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The Mayor’s Festival 2024

Artists: Terrorvision, The Hot Damn, She Burns Red, The Hot One Two, Voodoo Sioux, New Saints, Jayler.

Venue: Wolverhampton, KK's Steel Mill

Date: 06th April 2024


"I can’t think of a venue in the country that I would put ahead of this extremely professional team of people. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event."


 

Terrorvision © Myke Gray
Terrorvision © Myke Gray

Today, I am back at my favourite music venue, KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton, for The Annual Mayor’s Festival 2024. An event that raises funds for charities chosen by the incumbent Mayor, Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre. An impressive seven band bill will be showcasing their talents throughout the day, with a mixture of both youth and experience on display.


Jayler


Opening proceedings were a local band called Jayler. It took less than thirty seconds for their huge potential to become apparent. This is the Classic Rock band that the UK has been screaming out for. A line up that features James Bartholomew on lead vocals and guitar, Tyler Arrowsmith on guitar, Ricky Hodgkiss on bass, and Ed Evans on drums. Four good looking lads who have an abundance of star quality.


Arrowsmith was born to be a guitar hero. Instinctively he knows all the right moves and poses. Vocalist Bartholomew is as fearless as he is charismatic. Even though they were the opening act, and it was 1.30 in the afternoon, he was performing as if they were headlining Madison Square Gardens. What makes him slightly unique is that he looks as comfortable with a guitar as he does without. The rhythm section of Evans and Hodgkiss are both powerful and groovy. The youthful energy coming off the stage was infectious, and the audience responded to them immediately. As each song finished they were becoming more emotionally invested in the band. Arrowsmith and Bartholomew seem to have a natural chemistry, I can see them both being featured in the pages of countless magazines. As their set was coming to a climactic finish, they both ran offstage, into the crowd, while still playing guitar solos. It was a moment that put a smile on everyone’s face.


But of course, the songs are what makes a band great. Great songs will always outlive their writers. It’s still early days for these guys in the songwriting department, they just need a little time to develop their own style. When the quality of their songs are equal to their dynamic stage performance they will be unstoppable. From what I’ve been told they are still teenagers, and if that’s the case then the future bodes extremely well for them. My only fear is that they fall into the hands of someone who is not experienced enough to help them reach their full potential. Either way I predict that within the next twelve months Jayler will become one of the hottest bands on the live circuit.


New Saints


Second band on were New Saints. After an understandable leave of absence they are making a welcomed return to the scene. At one point in their career they were playing with bands such as Skid Row & Anthrax, so they come with considerable pedigree. Musically they are a direct reflection of the formidable stage presence of vocalist and guitar player Connor Emms. A man who looks like he runs through brick walls for fun. Their songs are structured around powerful melodies sung over powerful riffs, all played with total commitment. Drummer Dez Wootton was the only person in the building who looked more physically intimidating than their lead singer. The line-up is completed by Jon Hayward on bass and Rob Grosvenor on guitar. They are tight, well drilled, and work as a team. With song titles like ‘Last Men Standing’, and ‘No Tomorrow’, they are going for the heavier end of the market. They are well received by the audience and you could see their confidence growing as their set progressed. Like all good bands they saved their best for last and closed with their stand out song ‘Saviour’. I hope this strong performance serves as a catalyst for future shows.


Voodoo Sioux


Right from the start it was clear that this band was much loved by the people in attendance. They have been regulars on the scene for some time, and have built up a strong and loyal fanbase. A line up that consists of Nigel Halford on drums, Mario Ermo on bass, Jon JB Blakey on guitar, and Nick Flaherty on vocals. All of them are accomplished musicians and seasoned stage performers, so it was no surprise to see them put on an extremely professional performance. In Flaherty they have a colourful and entertaining front man, someone who puts a lot of creative thought into his stage presentation. Collectively the whole band were impeccably turned out, and very stylish in their dress sense. They delivered an uplifting set of Rock And Roll tunes that created a party-like atmosphere. Even though Voodoo Sioux performed as a band, I have to say that bassist Mario Ermo was a revelation. I saw a lot of fantastic musicians over the course of MayorFest, but if I was asked to give an award for Musician Of The Day, I would hand it to him without hesitation.


The Hot One Two


I must confess that until today I hadn’t actually heard anything by this band. But after the first song I was asking myself why the hell not? They hit the stage like a wrecking ball and proceeded to tear it apart. Each band member worked tirelessly to engage with the audience, having an enormous amount of fun in the process. They genuinely looked like they were having the time of their lives. The audience didn’t really have any option other than to participate in the festivities. The band is made up of five extremely talented musicians, all of whom have very strong stage personas. Guitarist Nick Manners looks like he cuts down trees and builds log cabins for a hobby. Bassist Nick Blackburn looks like a tennis player from the seventies, singer Simon West has eighties porn star written all over him, Guitarist Kev Baker is like a caffeine injected version of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, and drummer Joe Chivers holds the whole thing together with an air of sensibility. But don’t let my intentionally humorous descriptions mislead you, this is a seriously great band. Most importantly they have the songs to back up the stage show. The audience loved them and they went down a storm. I highly recommend checking this band out the next time they go on tour as I believe you won’t be disappointed. The Stonedead faithful are in for a treat when The Hot One Two open proceedings in August.


She Burns Red


The first thing that strikes you about She Burns Red is the incredible stage presence of bass guitarist and singer James McCulloch. A visually spectacular living work of art. Once you get beyond that, you very quickly realise that you’re watching a great band. The line-up is completed by Andy Moore on guitar and vocals, Naz Scanferlato on lead guitar, and Scott Hanlon on drums. I like everything about this band. They have two singers who share the vocal duties, somewhat reminiscent of Stanley and Simmons in the early days of Kiss. They have great songs, which are powerful yet still extremely commercial. In Scanfelato they have a bonafide guitar hero, if you can imagine a blend of Ricky Warwick and Brain Robertson you would be halfway there. Visually they look like warriors who’ve descended from the highlands, intent on massacring unwanted intruders. Even though this was my first time hearing any of their songs, instantly ‘Crosshairs’ and ‘Out Of Darkness’ lodged themselves into my psyche. They are unquestionably one of the best bands on the current circuit, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t ascend further up the ladder comparatively quickly. I look forward to seeing them again at Call Of The Wild Festival in May.


The Hot Damn


Yet another band that I hadn’t seen perform until today. A four piece featuring Gill Montgomery on guitar and vocals, Laurie Buchanan on bass, Liz Hayes on guitar, and Josie O’Toole on drums. I like it when a band puts real thought and effort into their presentation. I believe that image is an important part of any brand. Visually The Hot Damn are colourful, energetic and uplifting, which matches their music perfectly. If I had to categorise I would describe them as Power Pop Punk, if such a genre exists. I hear a lot of eighties influences in their writing, but it’s integrated into something modern and relevant. Montgomery has obvious star quality and her bandmates do a great job in supporting her onstage. To my ears ‘Live Laugh Love’ and ‘Damn Damn Damn’ are their stand out songs. The make or break of a lot of bands lies in the quality of their backing vocals, there is no point writing songs reliant on vocal harmonies if you don’t have the personnel to execute them live, but tonight they sounded excellent. They were a great addition to the bill and the audience loved them. To my ears their music has global appeal, and I see no reason why they wouldn’t be able to attract an audience in the US.


Terrorvision


There is a very simple reason why Terrorvision has had a 32-year career. The reason being, they are, and always have been a fantastic band. They started out as four young lads full of hopes and dreams that evolved into a very sophisticated Rock And Roll machine. Originally, they were a plug in and play four piece, but now they tour with a keyboard player, backing singers and a brass section. One thing that Terrorvision has always had is vision. Another thing they’ve always had is charisma. The three founder members, Leigh Marklew on bass, Mark Yates on guitar, and Tony Wright on vocals, were cool right from the start, and 32 years later nothing has changed. Yates is like the Paul Newman of Rock, he doesn’t actually have to do anything to look like a Rock star, he just does. Marklew is a dynamic stage performer, and a man of a thousand facial expressions. But it’s their frontman Wright who is the absolute engine of the band. Every time I’ve seen them perform live he pushes himself to near exhaustion. He is unquestionably one of the greatest frontmen this country has ever produced. They are joined by Milton Evans on keyboards, Chris Bussey on drums, and on brass and backing vocals, Liz Mitchell and Nick Hughes.


The stage is a sea of pink and black, with everyone colour coordinated. Their visual presentation has always been something that set them apart from the rest of the field. But ultimately, as it is with any band, it’s the songs that really matter, and Terrorvision have hits for days. All the classics were played, ‘Oblivion’, ‘Middleman’, ‘Alice, What’s The Matter?’ ‘Tequila’ and countless others. They had the audience in the palm of their hand from the moment they walked on stage, and that’s where they remained for the duration of their set. The finished on two Terrorvision classics, ‘Josephine’ and ‘Perseverance’. It was the perfect end to a fantastic day. The two comperes Pete K Mally and Gary Foster did a great job in-between bands. The management and crew at KK’s Steel Mill once again made a very difficult job look incredibly easy. I can’t think of a venue in the country that I would put ahead of this extremely professional team of people. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.


 

Review & Photos: Myke Gray

 

Gallery: All photos © Myke Gray (used with kind permission)

Jayler:

New Saints:

Voodoo Sioux:

The Hot One Two:

She Burns Red:

The Hot Damn:

Terrorvision: