FIREFEST 2005 REVIEW, PICTURES & TOUR DIARY:


The great tradition of melodic rock festivals in the UK began some 13 years back with Now & Then Records, who kept the flag flying almost continuously until their last show conducted in 2003. Hopefully they will stage another again someday, but fans were certainly looking for someone to announce they would pick up the baton and sure enough Emerald Productions (one Kieren Dargan) and Fireworks Magazine (Bruce Mee) teamed to bring the inaugural FireFest 2005 to fruition.
As is always the case in this day and age – it is hard to inspire melodic rock/AOR fans to get off their asses and get to gigs (anywhere in the world) – but thankfully about 900-odd folks turned up to see a tremendous day's entertainment on May 6 and 7.
From a punter's perspective, this event looked to go very smoothly. There were no major SNAFUs during the day, aside from a few little issues that I'll explain better in the below review, but all those involved in putting it together should be very proud of the outcome.
One can only hope there was enough enthusiasm from all there on the day to suggest a follow-up event might be wise and help build momentum for a new brand name and also help bring some of our much loved bands to the UK.
Many of the regulars from past events were present on the day, all enjoying themselves like the family reunion these events are and I noted several first-timers also.
That says to me that should there be a second event, the crowd will be bigger thanks to word of mouth and a desire by all to support such events so they continue.
Having been to The Gods over several years I also noted the presence of a number of new faces from within the industry present.
It was fabulous to see Dave Reynolds and finally meet the legend in person, not to mention John Dryland from Cargo Records and Adrian and Geoff from Majestic Rock Records.
And it is always delightful to see Khalil and Barry from Escape Music and swap barbs.
Also flying in for the event was part of the team from Frontiers Records, including Serafino, Mario and Elio, who were on hand to witness the UK debut of their act Soul SirkUS.
And Bad Habit's Hal Marbel flew down to meet with fans and labels to present new music from Bad Habit to them. Cool to finally meet Hal and journo Kai who accompanied him.
To the weekend….


Friday Night

Bradford was the scene of the crime and the venue was The Town & Country Club, formerly known as Penningtons.
A was the case with the last 2 Gods shows, a pre-event party was organised for the Friday night.
Set in Town & Country 2, the show was an elaborate backdrop for 200 fans, friends, journalists and bands to gather and share a pint or 23. The place was packed as expected and I was able to catch up with so many great people – both site regulars and friends from past visits to the UK and a few new faces also. Thanks to all for the warm welcome. I love coming over and meeting so many great people in one small time frame/place. I can't speak highly enough of that aspect of these shows and implore others to come along and share in this atmosphere in the future.
In attendance were several of the bands, which makes this event one of very few like it and a truly special occasion. Legs Diamond, Firehouse, Million and Pink Cream 69 all enjoyed the company of fans, as did the bands playing on the night.
First up was Dante Fox, who I walked in on after having dinner with the Firehouse guys. The guys were showing off their new line-up for the first time and played a memorable set. I missed the first couple of tracks, but enjoyed the remainder and thought the guys (and gal!) were on top of their game. Vocalist Sue was in fine voice and the upcoming new material will be anticipated by all that saw the band this night.
Pride were up next – the boys adding the familiar face of Tony Marshall to their line-up as second guitarist. The guys are well known to all in attendance and are almost festival regulars, so their set was enthusiastically received and flawlessly executed (even in the cramped confines of the T&C2 stage).
A couple of new songs were previewed, and old favs went down very well indeed.
Headlining the pre-show night was the fabulous Swedes -
House Of Shakira.
Together with original vocalist Mikael Eriksson, who performed with the band alongside current singer Anders Eklund, the guys got off to a flyer by nearly ensighting a riot.
Yep, rule #1. NEVER play the album intro from
Lint in a Pakistani dominated city! For those not in attendance; a slightly unhinged Pakistani was walking past the venue when the band launched their set – which featured tracks from the classic Lint album. The intro features a reading from the sacred Koran which gives way to a thumping drum intro.
This gentleman took offence to this and promptly went off to gather all his mates to storm the venue and lynch those responsible.
Thankfully the police were not far behind and 4 patrol cars arrived with officers managing to convince the throng that no devil worshipping was taking place inside and dispersed them.
Maybe this was the same crowd which 2 days earlier had hacked into my site?
That incident aside, HOS were on fire and were given a fitting reception. The band sounded wonderful and one of the biggest reactions from the whole weekend was saved for an encore of two Journey tracks
Anyway You Want It and Stone In Love. The crowd went seriously nuts and it was a brilliant end to the set.
The night wasn't quite over though, as after a little pumped in music, a short bonus was undertaken by Michael (drums) and Alan from
Firehouse (the band's bassist on vocals), took to the stage with Chris and Simon from Pride and the guitarist from Million for a 3 track jam of classic rock tunes.
Shortly after the venue closed, but all present got their entertainment value and went away with an awesome prelude to the main event.


Saturday

Pride:
The main event got underway almost right on time, with Pride hitting the stage with a good audience present. Obviously it would build through the day, but it was a good crowd that was lined up out front before midday.
The band repeated their show from the night before, with a couple extra tracks thrown in and made good use of a larger sound system and stage.
Having seen the band a coupe of times before I can safely say they continue to get better and tighter and have those harmonies nailed.
In the process of recording their third album, the new material showcases fit snugly between the more familiar, ensuring the band's trademark sound will continue on into the new record.








House of Shakira:
It seemed just a little odd to be watching a band of HOS's caliber playing at 1pm in the afternoon! They are rightfully a headliner in their own respect, but their position in today's line-up is reflective of the strength of all the bands featured.
The guys were just as professional as the night before – this time running through a true greatest hits set, with tunes from all albums, including a few current tracks like the amazing
You Are and Uncontrolled from First Class.
Delving back into the past, the band supplied crowd pleasers like
Method Of Madness, In Your Head and Morning Over Morocco - which really got this gig going in a big way. The presence of two singers along with the band's regular vocal firepower saw some amazing harmonies on display, but sadly I think the guys suffered from the worst sound of the day.
Not sure why, but the band's mix was distorted and not as clear as it should have been.
House Of Shakira are one of the most original bands in this scene, while still retaining so many elements of classic AOR. Live on stage they live up to their legend.






Million:
Another mod from Sweden were up next and saw the day kick into hard rock overdrive.
Million were proudly promoting their quite excellent new album
Kingsize – which is an apt description of their sound.
The band was looouuuud baby and sound problems from HOS were thankfully solved.
Ripping through a short 40 minute set, the guys played several tracks from the new album, which to me is a leap forward for the guys quality wise. It's these tracks I thought went over best and from the crowd reaction, I think those present will agree with that.
The guys have a simple, straight ahead sound and put in a no-frills performance that instead resonated energy and gave songs like
Rock N Roll Nation, Eyes Of A King and Backdoor Queen a fresh lease of life.
The Majestic Rock Records stand was doing a good trade following the band's set, so that says it all. Their performance undoubtedly won over some new fans today.








Legs Diamond:
A touch of classic rock n roll came next with California's Legs Diamond back in the UK for the first time in a long long time.
Their performance was also the debut for new lead singer John Levesque, who replaced Rick Sandford, who recently decided to do his own thing.
I have to admit, I was a casual LD fan back in the day, but had little excitement about seeing them live. And I'll also admit to not being a fan of singer Levesque.
But, having met the guys and shared dinner with them on the Thursday night, I had a sense of anticipation for their set. They really are the nicest people one could hope to meet and were so genuine all weekend.
So their set…the guys had a lot to prove – can they still rock and what would John Levesque bring to the band?
A lot it seems….this was one of my favourite sets of the weekend and the guys did themselves proud.
I'm a newly converted Legs Diamond fan having scored all their CDs this weekend and after witnessing this great set.
I had forgotten just how good their songs were and the guys ran through a greatest hits set that covered everything. Just check out the compilation
Favourites Volume 1. The set list is well represented there.
So the guys can still rock and Roger Romeo, Michael Prince and drummer Jeff all showed the younger guys how it is done.
But the star of the show was singer John Levesque, who I thought brought a lot of passion and soul to the songs. I'm happy to say I'm now a fan and think he is perfect for Legs Diamond. The high notes were all hit with a blast and the lower range had a soulful edge that really blew me away – especially on the moodier melodic tracks like
Walkaway and I Am For You, plus the big ballad Woman.
And the rockers
Out On Bail, Rock Doktor and Stage Fright were delivered with flawless precision.
A really enjoyable set that converted me for life and I hope had the equal effect on many others. Bring on the new album!








Casanova:
Casanova
is a band that has always been big in Europe and hasn't had any major break through outside that territory and say, Japan.
While not a fan of them personally, I had an interest in seeing the veteran rockers in person and liked what I saw.
I wasn't as impressed as I was in the Legs Diamond set, but that was always going to be hard to follow up on and the guys had a different sound and appeal.
Funnily enough, the Legs Diamond banner wasn't removed from the stage and was proudly displayed on the drum riser throughout the Casanova set!
The guys carried on the general theme of the day – no-bullshit melodic hard rock. Singer Michael Voss was the main attraction and put in a solid performance.
The band offered a couple of tunes from their current album (
Would I for example) and dipped back into their history, including way back to their debut to fill the set (On My Love, The Doctor Is In…).
I don't think anyone was left unhappy by a set list that covered old and new and the guys certainly had a great sound and solid delivery on stage.
Friend of the band Gary Barden (former MSG singer) was in the crowd to meet fans, and joined the band on stage for a version of the song Doctor Doctor.








Dare:
Dare
are another name festival fans will be familiar with. The guys appeared at The Gods 2003 and have since released a new studio and a new live album.
I don't need to explain Dare's stage manner or offer a major review, as anyone who has seen them before will know what was on offer and this performance wasn't too different from past shows which I have reviewed in more detail.
Dare live is much like they are on record - soft melodic rock with lush keyboards and the unmistakably passionate lead vocals of Darren Wharton.
The band had a lot of fans in the crowd tonight and despite having their detractors amongst a largely hard rock crowd, I think most would agree that Dare were very fine this evening. At The Gods 2003 I found the guys to be lacking some energy and a little stale and said as much. However this year they were much tighter and far more energetic and frontman Darren Wharton was clearly enjoying himself.
In fact, all the guys were….even a slight fuck up, where Darren was still backstage when the intro was rolling on stage was spoken of on stage and laughed off with smiles all-round.
There was a little more intensity in the delivery of the tunes and even though nothing from the
Blood From Stone record was represented, the set list was a true greatest hits affair, with every other album featured, including all the classics from the debut including the essential Into The Fire, Abandon and King Of Spades (one of the best ballads ever?).
The set list mirrored that of the new live album, without relying too heavily on the rather soft last studio album - but the performance was definitely more engaging.
What could have been a major lull in proceedings (being that all the other bands are considerably heavier) was in fact a pleasant change in pace and perfectly placed in the running order of the day. 2 quick points though - turn the guitar up more next time :)



xx


Pink Cream 69:
Bugger me, it seems I might have missed one of, if not the best band of the day. In a day-long event, one has to eat and sadly I was late back to the venue and missed the entire PC69 set. That's what happened when a festival runs to schedule with little delay between bands on stage! Bugger. Over to my good friend Phil Ashcroft for his views on what I missed:
“While Mr. McNeice went walkabout on a business meeting (or, I suspect, secretly eating his Orange Aero so he didn't have to share) he unfortunately missed one of the highlights of the day. Pink Cream 69 were simply sensational. From the grinding juggernaut of last year's
'Thunderdome' title-track, to 1989's 'Welcome The Night' and all points inbetween, the Pink ones took control of the stage and forced an audience that were (mostly) previously unaware of their existence to sit up and take notice. Led by Burnley's finest, David Readman, the band blazed through highlights from their recent albums, (with the exception of 'Endangered'), and breathed new life into Andi Deris era tunes like 'Do You Like It Like That' and 'Hell's Gone Crazy'. Readman really is a great singer, and his obvious stagecraft and ease with the task at hand is a strength that takes an already very good band up a notch or two. The guitars of Alfred Koffler and Uwe Reitenauer, and the drums and bass of Kosta Zafiriou and Dennis Ward cut through the Town & Country club like a knife, leaving the muffled Dare as a half-remembered nightmare, although it has to be said that PC69 were by far the heaviest and most direct band of the day. The band also do a nice line in vocal harmonies as 'Lost In Illusion' effortlessly demonstrated, but good songs like 'Talk To The Moon', 'Carnaby Road', 'That Was Yesterday', and 'Sea Of Madness', along with the previously mentioned 'Welcome The Night', were just momentum builders for 'Shame' to take the roof off. If a few people here only knew one PC69 tune then 'Shame' was it, the reaction to this monumental slice of catchy hard rock was quite surprising as the normally reserved UK audience unfolded it's arms long enough to clap along. The band kept the momentum going with 1993's 'Keep Your Eye On The Twisted' and emerged as one of the victors of a great day, and as brilliant as Firehouse were on the night they owe at least a small part of the atmosphere created to Pink Cream 69. A warm-up band in its truest sense.”

xx






Firehouse:
I returned to hear the talk in the audience of the strength in PC69's performance and although disappointed to miss them, was soon consoled by the arrival of Firehouse to the stage.
My first time to see these guys was long overdue and I and all gathered were treated to another greatest hits set, which took in all eras from the band, plus several tunes from the latest
Prime Time release.
The 4-piece band calls upon frontman CJ Snare to take to the keyboards everyone and awhile and having them mounted high on the stage ensured he was still in the spotlight while singing.
Prime Time saw both Bill Leverty and Michael Foster take up lead vocals and each was allowed to do the same on stage.
Firehouse is a well oiled machine and their performance showcased that.
One of my lasting memories of the show – besides the major hits
Love Of A Lifetime, Don't Treat Me Bad and All She Wrote – was the lead vocal from Michael on the cracking hard rocker from Prime Time - Door To Door. This really rocked live and despite suffering a cold, his vocals and the band's harmony vocals were amazing.
The hard rocking
Crash was also well received and is one of the band's best tracks despite being relatively new.
New bassist Alan enjoyed his time on stage with the band and added an extra dimension to backing vocals thanks to his own strong voice.
The crowd was seriously rocking along throughout the set and like Phil suggested, PC69 obviously warmed the house, but Firehouse kept that momentum going strong.
As per the rest of the bands on the day, Firehouse were tight and thoroughly enjoyable and turned in another crowd pleasing performance.



xx






TNT:
TNT
were welcomed to the stage with a thunderous roar as the band ripped into Invisible Noise from the last album My Religion, which sounded even more menacing live.
Diesel pounded the skins, Ronni slayed on the guitar and Tony Harnell swaggered around the stage – a man in command of his troops.
The band delivered what was expected – a hits packed set which saw the crowd ignite on classics like
Intuition and 10,000 Lovers – blowing the roof off with a flawless vocal performance by Tony.
What I enjoyed most though, despite being a long time fan and enjoying everything thrown at me – was the newer tracks!
She Needs Me is a personal favourite from My Religion and went down a treat and Give Me A Sign also rocked. The new tunes perhaps suit the band more now, seeing they have grown up a little from the 15+ years since Tell No Tales.
Having been starved since the release of that album for a live appearance in the UK, fans ate up this performance and responded in kind to Tony's shout-outs from the stage.
Ronni Le Tekro was tonight given a platform to show what he can really do and was a man possessed while playing. He can seriously shred up there with the best of them.
TNT is a band built around some lush harmony vocals, which were simply not reproducible on stage, so they relied on keyboard triggered samples to fill in the chorus and harmony gaps.
I wouldn't go as far to say that it was off-putting, but there was a definite and obvious difference in sound between those original samples and the live vocals of Tony.
He (as we know) can seriously sing his ass off and hit all the high notes seemingly without effort. But, without the benefit of a studio, he can only sing one part at a time live and the best of his abilities were on display here tonight, with samples to back up the band.
Sadly, the set was cut short by 2 tracks after some buffoon closed the stage curtain before the band could return to the stage for their encore. The crowd booed, which is fair enough, but Tony was furious about the screw up and disappointed the crowd was not given what they deserved. A minor flaw to a great set.










Soul SirkUS:
This is where the night got really interesting and where a little explanation is required.
Soul SirkUS came to Europe with their full production team and their own gear. All other bands on the night shared PA and much of the sound gear, but as these guys were traveling with their own, they dismantled the stage and re-built it to their own specs. And there was a little trouble while doing this, so the delay in taking the stage stretched well over an hour, which left a tired crowd very restless.
Sometime after 1am the guys took to the stage – late, but as expected with these guys, they launched with a bang and those that stayed to witness the guys were all smiles as the band ripped through the first part of their set – running through several tracks from their debut album.
When the guys launched into the newly added anthem Alive, things were really warming up. It's here that things took another direction.
I want to explain my thoughts very carefully here. Soul SirkUS is a musician's band. These guys are all talented to the point of insanity and it's evident they savor their time on stage together and truly get off on each others performances.
For this very reason they pretty much do what they want and perform the songs that bring most joy to themselves first and trust the fans will dig the vibe and join in.
Tonight I don't think they did.
The band stuck to what they have been doing in the USA and that is relying on their new material and some entertaining solo spots to fill the set list.
However I don't think that was the best suited plan for this audience. This was a crowd at awe of Neal Schon and genuinely pleased to be witness to his first UK appearance in…God knows how long.
The half hour plus interlude of solo spots is where momentum stalled. Not for everyone mind you – I watched in awe at the talents of Marco Mendoza, who is an absolute machine on his bass (and his head!). Seldom is one able to watch such brilliant musicians feeding off each other wit such enthusiasm.
And drummer Virgil Donati, a fellow Aussie, is a truly sick individual on drums. Holy crap…I have never witnessed so many fills and loops in areas previously deemed humanly impossible. The guy is a freak and I told him as much!
Taking a page from his solo show, Jeff took to the stage himself and played some piano and sang a few tunes himself, including the only Journey track of the night. It received a great applause – if only there was more with the full band.
If only the guys saw the reaction to House Of Shakira covering 2 classic Journey tunes the night before.
Neal also had his spotlight – singing a tune and shredding to the delight of those gathered in front of him.
The addition of a couple of classic Journey tunes would have made all the difference to this crowd. I understand Neal's attitude – this is a different band and he's pleased to be out playing something different. But a little bending of rules for this one performance might have gone a long way to silencing the comments of disappointment after the show. It might also have been a great way to say thank you to the crowd for staying so long and so late to see the band perform.
The bass, drum, guitar and vocal solos took 45 minutes of the shows running time and the guys had to fight to regain momentum.
For some fans it never returned and sadly the band was also denied an encore (not sure why), where at least they could have left the stage on a high note.
Best songs of the set were the intense
Peephole, the hands in the air Stand Up (from RockStar) and the two big rockers My Sanctuary and New Position. Alive was smoking also…
Musicians watching were left speechless from the brilliance on stage, musician fans were left breathless, drummers were left crying and fans were truly appreciative of this band's talents and thankful to Neal for making the trip over.
But Journey/Schon fans weren't given anything aside from Jeff's short solo piece and the performance overall wasn't the home run a festival headliner should be able to hit with ease. Still...I loved it :)

xx











xx










All in all:
A fabulous day/weekend/experience! What else could the result be?
Days like these normally inspire bands to put on a great show, but you can normally pick a couple that didn't quite work. I don't think any band put in a bad effort today. Portions of the crowd will have their favourites, but the day was consistent from start to finish and a couple of acts really surprised me personally with their sets.
The crowd was well behaved, enthusiastic and indulged in the merchandise available.
Bradford City offered nothing as usual, but the venue is tried and tested and again proved to be a great setting for the show.
I can only suggest to those not in attendance to get off their asses and partake in the next event - if and when that should be.
You owe it to yourself and to the bands that can't wait to get on stage and strut their stuff – something that doesn't happen enough in this scene.
Well done to all involved.

The Trip itself:
To be honest, I'm a fool for not doing a daily update from the road with my laptop. But traveling to report back for the site, while also trying to maintain daily updates was a little on the hard side, especially when I really needed a break from them daily routine to start with!
Access to Net connections in the UK was also challenging to say the least, so lessons learnt for a next time perhaps?
A full tour diary now would be a little out of date and somewhat obsolete, but I thought I would put down a few thoughts on the trip and where I was at various times.

The arduous trip over went as well as could be expected – and first up in the UK I crashed with old mates Phil & Sue Ashcroft. True gems if there ever was…
I spent the first day taking in a little of downtown Wigan (didn't take long!), which is a cool town and one I like visiting. Spent the afternoon writing the Bad Moon Rising CD liner notes on Phil's dinning room table. Only a week late…but that's early for me….

Thursday saw us all train over to Bradford. The Holiday Inn proved to be a nice place to crash and despite a lack of Internet access (arrgghh), was very hospitable.
The only band to arrive that day was Legs Diamond. Never met the guys before, but unfortunately swapped a few sarcastic e-mails with new singer John Levesque a year or so back after a bad Wild Horses review.
Meeting the guys established an instant rapport – aside from John, who was polite, but we'd have to work more on that later!
Dinner that night was with the Legs guys and Phil & Sue, plus Kieran and Evelyn. John stayed at the hotel to rest, but the rest of the guys were there and I spent an enjoyable evening chatting with Michael Prince and Roger Romeo. Seriously nice guys and very down to earth.
So much so that a very generous Michael Prince picked up the tab for everyone that night. Thank you Sir.

Friday was hang around Wigan day – had breakfast with Jeff and Michael from Legs Diamond and then went to check e-mail and update the site by sitting in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel and meet up with old friends later that day.
Did a shot of shopping – nothing of major note music wise…a few used discs, but really not much to find.
In the afternoon I did a little more work in the Hilton lobby (they have net access!) and talked with Georg from AOR Heaven, Birgit Schwanke from Rock It/GerMusica Promotion and later Serafino from Frontiers.
Met Hal from Bad Habit and long time contact Kai Brockschmidt and returned the Holiday Inn reception area / bar to see a bunch of familiar Noticeboard/site regulars (hi AndyC) and old friends and the guys from Pride all enjoying a drink.
Firehouse arrived and after checking in headed out for dinner, again with me in tow. After a long internet courtship, it was my first time to meet the guys in person also.
And what a gem, Bill Leverty picks up the tab here again, so I'm 2 for 2 and doing ok here aren't I? BTW, it was the same Indian restaurant and wouldn't be the last time I paid it a visit!

Onwards to the Pre-Show event where I am swamped with old and new faces and have a thoroughly fucking great time.

Saturday was pretty much the show. Spent time in between bands at the merch stall and saw yet more familiar and new faces and let me again say thank you to everyone that said hello – it was very very cool to talk to everyone.
Backstage I finally got to meet up with Steve from ARFM, another long time overdue meeting! Hung with Jeff Scott Soto for a good chat, our first in person since his Oz tour last year. I think we are still both recovering from that…
I am very pleased to say I had a great chat with Dare's Darren Wharton also. Darren expressed some unhappiness with a review I had done for the last Dare album and we hadn't talked much since. But tonight was like nothing had happened and we had a great chat and catch up. “Talking” via the net can never replace personal contact I have to say…one disadvantage of living in the ass end of the world.
Needing a dinner break, I was in the right place at the right time when Jeff asked if I'd eaten. No Sir!
So off to dinner with Jeff, Neal Schon, Marco Mendoza and Virgil Donatti from Soul SirkUS along with graphic artist Richard Mace and the guys from Frontiers Records.
It was a good chance to catch up with Jeff, and see Neal again and also talk a little with Frontiers about what's on the horizon.
I sat between Jeff and Virgil and had a great chat to the drummer extraordinaire (and fellow Aussie), who is one hell of a nice guy.
BTW – it was that same restaurant again and this time Frontiers chief Serafino picked up the tab. Thank you Sir!
Back at the show I talked briefly to John Levesque and congratulated him on a great performance. It really was….
The rest has been described I think and it was well after 3 when we all got back to the hotel.

Sunday morning I was surprised to find myself organized and at breakfast fairly early and had another chat to Darren, still laughing at being backstage in his dressing room while Dare's intro tape was well into running on stage.
Time to head back to Wigan…Phil, Sue and myself hitched a ride with (damn, I've forgotten his name…sorry mate), and stopped mid-Journey for a lunch that took nearly until dinner to arrive.
Recovery night was time to pack, as Monday AM I was off home (via LA of course…)

Monday AM on another flight already…damn I hate these short trips, but they just have to be done! Gotta get home to the family and back into regular work!
Arrived in LA (my designated best city on earth) and jumped straight into a hire car and hit the freeway at peak hour (which is pretty much all day there now)…too cool….
The hotel I chose was in a slightly off-central location in a less than perfect neighborhood (Nth Vermont Ave), but I knew this and was just concerned about the actual hotel. It turned out to be great (for the cash) and very cozy. 2 blocks south of Sunset Blvd, just short of central Hollywood, it suited me perfectly.
Monday night saw me at my usual haunts – Denny's for dinner (quick and easy), then down to Tower Records and an all-night newsstand and Ralph's supermarket for supplies (coke and chocolate).
I spent the entire Tuesday driving all over the city scouring used record stores and came up with virtually nothing of any consequence. The hard rock / melodic rock and AOR vaults of this city have been cleaned out big time…and I guess long ago…
Picked up plenty of used recent releases though - mainly in the modern rock mold, which says to me there's a push for this stuff in the market place, but it isn't necessarily being picked up. A ton of titles in the bins and cheap too. Also scored plenty of cheap catalogue fillers and titles I was missing….
Touched base with Ricky Philips, but he was about to head out of town, and Steve Lukather had sadly done the same. I was to sit in on a playback of rough mixes for the Toto record, but Steve unexpectedly had to head out of town and was due back the day after I left. Too bad :(

Wednesday was shopping and just hanging out time….soaking up the atmosphere, the heat and the smog. Brilliant…
Had dinner with the very fabulous John Harrell – star photographer to the stars (Ozzy, Aerosmith, Metallica, Mr. Big, Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Van Halen, Black Sabbath), who's main gig is writing and photographing hard rockers for Burrn Magazine Japan.
Shared a sensational pepperoni pizza at the Sunset Bar & Grill (amazingly, I didn't see Billy Sheehan or Lemmy there!)

Thursday would see me pack my stuff and load it into the back of the hire car….I fly out tonight, but still time for some more shopping and a few meetings!
Caught up with Eleanor at Sanctuary Records for a hello, then slipped over into the Valley and West (very west) on the freeway to Woodland Hills to catch up with Stuart Smith of Heaven & Earth fame.
I called into “the office”, which happens to be drummer Richie Onori's impressive hillside home. Richie was there, along with Stu and one other than the new singer for Foreigner, Mr Kelly Hansen - all tremendous guys.
On a tight schedule, I took in a tour of the house and studio then headed to the local watering hole for a beverage before heading back to the freeway for a trip back into West LA and the office of Irving Azoff.
I met with John Barack, who helped set up a meeting and concert tickets for me with Journey last time in LA. You've heard the story about sitting down and hearing the Journey album, so I won't rub that in any further…

From there it was a case of a little last minute shopping on Sunset, one last look at Tower Records and Border's, then to the airport and home….where I sit now, typing this and longing for a return voyage in the not too distant future!

Hope you enjoyed this review and general oversight – excuse the typos and grammar (I'm sure there's some errors), this was typed at various parts of the day and night and I always miss something!




ALL PICTURES BY AND WITH THANKS TO: Jesús García Forés / www.cityofdreamsweb.tk / City Of Dreams Radio Program, Radio Mannà 100.3, Castellón Spain.




FIREFEST 2005 LINE-UP & BAND INFO:


XX

Pride will be handed the task of opening the main day's entertainment and in the process ensuring a loud awakening for anybody who may have overdone things the previous night. Again, just to keep it fresh, Pride intend to showcase even more tracks from their forthcoming, as yet untitled third album, as well as long time favorites from their impressive back catalog.

House Of Shakira, still hot on the promotional trail with their current, highly impressive opus First Class, will get the opportunity to mix it up with a selection of material from this, Lint, On The Verge and 3. Definitely a performance not to be missed.

M.ill.ion, currently creating a huge stir in both Europe and Japan with their new album Kingsize, will also dig into the back catalog offering a selection of tracks from the aforementioned as well as 2002's Detanator. Million are one of the few bands creating a genuine buzz and will use the opportunity to convince those that may yet be unsure of their undoubted pedigree.

Germany's Casanova have consistently recorded quality output. From the early days of the major label releases such as Casanova, One Night Stand and Some Like It Different, to the latter day Asian market only releases of Heroes and Sway, Casanova have continually proved themselves to be a major player in the world of melodic hard rock. Their current release All Beauty Must Die was released at the tail end of 2004 and has helped to re-establish the band in Europe after a break of almost five years. This will be the first opportunity to see the original line up of the band in action in the UK and promises to be very special.

Dare for many, are the epitome of British AOR, their debut album Out of the Silence being regarded by many as a classic of the genre, with Abandon, King of Spades and Into the Fire without doubt being some of the finest tracks to emerge from the British AOR scene of the late eighties.
In recent years Dare have continued to release quality albums such as Calm Before The Storm and the current Beneath the Shining Water. The band is soon to release their first live album The Power of Nature on both CD and DVD format.

Legs Diamond are a legend, period, and have shared the stage with more acts than they would care to remember during their now thirty year career Kiss, Styx, Reo Speedwagon, Angel, Starz, Ted Nugent, Y&T, Rush and Sammy Hagar to name a few. Whilst they were initially far more successful Stateside than in Europe, it helped that they were championed by Kerrang! back in the day, with the Diamond Is A Hard Rock album drawing slavering approval from Howard Johnson in July 1982 and the Out On Bail album drawing huge support critically and sales wise on the back of the K seal of approval. Legs Diamond last appeared in the UK back in 1991 in support of their Town Bad Girl album and Firefest is extremely proud to have them as part of their 30 Year Anniversary celebrations.

Pink Cream 69 have evolved into one of the most potent live acts on the scene today. Their fiery brand of powerful, no nonsense hard rock has elevated them to a major attraction on mainland Europe as well as the Far East, where albums such as Electrified, Sonic Dynamite, Endangered and Thunderdome have sold consistently large quantities and helped establish them in the live forum. PC69 were last seen in the UK back in the very early 90's with then vocalist Andi Deris, who was subsequently replaced by David Readman in 1995. This will be PC69's first UK appearance with English born David at the mic stand. It's long overdue and they will without doubt be a highlight of the weekend.

Firehouse will be making their second trip to the UK in just over a year. Their hugely successful tour with Vaughn and Pride cemented the fact that they are one of the most highly respected outfits still treading the boards today. Firehouse arrived on the scene back in 1990 with a double platinum self titled release in the USA which featured the top ten hit single Love of a Lifetime. Hold Your Fire, released in 1992 spawned another massive single for the band with When I Look into Your Eyes that helped send that album to almost platinum status. Firehouse 3, Good Acoustics, Category 5, O2 and current album PRIME TIME have helped the band sell almost seven million albums worldwide and their inclusion for Firefest is a major coup for the promoters. Expect to hear all the hits and some new ones in the making.

TNT are returning to the UK for the first time since 1987. That appearance was a one off show in the Marquee Club and the band are still not quite sure why they haven't been back. For most people, their relationship with the band began when 10,000 Lovers from the Tell No Tales album was a staple on Power Hour back in the day, but subsequent albums such as Intuition and Realized Fantasies sent TNT to the very pinnacle of success.
Following a period of relative inactivity in the nineties, only briefly punctuated by 1995's Firefly and Transistor, TNT have returned as a major force with the release of 2004's My Religion. With Tony Harnell's soaring vocal and Ronni Le Tekro's searing guitar their appearance is long overdue and eagerly anticipated by their legion of loyal followers in the UK.

If there was ever a case of a true 'supergroup' then Soul SirkUS surely fit the bill. Led by the superb guitar slinging of Journey main man Neal Schon, equally aided and abetted by Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza, and buoyed by the addition of possibly one of the finest drummers playing today, Virgil Donati (known as the 'Thunder from Down Under'), Soul SirkUS have recently released the most highly anticipated album in years.
Blending a fusion of Journey-esque melodies with a harder, more European edge associated with singer Jeff Scott Soto's recent solo output, the band have achieved so much in a very short time span. The album has shipped large quantities through Warner in the USA and will shortly be released in Europe by Frontiers Records. For those who are already familiar with the album, its undeniable class is a standout factor.
For those as yet unfamiliar it will blow you away. This is the first time since 1991, when Hardline opened for Extreme, that Neal Schon will grace a UK stage. Jeff Scott Soto has promised a show that will leave nobody in any doubt of the quality of the band live - a challenge that will be proven at Firefest On Saturday May 7th.

FIREFEST 2005 FRIDAY NIGHT PRE-SHOW:

Friday May 6th:
The main day's entertainment is preceded by a pre-show event in Town And Country 2 (adjacent to the main venue) on Friday night, May 6th. The evening will feature a performance from critically acclaimed Swedish melodic hard rock favorites, House of Shakira, who will be treating long standing fans to what can only be described as something very special. With the imminent reissue of their debut album Lint, House of Shakira will perform the album in its entirety, and for the first time in England, will be joined on stage by original singer and long time collaborator Mikael Eriksson, who will perform with the band alongside current singer Anders Eklund.
Also appearing are Brighton based Pride. Following their hugely successful opening stint with Vaughn and Firehouse, Pride have built up a reputation as one of the finest melodic hard rock acts in England with two excellent albums (Far From The Edge and Signs Of Purity) to their credit. Both albums have sold extremely well and have escalated Pride from also-rans to genuine contenders. The band are currently writing and recording material for their third record and intend to showcase some of the material for the first time on Friday night.
Making a welcome return to the melodic rock scene are yet another English band, Dante Fox. Following a self imposed break from writing and recording, the band led by guitarist Tim Manford and vocalist Sue Willetts are keen to showcase material from their forthcoming third album, which according to the band is very much in the mould of earlier albums Under Suspicion and The Fire Within, but with a more mature feel.
It is hoped that most of the bands appearing throughout the weekend will make it down at some stage for a beer and just to say hello, making it a truly informal event that will prove to be a major winner with everybody. Who knows, maybe some of them will even be up for a jam session. Just try keeping Jeff Scott Soto off the stage!
Doors open at 7.30pm on Friday night with Pride taking the stage at 8pm. Each band will perform for approximately 45 minutes and venue closing time, we are advised, is very late. There will also be some spot prizes on offer CDs, T-Shirts and various other bits and pieces.

Please note - due to capacity restrictions in Town And Country 2, there are only a limited number of tickets available and early booking is essential.
Tickets for this pre-show even can only be bought directly from the promoters, at a cost of £3. Payment either via Paypal to fireworks.mag@ntlworld.com or by cheque, payable to 'Bruce Mee', from the Fireworks Magazine address listed below.
FRIDAY NIGHT PRE-SHOW SOLD OUT!
SATURDAY MAIN DAY STILL AVAILABLE

FIREFEST 2005 ABOUT & TICKET DETAILS!:

Saturday May 7th:
Firefest kicks into overdrive on Saturday, with nine bands taking the stage between 12.30pm and 1.30am. Doors open at 12 noon.

Firefest is a new beginning for melodic hard rock in the UK. Many festivals in recent memory have acted as label showcases, but with the advent of Firefest the boundaries will be extended - not only offering a platform for new talent but also endeavoring to attract the biggest names in the field. The inaugural Firefest will take place on May 7th, 2005 at the Town and Country Club (formerly Penningtons), Manningham Lane, Bradford, UK and offers a line up that is amongst the strongest seen in the UK in many years.

Firefest Ticketing Details.
Ticket prices are as follows: Advance Tickets: Sterling £40 (Pounds Sterling) / Day of Show: £45 (Pounds Sterling).

Tickets for the Firefest main day - (Saturday May 7), will be available from the following outlets:
Loud 1, 144 Congleton Road, Biddulph, Stoke on Trent, Staffs ST8 6QN
Tel +44 (0)1782 522370 / Fax +44 (0)1782 765013 / E-mail: gez@loud1.net.
Z Roxx, PO Box 347, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 1FB
Tel +44 (0)1342 300181 / Fax +44 (0)1342 321442 E-mail: sales@z-roxx.com.
RPM Mail Order, 2A Spark Street, Longwood, Huddersfield, HD3 4XB
Tel +44 (0) 1484 643392 / E-Mail mark.rpm@btinternet.com.
Destiny Records, PO Box 139, Fareham, PO15 7JE
Tel +44(0) 1489 603549 / Fax +44 (0) 1489 603550 / E-mail: destiny.records@virgin.net.
ST Records (Dudley) are now also supplying tickets for the Saturday Firefest show. Tel 01384-230726.

Tickets are also available directly from the promoters at the Fireworks Office. Cheques and postal orders:
Make payable to: 'Bruce Mee' and sent to: Bruce Mee, Fireworks Magazine, 10 Dunnock Close, Offerton, Stockport, SK2 5XD, England. E-mail: Fireworks.mag@ntlworld.com
Please note - Paypal is also accepted by using the above e-mail address. Please allow 28 for delivery of tickets.

For those not in a position to purchase online, we are offering an 'e-mail and reserve' system that allows you to e-mail us and reserve a ticket at the advance price (40 GBP per ticket) that you simply collect and pay for on your way into the venue on the day.
This system is only for persons wishing to purchase tickets for Saturday May7th. Those wishing to reserve a ticket using this method should address their e-mail to: firefest@hotmail.com, stating name and address as well as the quantity of tickets you wish to reserve. You will receive a return e-mail confirming receipt of your order.

For those purchasing tickets directly from the promoters, you will be entered into a draw for a fully autographed electric guitar by Soul SirkUS, presented by the band at the end of their performance.
Please note entry into Friday nights show is NOT covered by your ticket cost and a £3 cover charge at the door is applicable. Please also note there is a capacity of only 200 for Friday night's show - and half those tickets have already been sold. Ticket enquiries for either night may be directed to: fireworks.mag@ntlworld.com
Other enquiries to k_dargan@hotmail.com, or fireworks.mag@ntlworld.com.

FIREFEST 2005 LINKS:

Additional Information / Enquiries: k_dargan@hotmail.com, or fireworks.mag@ntlworld.com

Bands: www.soulsirkus.com / www.tnttheband.com / www.firehousemusic.com / www.pinkcream69.de / www.legsdiamond.com / www.barflymusic.de / www.million.o.se / www.house-of-shakira.nu / www.prideofuk.com.

FIREFEST 2005 LOCATION: