Stone Free Festival at The O2 in London makes its debut on the UK festival circuit this year.
With the unpredictable nature of British summertime weather (just ask those who attended last weekend’s Download festival), an event housed entirely under the roof of The O2 complex doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. You can leave those wellies at home, put your tent away, and comfortably enjoy the diverse bill of entertainment on display without worrying about being washed away.
The classic/hard rock inspired festival includes three stages of live music as well as both spoken word events, standup comedy, and a VIP record fair for the vinyl junkies.
Jared James Nichols, who has been out on the road with Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde of late, opens the proceedings at the Indigo O2. Nichols is joined on stage by Eric Sandin (bass) and Dennis Holm (drums). The power trio is reminiscent of Wylde’s early days with Pride and Glory.
The band holds down a tight groove accentuated by Jared’s passionate playing. Nichols’ set of southern fried rock is anchored around his debut album Old Glory and the Wild Revival including the hard-rocking “Crazy,” the infectious “Can You Feel It?,” and “Playin’ For Keeps.” Jared closes out his set with a scorching rendition of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”
Saint Jude’s Lynne Jackaman makes her festival debut with her exciting new solo project. Jackaman has been locked away in the studio in recent months writing and recording for her eagerly anticipated debut solo album. Lynne brings a touch of class to the event, with her unique brand of funky rock and soul. She treats the crowd to a track from her forthcoming album, opening her set with an excellent new number, “Copycat.”
One thing immediately clear is that Lynne Jackaman sinks herself into her songwriting, particularly on tracks from her recent No Halo EP like “Honesty Can Be So Cruel” and “You Can’t Take Back,” which she sings from the heart.
New track “Nothing But My Records On” closes the set and leaves the room speechless. The song is an up-tempo number in the vein of Ike and Tina Turner and is infused with soulful sax before it unfolds into a spellbinding operatic aria, enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up. Jackaman’s set is one of the standout performances of the day, leaving the audience wanting more.
The Virginmarys recently released their sophomore album, Divides. Today, the band continue their string of festival appearances which will see them take to the main stage of Leeds/Reading in August. Frontman Ally Dickaty informs the crowd that the band was held up by Alice Cooper’s snake backstage, so they waste no time in leaving their mark on The O2.
The Macclesfield-based trio delivers a turbocharged set packed with stadium filling anthems like “I Wanna Take You Home,” “Halo In Her Silhouette,” and the euphoric “Just A Ride.” The Virginmarys are arguably one of the finest British bands on the touring circuit, and their electrifying new album will inevitably propel the band to the dizzy heights they so deserve.
Therapy? tops the bill at the Indigo O2, and room is packed. The band takes us through a nostalgic setlist of which the lion’s share is taken from their seminal albums Troublegum and Nurse. Therapy? opens their set with “Still Hurts” from their latest album, Disquiet, before hurtling through the frantic “Isolation” and “Die Laughing,” which Cairns dedicates to Phil Lynott, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Andy Cairns and company still sound as good as they did back in ’94.
The Lounge Kittens are getting set to release their debut album, Sequins and C-Bombs in September. The mischievous trio arrives at the festival with a task in hand which is to rub their bums on Alice Cooper. The group is best known for putting their stamp on covers from some of rock and metal’s finest artists.
The Lounge Kittens bring with them a sense of comedy, harmony, and their rather unique “T-Rex”-ican wave as they close out the day on the Entrance Stage at The O2. The large crowd enjoys their reworking’s of Bowling For Soup’s “Pop Punk Medley,” Metallica’s “Sad But True,” and Steel Panther’s cheeky number “Glory Hole.” The group will be joining Status Quo and REO Speedwagon on their arena tour later this year.
Innovative Finnish outfit Apocalyptica brings something different with their classically inspired brand of heavy metal. The group, fronted by a trio of cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lotjonen and Perttu Kivilaakso, entertains the audience with the likes of their classical reworking of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
The Darkness make their second appearance of the day at the festival having earlier given a talk about their debut album, Permission To Land. Subsequently, the band chose to cherry pick the album with seven of the nine tracks in their setlist taken from their debut record. These include the likes of “Black Shuck” and “Get Your Hands off My Woman” before closing out their set with the triumphant, “I Belive In A Thing Called Love.”
Alice Cooper rounds off a perfect day of classic rock and demonstrates exactly why he has been deemed the “Godfather of Shock Rock.” Cooper’s set includes his theatrical trademarks which he has been known for over the years including his very own beheading on a guillotine, his electrocution, a gargantuan Frankenstein monster and his larger than life pet snake.
Cooper’s career-spanning setlist includes the numbers which you have come to know and love including “Billion Dollar Baby’s,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and the anthemic “Poison.” Lead guitarist Nita Strauss captivates the audience with her skill and flare.
Tombstones bearing the names of some of rock n’ roll’s greats adorn a backdrop to the rear of the stage, as Cooper takes on “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix, “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead with bass player Chuck Garric playing Lemmy’s part, Bowie’s “Suffragette City,” and “Pinball Wizard” by The Who dedicated to the late Keith Moon.
Alice Cooper closes the show with a triple whammy of his greatest hits in the shape of “Eighteen” and “School’s Out,” which segues into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” before the day is brought a close with “Elected.” Alice Cooper, we are not worthy.
Stone Free Festival more than lived up to expectations. We eagerly look forward to what next year’s event has in store.