Year in Review by Paul Flett
Our life, like the universe, is largely made up of dark matter punctuated by the occasional bright spot. As we stare into the unnatural canvas of brake lights and computer screens, sat in our prescribed clothing trying to remain within prescribed behaviours, is it any wonder how close our demons lurk beneath this veneer? Something as simple as the organised vibration of air particles is enough to lure the beasts from all of us, unleashed and unburdened, a second state of you, fist in the air. Screaming “It has to start somewhere It has to start sometime, what better place than here, what better time than now? All hell can't stop us now”.
2018 was as tumultuous a year for ROCKFLESH as is likely to be possible for anyone. Great sadness and heartbreak occupied a large proportion of our daily lives, but the one constant we all share here at RFHQ is our love for Rock and Metal. This music has seen all of us through the best and worst of times and has provided a soundtrack to not only escape to but to aid our recovery. 2018 also saw a threefold leap in work for ROCKFLESH, after two years of mixed success in getting access to bands the nods started to heavily outweigh the shakes and thus RFHQ was forced to recruit. So, one became two and two became four. The writing responsibilities have been evenly dispersed, but the photographic duties still fall heavily on Johann, who at some points was doing 5-6 gigs a week (awful isn’t it 😉”)
Rock and Metal is out of focus, a blurry genre at the periphery of the musical msm. Now more than ever it has no foothold in the consciousness of the wider public. This however is not an unusual place for Rock to be, this is when it is at its best, hidden, unencumbered by virtue and the behavioural norms of pop music. This time, right now, is when the new language of Rock is formed, evolved. Out there in an unknown town, the next great voice of Rock is penning the lyrics of an as yet unknown anthem, a classic. When the time comes, ROCKFLESH will be there to document every step.
This year has seen some highs though, new venues, new bands, reinvigorated legends and great young unknowns. Standing in Gorilla, Manchester and a girl says to me “These are the best band in the UK right now”. We didn’t know what to expect at the time, but that night stood as a marker for the rest of the year, a shot put that was always a little unattainable once it landed. I remember thinking after the gig I would be surprised if anything came close to it for the rest of the year, thankfully I was wrong but still by far the gig of the year goes to The Struts. As dynamic a performance from a singer as you will ever see, backed by the most pop rock, singalong anthems you could muster. We where both swept up by the night, one of the few gigs where I forgot I was reviewing and stopped taking notes!
Skid Row armed with new singer ZP Theart where outstanding in the tiny Hangar 34, Liverpool. A flawless example of how an older rock band should perform live. With the energy of men much younger and an unwavering appetite for chaos the Skids put on a great show. Europe also must take mention, an excellent live set up with impressive lighting and a note perfect performance saw a Manchester crowd enraptured for the whole set. I was never a huge fan, so was greatly surprised at the quality and passion shown by the band.
Clutch provided the most rock and roll response from a crowd, with dancing, moshing, fighting and much singing, they had by far the most interactive crowd of any night of 2018, maybe with the exception of 3TEETH who for one night turned rebellion into a red industrial hell. I might note that Stewart who does most of the death/black metal gigs might have a different experience from a likely younger audience. The best young unknowns of 2018 have to go to Mason Hill and Saurr. Mason Hill singer Scott Taylor gave a masterclass in Rock vocals while supporting Dan Reed Network. Saurr were able to, in the short slot they had supporting Shining on four ticket bill, give a high energy, high quality performance that made me want to see them again.
We also got to see a lot of our heroes in 2018, some over and some under-performed. At RFHQ we are a little split by the Sons of Apollo. I was left a little cold by the supergroups performance while Johann thought it was one of the best gigs of the year. Ron Thaal on double neck guitar and Billy Sheehan being Billy Sheehan saw a night of a million notes rammed home by Mike Portnoy on drums. It was a spectacle and was interesting to watch, but we at RFHQ will have to remain opinions divided. G3 was also a little disappointing. Watching Joe Satriani is always a pleasure, he is and will always be the best instrumental guitar writer/player. His guitar playing is the most vocal like out of all the instrumental greats. Sadly, I feel the inclusion of Uli John Roth and John Petrucci took the staple shred fest in a weird direction. Petrucci I feel is better placed in a band and Roth was just a little out of the time frame of the other two.
As a guitarist I am always on the lookout for a great new players, or a new sound. 2018 saw some of the best guitar players from around the world visit our little corner yet some of the most notable performances came from local lads Lee spencer of Ryders Creed and Andrew Donaldson from Maker while Jared James Nichols not so local (Wisconsin, US), blew us away. All provided a masterclass in live guitar performance for different reasons. Spencer has the fire and power of a young Zakk Wylde while Donaldson has the discipline to play a controlled yet fiery blues guitar. Jared James Nichols though was a powerhouse of SRV style blues and the standout performance of the year on guitar.
2019 Will be an important year in the direction and fortune of ROCKFLESH. Opportunity awaits and with the right decisions and focus, things can go from hobby to a living. One thing is clear our love of Rock and Metal is unwavering. We are here for the speed, the power, the passion. We stay for people that mosh with us and friendships we gain along the way. 2018 was a step up for us fleshters, but 2019 needs to be the breakout year. We all need to raise our game as we raise a glass and bid farewell to a year of extreme lows and varying highs. The start of the new year brings, Mastodon, Ozzy and Slash. So, with great thanks to all the guys in team ROCKFLESH and one big thank you to Johann I’m signing off for the year 2018. ROCKFLESH, for those about to rock.