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  EPICA/THE ANSWER/PETER PAN SPEEDROCK/KAMCHATKA/STREAM OF PASSION/RED VULTURES
Cityrock Festival, Leeuwarden, Holland
7th August 2015


Ian Sutherland: Photos by Sharik Derksen

ian sutherland



epica

It's not every town which would allow a full on music festival to take place right in the middle of the place. Especially a rock and Metal festival, but that is exactly what Leeuwarden in northern Holland does every year. They call it Cityrock and set up an area in a central square with a stage under a church spire (which leans like the famous tower in Pisa) making for a very interesting setting to say the least.

Beer and food can be bought on site but the convenient location and the sunny weather mean that today's crowd of three or four thousand fans mingle happily with the locals in the pretty town centre throughout the day, enjoying the sunshine as well as the local bars and cafes inbetween bands.

Dutch band Red Vultures open the day's proceedings in the late afternoon with a set of workmanlike blues based hard rock. Featuring Jarno van Osch on drums they are an experienced, polished and professional outfit but struggle to gain any real traction in the relaxed and sunny atmosphere. A cover of Deep Purple's 'Black Night' helps to get people nodding along but they provide a pretty low key start to the festival.

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Things fire up several notches when the next band on the bill, fellow Dutchies Stream Of Passion hit the stage. Always intense performers whatever the situation they make short work of getting the crowd pulled in towards the front as their infectious passion for their music spreads outwards through the crowd. They manage to bring both an intensity and a joy to their performance, throwing themselves into songs from their usual live set such as 'A War Of Our Own' and 'In The End'.

A terrific rendition of their cover of Sonata Arctica's 'I Have A Right' is an unusual addition mid set but is carried off with aplomb and by the time closing song 'Haunted' comes around singer Marcela Bovio has the crowd clapping along and the band whip up a storm with the fierce riffing end to the tune. A fine performance from a band in really good form right now.

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The day's first international act are Kamchatka from Sweden. They are a blues rock based power trio and put together a likeable set of stoner rock with a bit of an edge and some nice melodies. It all comes over as very pleasant but after the intensity shown by Stream Of Passion seems a bit lightweight to me in comparison and I find it difficult to maintain my interest so retreat to the back of the arena to sample some beers in the sunshine.

I move forward again later to check out the next band, veteran Dutch power trio Peter Pan Speedrock. These guys have been on the go since 1997 and have carved themselves out a slot in the Dutch music scene without really being able to add to that success further afield. There is no obvious reason to that for me as they are a hugely competent, aggressive, riff driven outfit with a swagger and a kind of sub-Motorhead sound. I didn't hear any amazing songs but they acquitted themselves well and I think they would get along fine at any rock/Metal festival in any country. Hopefully they are not destined to be their generation's Golden Earring, legends but only in Holland.

epica

There are a lot of bands around right now doing the retro blues rock sound thing (Vintage Trouble, Rival Sons etc etc) and to be honest a lot of it doesn't really grab me so I wasn't sure whether The Answer would be a band I'd really enjoy live. Well I didn't reckon with their Northern Irish charm which mixed in with musical talent and a few good tunes made for an excellent and entertaining set.

Singer Cormac Neeson not only has a fine set of pipes but also a kind of rogueish likeability and I found myself just wanting to enjoy them. Fortunately some good bluesy anthems like 'Gone Too Long' and fine guitar stylings from Paul Mahon made that easy to do. The rest of the crowd felt the same way and the deal was sealed during 'Raise A Little Hell' with Neeson climbing out into the front rows and conducting a sing along from there.

epica

Epica have become a real Dutch success story and look poised to follow in the footsteps of Within Temptation and become another female fronted Metal band from the country to forge an international reputation.

Having been doing the rounds of the summer festivals they are a fine tuned Metal outfit in really good form and doing this headline slot with full pyro and a big stage to work with is something that they take easily in their stride.

Opening with 'The Second Stone' from 2014s 'The Quantum Enigma' they are immediately fully into their stride. Powered along by drummer Arien van Weesenbeek's furious intensity and the twin riffing guitars of Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye it is up to keyboard player Coen Janssen to put the symphonic into their Metal and he conjures a huge number of sounds from his instruments.

All that sound and fury is of course topped off by the soaring beauty of singer Simone Simons' mezzo soprano voice. With Mark Jansen throwing in some grunting vocals for contrast at times Epica have all the bases covered and despite some very complex song structures have the strength in depth song wise to easily keep the crowd here entertained.

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Constrained by a curfew they waste no time and power through an eleven song set which came across almost like a greatest hits despite including five tunes from their last album. A sign of both the quality of their current output and their confidence in it.

Classics 'Cry For The Moon' and 'The Obsessive Devotion' are thrown in mid set but there are more fan favourites to come. Despite the constant touring these Dutch symphonic Metallers show no signs of slowing down and really do seem to be enjoying themselves immensely up on stage. That even becomes off stage when Coen Janssen straps on his portable keyboard and jumps into the photographer pit during 'Sancta Terra', much to the joy of the crowd at the front.

The set finished all too quickly with the traditional epic roaring climax to 'Consign To Oblivion'. This was another terrific performance from a band who can really do no wrong right now. With new songs being written already for the next album they know they are on a hot streak and are well worth catching on their rare UK tour in November (see dates below).

All in all this was a really good day at a small but very enjoyable festival. There was no mud to worry about either!

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