Event review: Croydon Rocks 2017

By - Monday 11th December, 2017

Paul Dennis reports on ‘the festival to start all festivals’ which left Croydon begging for more

Croydon Rocks day one headliners The Ramonas went down a storm with pogo-inducing punk rock.
Photo author’s own.

Richie Hudson’s ambitious Croydon Rocks Festival has left people wanting more, after two days of brilliant, diverse music rocked the town.

But before looking at the music in more detail, I’d like to pay tribute to the behind-the-scenes organisation that made the festival run like clockwork. These things don’t happen by accident, and the army of people involved in making everything happen without fuss deserves a huge amount of praise. It was the small details that impressed me most, such as regular top-ups of hand towels in the men’s toilets, and if a drink was spilled it was mopped up almost before it had hit the floor. People were working hard to make the two day festival a success – and what a success it was.

The TMRW hub at 75-77 High Street was indeed an ideal size for the festival, as promised by Richie, and the café provided great food and a place to hang out between bands.

Jo Maultby was like Patti Smith with Joe Satriani’s chops

Dirty Scavenger opened the two days of music, and from the name I expected some loud, fast, heavy metal, and I’m sure that many more did too. However, Dirty Scavenger is in fact the diminutive Jo Maultby. With an impressive bag of guitar tricks and heartfelt lyrics, it was like Patti Smith with Joe Satriani’s chops – a great start.

Next up was Asif Ali – guitar- and horn-driven rock – sinewy and sly, and featuring joint festival organiser Pete Wall on the drums for maybe the last time.

Junk Time Party brought some bluesy brashness and a touch of rap, opening the door for Tenyson, who roared in fresh from a clutch of ‘warm up’ gigs with some new material to boot.

Punky heavy pop came to the fore

Dave Sears is another Croydon favourite, and a hugely influential figure, and he and his band played a blistering set, paving the way for Mordecai. They’ve been quiet of late on the gig front but you wouldn’t have guessed it as the band, tight as a wound spring, laid down heavy riffs from start to finish and gained huge roars of approval from the growing crowd.

Punky heavy pop came to the fore, with the excellent Last Great Dreamers and then the Idol Dead drawing a great response and getting everyone dancing.

The Main Grains, led by ex-Wildhearts Danny McCormack, kept the now frenetic pace going, before leaving the way clear for the Ramonas.

The Ramonas were a great choice as headliners to end the first day

Formerly a Ramones tribute band, but now writing their own material, it was ‘Hey Oh, Let’s Go!’ as the Ramonas ripped through their main inspiration’s back catalogue, getting the audience shouting along from the opening number. They were a great choice as headliners to end the first day, and Richie had definitely done his homework with a great line up of crowd pleasers – could he manage it again on day two?

Well, the short answer is ‘yes’. With a roster even more diverse than day one, we kicked off with some old school rock from Out of Exile, before Brothers In Chains, Croyattle’s Alice in Chains tribute band, gave us some gracious grunge to savour. Lit Like Vegas hammered out a fast, energetic and delightfully raucous set as the audience began to grow.

Guildford’s Blind River only went and blew the doors off.
Photo author’s own.

It was clear that the numbers had been swelled by people eager to check out Blind River. The Guildford-based, but with strong Croydon connections, five piece band absolutely blew the doors off their hinges, with classic, original material hard rock. The bar had been raised.

Randy Savages had the unenviable task of following Blind River, but with punk-fuelled rock they managed to pull it off.

Dave McPherson’s acoustic set was a bit of welcome relief after the mayhem, and he was followed by Anavae, a rock duet, in turns ethereal and amazingly muscular and also delightful.

Bringing a banjo to a rock fest might be viewed in the same vein as bringing a knife to a gunfight, but Neck didn’t just do that, they also bought whistles and a fiddle (along with electric guitars) to produce what I can only describe as punk Ceilidh. Brilliant crowd pleasers.

Shush picked up the baton handed on from Neck and even managed to increase the pace with a sparkly mix of alt-pop, before leaving the way open for AC/DC tribute Bad Boy Boogie. Well, you can’t beat a bit of DC, can you? And with a front man who looked like Brian Johnson but sounded like Bon Scott, they were onto a winner.

Legendary USA hard rock band Warrior Soul – a huge coup for Croydon.
Photo author’s own.

Finally, Warrior Soul – purveyors of the ugliest of ugly truths.

Getting a band this huge to headline was a huge coup for Richie Hudson and Croydon, and the Chicago/New York hard rockers didn’t disappoint. Tough, uncompromising, politically charged, and led by charismatic frontman Kory Clarke, Warrior Soul was everything that was expected, and more.

So, two days of very different music – was Croydon Rocks a success? It’s a definite ‘yes’ from me.

Meeting Richie when I arrived for day two, I remarked how well the first day had gone.

“Am I going to have to do all this again?”, he asked.

Sorry mate, the answer’s ‘yes’!

Paul Dennis

Paul Dennis

An award-winning journalist, Paul has worked on angling titles for much of his career, including 16 years as deputy editor of Angler's Mail and 4 years as editor of Total Sea Fishing magazine. He is a regular freelance contributor for a wide array of non-angling-related titles, author of two books on angling and a widely-followed authority on the subject.

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