The event run by Chic Festivals (best know for their events Hard Rock Hell, Hammerfest, HRH Road Trip Ibiza etc.) is a good old fashioned band competition, albeit with some career defining prizes on offer.
I must admit I feel privileged to have been a part of the event since year one and alongside my good friend Jason Kennedy I have been able to witness some of NI’s finest take to the stage and walk of with a well deserved spot at one of Chic’s ever-growing festivals.
Our role is to compile a list of bands that we feel stand out from the pack and once we put them forward the HRH judges will decide who to put forward for the competition in Glasgow.
Recent years have seen Trucker Diablo, Ajenda, Sweet Taste and many other NI bands take the stage by storm and net themselves a much-deserved slot at one of the prestigious festivals.
Now this year I thought I would put down in words exactly what you as a rock fan and those musicians reading can expect from such an event as Highway to Hell.
First up from a band point of view those nominated to attend get the chance to play a great UK venue. Showcase their wares to a wide audience of fans, industry movers and shakers and to impress the Chic Festival judges.
There are also of course many opportunities to network, hand out CD/business cards etc. and capitalise on your appearance. Events like this can help shape a bands career progression no matter where they appear in the results.
Now a fan will get a very different experience. This is rock nirvana for those interested. Where else can you get to hear 19 live acts from all across the UK battle it out in 20 minute sets over two days? The atmosphere is electric and you can feel the energy and enthusiasm in each bands performance.
The short turn-around and rapid fire assault on the senses really make this a one-off event. I for one love the thrill of these things and enjoy seeing people step up to the plate and deliver a blinding set that even they did not know they had in them.
Highway to Hell 4 delivered on many levels for me personally. This was an opportunity to meet old friends and strike up some new friendships too. It was also a chance to see four fine NI acts take to stage and set the bar for their UK mainland based counterparts.
It was wonderful to witness not only four blistering sets by the Screaming Eagles, Baleful Creed, Sinocence and Maverick over the two days, but also the way each NI band supported their peers.
Each act was front and centre for their fellow countryman’s performance and really did their best to whip up interest in their set. You don’t see that often in the cut-throat world of live entertainment and it was refreshing to see it.
Now you may wonder what I am building up to here. Well let’s just say that the NI contingent not only stole the show, but they walked off with two of the biggest prizes as well.
Sinocence quite rightly nabbed themselves a spot at the 2014 Hammerfest event and the Screaming Eagles did something amazing by netting themselves the top prize. Phil: “I was honoured to be asked to accept Screaming Eagles’ prize for them.”
This includes an opening slot at Hard Rock Hell’s main stage this November (alongside Airbourne, The Answer, Black Star Riders and many more). The band will also pick up a worldwide recording deal as well, among other things. So not a bad result for a show-stopping twenty minute set eh?
The tension in the air as the results were announced on the Sunday night is hard to describe in mere words.. I was fortunate enough to stand with three of the NI bands as he results were announced and share in their moment. No one showed disappointment, they applauded and cheered in unison and quite rightly savoured the chance to be at such an event.
It was a shame that overall winners the Screaming Eagles could not stay for the results (due to work commitments). But I was honoured to be asked to accept their prize for them.
My long-lasting memory of Highway to Hell 4 will be the way that each and every band took to the stage with such vigour and energy that you knew they wanted to be there and strut their stuff.
I am also very proud to be able to state that no band (NI or otherwise) left Glasgow in a bad light, each and every one made their mark and networked themselves admirably.
I don’t believe anyone came home empty handed and even those who missed out on a prize can hold their head up high and say they were there. Events like this can indeed be the chance an act need to make that next step to greatness.
Highway to Hell is a platform for bands to showcase their talent and once again no one disappointed.
I for one cannot wait to see what next year has in store for us all, see you there.
By Phil Allely
Phil’s pic by tbfmonline.co.uk