Festival Review: Tons of Rock 2023 – Day 3

Witch Club Satan (c) Katie Frost

Day three of Tons of Rock festival was another sunny one and I was really excited to check out the first band to play the Moonlight Stage – Witch Club Satan. Their music is described as “haunting Norwegian black metal by resurrected witches”, which sounded right up my street! Their performance started with them dressed in white and each of the three women adorned with a variation of a decoration that looked like it was made of paper and wire – very delicate but structured and pointy. They all wore corpse paint and their sound was undeniably black metal. Their second (I think) song “Water Girl” was a largely spoken-word piece and was so engaging. Everyone in the tent was mesmerized, myself included! After three songs the photographers had to leave the photopit but I stuck around to watch the rest of the show, slinking through the dense crowd to find a spot with a good view over the other side of the tent. When I looked back up to the stage the three women were now dressed in ankle-length black wigs, big black boots and not a whole lot else. Accompanying the corpse paint had now had blood seeping from their mouths and it was honestly so captivating.

After their set I went straight to the merch desk (in full “take my money” mode) and waited impatiently as a guy with WCS tshirts slung over his shoulder searched for pins to attach them to the board. I was not alone in my quest to get my hands on a t-shirt, and luckily we were all swiftly rewarded. As well as t-shirts they also had little books of “spells” which were the lyrics to their songs and some matching illustrations. Clearly I snapped up one of those as well. 

Death By Unga Bunga (c) Katie Frost

In a dramatic change to what I had just witnessed, up next on the very same stage was Death By Unga Bunga – a Norwegian garage rock band. The band had a very cohesive look – all dressed in white t-shirts that were tucked into black trousers. They were definitely a lot of fun and energetic, and went down really well with the crowd.

Next up for me were another Norwegian band – Vreid – on the Vampire Stage. Their performance started with a video on the screen behind them showing four men carrying a coffin in the snow, which was then laid down and the grim reaper appeared – an image that looked fantastic as the backdrop for their show. They describe their sound as “black n roll” which I think suits it perfectly – definitely some black metal elements in there, but also some groovy rock parts. Interestingly, the bassist (Jarle Kvåle) is the booking manager for Tons of Rock, though I think the only other year the band has played the festival was in 2019, and I somehow missed them that time round. 

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Next to take to the Vampire Stage were Architects from good old Blighty. I have somehow never seen them perform before, though I have a few friends who are big fans so I was keen to check them out. Their performance was ridiculously high energy, with frontman Sam barely staying still for more than a brief moment. The crowd was packed and there were crowd surfers-a-plenty. I had headed to the Moonlight stage to catch the next band and while I was waiting, towards the very end of their set, I heard Sam call for a huge circle pit…and then have to back-track as there were threats that the last two songs of their set would be cut if they incited one. Strange move as there had been many circle pits throughout the festival, but they played nice and instead there was what I think they referred to as a “push pit” which sounded a bit less violent. 

Spiritbox (c) Katie Frost

The band I was waiting to see in the tent was Spiritbox from Canada, who I have missed the last couple of times they have played in the UK so was very keen to see. My knowledge of Spiritbox prior to seeing them live was having seen videos online of vocalist Courtney LaPlante doing some brutal vocals, but I hadn’t realised that she did clean-singing as well. It was a really great show and a lot more varied musically than I had expected. Courtney was joined on vocals by Sam from Architects for one of the songs as well, which was very popular with the crowd – there is a fair amount of crossover in the fanbases I think. As for Halestorm the previous day, it was great to see not only a woman on the stage but so many in the crowd. Spiritbox were brilliant and I would definitely go see them again.

The last band of the day for me was another that I was really looking forward to – Gojira. I missed out on seeing them play London recently due to health reasons, so I was very excited to see them play. They played Tons of Rock in 2015 but at the time I wasn’t as familiar with their music as I am now, so I was thrilled that they played one of my favourite tracks “Stranded” while I was in the photopit so I got to experience it up close. They are renowned as being one of the best live metal bands, and I saw the reason why. There were stupidly heavy riffs,  fire, confetti…and even a crowd-surfing whale – what more could you ask for?! 

This headliner was the one I was most disappointed not to be shooting – Ghost. I photographed them at Tons of Rock in 2016 and had hoped to shoot them again this year as their stage show is so visually interesting, but alas it was not to be. I have actually been listening to Ghost quite a lot recently and at least enjoyed hearing some of my favourite tracks from the crowd.

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All photos by Katie Frost Photography

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