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Gig review of China Rats + Grandmaster Flash + Hundred Dollar Cigar + The D.O.T.

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Reviewed on 10th June 2013.


China Rats

Live at Crooked Ways 2013 on Saturday, 1st June 2013

It is just after lunch and I arrive at Pontefract Park, the sun is high in the sky and occasionally disappearing behind a cloud. It looks surprisingly quiet, but Crooked Ways is becoming a festival to be reckoned with, pulling out some impressive and surprising acts. I like the fact that they are putting on something other than the expected headliners. Now in its second year, I was intrigued to see what Crooked Ways had to offer.

My first must see band is Carnabells, who bring catchy melodies, tight guitar riffs and hard as hell drums. They are a band suited to a bigger stage and I don't doubt this is where they will be next year, but for now; they kick off kick off my festival on the Crooked Ways Presents Stage. They draw in the amassing crowd and create an incredible noise. They have a good bit of chat and drop some new tunes, 'Magazine Dream' is so infectious, it instantly takes up residence in my in my head-space. I must give a mention to Mitch on lead guitar whose guitar skills are ridiculous! You can not dislike these boys who deliver proper rock 'n' roll! Carnabells kick ass and close with the brilliant 'Station Road', which gets some genuine appreciation. Look out for their new EP later this year.

After that great start and a little liquid refreshment, The Glass Caves take to the main stage. Enjoying a well deserved upgrade from The Institution last year, they fill the space comfortably, providing a beautiful soundtrack as the sun makes an appearance once more and bestows its rays upon us. It is great to see them on a big stage and Matt's vocals are incredibly powerful live, I would day he has a shade of Liam O'Donnell (of Various Cruelties) about him. As a band, they deliver passion and energy, notably from Elliott, who hits the drums with such vigour; he looses a cymbal stand halfway through 'Dragonfly'. Not to be deterred, they are rescued and he continues at full pelt. Finishing off with 'Slady Ways', a personal favourite, and new song 'Match' which is another brilliant tune. The Glass Caves are destined for bigger things and I will look forward to hearing more from them this year.

I cross over the park to the Institution Stage at the back of the park for Sam Forrest. I am more excited for this, than probably any other artist on the line up. Because somehow, I have managed to miss the last 4 solo gigs and I am damn sure I am not missing this! Sam and his guitar, without too much effort, does not struggle to keep our attention over all the other noise around. Upon finishing a track called 'Unsatisfied' he just says 'Ta'! Nothing more to be said!! He is quite the comedian and rather dryly offers bits of information like announcing that he is 'off to Hull with JLS later today', chatting and tuning his guitar between songs. You can not deny he has unmistakable voice and recognisable, Nine Black Alps lyrical style that shines through. However, it is nice to take it down a notch and this is less raucous and more raspy as he delivers a beautiful song called 'Intermission'. Sam exudes a latent engaging energy, despite the pace of the tunes; I am transfixed and couldn't be happier to have eventually caught a live solo set.

Back at the Main Stage, The D.O.T., Mike Skinners latest reincarnation is next. There is a lot of hype surrounding this dude; personally I believe he has only had 2 or 3 good songs as the streets...so I am waiting to be impressed. However, he manages to pull in a crowd and I have to admit to being instantly more impressed with their pop-y sound and the vibe-y bassline on the backing tracks. The D.O.T. is basically 2 guys, a guitar, couple of keyboards and a clever mixing deck. I like the on stage dynamic and combined; the harmonies really work together, but the vocal strength lies with Rob Harvey the guitarist (who sounds in part like a Yorkshire Adam Levine) and I prefer it when Mike doesn't take the lead. Great set! I entered a passenger and left a bit of a fan. I do like being converted by means of a live show, and I will definitely take another listen.

With a few minutes spare I get a quick bite to eat. Sat just outside the Crooked Ways Presents Stage, I could hear an interesting sound emanating from the tent, so I popped my head in for the last song or two from Hundred Dollar Cigar. They are vocally impressive and there is a little Alex Clare about the lead, Luke Womersley. Genuinely enjoying the stage, they display some quality, bluesy guitar licks, supported by a minimal drum kit that kicks out a decent beat. I will be sure to check them out again.

Full and happy, I venture through the growing crowds at the Main Stage. I find a space near the front, surrounded by fake tans and fake lips, looking like I just walked in to an episode of 'The Valleys' as Grandmaster Flash takes to the main stage and whips up the crowd into a frenzy. He MCs and scratches over some really bad 80s and 90s tunes, but all credit to him, somehow he makes them sound credible and I feel like this is a guilty pleasure. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was disappointed it was just a glorified DJ set! This is grandfather of hip hop and he doesn't sing over his own track 'White Lines', instead he drops in to the Bee Gees, a little old school rave and some up to date dance, repeating like a mantra ' put your hands in the air'. I did really like it!! God help me or give me more beer!

I totally missed Rolo Tomassi, I am at a little loose end and make my way to see Magic Carpet Factory who start with a pretty packed tent and they look all the part of rock stars with the best guitars I have seen all day, but as soon a the vocal drops it is clear they are a little off key and the harmonies are...to be kind, out of tune. As much as they love to play, and that is evident, I am struggling to find a good word! So I decide to venture out for a little more refreshment.

I wasn't able to stay for the rest of the evening, so I made my last port of call, China Rats on Supporting the Son Stage. These boys have played festivals all over Europe and are placed (I feel) on a smaller stage than they deserve. However, they are sounding a little worse for wear today and they are a tad sloppy, but still sound great! How do they do that?! Oh well, what the hell...It is later in the day, so I am sure a few beers have been sunk. They deliver a healthy portion of indie rock 'n' roll with great hooks, nothing groundbreaking, but they have something about them which is really likeable. As their set draws to a close, they drop a slower tune, something about 'I don't want to be a broken man...' which shows the vocal strength of Graeme Thompson, but Jedidiah Allcock on bass is the star in this set up and given chance to shine, he absolutely nails it! They finish it best style with 'N.O.M.O.N.E.Y.' and 'To Be Like I', the song that first drew my attention to them and it sounds great in this festival environment!

...I don't want to go home, but I have to and that is me done for another year. Congratulations to the Crooked Ways Team. You have managed another cracking day for a very reasonable price and I will look forward to being a part of next year!



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8 bands associated with this article.

China Rats


Carnabells are a guitar thrashing, piano bashing, feet stamping rock 'n' roll 5 piece from a old mining village in the heart of Yorkshire. Formed in the summer of 2012, Carnabells have numerous press reviews, BBC radio play and even a TV appearance under their multi-coloured braces. About to embark on a full UK tour, grab your partner and get ready to dance!