@Newcastle Trillians July 2 2016

Rock as a unifying force remains as powerful as ever. And never was its strength felt more keenly than inside a packed Trillians as the generous folk of the North East ensured Melfest 2: Highway To Mel raised more than £1,500 for Niemann Pick UK.

Seven live sets created an incredible buzz as musicians and fans celebrated Saturday night in style. There were smiles, there were tears and there were scores of guitar solos. Hell, there was even a raffle.

After Hoss Thompson, Scream Of Sirens and Rusted Hero had got the party started it was down to returning heroes New Generation Superstars to ramp up the sleaze. It’s been far too long since RUSHONROCK reviewed an NGS set but after 40 minutes of no-frills ‘face ripping rock’ it was like we’d never been away. Frontman AJ continues to command the stage like a frenzied cross between Duff McKagan and new Tarzan star Alexander Skarsgard and it’s impossible to take your eyes off the biggest rock and roll star you still don’t know. New album King Of the World – set for an October release – might have reached its Pledge campaign target but there’s still time to get involved with a record that can’t come soon enough.

Next up and Die No More’s brand of sharp-as-a-tack metal might brazenly imitate Metallica but that’s no bad thing. The most polished band of the night – replete with scorching riffs and sensational vocals – nailed every number and even James Hetfield would have been proud. It’s not like the biggest of the Big Four are going to play Trillians any time soon (unless Hilly has a huge surprise up his sleeve) and until they do Die No More are living proof that British thrash metal is alive and kicking.

Fellow Cumbrians Heartbreak Remedy are leaner, meaner and decidedly keener following the decision to become a power trio. Crowd favourite Girl At The Bar gave Melfest a welcome shot of Sunset Strip-influenced party metal with super cool frontman Matty Penn looking every bit as good as he sounded in full rock star garb. And enjoying his space centre stage, the Lake District’s answer to Tommy Lee didn’t disappoint – Heartbreak drummer Stephen Jackson pounding his kit with a familiar mix of power and passion. Three years down the line and there are few better British prospects than this brilliant band right now.

On a par are headliners Massive Wagons. Boosted by the news that they’d just been added to the Ramblin’ Man Fair bill, the hard rocking heroes set the seal on Melfest with a wild blast of raucous escapism. Feverish frontman Barry Mills never looks like he’ll finish a show such is his full-throttle approach to every track but the pint-sized powerhouse boasts remarkable reserves of energy. Hunched and howling during Fee Fi Fo Fum it looked like the end may be nigh but the bearded warrior bounced back to finish on a high. He always does and always will – just as long as the Wagons keep rolling.