The beautiful Etherow Country Park in Compstall Village, Stockport, was the setting once again for this young festival. Only in its second year (last year named Firestorm) it was apparent that word had got out as the site immediately appeared busier than 2022 on arrival, and we heard that ticket sales had increased by an impressive amount.
Many people arrived on the Thursday for the welcome party which included a quiz and members of Whyte Tyger performing covers under the name Tyger. I was sad to have missed this as everyone I spoke to said it was a lot of fun.
The festival proper was kicked off by the Battle of the Bands audience vote winners, Luna Marble. The Manchester four-piece wowed the audience and showed us exactly why they had won the vote. Maria’s vocals were mesmerising and the whole band had fantastic stage presence and heaps of talent. This is a band who are destined to go a long way.
The sun shone down on us practically all day as we wandered from the Trooper Stage (in the massive barn with a bar that I was reliably informed is 99.7 feet long) to the Big Top stage with its own small outdoor bar nearby. The festival was designed so there were no clashes, and we had a minimum of 15 minutes to get from one stage to the other, so plenty of time to get another pint or some food. The food options need a special mention here as there was everything from simple jacket potatoes and chips to authentic Indian cuisine and Greek gyros. There were four bars in total – one on the bottom floor of a converted double decker bus and one a tiny real ale bar with saloon doors – as well as a little van selling a large selection of hot and cold drinks and cake and even an ice cream van, so something for everyone. As well as the food and drink vendors there was a pop-up shop courtesy of the local Post Office and also jewellery, clothing and crystal stalls which were lovely to browse around and worth budgeting for. Another bonus was having proper toilets and showers on site – I didn’t have to use a portaloo all weekend which was a welcome change! The main part of the festival site was on hard standing so no chance of getting bogged down in mud, either.
All the bands were top notch, and included Sons of Liberty who got everyone jumping and Hollowstar, who according to Planet Rock “…are the kind of band that exude so much shimmering potential that you’re reassured the future of rock music could well be in safe hands.” Praise indeed, and well deserved.
Closing the Big Top stage on Friday night were the brilliant Massive Wagons who had brought their own pyros and were clearly loving every minute, with vocalist Barry bouncing and running around and getting the audience involved. Wagons always put on a superb show, and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
As we waited for headliners Royal Republic to grace the Trooper stage, we looked around and noticed a couple of people were wearing stick-on moustaches, then a group of people filed past, also wearing moustaches…. As the barn filled up, more and more moustaches appeared as a tribute to frontman Adam and it became apparent how many fans the band had at the festival. I have to admit that I knew little about Royal Republic before Firevolt but I was hooked!
They are a highly entertaining band with one of the most engaging frontmen out there. They blasted through hits such as ‘Fireman and Dancer’ and ‘Full Steam Spacemachine’, and at one point disappeared from the stage, only to reappear at the sound desk where they sat down on the edge and Adam declared it his “second stage”. They then treated us to an acoustic interlude with barber-shop style vocals which was unexpectedly brilliant.
What an end to the first full day of Firevolt 2023.
Saturday started early with an 11:15 pre-party in the Big Top stage to welcome The Hot One Two. There were shots of ‘Black Rose’ – black Sambuca and Tequila Rose – which were very tasty. I haven’t personally ever done shots that early in the day before, but embraced the festival spirit, so to speak. The Hot One Two had the honour of having the “Ones to Watch” slot created specially for them as when organiser Stret saw them he decided he had to book them, but had no slots left. They had the earliest stage time of the festival at 11:45 and it was heartwarming to see how many people turned up to show their support for the rock n’ roll five-piece. The guys had promised to “bring it” and they certainly kept their word. Guitarist Kev in particular kept the audience entertained with his face-pulling and spinning whilst somehow managing to keep playing flawlessly. I was close to the front singing along to my favourites ‘Bleed on Me’ and ‘The Fray’, and the set was over all too soon. Definitely ones to watch out for!
It was straight to the Trooper stage for Thieves of Liberty who won the judges’ vote at the Battle of the Bands comp at Rebellion, Manchester, and again I was at the front singing my heart out. I saw them for the first time at the competition and immediately loved them. Another hugely talented modern rock band with an engaging frontman in James. They were crowned HRH Champions 2022 and certainly have more accolades ahead of them.
Once again, Saturday was packed with top class bands, including the incredibly popular Manchester band Absolva who brought the metal and dynamic duo The Virginmarys who originally hail from Macclesfield.
Ally and Danny’s set of blistering bluesy punk/rock was a definite highlight for me as I bounced around near the front (definitely a theme running through Saturday!)
I could admit to being slightly prejudiced as I have got to know the guys over the years and have probably seen them live more than any other band, but even if this had been my first time seeing them I’m positive I would have been blown away.
Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, headliners The Answer took to the Trooper stage and proved us wrong. Cormac and the boys rocked our socks off with classic tracks such as ‘Nowhere Freeway’ and ‘Spectacular’ mixed in with newer tracks from their latest album, Sundowners. Cormac brought a tear to many an eye with the Irish drinking song ‘Here’s a Health to the Company’, during which he encouraged anyone with a drink in their hand to raise it when he raised his. His voice really is phenomenal and it was great to see them back.
When The Answer had left us suitably blown away, there was an announcement about a surprise after-party, and we were treated another set of rock covers by Tyger We sang along and danced to everything from Guns N’ Roses to Poison and it was a lot of fun, although it took a while to recover the next morning!
Sunday’s weather wasn’t as kind to us so it was a bonus to have shelter at both stages, and not far to walk from the campsite. Opening band were The Golden Leaves, all the way from Norway. Organiser Stret had got chatting to them when he was over in their native country to see Deep Purple and kept in touch. He said he took a risk booking them for Firevolt, but the risk definitely paid off. The Golden Leaves were a breath of fresh air for a Sunday morning and warmed us up nicely. Next it was over the the Big Top stage for Merseyside band Ashen Reach who exploded onto the stage and had the honour of hosting the only circle pit at this weekend’s festival. They’re not all about moshing, however – the blend of modern metal and melodic rock songs blew away the cobwebs for sure, and they were a joy to watch. There were lots of Ashen Reach t-shirts around the festival site for the rest of the day, so they obviously impressed the crowd massively.
Black Spiders and Dare were always going to be a good finish to The Big Top stage but sadly we had to leave before Kris Barras hit the stage, Monday was an early start.
Overall, a fantastic time was had at Firevolt. The organisation, sound, lighting and set up were all second to none and the whole team had clearly put their heart and soul into the festival. The setting is gorgeous and the site was perfect – in fact it is used for other festivals and weddings throughout the year. I for one will definitely be back next year and I have seen nothing but praise on social media since arriving home. If you’re reading this, don’t even think twice about buying a ticket for 2024 – just get it bought before it is sold out!
Review: Rachel McMurdo
Photos : Philip Goddard
Gallery to follow…..