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Day 1 – September 10th

Well the time has come to leave for Rock in the Bowl 2021, and to be honest I’m not feeling it. I’m not sure what it is, maybe the fact that it is now a 3-day event instead of the single Saturday like the first festival may have something to do with it. Never mind I’m sure it’ll all be good. First off, I need to go pic up my gig buddy and then we can set off. His wife giving me the now customary ‘Good Luck’.

The journey itself was uneventful, even Pete must be feeling a little off as he’d only consumed a single can of Guinness enroute instead of the usual bowser full.

Thankfully he’d had the foresight to book us in at the IBIS, literally crawling distance from the gateway, this might prove to be a genius move. Rooms were basic but what more is needed, somewhere to lay your exhausted body and a ‘lectrik for the show room of tech brought along to capture the event.

Getting into the venue was very easy, and suitably armed with out respected wrist bands, mine being a green press one Pete having the more salubrious silver Artist/Crew band as he’s volunteering his services during the course of the weekend.

We get into the arena and its still quiet, we’re early so we acquaint ourselves with the important things, Bar, Food, Toilets check. A quick saunter over to check on some friends then it’s back to suss out the Pit, who’s the pit boss and fellow toggers. Oh bloody hell, Pete K Malley is comparing; it’s going to be carnage!

First up and with the honour of getting things started musically is the awesome Bastette. A female fronted rock band who waste no time in laying down the gauntlet. Clad in a latex catsuit, singer Caroline Eve Kenyon, prowls the stage as the band deliver their style of alternative rock. Her delivery is full of confidence and she includes a visit to the barrier to get more intimate with the small but growing crowd.

Next is a new one to me in the form of Daxx and Roxane and interestingly they hail from Switzerland although they are now London based. They have been hailed by Kerrang as being ‘tooth and nail testosterone powered rock’? I’m not sure about that but the killer riffs and the crackingly great vocal certainly make you stand up and take notice. Classic rock is alive and well and it’s from over the channel in this case.

Steal the City are next, and a big-hats off to these young guys for stepping up at very short notice. Covid is still upsetting the apple cart as Liberty Lies pulled out due to a positive test, get well soon lads. To be fair, Steal the City, Joe, Jake, Smit and Ellis, were well up for it. A mellow start hid their angst and attitude but that quickly followed. They certainly put on a performance that had their name being heralded over the week end. Joe Chugg on vox certainly grabbed the opportunity by both hands and wrung its neck. Great set lads, very impressed.

City Kids followed and although they’re type of pyschopunk rock isn’t my cup of tea I found them entertaining and engaging. Looking around the gathering masses it would seem that they have a good following here to see them. With a unique delivery and music mastery that is understated but hard hitting, they grind and grunge their way through a well-received set and have certainly gathered a few more fans along the way, myself included. Well done lads a super set.

The Outlaw Orchestra what can I say that hasn’t already been said. This band are just ridiculously good fun. As only a three piece they engage with banjo, pedal steel as well as cigar box and sic string guitar. In fact, a Cigar Box guitar mead by Dave Roux was given away. This Americana fuelled band certainly put the smile on the crowd’s face with they’re twanging and heehawing style of Country Cajun Dixie fuelled rock. With songs like Chicken Fried Snake and See you In Hell you expect them to be from the deep South dripping in blue grass and crawfish and not the UK’s south coast.

The opening night was brought to a shattering climax with a great headliner. Cats in Space are having a sensational time post lockdown, having already performed at the ‘Rock n Blues Custom Show’, ‘Stonedead’s’ Friday party night and now this, along with their own sell out headline tour squeezed in covering much of the country. This is the new line ups first tour since singer Damien Edwards joined them. A stunning voice, and frontman and dressed an equally great blue wind-cheater. From the start the Cats proceed to smash the Bowl with their brand of heavily 70’s influenced pop rock., catching many a die-hard metal head off guard with how musically they are. I spoke with a group of heavily badged guys who said they’re not allowed to like this type of music but went on to say they’re flaming awesome, as they danced and shouted encouraging words at the stage. New fans? check!

Who can deny that Mr Heartache, Spaceship Superstar, and Thunder in the Night aren’t great songs? Add to the fact that when we started diving into the album, Atlantis, the sound just got grittier as Gregg and the boys dug in just that little bit more, giving the Bowl a harder, rockier version of what were already great tracks. Goodbye ELO,  hello Nickelback.

A great opening night, the weather Gods shined on us, things ran smoothly and the crowd were generally well behaved. It’s been a well organised event. Let’s have Day 2!

Words & photographs: Manny Manson