After April 2015’s epic four-night festival at Whitby Pavilion, it’s almost a relief to go back to the less exhausting two nights of gigs. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of relaxation – the Whitby line-up this year is still stuffed with bands to appeal to veterans, newcomers, casual and crucial fans alike, and if you catch the lot – like this fearless blogger – you’ll find yourself missing your days just to make it to the nights!
Friday night, first night and first band. It’s a tough slot for any band to tackle, but Chasing Dragons hit the stage confidently. They’re from Leeds but don’t have any whiff of patchouli about them – instead it’s pure, classic rock and roll all packed into the mobile and vocal form of lead singer ‘Tank’. She has incredible power, impressive range, and sounds like the daughter of Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns and Roses combined!
The band hits us with a power ballad called “Don’t Play Dead” that proves Tank is anything but, roaming the stage, striking poses on the monitors and roaring at the crowd. The audience themselves are a little lacklustre – this is a difficult slot to play – but they’re soon clapping along to Chasing Dragon’s pumping beat. These guys deliver honest, chugging rock and roll that not only breaks the ice, but gleefully tramples it into water – and Whitby has lift-off!
The next band up is firm fan favourites, Bad Pollyanna. These alt-rockers are also from the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire, and are a foundation stone of WGW – they’ve played every November since 2012, to fans eager every time to hear them again.
Unfortunately the start of their set is marred with technical difficulties, but I’m pleased to report that was the only issue all weekend! Once they’ve gotten everything straightened out, singer Olivia Hyde is immediately into the thick of it, twisting us all out of shape! She’s deeply charismatic, powerfully passionate and a superb, experience promoter as she stokes the audience’s enthusiasm. It is a truly warm welcome for these veterans, as they effortlessly deliver complex guitar solos with lyrics that pluck at heartstrings.
One of their new songs, “Pull The Trigger”, goes in a very industrial direction and I’m nodding really appreciatively even as I’m trying to take notes. Soon after, they deliver the goose-pimple causing classic “Invincible Girl”, written in memory of Sophie Lancaster, with just a lone electric guitar and Olivia’s voice. The room is breathlessly silent, and as the last notes fade away, explosively appreciative. Bad Pollyanna then swing right back into the heartfelt dark rock that makes them so addictive, and “Wake Up” goes down to a storm of cheering, who are clearly connecting with the song on a deeply personal level. It’s what Bad Pollyanna do so very, very well.
Fearless Vampire Killers are back after an outstanding set at WGW November 2013, playing with Bad Pollyanna and supporting William Control, some of the strongest artists that have played Whitby. These guys prove they have what it takes to hang with the big hitters, and they take the stage to near-hysterical cheering. As befits Halloween, the whole band have arrived tricked out as various Jim Carrey roles – I can see an Ace Ventura and The Mask exchanging vocal duties right at the front.
The crowd love it – the first few rows are ablaze with camera flashes, and they’re soon lapping up the band’s frenetic emo-punk noise. It’s youthful, vibrant rebellion and you can tell why they’re such a good pairing with Bad Pollyanna – their underlying message is so similar. The fans are utterly tuned in, word-perfect as they sing along, and in many cases scream appreciatively. Even when Fearless Vampire Killers roll out new tracks from their new EP “Bruises”, released just a week ago, the audience is surging along in time and you know their fearless fans are memorizing all the words.
They return to older songs like “Death or Disgrace” and they get actual screams and squeals of appreciation – you suddenly realize you’re utterly surrounded by a fan-base of impressive size!
However, it’s gotta be said these fans probably have an average age in the teens, early twenties at best. Beyond myself and a few hardcore onlookers, anyone in their thirties has already drifted to the bar. I observed last year, while watching William Control, that there is a much younger generation of fans coming to WGW who might not be as connected to Eighties classic bands like many Goths – and again, I’ll observe that it’s probably a good thing.
Goth can be terribly stuck in the mud at times, and bands in the vein of Fearless Vampire Killers are bringing a wealth of new blood into this scene, if you can forgive the pun!
Still, the top seat at the table always seems to be occupied by a Golden Age outfit, and this year it’s Claire Grogan’s new-wavers Altered Images, who started off championed by John Peel, and had high scoring hits in the top forties in the early Eighties.
As if to remind us, Claire greets us all in that soft Scottish lilt she’s famous for, letting us know it’s her first time in Whitby, as the iconic piano riff from “Happy Birthday” plays behind her. It’s a trick! We suddenly segue seamlessly into “We’re Just Ourselves”, and just as easily slip back to 1982. Grogan’s voice is unchanged, flawless, and confident. She is a diplomat, describing the shared interests we all have – an experience Altered Images have, of course, from their tours supporting Siouxsie, and the Cure, and Adam Ant to name a few.
It isn’t the original line-up, of course – Grogan has instead assembled a glamorous array of ladies to back her up, but the sound is still authentic; she makes a nod to their earliest days, recognition from John Peel, and they fire up “Insects”, his favourite track.
The audience is a complete shift from those who applauded Fearless Vampire Killers. It’s a large but mellow crowd, who nod along and cheer in a deeper, bass note to the songs they know. Grogan herself is calmer and reflective, waxing lyrical about the songs that have become a diary of her life. For her, performing is a callback to the early career of Altered Images, and we’re at total contrast with the frenetic new activities of the younger bands on the bill.
This isn’t to say Altered Images are out of touch – on the contrary, after satisfying the crowd with a perfect flashback to those early Eighties heydays, they suddenly pull off a blistering cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”!
It’s brilliantly accomplished, and in one swoop Altered Images have suddenly upgraded themselves and delivered a slice of cheesy pop that the even the most po-faced Goths lap up enjoyably! Claire Grogan turned the wheel full circle, and it’s a fitting end to the first night of WGW.
Many thanks to Mel Butler Photography for our pictures. Check back soon for our Saturday Night Review!