Each year the fabulous people at HRH arrange and deliver a superb competition. It’s Britain’s ‘Rock Factor’. Hundreds of bands go through the preliminary stages. But only a few make it to the final round. And the final two days of the competition is a weekend of mind-blowing creativity, hectic showmanship, a lot of schmoozing, and of course, some epic drinking.
This time Highway to Hell VI came from the amazing O2 Academy, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.
So they came from every corner of the kingdom to challenge and amaze. And to battle one another…
The best new rock and metal acts of the UK. Hoping to influence and persuade. And to win themselves a comprehensive record deal worth thousands, and a valuable slot at one of the best rock festivals in the world (Hard Rock Hell.)
But this was going to be tough. The bands knew it. The fans knew it. And the judges knew it.
The last seventeen bands (whittled down from scores over preceding months) were called upon to perform the most exciting shows of their careers to a group of judges who live, eat, sleep and probably even secrete heavy metal. These judges are the members of a secret HRH elite known as the Dark Circle. And they were asked to judge the performances against a set of stringent criteria. Yes, it was rigorous. Yes, it was intense. But above all, God, it was great fun.
The weekend started early Saturday afternoon, with a ball-busting, all-cylinders-firing and totally enlivening set from those Workington hard rockers ‘Bulletproof Rose’. Then, setting the bar incredibly high with such a breathtaking spectacle, it was left to the other bands to offer something really extraordinary if they were to have any hope of catching-up… let alone winning!
One such stand-out performance was from Kent’s melodic rock band ‘Crashgate’ who introduced some beach party fun with their Baywatch antics and beach balls.. Such a shame that they did not dress in C.J’s lifeguard uniform though.
After a secret session from last year’s South Wales winners ‘The Texas Flood’ – the judges and fans returned to their ‘Camp David’ (Holiday Inn) to round off the night with a couple of sherbets and to soothe poor feet and frayed & smashed earholes.
The next day, Sunday, started even earlier. The judges were assembled at four in the afternoon. The first band up was the amazingly visual and incredibly entertaining ‘A Joker’s Rage’ fronted by white faced clown-in-chief Zakk Taylor.
It was such an uplifting spectacle and so truly original that we actually felt sorry for all those bands that would have to follow the clowning. But up next was the immensely determined and totally hypnotic ‘Bigfoot’. These hard working lads come from Wigan and their show was jaw-dropplingly god. Tight, fierce, edgy and original. And full of unbridled energy.
Towards the end of a packed evening of metal mayhem we we saw the growling, bearded presence of ‘Thirteen Stars’. A sharp ‘n’ gritty Southern Rock band from Cumbria. This, too, was a memorable set. Fluid, competent and accomplished.
The competition closed off with those loveable North Wales lads ‘Bad Dog’ and their Indie Rock sounds.Then, as the votes were collected, we were treated to another secret session, this time from Leicester’s ‘SKAM’. It was a great close to a sensational weekend.
And so the winners were:
Joint 1st place: Thirteen Stars and Bigfoot
Second place: A Jokers Rage
Joint Third Place: Crashgate & Stone Broken
Thanks to all the staff at Hard Rock Hell for putting on such a wonderful event. And thanks to all the bands who participated. It must have been particularly difficult for the judges this year.
The standards were so incredibly high!