An earlier than usual start tonight in the middle of an industrial estate in Bristol to catch the penultimate Britrock Must Be Destroyed gig – a rock fest of some of the finest British 90’s Rock bands. At a time when TV saw the launch of controversial shows like The Word and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, these bands leapt into an era that was never to be forgotten. They too have survived and back to prove they still knew how to raise the roof. And the roof that was going to get pummelled tonight was at Motion (aka The Marble Factory) which has become yet another popular music venue set in a fusion of old warehouses – perfect for a mishmash of sweaty bodies to let their hair down and relive their youth.
Each night has seen a mix of the running order with Britpop guests Dodgy starting the party every time. But the night started later than scheduled, which saw Dodgy opening up minus a sound check. Not such a bad thing as they took it their stride and got on with the night like true pros.
The shortest set of the night throwing out classic tunes such as ‘Good Enough’, vocalist and guitarist Nigel Clark chatted in between songs to a rather scattered audience with the odd ‘blue’ word tossed in. Despite the time being prior to the Watershed, the crowd were forthcoming. After all, Dodgy were far from ‘support’ material and their presence was just as popular as the other bands during the 90’s era. All in all, Britpop at its best and just what the doctor ordered to get the crowd warmed up.
Quick set change and the backdrop and props were up for Terrorvision – a band notorious for shaking up the crowd with some raucous Rock tunes. The time was 6.30pm and the night was still young as the venue became packed with fans in every crevice itching to get the best view. Frontman Tony Wright wasted no time in reeling in the crowd, pacing the stage suited and booted in his tight black jeans and red braces. With a 60 minute slot to cram with tracks, ‘Discoteque Wreck’ was their first followed by other hits ‘Perseverance’ and ‘Oblivion’ to name a few. As Wright shredded that stage with his mic stand, guitarist Mark Yates and bassist Leigh Marklew also gave photographers a run for their money as they staggered over each other to get ‘that’ shot.
Even Milton Evans on keyboards couldn’t keep still. The bands energy was endless. But it was hits ‘Alice what’s the matter?’ and ‘D’ya wanna go faster?’ that really got the crowd screaming and shouting with their fists in the air. Wright claimed that stage for those 60 minutes and gave the fans exactly what they wanted. In all fairness, he deserved to celebrate at the end of the set by showering his fans with a can of beer. Why the hell not?? Those who know Terrorvision came to get messy and the band delivered just that.
As the walls started to drip with moisture, the crew cleared the set ready for the next band. What appeared to be a mass exodus of Terrorvision fans, the venue became drained for a short time as the crowd hit the bar for an obligatory top up of alcoholic beverages whilst others cooled down outside in the cobbled courtyard with a pint and a smoke.
At 7.30pm it was outlandish to think that two big 90’s bands had already performed and yet there were still two more to play. Surely anyone would ‘buy that for a dollar?’
It was 8pm and everyone started to make their way back into the venue ready for The Wildhearts and the word on the street was that these guys needed no introduction.
After a few years apart, the band have put the past to rest and reformed to join the Britrock tour and put themselves “back on the map”. Founding members Ginger and CJ, with Danny McCormack on bass and Ritch Battersby on drums played like they’d never been apart as they launched into their first track of the night. By this time, the crowd were ready to take whatever the band were going to give. And damn, they gave……
After a couple of tracks, McCormack made use of the chair he had been given to rest on after suffering an aneurism resulting in the loss of his leg a few years ago. But that didn’t hold him back in any way as he ploughed through the set with determination. Ginger and CJ were on top form on guitar whilst Ritch gave those skins the usual pounding sat at the back of the stage.
Playing top tracks ‘Caffeine Bomb’, ‘Vanilla Radio’ and ‘Suckerpunch’ at full force, it’s hard to imagine that these guys have been around since the 90’s – and with a 60-minute set to contend with, they made it look so darn effortless. And the crowd? They were going nuts and loving every bloody minute of it. The night had come to its peak and everyone was well and truly buzzing after The Wildhearts played their last track.
The night was nearly over and you could almost see the steam rising above the crowd’s heads after another blinding set. The security staff had been kept on their toes dishing out cold bottles of water to sweltering fans.
After a final break of getting some much needed fresh air and taking the opportunity to grab some band merchandise, Nineties ‘Rockers’ Reef could be seen making their way from the tour bus through the courtyard and backstage.
As Reef’s crew prepped the stage and ran a sound check, fans were already sitting tight at the front as the photographers got in position as the venue filled up for the last time.
But the boys from Reef looked at home as they strolled on to the stage. With the bands first album release in 18 years that was already roaring its way up the charts, having a break from the music scene during that time is nothing further from the truth. Since their latest guitarist Jesse Wood, who joined the band following the departure of Kenwyn House in 2014, they have had their fingers in many pies. Vocalist Gary Stringer and bassist Jack Bessant have collaborated to form several other musical projects, whilst drummer Dom Greeensmith has enjoyed performing in another light as a thespian featuring in commercials for Heineken, Nerf and Disneyland Paris. Andy Wallace, another gifted musician, has also joined them on keyboards for the tour and has helped the bands music take another direction of late.
As Stringer strutted to the centre of the stage and raised his hands up to the crowd, Reef opened their set with ‘Naked’ – the legendary track that embarked the band on an incredible journey into the 21stcentury. But there were no Minidisc players to be seen – just a venue full of hot perspiring fans who’d been waiting all night for this moment.
‘I would have left you’ from their top selling album ‘Glow’, had the crowd nodding as Stringer crouched down at the front of the stage interacting with some lucky fans before he was joined by one of the female backing singers to sing ‘My Sweet Love’ as a duet – a track from their new album Revelation which features the voice of American beauty Cheryl Crow, who had been unable to unite with the band for the tour. Some would say that it’s a little less ‘rocky’ than what fans have been used to over the years, yet shows that Reef can pull anything off and live up to their name as the talented rock musicians that they always have been and still are.
With other classic tracks ‘Consideration’ and ‘Place your hands’ on the set list and even a cover of ‘Stay with me’, the relationship between the band and their fans was manifested as they took the time to acknowledge some avid fans in a group called ‘The Laners’ who have been following the band for many years. Stringer was clearly grateful as he took several opportunities between tracks to thank everyone for ‘coming down’ to see them and how Bristol had always looked after them. But what was most heart-warming was that he also thanked the band and said how much he ‘fucking loved playing with them’. What a guy – a comment straight from the heart.
Continuing the night with a mix of old and new tracks, some of the crowd had started a ‘stage diving’ journey towards the front of the stage – just like the old days. And as if things couldn’t get any hotter, Wood decided to join the hungry crowd with his guitar, no doubt sending female fans pulses racing.
New tracks ‘Revelation’ and Precious Metal’ showed Reef at their finest with Stringers gravelly vocals that many have compared with the late Bon Scott, along with stomping drums, gutsy guitar riffs and heavy bass played by bass wielding wizard Jack Bessant – a man who has become a legend in his own right with those long locks of hair that get a good airing every time he’s up on stage. ‘Straight outta Cheddar’, this guy will never stop rocking.
After an hour-long set, it is fair to say that this band have ‘still got it’ big time. Stringer’s voice proved that those West Country vocal chords have become more versatile over the years and can cut the mustard when called upon. Newest member Jesse Wood has filled some rather big boots in a short space of time and nicely fits the bill, whilst Bessant and Greensmith never cease to amaze as they keep coming up with the goods time and time again.
‘Yer Old’, another track that has the crowd jumping in a frenzied state finished the set for the night. But that wasn’t enough as they enticed the band back out for the nights only encore. With the band performing ‘I’ve got something to say’ featuring Stringer on the acoustic guitar, the night was over.
In typical Reef fashion, Wood launched a guitar plectrum into the crowd and Greensmith greeted fans before throwing his drumsticks for someone to catch. Even the towel Stringer had been dabbing himself with all night was the ultimate souvenir for any fan to grab and take home.
For those who have never seen Reef play live, give them a shot – ‘they’ll blow you away’.
All four Britrock bands made their presence well known tonight and they showed no signs of leaving the limelight any time soon. So here’s hoping that the Britrock Must be Destroyed tour will rise again in the not so distant future as it definitely was one hell of a night.
Review and Photography by Emma Painter, Pacific Curd Photography