Mearfest 2018 was on. This might sound simple, but what a fight and effort Brian and Clair put in this year. After losing the Frday night first, later on the original venue was double booked and Mearfest last minute had to find an alternative. Staying in Slough the Dukes Head and the Village Centre came to the rescue, but unfortunately the program needed some serious cutting in the line-up. So we had an afternoon in the Pub, immediately followed by three headliners some 100 meters down the road. For those of you not knowing the story behnd Mearfest please read the beautiful written story on www. Mearfest.org and feel free to donate fo rone of the two charities supported by the festival. For those not knowing my emotional link to the festival, please ask when meeting me again at a venue near you. Her name was Taina and she would have been 14 by now. Two years ago I first attended Mearfest at the Borderline in London and after missing the Southern and Northern edition last year I was glad being able to make it to Slough this time. Even with the loss of several bands I would love to see once or again, the program was stil more than a bit tempting and in the end the Pub factor did add on atmosphere for the day. Now Slough is an English city, which to me makes it holidays to start with during my walk. From the HIE hotel (where water is unavalable in showers or taps and people complain at the front desk 24/7) to The Dukes Head it was all just not like home. The city symbol I bumped into many times was either cynical or absolutely great. It made my 50 minute walk interesting and the sun made me thirsty so Dukes Head bring it on.
Arriving in the Dukes Head the PFJ were on already. Now PFJ stands for The Peoples Front of Judea (Life of Brian anyone). So answering Frank Zappa's question does humor belong in music a big Yes was their answer. We saw a Horse Head, a Devil, beards, long beards, masks and the whole band running outside playing from the parking lot. They played covers from Classic Rock, to Britpop and Metal. Actually during Marillion Weekends in Holland an afterparty has hold the same DJ over past 5 editions, playing exactly the same songs every night. I shall drop Lucy an e-mail that it is much better to have these same songs brought with a smile by a live band. Next band were playing originals and came from the North East of England. Culloden played metal and did so heavy with a bite. Vocals being fitting the music well aggressive while staying away from grunts. These young guys did convince and more than a few people loved their performance on this hot afternoon. Inbetween bands we could enjoy the heat meeting new people, including a real Lord, being Lord Dowson. The heat plus drinks also made you explore the pub and its facilities which made me realize that my 6'66" was a bit much for the average height in England some centuries ago. This resulted in being unable to stand up in the toilets, unless I was willing to dug a hole in the ceiling with my bold head. O yes we were in England, so there was a raffle. Given the charity the event supports this made all sense. so I joined in. Not knowing I would win the main price in the afternoon draw, which I could not accept as being unable to make it to Stonedeaf end August with a friend. Now I could accept and sell on internet, but that is just missing the point in my view, so I opted for the second price which was a bag of surprises. Tiago shall wear the Damaj T-shirt with pride and the handfull of signed Diamond Head plectrums shall make me pick up my guitar again and finally get Am I Evil in my fingers.
After a somewhat longer break with new drums in, we got another cover band Bawls -Out from Essex. This was their first show and I think I can state if interested in a covers band, why not get Bawls-Out to make your party. They play all these songs from the eightes we love to hear. So you get your Riot, Scorpions, MSG, Maiden, Whitesnake, Priest and many more. Afterwards I did compliment the vocalist, which is a bit neglecting the band. What I actiually meant is that when someone does a Dio, a Coverdale, a Dickinson and never goes painfully woring half the work is done. At the same time the band were tight and solid to bring this. One critic on the vocals might have been that the vocalist was a bit sloppy on his Kraut accent while doing Scorpions, that sounded far too British to me. Highlight must have been the many gimmicks/dress-ups they brought along seemingly forgetting half at home. Highlight came when during The Ripper, first the Female vocalist was half raped on stage, after which at the end she got her revenge with a slitted throat of the attacker, followed by a dry "Are you OK?" from the audience. Friendly violent fun as Exodus would say. Good band and highly recommended for any party with a metal edge. While ordering food and getting ready for the evening two more acustic sets followed, which unfortunately I only heard from a distance. Locals who were just visiting their home pub meanwhile blended in and seemed to like the whole purpose of the day and the great atmosphere around.
And then we moved, when the Lord guided me to the village hall. First band of the evning were one of the main reasons fo rme to get to Slough anyway: Trespass. Two years ago they had their Dutch debut and I could open my occassional HM B&B for the first time. Now they released Footprints in the Rock and I was curious how some of those songs would blend in with their regular set. Well Trespass came, played and conquered. To me it seemed that the duals (!) between and Mark and Joe got more tight and the change in soloing increased. The set was the blend we hoped for giving us something new, but don't forget the past. Be Brave was dedicated to Brian and Clair and I loved the version of The Visionary. When the intro announced One of Those Days we knew it was over, but first their hit would be coming at us. What a true classic in NWOBHM that song remains. Several people I spoke with afterwards were very nicely surprised with this performance and my Sudbury city tour guide Paul had some work after the gig. Great seeing them again and what an opener of the evening. The next band were a coverband and not just any cover band.but a Budgie cover band. Now Budgie were pre-NWOBHM really and I believe they were never that big in Holland nor in Belgium according to Patrick. To be honest unlike the Diamond Head, Savage, Blitzkrieg or whomever Metallica covered, this band I only knew because of Metallica. When I knew I would attend Mearfest some months ago and I ran into a crazy cheap box of MCA albums at Amazon I decided to give it a try. Now I got why this band is considered to be underestimated and misunderstood. Live we had two sets. First Bandolier playing powerful and showing what a diverse band Budgie were. Them original drummer Ray Phillips came on with two friends and we got some more classics with In For the Kill especially strong. In the end the drums stayed and the Bandolier bass/vocals and guitars returned for one hell of a version of Breadfan. After seeing this show I must admit I missed out all these years.
Closing the party would be NWOBHM band Satan's Empire. This band is gaining some good feedback by British NWOBHM friends and I was glad I finally got to see them. Their new album is called Rising and shall be released 15 June. Unfortunately no advance copies on sale yet, so this gig would be the decider to order or not. Well that was decided after one song, I am going to get that album. This band plays the more metallic side of NWOBHM with the classic line up of drums, bass , two guitars and vocals. Very convincingly they rocked through their shortened set with the 11 O clock curfew. One song before the end they arrived at their hit. Well hit might be a bit much, but the Lead Weight compilation from Neat Records ended with Soldiers of War by Satan's Empire. This is one fine song and if you ever wonder where Iron Maiden got their opening riff motivation from for Wasted Years just have a listen. The final song had a guest appearance from Bilk Gang from France who brought his band last year to Hastings. This turned out to be one fine closer of a wonderful day. When it was all over it basically came down to thanking Brian and Clair for giving us this great day, which I hope was as good to them. The mood at this festival is something different indeed and for me this is what celebrating good old Heavy Metal is all about. Togeteher with Power & Glory these are parties I might come back to again if timing works out. After a firm walk through Slough, partially with a huge Budgie fan I arrived at the hotel with no water. So I hope to be back, but shall be staying somewhere else. Molly smiled and Taina laughed along.