their time.
Thrill Of The Crime
Alex Pollock – Vocals/Guitars
Ian Tait – Bass
Jim Marshall – Drums
Official Website: http://chasar.co.uk/