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HRH SLEAZE VI

Artists: Razorbats, Vanity Insanity, The Royal Beggars, Gelatin Skelatin, The City Kids, Gypsy Pisteleros, Trophies Of Man, BlackRain, Stop! Stop!, Midnite City, Sister, Ted Poley, Deraps, Fallen Red, The Suicide Notes, Hearts And Hand Grenades, Trench Dogs, The Cruel Intentions, CrashDiet

Venue: Sheffield O2 Academy

Date: 25-27th August 2023


Once again I had an amazing time at the festival in the UK that is the most aligned with my personal musical taste.

 
Stop! Stop!
Stop! Stop! Photo by Dawn Osborne

Friday

Opening party night just featured three bands, but I was really glad I made the effort to make it. The sense of anticipation is palpable. Waiting a whole year for another fix, the intro party of just three smaller bands was packed out with people eager to get started.

Razorbats from Olso opened up with their Hanoi Rocks style swagger Rock ‘n’ Roll. How times have changed. As they confidently owned the stage with their Punk Pop toonz I thought: in the old Soho days this is the sort of band where hoards would have turned up to see them as a headliner. A very promising start!


Vanity Insanity with members from Finland/Sweden were a revelation, kind of like Skid Row, but with the singer’s snarling vocals and screams reminding me of Dangerous Toys. Other band names like Mötley Crüe/Cruel Intentions/Scorpions flitted through my mind as I watched them. With gigantic riffs and blistering shreds they wowed the audience. ‘Beautifully Broken’ was described as a ballad, but it had much more of an edge and driving Rock heart, living up to so much more. I was stunned by that song and kept waiting, just wanting to hear the chorus, again and again, before the song finished, even though I had never heard it before. The delivery was fragile and beautiful and made me excited for the future of this band. I did recognise a few riffs/licks that belonged to other bands/songs such as W.A.S.P,. so as long as they avoid casual plagiarism, they should do well. Final song ‘Under Your Spell’ showed the singer’s range capable of scaling great heights.


The Royal Beggars had a sort of Americana seventies vibe going on. Honestly, their sound was a bit middle of the road for me, not enough edge for a Sleaze festival, but they were clearly experienced, had a solid offering for their genre and went down well. There was a bit of excitement for all the ladies as the drummer removed his shirt. The vocalist had a bit of an Amish look going on which is certainly distinctive. It was the first time I had heard any of their material and will reserve judgement on their songs for now.


Saturday


Gelatin Skelatin from Ottawa opened the main stage with a solid offering of Classic Sunset Strip style Hard Rock. Despite the early hour they attracted a respectable crowd and kept them engaged.


Next up Punk Pop band the City Kids are always good value for getting a party started. There were many bleary-eyed people in the audience explaining they wouldn’t usually be here so early, but they are friends with this band. The band were worth turning out early for with their infectious melodies and covers of the much loved Supersuckers anthem ‘Pretty Fucked Up’: they injected the venue with their enthusiasm and energy, with Dennis Post’s accomplished shredding lifting them to the skies.


Gypsy Pisteleros took the baton and ran with it with their enthusiastic flamenco inspired Glam Rock, taking along with them even the uninitiated with their lively covers of ‘Living La Vida Loca’ and ‘Come On Eileen’.


Trophies Of Man opened the Second Stage with their Deep Purple inspired full on Heavy Hard Rock and stratospheric screams from Flash Sawyer. They have completely changed from their origins as King Lizard with songs like ‘Devil On My Back’ and ‘Never Be Mine’ transformed into their heavier more modern offering. They threw in a cover of GN’R’s ‘Night Train’ at the end to help ignite proceedings.


A real treat to see BlackRain, with Swan Hellion demonstrating his epic frontman credentials by working the crowd as if the band were headlining. Their big smiley bassist Heinrich reminds me of a 2023 version of Chris Holmes, gifted with crowd engagement. They are taking no prisoners and whilst they are a seasoned band, they attacked the crowd with a undiminished hunger for taking the energy up way beyond ten. Finishing with ‘Hellfire’ their set seemed to go by in a glorious flash.


Stop! Stop! with their new handsome blonde guitarist Dennis Felperlaan and vibrant Glam stomps are all about entertainment with highly choreographed shaking of headstocks and polished delivery. They know how to get a crowd galvanised and kept up the party momentum. They finish with a totally metalised version of ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’, a trip around the crowd for the whole band, including the drummer with a snare around his neck, and AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. The crotch thrusting bass bouncing would have made Steel Panther proud.


Midnite City brought their consummate musicianship and sounded awesome, adding tracks from the new album like ‘Girls Gone Wild’ and ‘Raise The Dead’ to a set of classics. Rob Wylde’s vocals sound flawless, even while he rushed constantly around the stage making members of the crowd feel special and valued. No wonder they have such a dedicated fan base.


Sister are all about visual theatre and cut dashing figures onstage with their death growl, harder, darker aesthetic. A complete contrast musically to the melodies of Midnite City, they worked just as hard to keep the crowd thrusting their fists and begging for more. This band are indeed compulsive viewing. Part of the genius of HRH is to keep changing up the line up so things never get boring.


And talking of never boring, Ted Poley bounced on stage, bringing his pedigree as a real Sunset Stripper, the genius of his Danger Danger back catalogue and his sunny disposition and star quality. Backed with the firepower of the Midnite City band, he is a consummate pro, taking all that American easygoing charm and working the heartstrings of everyone in the building like a church bellringer. His real sense of empathy and desire to connect had him bringing a member of the audience onstage to sing an acoustic version of ‘Most Beautiful Girl’ on her birthday, not only giving her an experience she will never forget, but designed as a thank you to her husband for being a loyal fan for decades. Poley spent a whole song working his way around the audience, allowing them to take selfies and get hugs while performing. He was also seen coming out afterwards to make a fuss of a disabled fan who he had made sure could see the show by bringing her front side stage. All this on top of sounding great and lifting the spirits of everyone in the building by his burning spirit alone. Maybe they don’t make them anymore like Ted! Or maybe they make one or two … as Rob Wylde of Midnite City joined him for finale ‘Naughty Naughty’. It was genius to couple Ted with the consummate musicians of Midnite City to make sure costs were kept down for bringing a star across the Atlantic, but giving Poley the oompf behind him of an electric band, while the acoustic session in the middle gave an impression of a special evening with a true blue blood of the genre.


Sunday


Openers were Deraps from Canada, who are good solid Rockers over here and fresh from Stone Dead too, so not a niche Sleaze band. They demonstrated a bit of a sense of humour with a song about love called ‘Fuck Off’. They got a respectable audience showing polite interest, but with a strategically placed strong version of ‘Highway Star’ they get a whole new level of buy in with proficient guitar playing and fairly decent vocals. Adding an entertaining and recognisable version of ‘Hot For Teacher’ they certainly left the auditorium warmed up for more bands.


I don’t think it’s surprising that Fallen Red seem to be less jovial than they were before they knew about the illness that led to the loss of their band mate. The new bassist really tried to step up to the plate and they Rock out with all their heart in tracks like ‘Shake The Faith’. Singer Rozey displays a nice whisky voice for ‘My Town, My City’ where a modicum of joie de vivre is shown. They seize the elephant in the room as they expressing how “shit” it was to lose their brother Mikey to cancer, but seizing the moment they ask the crowd to sing choruses as loud as they can so that “wherever he is up there or down there he will hear”. Guitarist Shane Kirk seems to be a bit of a frustrated frontman as he seems to really enjoy engaging the crowd, although he is clearly more subdued than he was before. I guess when something like that happens you are never really ever the same, like losing a member of your family. They point out it’s five years since they were there. They were defiant in the face of loss and left with the statement “If you ain’t come here to rock u can fuck right off.”


The Suicide Notes don’t seem to have a lot of new songs since I last saw them, but they did sound tight as if they have been playing or rehearsing recently, not at all rusty. Billy was his engaging charismatic self with his swagger and Captain Jack Sparrow slurring and stagger chic. Everything Billy does is from the heart and emotions, or perhaps from his crotch so much so he exploded his hands out from it declaring “that’s my love to all of you”. Flinging his mike around he elicits sniggers when he says that a song was written by the campfire years ago and it proves to be The Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’. Looking vaguely Iggy Pop-ish at times he looked vaguely startled when the band start to play. He did a sneaky strip teaser to give us a glimpse of his tattoos on his arms, but kept on his white graffiti laden wife beater before launching into ‘Smoke A Cigarette’. “Thank you for keeping the scene alive you beautiful motherfuckers. See you at the bar!” is his parting shot and I do indeed see him later, true to his word.


Hearts And Hand Grenades were the only female fronted band of the festival, at least on the main stage (I was not able to catch most of the bands on the second stage as set times overlapped), which is a shame as they were not really sleaze, more sort of Cyber Goth, Alternative or something. They had a really quite bizarre song combining Country, Pop, Hip Hop and Rock. Anyway, it was all a bit something not quite me.


Things look up though with the fabulously entertaining Trench Dogs. Loving the full-on fifties inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll! Andy looked the part with his Pretty Boy Floyd style black spikey hair (becoming vanishingly rare these days), a bright red teddy boy coat and his eccentrically jerky expressive dancing, throwing his tambourine up and down, making him compulsive viewing. Even though some of the tracks from the new album like ‘Wine Stained Eyes’ and ‘Maroon’ are less fast, they still worked well. With tracks like ‘Watch My Bridges Burn’ they still embody that messy can’t help it car crash of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band that most people really, really love. We missed Howard and they introduce his replacement as a French guy Erwan “Stone” Lengliney. Apparently by the bands own admission they were fucking up songs left right and centre. If a disaster musically, it still sounded beautiful to me.


The Cruel Intentions brought their high-octane Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll and cranked it to the max, keeping up the momentum with musical dynamite like ‘Kerosene’. Lzzy DeVine is another guy great at keeping up the Rock ‘n’ Roll mystique. Infectious melodies like ‘Sunrise Over Sunset Strip’ and ‘Genie’s Got A Problem’ are folded into a harder Metal sound. They played the new single released for the first time outside Japan. They were feeling comfortable enough to play a song with Swedish lyrics and the crowd accepted it no problem at all. And while we can’t understand it, he does appear unsurprisingly more expressive body language wise in his own language. ‘Go Fuck Yourself’ is delivered with a smile and an invite for the audience to buy some merch and keep the band in beers. ‘Venomous Anonymous’, ‘Reapercussion’, ‘Weekend Suffering’, and ‘Jawbreaker’, the quality of the new album is expressed by the large number of new tracks played, sandwiched around an old Vains Of Jenna track ‘Enemy In Me’ for those who have been following Lzzy that long. Finishing with ‘Borderline Crazy’ and ‘Sick Adrenaline’ they are a firm favourite with the crowd. Engaging and absorbing!


Headliner CrashDiet came on to huge cheers. From the moment he hit the stage singer Gabriel did not stop trying to excite the crowd, but they were already there and truly receptive. This crowd had been drinking all day, some of them going to the bar four or five times an hour... I counted. The North Easterners know how to Rock and I am delightfully reminded of my old days at Rock City with the sheer abandonment to the art of the party that I see less and less in the South (where beers are dear!). Gabrielle was effusive; “Thank You for being everything we need, without you Rock ‘n’ Roll is nothing. Thanks for coming and being kickass, we love you.” His nice clear voice was particularly apparent on the line “it’s a miracle” He encouraged the crowd to sing and it was amusing as the high register was clearly all girls. Ladykillers to the last! By the time of ‘Chemical’ the crowd were literally pogoing unprompted right through. We got an encore of biggest tracks ‘Breakin The Chainz’, ‘Queen Obscene’ and ‘69 Shots’ with Gabrielle running right around the audience... and what else to finish but ‘Generation Wild’ with the pogoing going on till the very last unfeasibly high note, when the band was joined by Brett Kelly of Gelatin Skelatin (I think it was him, although it was hard to see from where I was due to his trucker cap.) It may be my imagination, but the band seem heavier than ever tonight. Peter London is not yet back in he ranks, although Julie from the fan club tells me he may be back in a few months. The band are holding the fort for him admirably till he returns.


The verdict:


Once again I had an amazing time at the festival in the UK that is the most aligned with my personal musical taste. Be warned they have moved the festival away from the August Bank Holiday next year to the first weekend in September. Be there if you can!

 

Review and Photos: Dawn Osborne

 

 

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