The third annual Melfest kicked off on Tyneside last night, showcasing the very best in homegrown rock and metal talent – and all for charity. HRH Mag caught the action ahead of this afternoon’s acoustic sets and another night of fully plugged mayhem.

 

Four brilliant British bands playing for free on a balmy Friday night. What’s not to like about Melfest? Now in its third year and growing in size and stature, it raises money, raises awareness and, most of all, raises the roof. Hosted by legendary Toon rock club Trillians, the bands play for free and play with freedom: the decision to include a Kiss cover in every set on the opening night added another layer of fun to the feelgood festival of the summer.

Highway To Hell-bound Black Mamba kicked things off with a bullish set dominated by imposing frontman and bass player Jonny Garlo. Three months on from the launch of debut album Alive N Violent, the Preston-based quartet have suddenly hit their stride – racing through a riff-fuelled set that swiftly put an end to any idle banter at the bar. With that high-profile Sheffield showcase to come in September could 2017 be their year? Here’s hoping.

Swansea’s Beautiful Strangers had a tough act to follow but this is a band that clearly relishes a challenge. Throwing in a cheeky reference to Jonjo Shelvey – the former Swan who signed for Newcastle and promptly got relegated – it was clear the Welshmen were in the mood to party. And they partied. Hard. With new EP Love You To Death slated for November any astute record label bosses out there looking to take a punt on the next big thing should look no further. Tight as spandex and rolling our singalong anthems for fun, the 80s-styled rock and rollers look and sound like a band with a boat load of chart-topping albums under their belt. There’s time yet.

A change of pace and a flick of the volume switch saw the aptly named Fury plunge headlong into a fabulously overblown show. The fact that opener Lost In Space comfortably swallowed up almost half of the set didn’t seem to bother a band in their element – or those new to Worcester’s self-styled epic fantasy core masters. A series of truly ridiculous solos, unpredictable time changes and timely bursts of infectious energy made for a magical festival set. When The Hammer Falls fused Maiden, Dragonforce, Priest and more – no wonder even the most hardened Melfest fan crawled away exhausted from a 40-minute pummelling.

Cumbria’s Heartbreak Remedy remain a class act and the final band of the evening fully justified their headline slot. Last seen opening up for breakout Swedish classic rockers Suicide By Tigers, the leaner and meaner line-up set the seal on a flawless opening night. Fresh from his stint with Alexa De Strange – on the Chris Holmes undercard – stixman Stephen Jackson delivered his usual mix of red hot rhythm and comedy faces while a relaxed and focused Matty Penn strolled through an eye-catching show. Luke Blair, meanwhile, is fast becoming one of British rock’s most exciting six-string prospects – on a night rich in soaring solos his were some of the finest.