Festival Review: Tons of Rock 2023 – Day 4

The fourth and final day of Tons of Rock festival. The sun was still shining and my shoulders, knees, feet and lower-back were really feeling all the carrying of heavy camera equipment, but there were still some great bands to photograph.

Red Steel (c) Katie Frost

Every year at Tons of Rock they run a competition (I guess similar to Metal 2 The Masses) giving small local bands the change to play the festival, and this year’s winners were Red Steel. Despite only being young they put on a belter of a performance and had really made an effort with their looks – all dressed in variations on the same outfit, and some with face paint. The drummer with his epic hair was the stand-out performer for me, but all of them looked very easy and competent on stage so I hope they will go far.

The next band for me were Norwegian black/thrash band Aura Noir – the self-confessed “world’s ugliest band”…which I think is a bit harsh. Interestingly, the guitarist was sitting on a chair (due to accidentally mistaking a window for an elevator, so I was told) but he was moving around on that wheelie stool so still kept the performance engaging – unlike the classic boyband-on-stools approach. They played a gloriously thrashy set to a pretty packed out tent.

Bury Tomorrow (c) Katie Frost

After a little break in the press area I was back to the Moonlight Stage for Bury Tomorrow from the UK. They played Tons of Rock in 2019 and it was nice to see them back again. The crowd were very excited for this one, and clearly very up for a good time. When vocalist Daniel Winter-Bates said he wanted to see 1000 people crowd-surfing over the barrier they were very much up for the challenge (much to the dismay of the security team who were having to try and catch an almost constant stream of people, sometimes up to 3 at once). I also really enjoyed seeing “Black Flame” live as it is one of my favourite songs of theirs, but I had to leave the photopit part-way through it due to the sheer volume of crowd surfers making it quite unsafe to stay put. 

In a refreshing change to the imposed bans on photographing headliners, it was lovely to hear that The Dogs were allowing us to shoot their entire set (as they did back in 2019). This was ideal for me because their stage time clashed with Bury Tomorrow, but I was able to enter the pit later than the usual three songs, and that is where I stayed for the majority of their set (until the sun got too much for me). The Dogs are always ridiculously entertaining and this year they had erected a platform in the photopit right along the barrier and next to the crowd, which made it difficult to get a variety of angles of the band members but did provide the perfect set-up to get shots of frontman Kristopher Schau when he ventured onto the platform. 

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In Flames (c) Katie Frost

Up next for me were In Flames on the Scream Stage, who I have photographed a bunch of times before (including at Tons of Rock in 2015 and 2019) but who I always go and see because they were one of my “gateway into metal” bands. I had a sneaky look at Setlist.Fm and they were due to play a lot of my favourites, so after my allotted three songs in the photopit I headed into the crowd to watch some more of their set, including “Only For The Weak” and “Cloud Connected”.

After In Flames I headed to the Moonlight Stage for Magna Carta Cartel. I hadn’t heard of them before but read that Tobias Forge used to be in the band, and that their current vocalist Martin Persner was also in Ghost for some time. They played a great set of alternative / classic rock and were very popular with the crowd.

It wasn’t really of any surprise that we were not allowed to photograph Iggy Pop from the photopit, so I had a go taking a few snaps with my long lens from the crowd on my way back from watching Magna Carta Cartel in the tent stage, and had a little bop to “Passenger”. He sounded great for 76 years old an still had an abundance of energy and attitude. I was really impressed by how heavy “I Wanna Be Your Dog” sounded. It is a song that I mainly know from “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, but it was fantastic to hear if played live.

Wardruna (c) Katie Frost

In a change of music genre, the next band I went to see were Wardruna who were headlining the Vampire Stage. I really like Wardruna and had been looking forward to seeing them live again since I missed out on their last London show due to having COVID. They played Tons of Rock in 2018 in the tent stage, so my memory of photographing was that it was quite tricky lighting-wise because that looks incredible to someone just watching the performance as it fits so well with their music, is a nightmare for photographers. I was very pleased that they were playing outside to give me a chance to get some decent shots and, like Behemoth a couple of days previously, it was shady at the time they were playing as them being in bright sunlight wouldn’t have quite worked I don’t think. They were as mesmerizing as ever and I stayed to watch a bit more of their set from the crowd.

To my amazement and joy, everyone (including me) was allowed to photograph the headliner and closers of the festival Kvelertak. I have heard a lot about the band and knew that they were huge in Norway, so I was keen to check them out. They were very high-energy from the start, to the point that we only got two of our allotted three songs in the pit due to the volume of crowd surfers. Fair enough though – everyone’s safety comes first. I really enjoyed their sound and watched some more of their set with friends and a cold beer from the crowd. At their set they had a lot of pyro and fireworks going off from the stage – a great end to the festival.

Tons of Rock will return for its 10th anniversary next summer from 26 to 29 June 2024. The headliners haven’t been announced yet, but 4-day early-bird tickets can already be purchased here. I will hopefully be there again to take photos of some great bands and hang out with my photographer buddies.

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All photos by Katie Frost Photography

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