Live Review : SOS Festival, Prestwich on July 12th 2019

This year sees the 12th edition of Manchester’s SOS (School’s Out for Summer) Festival, and it will be the 5th one I have attended. The festival was originally envisioned by Lynne Hampson from Rocksector Records to be a family-friendly indoor gig. It continues on that basis to the present day, providing a platform for local bands whilst also adding some national and international acts into the mix.

It’s a long weekend with a lot of bands playing, so please excuse me if I don’t write effusive paragraphs about your favourite band – I will let the pictures do most of the talking and just give you a few words to try and get across the flavour of what they all did to entertain us. As always there were some bands I liked, some I loved and some that really weren’t my thing, but I can honestly say that I didn’t see a “bad” band all weekend!

Just a quick note about the setup so it makes sense for you – after each main stage there is a shorter acoustic set on a small stage at the back of the same room whilst the main stage gets torn down and set up for the next act. Each acoustic act does 2 15-minute sets. So it goes Main 1 – Acoustic 1 – Main 2 – Acoustic 1 2nd set – Main 3 – Acoustic 2 – Main 4 – Acoustic 2 2nd set – Main 5 and so on. This means there are no clashes, but it also means there’s not much downtime if you need to pop out for some food or a wee, so if you want to catch everyone you have to do some fairly precise planning. For ease of reading, I have written about the acoustic acts as a whole rather than their individual sets.

For once the motorway gods were smiling on me, and I managed to run the gauntlet of the M62/M60 and arrive in time to catch most of Snakewater’s set. They are a trio who play heavy, southern-tinged blues with an occasional burst of Gary Moore style guitar. I wasn’t sure about them at first but they grew on me the longer they were on!

Fallen Mafia were the openers on the acoustic stage, and they turned out to be a female-fronted bunch of goths with powerful vocals and a fair bit of minor-key sadness about them. Their 2 sets were soothing and I would very much like to see their full performance at some point.

The Howling Tides then hit the main stage. They are based in the Midlands, and played gritty, sleazy classic rock with lots of melody and some really catchy hooks. I spotted influences from early Aerosmith, Blackfoot and Swedish funk-rock superstars Electric Boys, and I was very very impressed. They are definitely now on my “One To Watch” list.

After Fallen Mafia’s second acoustic outing we had Witch Tripper. This is a helluva band. They are sort of heavy heavy blues with just a hint of prog. Imagine, if you can, Rush crossed with Motorhead? Very good musicians and very popular with the crowd. Not 100% my thing but their sound and performance was absolutely spot-on and I foresee big things in their future.

Sons Of Liberty, back on the acoustic stage for 2 sets, are cowboys. Proper yee-haw southern country boys, cowboy hats and boots, and a rollicking good-time party set. Even the lack of a full electric sound couldn’t stop their exuberance, good nature and fun. The fake American accent (they are from Bristol, so I suppose that kind of counts as the Wild West?) grated a little but hey, grab a shot of JD and join in the hoe-down and you won’t notice after a while.

The King Lot are a source of great regret to me. This is because despite being in the same place at the same time as them several times, and a friend of mine being their manager, I have never managed to catch them live before. They are now about to go on a hiatus and drop out of the scene for an indefinite period and I am gutted because their set was excellent. They are a little lightweight and poppy, with a touch of the Bon Jovi’s and some nifty moves on stage. A nice rounded AOR sound, and the band looked like they were really enjoying themselves which is always good to see.

Headliners The Quireboys are still on form. Describing themselves tonight as “Proper English Rock And Roll” they power through a set of old favourites and new sounds. Singer Spike doesn’t appear to know what day it is, but anyone who has ever seen this band in the past will know that this is not unusual, and all part of his charm. The overall mood of the set seems to be a little slow and easy this time, with some of their more soulful ballads such as “Mona Lisa Smile” and “Hello” providing a touch of melancholy and a chance to wave arms and phones in the air.

Spike seems obsessed with the idea of their work being available on vinyl tonight and mentions it several times so I thought I’d better chuck it in too – their latest release “Amazing Disgrace” has reached #1 in the UK rock charts and is available on coloured vinyl, should you care to partake of it. He is a little more coherent than normal tonight but to be fair still makes little more sense!

You know what you’re getting with a Quireboys show and sure enough as well as the above mentioned we hear “There She Goes Again”, “7 Deadly Sins”, “Whipping Boy”, “This Is Rock & Roll”, “Hey You”, “Black Eyed Son”, “Sweet Mary Anne”, “7 O’Clock” and “I Don’t Love You Anymore” which has the whole room swaying, arm-waving and singing along. Final song, is, as always, “Sex Party” and even though by this point my feet feel more like they’d like to be a foot spa and massage party I have to concede that The Quireboys are a class act and they never fail to entertain.

Words by Jo Crosby
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki