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Consider the South Rocked!

On Monday 8th May many wrote posts on social media portals that this was by far the best edition yet. Well they’re not wrong!

During a recent interview I did with organiser Nick Morales, he expressed and hoped just that! Nick and his group (not the many musical ones he plays in) worked hard so this edition tops the other nine. Because yes, this year’s edition was the 10th and although every year is special this had to be the one.

From a humble 4 band event back in 2011 it grew each year into a three day festival with more 40 acts (2023 edition). As Nick related during the mentioned interview, the festival was created as an event to host Italian band Aim during their short tour on the island. It was aptly called Rock The South, held at Zion Bar & Restaurant in St. Thomas Bay, Wied il-Għajn. The place, just like the festival, has undergone many changes since and developed into a first class place to relax and eat.

There was always one drawback regarding Rock The South, especially when it started growing: although the acts play back to back (except those performing in the silent disco) it is very hard to keep up watching all the bands for three days. Unfortunately I missed some as well, while others I heard from elsewhere in the festival area.

Friday 5th May doors opened at 5.30pm and although the lineup featured only 7 bands split between both stages (plus 4 other acts in the silent disco), the choice was excellent. Probably the idea to have a shorter day was due to the fact that many were still at work, or returning from work at the time the doors were opening. Roza were the first band at 6.30pm followed by Cher Camilleri, Kym Pepe and Michael Azzopardi, whom I have seen for the first time performing backed by a band. Although the music was different from that recorded it was up to a very good standard, and like the other bands before there’s always a note in mind to check from time to time for future live performances.

After Michael Azzopardi, it was time for two giants in the local alternative music scene, The Areola Treat and The Beangrowers, both bands that I have not seen perform in a while, but still managed to put on the vibe they did when performing in their early days.

This year’s festival boasted three foreign artists, with the first headlining Friday. Bo Ningen were formed in London in 2006 by four musicians from Gumma, Tajimi, Nishinomiya, and Tokyo, who united in the UK. This was their second time on stage at RTS, their first being in 2019 and once again they released a set full of energy and precision.

In the meantime, from 8pm the silent disco offered an alternative to live music with sets from Radju Haj, The Violent Violets, Alias 1 and Estranyesa.

And if Friday was a fantastic start to this year’s edition, Saturday proved to be another great day. First band on was Edgar Allan Paul on the Jagermeister stage, followed by The Velts, Beesqueeze and the return of Massacre House Party after five years since they last appeared on stage at the Farsons Beerfest of 2018. MHP also released an EP titled ‘If It’s Pop(ular) It’s (Not) Cool just 24 hours before their appearance at 7.45pm on Saturday. Followed by yet another reunited band Shoshtakovich’s Nightmare with an interesting (to say the least) set they are famous for. The last time I saw them perform was when the band supported Therapy? At Sky Club back on Thursday 30th April 2009, (the other Maltese band on the night supporting the English outfit were The Areola Treat). Shoshtakovich’s Nightmare were followed by the Italian band AIM. As Nick confessed during our interview, they were an automatic choice, being the band that ‘gave birth’ to the festival. Rumours say that the band were on a hiatus but got together to perform RTS on the insistence of Mr. Morales….

Brodu followed with a number of songs covering their ten year history. Last band of the day, Leeds alternative rock band Pulled By Horses lived up to their reputation of explosive live performances. Formed in 2008 they boast 5 studio albums, their latest Reality Cheques released September 30, 2022. With the crowd amazed by what they have just witnessed (and with a question on everyone’s lips: What would Tom Hudson (vox) have done had the microphone been cordless?), some made their way to the silent disco, open from 8pm and featuring sets by Black Plague, Spots And Stripes and a DJ set by UK artists Zkeletonz.

The sun shone brightly on Sunday morning, and we made our way early towards Marsascala. After an excellent meal at the venue’s restaurant we headed inside the festival area for a beer and some time to chill before the first band hit the stage, The day was opened on the Jagermeister stage with an energetic (as always) performance by up coming band Morsrot, followed by extreme metal supergroup Niket. The brainchild of Nicholas Bonello from a lingering idea he had for some years Niket came into existence circa 2020. In October 2021 a self titled EP was released on Kewn Records with a video following soon featuring Tryst Arcane’s Alexia Baldacchino and David "Beast" Fenech from Loathe. Last Sunday was Niket’s debut live appearance and apart from the two singers and Nicholas the band featured Haine and Abysmal Torment’s Claudio Toscano on bass while Krishna’s drummer Alan Darmanin (also with Skorch). After these two dynamic acts, the crowd was treated with the progressive fusion rock sound of Ferret, who released a single (performed also on Sunday), just a few days prior to the festival. Ferret were followed by thrashers Grotium with an explosive show that only Grotium are famous for. It was then time for Prog rock giants Mirage to hit the stage, playing on the Jagermeister Stage under a hazy sky, the band delivered a set taken from their first two albums ‘For Absent Friends’ released in 1982 and ‘Garage Technology’ from 1987. A more heavier sound followed Mirage with Dalam and Five Years From Now, before it got a bit slower with the stoner doom sound of Hemplifier, who shall be releasing their debut album ‘The Stoner Side Of The Doom’ in June. Next band on, Krishna managed three songs (their latest release Headless is composed of a 50 minute track), followed by Haine, BILA and Club Murder, who played on the Cisk Stand. Back to the Jagermeister Stage the evergreen BNI wowed everyone who could manage to squeeze in front of the stage. Then back to the Cisk Stage for the last band of the night and the festival - Beheaded who were back on a local stage after five years. Their last performance on Maltese shores was during Notte Bianca 2018, and as many expressed in their posts it was worth the wait.

Still breathless and amazed after a day to remember, especially if you’re a metalhead, many made their way to the silent Disco area where we were greeted by the tunes selected by DJ Hades which reminded us of yet another great festival we attended a few weeks ago. Other artists during the day in the silent disco were Tina, CHILD, GhꚚsꝉꝉ and Hanek.

Apart from the snag, mentioned earlier, that it is impossible to follow all bands, this year’s festival revealed two problems that should be given some consideration. The Jagermeister Stage was a huge improvement from last year’s, but the area in front is too small for many bands, with people moving to other areas of the festival due to the crowdedness, but let’s be honest, unfortunately, and as much as I hate to say it, the grounds are getting too small for the festival and should really be taken into consideration when planning the area next year. The other problem, always in my opinion, was the merch stand. With over 30 bands and the festival’s merch I believe the stand this year was very small, and all went well thanks to the dedication shown by the personnel taking care of it.

Still this does not cloud the fact that this year’s edition, the tenth, was in fact the best one so far, promising a very bright future to this festival which was born from humble origins, well we can all admit (as Nick did in our interview), thanks to AIM for playing on the islands back in 2011.

The bands performed, but a huge kudos goes to all those behind the scenes, the staff and anyone who made last weekend a magical one.

Let the countdown start for number eleven!

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Thank you always for your support Noel bro & long live Rock the South!!! \m/

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