Holy smokes, Batman. Castleton has tonight been overrun by five hundred party goers. Bussed in as competition winners from out-of-state Sheffield, they have now taken over The Bull’s Head and Castle Inns in the village. Holy Guacamole, I hear it is Mr Jack’s birthday and these cats are out to celebrate. Does Commissioner Gordon know about this?
To the batcave, Robin. Holy human pressure cookers they are already in there partaking of the sponsor’s product and grooving to the brothers Drenge. My how they are digging those crazy, dirty blues beats from the Steel City siblings, their garage integrity right in step with the promoters’ insistence on using local talent and expertise to get this annual jamboree commemorating Mr Daniel’s birthday firmly off the ground. Hundreds of yards up a winding footpath and into the largest cave entrance in the United Kingdom must have been a logistical nightmare but Holy Birthday Cake these guys have gone and done it.
Set deep into the sheer face of a limestone gorge the cave makes for a truly spectacular setting and with running water below and water also dripping from the flowstone above the DJ’s classic rock sounds echoing around the chamber assume an eerie, subterranean resonance. As if to capitalise upon this, Tribes take to the carefully constructed stage to the sound of London Calling. It is a brave, but ultimately misplaced move on their part. Lead singer and guitarist Johnny Lloyd advises us that only yesterday they had completed recording their second album in LA. I guess the band may therefore still be on Pacific Daylight Time but that doesn’t explain why they felt the need to relentlessly crank out some Guns N’ Roses-lite rock, complete with the obligatory ballad-come-future-football-anthem for added good measure. Holy rusted metal, Batman. The band. It's all metal. It's full of holes. You know, holy.
Holy Rats in a Trap, it is Mystery Jets the band who may seem forever destined to be ensnared by the vaulting ambition of not quite knowing who or what they really are. Jitterbugging between the Austin country of their most recent “Radlands” album, past folk and prog flirtations and what might loosely be described as rock, their coat of many colours can often feel ill-fitting but when it does all come together as it does on Radland’s title track and despite having to contend with an audience who by now are more interested in hearing the sounds of their own voices than anything coming from the stage, it can still move.
With climbers on harnesses, sporting pith helmets and carrying searchlights now scaling the cave’s walls, the scene is dramatically set for the mighty Vaccines to show that they have finally come of age and crossed that great divide between indie and rock. Possibly informed by their now knock, knock, knocking on the door of major success they enter to the strains of ELO’s Livin’ Thing. “Sailin' away on the crest of a wave, it's like magic, rollin' and ridin' and slippin' & slidin', it's magic”. Sadly, it isn’t. High on riffs and self-conscious attitude the melodies are left behind. “No Hope”, “Tiger Blood”, “Teenage Icon”, “Ghost Town”, “Post Break-Up Sex”. Crash! Bang! Zap! Pow! They all come thundering out of the cliff face one after another, but thunder without the lightning just feels like an empty sound.
Mr Jack would have surely loved the remarkable setting for this celebration of the one hundred and sixty second anniversary of his birth. More than any other drink the whiskey to which he gave his name has long been associated with rebellion, its spirit of independence especially well suited to the maverick dissolution of rock music. To hear the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”, The Beatles’ “Revolution” and Zep’s “Rock and Roll” reverberating around the Devil’s Arse tonight merely reinforces this view. It also reflects the relative insipidity of today’s young pretenders, the men who would be rock kings. But by twenty three hundred hours and as the last of the shuttle buses returned from whence they came and to the aftershow party at the Leadmill, it is all a distant memory. Peace had again descended upon Castleton. Holy Blank Cartridges, just like the good people of Gotham City its residents can once more sleep easy tonight.