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Rotherham Rocks 2004, Pallas, Strangefish, Quecia, Psi Phi & Magrathea, Oakwood Centre, Rotherham UK, 1st May 2004

Making a noble return, Rotherham Rocks festival comprised of five bands, all different styles and a great contrast in British rock music.

Magrathea from Bury got the show underway well before 5pm, and they were a creditable opening act. The quartet included two keyboard players in Glen Alexander and Ian Gordon, and it was Glen who performed the vocals too. Guitar was played by Gary Gordon, and rounding off on drums, Mike Walker.  Onto the sound, it was very early 80ís in places, a strong Steve Hackett and Genesis type influence could be heard, and on certain tracks, the And Then There Were Three feeling was present. Magrathea presented the crowd with six songs from the debut CD Legends, The Man Who Loved Flowers, Galadriel and Dreamscape were in my opinion their strongest songs, and with Glenís gentle Gabriel sounding voice, made them a ideal start to the evening.

Next onto the Rotherham stage, Sheffield trio Psi Phi entertained us all with a heavier sound. Now, Psi Phi have a reputation for being one of the worst dressed rock bands around, but for tonight the James Bond type suits complete with bow-ties took everyone by surprise. Guitarist and lead vocalist Pod explained this, and tonightís show was just for a laugh, as you would say. The non-keyboard straightforward rock in your face approach worked very well, and the impressive bass playing from Andy Scott along with the tight drumming from Rob Glynn made them an enjoyable act visually and musically. Opening with A Million Flies, they had the crowd with their full attention, and with other songs such as Crazy, Science Fiction and set closer She Rocks, the sound was like an early type Rush mixed with The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  With two albums to their credit, there is a nice touch to their sound, and it was an impressive set they performed.

Quecia from the north west of England hit the stage next, and as Psi Phi, again no keyboards!  Just the classic guitar, bass and drums line-up, and with two females on vocals gave them a nice edge to the sound. On guitar, Paul Ayre played some great riffs and the strong powerful vocals from Kirsty McCarrick gave them an Evanescence/All About Eve influence, and backing vocals from Hayley McCarrick blended in well.  The rhythm section of bassist Chris Picton and drums from Steve Atkinson ensured the balance was there, and a strong set of songs make them a notable act.  Most of the set was from their debut album, but two from three new songs soon to be on their website (see below) were performed, Hideaway and Rescue Me were the titles, and Kirstyís voice flowed throughout the set. Highlights for me were Stay, Line In The Sand and the excellent Sleepwalking. This was a pleasant performance, and Iím sure of many to come.

Rotherham favourites Strangefish were next, and the tall Ďenergeticí figure of frontman Steve Taylor soon got the crowd eating from out of his hands. Strangefish has a unique sound, it is fresh and intelligent like what The Flower Kings and It Bites do, add a touch of comedy and that is the band.  I mentioned comedy, because on songs such as Take A Holiday, a glass and ice were there in front of the mic for that perfect non-sampled sound.  Bald Dave (as Steve called him!) on drums was wearing a sombrero on this one, and most of the crowd at the front were wearing knotted hankies as part of the show.  Comedy and prog, not bad eh?

Strangefish have got great reviews from other sources and other sites, and they are growing in stature and tonightís performance was another stated claim to this. Opening number Happy As I Am soon got everyone to take notice of this fine band, and with other songs such as Listening To Ghosts and At First Sight, made the set a joy to listen to. The folk influence on Lighthouse Jig, along with solid bass player Julian Gregory, who on this track played a violin, and everyone on stage looked like they were having a great time. Highlight for me was Shifting Sands And Turning Tides, which will be their anthem in years to come I feel, and final song Ladders was a pleasing sound too.  A highly creditable set led the way for headline band Pallas to end the night.

Making another appearance at Rotherham, Pallas was back in business.  A new album is promised by the end of the year, and three songs were aired from it tonight. From the intro music, they launched into Bringer Of Dreams, and frontman Alan Reed smartly dressed complete with pink slippers (?) did his usual jumping around and clapping to the now large crowd. Greater Glory from present album Cross And The Crucible was next followed by the title track from the new album The Dreams Of MenThe Dreams Of Men is in my opinion one of the best Pallas songs ever to be written - it changes direction then peaks well at the end.  Judging by the new numbers, the new album will be a pleasant experience, and quite stunning, and many people said their finest hour to date.

The old favourites Executioner and Rat Racing followed, and the classic Crown Of Thorns needed no introduction at all. The crowd was singing along and clapping all the way, which you would expect from a Pallas show, and Midas Touch with the yellow lights made a nice stage show.

The double neck guitar from Graeme Murray hit the opening notes to Sanctuary, and the crowd were in full swing singing along again, and ending with Atlantis, made the crowd willing the band back for encores.

Cross And The Crucible was the first one, and the rocky Cut And Run ended the set and the evening. This was a great performance from Pallas, Niall Mathewson, Ronnie Brown, Colin Fraser, Graeme Murray and Alan Reed made everyone go home very happy.

So that was it, a great night all around, and it is a credit to the current scene today of quality music.

Danny Mayo


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