Arriving at Sheffield’s Corporation at around 2 o’clock after an unexpected detour, it didn’t feel like we were the naughty school children sneaking in late as the venue wasn’t quite half full. We had a little wander around the venue and were amazed by the sheer size, with music that alternated between two floors throughout the whole day. The schedule for the day was particularly well planned with stage timing that meant that you never had to miss a band, although it did involve a lot of stairs!
Liberty Lies were the first band we saw on the main stage and there were a few cheers from the crowd as they took the stage. The boys from The Black Country in the West Midlands had attracted a fairly large audience and it was clear that they were there to put on a show. Their second song of the set “Undivided” had heads banging and energy levels rising. A couple of songs later, they played “Like a Stone”, a tribute to the late Chris Cornell which showed off lead singer Shaun Richards’ impressive vocals. Before the set ended, the band played their new single “Different Tongues” which is out now.
Next on the main stage were Lowdrive. Entering the stage wearing a “Shiny helmet” and big sunglasses, Andy Sawf definitely caught the crowd’s attention. Beginning the set with “Endless Rain”, it was clear the band playing a hometown show and definitely had fans in the room. During the set Sawf joked that life used to be Sex, Drug and Rock ‘n’ Roll and now there’s no sex as they’re married, the drugs are Lemsip (as he held up a box) but the rock and roll is still going strong.
We took a break from the music to explore the food court and merch area which was definitely a nice thought from the organisers. There were a couple of different food choices from burgers to chips and chicken curry, as well as vegetarian options to keep most people happy as well as plenty of seating to sit any enjoy the food. This area seemed to become the main social section, as throughout the whole day there were different opportunities to meet the bands at their merch stalls.
Doomsday Outlaw were next on the main stage and were the first band I noticed people singing along to, although I may have just missed it during other bands! The band, whose Facebook bio states they are a “heavy groove-laden, hard rock band”, came across as just that, especially with lead singer Phil’s dance moves. Phil introduced “Spirit That Made Me” as a song about “How much of a nob head” he is which the audience found amusing. After a quick comment that they had released their new album earlier on in the year, they played “Hard Times”.
We headed upstairs to try and see Gorilla Riot as they had their own merch stall and we were intrigued to hear them play, however we struggled to get in to view their set as they were so popular. From what we heard from the top of the stairs, it was clear to see why so many people had made their way upstairs to see them.
Back downstairs for Hell’s Addiction and there was a loud cheer when the band appeared on the stage. The first thing I noticed looking at the stage was how much the drum kit had grown since the last band. Opening the set with “We’re on Fire” instantly showcased Ben Sargent’s mighty vocal range. After “We’re on the Road Again”, Ben Sargent asked “Are you guys enjoying our set so far?” with a quick “Well thank f*ck for that!” when they receive a huge cheer. The penultimate song of their set was their latest single “The Way I Feel”, which considering it is only 5 months old, had a lot of people joining in.
Returning upstairs with the rest of the crowd, The Black Hands were making their way onto the stage as we entered the room. With a blues vibe, the band had the room tapping along and feeling their rhythm. The second song “That Ain’t The Way” definitely proved popular with the crowd as there were lots of phones out filming.
We headed downstairs a little before the end of The Black Hands set to see how many eager fans were waiting downstairs for Wayward Sons. Their intro to a Johnny Cash song which features in their music video for “Until the End”, had most of the crowd singing along and the took the stage to the loudest cheer of the evening so far. Opening their set with “Don’t Wanna Go” had the crowd instantly singing, especially during the chorus. After “Killing Time”, lead vocalist Toby Jepson announced that they had to cancel a few shows due to feeling unwell and that they were glad they made Winter Rocks. Guitarist Sam Wood didn’t stop smiling throughout the entire hour set which emphasised Jepson’s statement. They announced that they were going to try a new song called “As Black As Sin” to see how the crowd would react, asking for a thumbs up or down. The crowd seems to love the song and gave a thumbs up, however Jepson said it may or may not be in the new album as they have a lot of new material that they are working on. We left during the final song of the set “Until the End” to head upstairs ready for Bad Touch on the second stage.
As soon as Bad Touch appeared on the stage, the volume was loud, and the energy was high. The whole room was moving in time when “Lift Your Head Up” began and lead singer Stevie Westwood announced that they had “23 minutes to convince you you’re having a good time” which by the end of the set I am sure they achieved. “Good on Me” from their album Half Way Home had the majority of the crowd singing along, and I even found myself as a first-time listener singing along to the chorus! Throughout the entire set, the band’s performance seemed flawless and even though some people started heading downstairs to get ready for Stone Broken, they didn’t even seem to notice.
A huge cheer erupted from the crowd as the lights dimmed and Stone Broken took the stage. Opening with one of their most well-known tracks “Heartbeat Away”, the fans were instantly singing along and this continued throughout the entire set. After “Better”, lead vocalist and guitarist Rich Moss asked the crowd how they were doing before saying that they have never played Winter Rocks festival before and how much of an awesome festival it is, as well as thanking the organisers. A couple of songs later, a classic rock medley played from the speakers including “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Cherry Pie” and “Girls Girls Girls” before Moss announced that their song “Let Me See It All” was number 1 in the strip club charts in the USA. Next was “Home” which was accompanied by a speech about their upcoming UK tour, being called the Home Tour as there is nothing like being at home. After a couple of slower songs, the crowd got rowdy again during “Let Me Go” with Moss egging them on saying “If you can, I want to see you guys jumping!”. Bringing the pace back down, Chris Davis, Kieron Conroy and Robyn Haycock left the stage, leaving Moss and his guitar for “Wait for You”. The band took the stage again towards the end of the song and the crowd didn’t miss a word during the entire song. The final song of the set “Not Your Enemy” was one of the heavier songs of the set and gave the crowd one last change to bounce. This song definitely had an early Nickelback sound (this isn’t a bad thing!).
Back upstairs for the last time, ready to see The Amorettes who unfortunately had to cut their set a little short due to lead singer Gill Montgomery feeling unwell, but I’ll say it early in this section, she tried her best and fought through as much as she could. They were joined on stage by Morgan Pearce who was standing in for Heather McKay due to her also being unwell… It seems the lurgy is spreading! With a set filled with their biggest hits, “Let the Neighbours Call the Cops” had the crowd singing along. A few songs in and Montgomery was brought some cough mixture on stage and made a joke about the fans going to see them at the merch stand where she will be drinking Benylin. They announced that the next song was going to have to be the last and the ended on probably their more recent hits, “Everything I Learned (I Learned from Rock and Roll)”. When they left the stage, the claps from the crowd continued for longer than average, showing the crowds appreciation of their attempt to continue.
The final band of the day were headliners Skindred. The lights dropped and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blasted out of the speakers. After a couple of minutes, the band appeared on stage, with vocalist Benji Webb the last enter the stage wearing his customary spiky sunglasses, taking his position at the microphone stand wrapped with a Union Flag. Starting the set with “Big Things” it was clear that both the band and audience where here to party. This energy hit a new high when “Pressure” began a few songs later, with a mosh pit forming and the rest of the crowd bouncing along. The classic “Rat Race” was up next and ended with the band preforming their rendition of Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everyone”, carrying on the festive theme which was started before the band’s set when their stage crew were all wearing Christmas hats.
Webb then took the opportunity for a quick breather as he taught the audience a few lines of the upcoming song “Machine”, so that they could sing along when instructed throughout the track. During the sixth song of the evening “Ninja”, came the inevitable “Yorkshire!” chant, which was as normal encouraged by Webb. After a message to the crowd about classic rock, mentioning bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Webb instructed the crowd to pass these bands onto the next generation. A mashup of “The Kids Are Alright” and “Sound the Sirens” was followed by the comment of “You guys are f*cking unbelievable”. Webb then teased the crowd with free t-shirts before taking back the comment and instead stating “They are £25 over there,” whilst pointing to the merch area. He then said if an audience member could eat a sandwich that somehow ended up on stage in 30 seconds or less, they would win a t-shirt.
“That’s My Jam” off of the bands most recent album turned into a crowd participation competition with the left side providing the “Whoop, whoop” followed by the right side chanting “That’s My Jam”. “Kill the Power” was dedicated to a “Universal arse hole that we all hate”, clearly Donald Trump. The main part of the set closed with “Nobody”, a song which Webb is still claiming was a song his mother used to sing to him as a child, although we aren’t sure we believe him. Just when a few audience members thought the band had done the unthinkable and ended the set without playing “Warning”, the PA system kicked back into life with a recording introducing each member as they returned to the stage. After getting the crowd revved up again with a couple of lines of “Boom! Shake the Room”, Webb instructed everyone to get on the floor. When the opening riff of “Warning” kicked in, the whole room jumped back up and went a little crazy. Prior to the final chorus Webb stopped the song to instruct everyone to do the Newport Helicopter when the music kicked back in. Being the song that comes with the disclaimer of “Warning, warning, warning, warning. It’s dangerous, dangerous” it was the perfect time for t-shirts, hoodies and several other clothing items to be swung around your head.
Photos by Jack Barker Photography
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