Blue and green record exploding into shards

Rock For Life

By all accounts, Rock for Life is a charity-driven event linked to King Richards School. Indeed, I’m easily parted with my loose change as I leave the wonderfully flamboyant, but slightly neglected Kings Theatre in Portsmouth. However, I must admit that, despite handing over my money, I have no idea what exact charity will benefit from the proceeds.

On offer tonight are a huge seven bands and, in tribute to the surroundings, one interval and with such a lot to cram into one night, things kick off nice and early with the Kenickie meets Elastica teen-power of Area Code.

The finest moment came at the end of their set with a really well-executed acapella ending that made damn sure we all remembered their performance and, with the curtains swishing closed in a grand gesture of finality, the Express FM DJs took to the stage to win over an audience a quarter of their age and with considerably more hair – a job they actually performed rather well, much to my surprise.

Strict Machines appeared from behind the giant velvet curtains with an interestingly sparse drums, guitar and vocal lineup. Playing a series of riffy power-rock songs, the interesting finger-style guitars and powerful vocal don’t quite disguise the hole left by the lack of bass guitar, which is a notoriously difficult task, and, although the vocal was spotless and powerful, the melodies really don’t make use of the impressive range.

Despite this, the performance has plenty of energy and emotion and the music is certainly amongst the more technically proficient of the night. With a level-headed producer (who would certainly re-insert some bass guitar into the mix and may well suggest a few more vocal breaks and directional changes) this band could really pump out some interesting stuff.

The slightly over-enthusiastic energy of The Jockey Lounge was the next experience. This was rock and roll with youthful vigour and it was certainly popular with the crowd.

The pace at which they consumed their songs suggested they were late for bed, but they still had time to whack out a comedy cover version of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and, despite a musical delivery that was about as tidy as their bedrooms, there was an unsophisticated charm in their ‘Oi, Oi’ style.

Unknown Future had the job of taking us into the interval with a series of pop-punk, emo and alternative covers. Although there’s plenty of stigma attached to playing someone else’s stuff, there’s a great opportunity in it for a young band to cut their teeth on an established song and they have to play it quite well, because we all know how it should sound.

Even ignoring their age, this was a good performance and the vocal was one of the best for the whole night.

The interval supplied an opportunity to scarper into the bar for a swift drink, followed by the confusion about whether I ought to take my glass into the theatre. My final decision was to down the remainder and abandon the glass in the bar rather than make a shifty-looking attempt to sneak back in.

Chow were the re-introduction to proceedings with a funky meets blues-rock set that was fairly pedestrian, despite the on-stage antics of lead singer, Sam. In fact, the striking contrast between the animated front-man and shuffling band-mates wasn’t an impressive feature of their set. However, their musical ability was unquestionably excellent and, if the songs hadn’t gone round and round quite so much, they’d be more than appealing.

Estranged Justice suffered a little from having to follow such a tidy band, but bravely made their way through a series of covers, including the incredibly difficult ‘Weak’, which was glorious proof that the next generation have heard of Skunk Anansie.

The final band of the night were Fake Invite and, as they kicked off with Greenday’s ‘Holiday’, I suddenly realised that they’d utilised the drummer from Unknown Future. This is good news for them as the drums, along with the guitar and bass, are solid and creative.

A whistle-stop tour of the current alternative scene was accompanied by the almost mandatory ‘Teenage Kicks’, which for once was actually being performed by people who were teenagers – rather than people who can’t remember what it’s like to be one.

Although there was no original material to get stuck into, I couldn’t help but imagine Jack Black jumping up on stage in his grey shorts in order to rock with the kids.

While it’s fair to say that some of these bands might not be around for very long, there are definitely individuals in this lineup that will feature in some great bands in the future and I look forward to complaining that they’re too loud, that I can’t hear the words and that they made proper music when I was young.

Written by Fenton on

Steve Fenton writes in our music, words, and culture categories. He was Editor in Chief for The Mag and covered live music for DV8 Magazine and Spill Magazine. He was often found in venues throughout the UK alongside ace-photographer, Mark Holloway. Steve is also a technical writer and programmer and writes gothic fiction. Steve studied Psychology at OSC, and Anarchy in the UK: A History of Punk from 1976-1978 at the University of Reading.

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