Basingstoke's Blazingsmoke

Promising 12 bands for a measly £8, the Blazingsmoke Festival was set to deliver a day off rock and punk to blow away those post-Christmas blues. Unfortunately, 12 bands became 11 before it even started, with Stup!d having to pull out due to injury. However, despite some bad weather forecast and a small crowd, possibly due to train problems, three-piece Mariah took to the stage at around 2.30pm. Playing their debut gig, they opened with ‘Anti Matter’, a rocking track that would hopefully set the tone for the day. The Misnomer followed with a short, in-yer-face set. Their emo sound is perhaps better suited to recording at the moment, and it’s certainly not unique, but they seem to have a fairly loyal local following. After some delay, which turned out to be a bit of a theme for the day, AR Pussy set about trying to prove that their music matches their youthful, punky image. It didn’t. Their attempt to keep the punk-vibe alive failed miserably and reduced most of the audience to laughter, instead of to the ‘mosh pit’ they seemed so intent on forming. Sacred Flesh follow with no pretence of continuing the punk-vibe. They’re hardcore metal and proud of it. It’s not normally my thing, to be honest, but they genuinely both surprise and impress me. Their musical ability and obvious enjoyment of what they do made their set one of the surprises, and highlights, of the day. The Skintight Jaguars tried in vain to get the crowd more involved with their fast, furious, thrashy, sleazy rock n roll. They left more annoyed than satisfied, I think, due to the crowds reaction, or rather lack of reaction, which was a shame. It was also a shame that they left the stage in such a state for the next band, having kicked their pints all over the place. Still, Sell the Lexus, Burn the Olive Tree took to the now-cleaned stage in front of the largest crowd of the day so far and seemingly turned the volume up, playing their own brand of melodic rock. There’s attitude in abundance, with the singer prowling the stage, and even having a go at the previous band, and the guitarist looking like he was ready to blow up. Timshel, a four piece from Southampton, follow and are in a different class to their predecessors. Sounding like a cross between Reef and Led Zeppelin, they have a funky-retro-70s vibe going on. Musically they are spot on too, with tight rhythm and classy solos topped off with clear vocals. Impressive. What can I say about The Johnsons that hasn’t already been said? They are one of this town’s finest bands and as soon as they took to the stage you knew that they would step on the accelerator pedal and take the day to another level. And they did, playing their usual set of high energy, up-tempo, punky, indie-rock. Which brings us to Instill. I have to admit that this band are one of my favourites and it's not just because of the music – it’s the whole package. They have a good look and a professionalism about them, but most of all they clearly enjoy what they do. Their sound is tight and polished and I don't think there was any other band on the bill that were as together as this lot. Tracks like 'C3=Fudge' and 'Operation Go!' are real favourites, with the former getting multiple plays on Kerrang! The heavy gigging schedule in 2005 has done them good and that doesn’t look like it's going to stop in 2006. Eleventh band on the bill, The GODS, unfortunately didn’t get to play, despite hanging around all day. Poor time-keeping by the other bands was to blame and it has to be said that events like this would run much smoother if everyone involved co-operated and stuck to agreed timeslots. Anyway – rant over, and onto headliners Splodgenessabounds who have, as Max Splodge, the lead singer, mentions, been around for 30 years. Their punk rock set was blistering and didn’t let up, featuring a number of their late 70s hits including '2 Pints of Lager and a packet of crisps' and the excellent '2 Little Boys'. The obligatory encore saw them do a further 2 songs and once again the stage was invaded, mics were uprooted - it was mayhem, but all in the best possible way. Splodgenessabounds are the real McCoy - have no doubt about that.
Edited by PH