This year's Rock the South was the first to stretch over four days, and with over 44 acts on the billing, it's little wonder the starting times were a little earlier than usual. In fact, by the time I got to Zion on opening night, Central Strip were already halfway through their set, but I heard enough to convince me this band has been working very hard since clinching second place at the recent Battle of the North competition. Fronting mainly original numbers (bar one), the band presented a tight set that still has room for improvement, but there's a lot of promise here that we'll definitely be hearing more of sooner rather than later. Next up, on the Orange Stage, The Busker were clearly fired up for the show. One of the most promising upcoming acts in recent years, their energy boosted their musicianship a great deal, and their set of familiar and new numbers made the end result a pleasant experience for both band and audience, which was still trickling in yet already quite numerous despite the early start.
Over on the Blue Stage, Jane Doe rolled in with a new number that boasted a dominant groove, a strong pointer that the band has obviously been exploring new sounds and areas to flavour its music and direction further. The rest of the set dipped into their debut Homeostatic Cover EP's content, a most enjoyable offering that they delivered with some extra verve and a few tweaks, injecting the live renditions with a particular edge that perhaps wouldn't come across as effectively in the studio. As they ended with a re-run of the new number, evidently still a work-in-progress, I walked away quite impressed and curious to hear what the new track will sound like once it's finished.
Back from the UK, Kriz Haze hops onstage to deliver a stripped-down version of the songs on his 2014 debut Ad Hoc EP. Having played these songs countless times in England, his set oozes confidence though I'm sure he would agree this was not one of his best-ever performances, but he manages to rouse the audience all the same with his bubbly personality. By the time his set finished, it was time for me to start my DJ set in the Silent Disco tent, and during the next hour or so, as I spun a selection of African funk in parallel to Geddumu's rousing indie selection, I had to miss The Cosmic Erotic's set, which I'm told also included a new number, as well as Yews' performance, which also featured Ian Schranz and Rebecca Theuma.
As I exited the Silent Disco, I did catch part of The Violent Violets' set. Unsurprisingly, it was a blistering performance, consistent on every level and worthy of a band regarded by many (and rightfully so) as one of the top bands on the island. Last but not least, and in quite stark contrast to the Violets' heavy sound, London-based Berne, accompanied for the most part by guitarist Gianluca Pulvirenti and Ivan Degabriele on cello, marked the launch of her debut Conversation EP with a performance that blended live sampling with intimate pop balladry of a leftfield demeanour. It was a riveting performance that rounded off a well-attended opening night rich in diversity and brimming with quality music from the local scene.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (19 April 2015) as part of a comprehensive article also featuring other reviews of Rock The South 2015 by Ramona Depares and Mark Debono.