We spent a couple of days in a park in London at the inaugural High Voltage Festival and aside from getting sunstroke, we saw some awesome stuff. Bands, mainly. We picked our top moments.
Best Air Guitar
High Voltage actually has an air guitar booth. While those of us from Thrash Hits don’t indulge ourselves (we don’t want to show anyone up, obviously. Particularly ourselves) the undoubted winner of the weekend in this particular category did his work on the Metal Hammer stage. Orange Goblin are on their usual storming form, ripping through their set of balls-out heavy metal with vim and vigour. Frontman Ben Ward is the star of the show, captivating your attention. And playing air guitar better than anyone else all weekend.
Best Synchronised Real Guitaring
The three guitarists from Audrey Horne timed their guitar slinging perfectly. Not a bad way to get a crowd going that clearly has an epic hangover from a Saturday which started in blazing sunshine and ended in a sweatbox bar swigging tequila off boobs. It happened.
Aside from ELP and Down tshirts tugged down over middle-aged spreads, we saw loads and loads of Crobar tshirts. That made us happy. We also saw a lot of tshirts tucked into stonewash jeans. Rad.
Something darkens the sky. At first we all think a cloud has passed in front of the sun. Then we realise that Cathedral have come onstage and that Leo Smee’s rather brilliant hat is the cause. The band then put on one of the best shows of the weekend, closing on the mighty combination of ‘Ride’ and ‘Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)’ that brings a gloomy joy to your heart. Lee Dorian even manages to be so captivating your eye wanders from the brilliant headgear to his left.
Mmm… Ice Lolly
Yep. High On Fire are absolutely the kind of band you can stand ten yards from and be more interested in your strawberry tropical Calippo. Sure. While tattooed man-mountain, Matt Pike was ripping that mind-boggling riff from ‘Snakes For The Divine’ there was a little girl more interested in the bottom of her conical summer treat than the swarthy stoner’s Cookie Monster growls. She redeemed herself later by air guitaring to Down and high fiving Kirk Windstein, but still. Whatever.
Mikael Åkerfeldt likes to, in his words, “talk shit”. Today is no different. Announcing the band as “Poison, from Los Angeles, California” and himself as Brett Michaels is a good start. Continuing the theme by telling us “This one’s from the Look What The Cat Dragged In record” before heading straight into a sumptuous rendition of ‘The Lotus Eater’ from Watershed is even better. Opeth are as wondrous as you might expect, the myriad of ideas flowing from the stage washing through a crowd that watches with rapt attention. The weather considerately cools and clouds over to ensure the right atmosphere- there would be something deeply wrong about sweating watching Opeth.
Most Random Comment
The sober folk of Thrash Hits are obviously bang on time for the start of events on Sunday, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Well, one of us is, and just in time to catch the bombastic prog beauty of The Reasoning. A growing crowd is drawn to the first band of the day as their lush melodies and soothing harmonies fill the park, and the appreciation of the onlookers is obvious- even if only half a dozen or so seem to have heard of the band. These hardcore fans are to be our lead through the singalong moments of the last song. Or, as the band themselves tell us, “if in doubt, follow the giant pumpkin”. No, us neither. Still, they are a prog band- maybe it isn’t supposed to make sense. They are rather brilliant, whatever the meaning (or lack thereof).
You can’t really argue with Californian prog rockers Bigelf on this one. While many on the Prog Stage will have been left wandering around muttering something about, “MORE. KEYBOARDS,” with a confused glare – inflicted by some serious recreational drug use many decades ago – Bigelf nailed it. Damon Fox was flanked by the tinkling electronic ivory things. And he wore a top hat. Top man.
It seems impossible that even the most miserable bastard could not love watching Clutch. No matter how lacking your sense of rhythm, they make you want to move in ways far cooler than you are actually capable of. They are the perfect band for a hot summer afternoon on the beers. Neil Fallon is effortlessly cool, from his mighty beard to his rich voice that blends so brilliantly with the blues of the music, providing a focus for the attention and ensuring not even sunburn and hangovers can lessen your enjoyment. It is hard to imagine poorly coordinated men in shorts (and that’s just us) moving with more enthusiasm.
Highest Lyric Repetition
Black Spiders are perfectly engaging, have some fat and filthy riffs and play with charisma. What hamstrings them a touch is excessive reuse of the same lyric- if you tell us 27 times that you’re in trouble, we stop caring. In fact, we think it might be time for a(nother) beer.
When Phil Anselmo speaks, you listen. The imperious frontman is as at his best in Victoria Park, exhorting the crowd and the band alike. Having torn up Donington last year, Down set about laying waste to East London, titanic tunes like ‘N.O.D.’, ‘Stone The Crow’ and ‘Lifer’- today dedicated jointly to Dimebag and Dio. Even the most knackered/drunk/footsore members of the crowd respond with as many throws of the horns and cheers as Phil’s dropping the f-bomb. An emphatic and triumphant end to the weekend’s metal.
Best Scott Weiland Impersonator
Both Glenn Hughes during the Heaven and Hell set and Audrey Horne’s Torkjell Rod have a claim to the Weiland mantle. Hughes just looked like Weiland – or his dad at least – while the Norwegian went the whole hog, dragging a megaphone out and doing that thing. Expect a lawsuit.