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  STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, WALES: MICHAEL SCHENKER, SAXON, SNAKECHARMER AND MORE...

John Oakley

john oakley

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steelhouse festival
Micky Moody, Snakecharmer

This is the second year I'd made the trip to Wales for the Steelhouse Festival, located at Hafod Y Mor Farm on a Welsh mountainside.

This year promised bigger and better things, with a rumoured 7,000 attendance figure. I hoped this was corrent, as the line-up this year proved to be well worth the investment having gone for Heavy Metal stalwarts Saxon and Micheal Schenker to headline as opposed to the Brit Pop Indie Rockers of Reef and Feeder last year.

The valleys are known for their love of music, with the Patriot in Crumlin, and the Steelhouse and Cardiff's Fuel and Bogiez Metal havens not to far away.

Article continues below...

   


Those of us lucky enough to arrive early enough on the Friday were treated to the best of the weather, and as an extra treat early risers got the Saxon soundcheck thrown in. As we toasted 'Sacrifice' with Tequila, we knew we would be in for a British Rock treat later that night! But for now it was time to sit in the sun, and watch the bands play on... (wo o oh!).

Fireroad opened up the main bill, having won their place through the Battle Of The Bands route. They entertain the audience well, with a style very much akin to Thunder in places, with a dollop of Pearl Jam as a twist.

Hand Of Dimes sees Ex-Skin man Neville McDonald reunited with ex-Kooga buddy Neil Garland promoting a new EP. There's plenty of life in his voice and plays a set of complete new tracks, with 'Pinstripe Arrogance' living up to its name as the headline number. He seems to be having a whale of a time, hanging out for the whole weekend with the fans. Its lovely to see this great character back on the scene, and its a chance to reminice over Donington's past where Skin seemed the UK's hardest working band. Obviously he's up for rekindling the rock flame, so there must be more to come from the ex-Koogas.

steelhouse festival
Saxon

Northern Ireland's Fighting Wolves supply their Planet Rock approved hits that get the crowd moving well, and have been the reasons behind their support slots on bills with The Union and such like from critically acclaimed debut material. Experience is the great proving ground, and one expects them soon to be further up a bill, with their swagger and energy.

The Temperence Movement suffer from the heavy rain that is now suddenly making it all too clear we are stuck on the middle of a hillside in Wales, exposed to the elements. Many retreat for the beer tent, taking the band's name in vein, but a hardened few persevere with the southern rock nostalgic material from Pride. The tunes are heavily riff oriented and explode when required, and are counterpointed by the humanity of the soul of the delicate crooning on Pride and Lovers and Fighters.

Onward, and the mighty Anvil win many a new friend with their loveable presence. Lips has the crowd in histerics talking into the fretboard, and Rob Reiner's skill on drums is putting Thor to shame up in the clounds. They are here on a whistlestop tour including Wacken and London promoting not only their new album, 'Hope In Hell', which makes our ears bleed, but also new member, the unlikley named Sal Italiano is into the line-up on bass.

Mothra rages, Metal is bought down on Metal and young and old adore these loveable nearly made it movie stars, just for their character and obviously having the time of their lives despite all odds - in this case the welsh elements destroying the sound!

FM are next, for the more AOR orientated and those waiting for Saxon make a final excuse to drink the Trooper ale and rather lovely local real ale Skirrid dry. FM are seasoned melodic rock professionals and have been getting a resurgance of engagments with their pop rock. 'Its The Story Of My Life' is the single being promoted right now. Steve Overland's voice has lost none of its power. It's easy to understand how five of the bands singles have made it into the UK singles charts over the years. They are very good at what they do.

steelhouse festival
Anvil

So finally, its dripping with rain, absolutley bucketing it down. Saxon have got the bloody Eagle and pyro and full light show. Its their one UK festival show this year, after a gob smackingly awesome UK tour. Biff and the boys hit the stage, firstly regaling us with the soundchecked 'Sacrifice' and 'Wheels Of Terror' before hit after Saxon hit. Crusaders of the Valleys, your time came tonight.

Explosions evapourate the sheeting rain, and did I say they've even got the bloody Eagle...! Even the drumkit rises up at one point like Peter Criss, and one wonders if Sir Biff of Bifford is going to don the Demon costume? - or at least his old Spandex...

On a stage of all day sound problems and appalling weather the band play on... Its 'Strong Arm Of The Law', its 'Solid Ball Of Rock, the Eagle lands, and the band plays on... Fists pump the air. What 7,000 soaking Welsh and two English Crusaders will look like on the forthcoming DVD being filmed here tonight, one will have to wait to find out.

A drum solo from Nigel Glockler, Paul Quinn's intros and the mighty voice of Biff Bifford, that surely is the best kept voice of rock that just shows the other bands this weekend how its all done and sets the standard and bar at the highest level.

All too soon its time for Paul Quinn to take us back to the Middle Ages for 'Crusader', and then the Heavy Metal anthem 'Denim And Leather'. Saxon are the real highlight of the weekend, and for those who seem constantly suprised at Saxon still being good, let me tell you, as someone who has watched them for 30 years... they aren't *back* - THEY NEVER WENT AWAY!

All hail the mighty Saxon!

Sunday

After a rain soaked night, and a brief period where the ball of fire up their may have been seen, the crowd returns. Trucker Diablo bring some humour and Irish brogue to the afternoon, which is appreciated by their Celtic cousins. One could almost imagine them stepping out of a huge juggernaugt semi and taking you drinking on the long highways of Route 66. It is a charm, and they get the crowd really going with a cover of 'Rolling Down The River'.

Vega I have to say, although I've heard lots of good reports from AOR uber fans, were just a big "vague" to me. Although they were hampered by the elements and an awful sound there was no real hits or memorable tunes to speak of. Having said that, their target audience of single mums from valleys and their offspring seemed to be enjoying themselves, so no doubt they went down well.

That target demographic no doubt really enjoyed Snakecharmer, who have gained a lot of credibility, whereas the missing Mr Trousersnake frontman has lost the ability to hold a tune, Neil Murray and Mickey Moody now step up and come to the fore with Whitesnake classics and their own new material.

Both highly respected in the music industry on side projects like 'We Will Rock You', they don't need to do this... but it's the respect for the legacy of the 'Snake that proves there is still big love and respect. Doubling up with slots with Magnum tonight we have Harry James, ex-Thunder, on drums and Mark Stanway filling in for an absent Adam Wakeman on keys.

Added to the all star line-up, ex-Wishbone Ash man Laurie Wisefield provided awesome dual guitar based rock! Their debut album has had much air play, and they pepper this with 'Snake classics such as 'Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues'. It's great to hear these songs sung properly again without overlong guitar solos and drum solos. You will see these boys all over the place no doubt.

Magnum's audience suffered from the downpour too but Bob Catley struggled on with Magnum classics. It seems that Catley's voice is not given the emphasis it desires, perhaps through more sound problems, but those who saw the last UK tour will additionally remember Bob blaming a cold. I hope this is resolved for future performances, still the crowd are still up for finishing the weekend off in fine style.

Rain problems are nothing for Herr Schenker of MSG. As the German F1 Ace Schumacher of the same first name once did around many a street circuit, Michael excelled in the wet conditions, performing a rain dance to hit every technical note.

Doogie White has found his niche as an excellent front man and foil for Schenker's brilliance. With a set comprising roughly a third of MSG, Scorpions and UFO classics to close the festival, despite the rain we end on a high.

'Lights Out' and 'Doctor Doctor' bring the persevering crowd to an earthshaking climax. Many a fan goes away happy, having been blown away by great songs from one of the best guitar players on the planet. He's put his past demons behind him and upped his game.

Finally, for the lucky VIPs good old Neville McDonald does an acoustic set of Hand Of Dimes numbers for the lucky few, building the vibe for his Kooga mates and winning many a new convert. As we retreat to the safety of our tents, it sounds great!

So whilst better vocalists have sung the classics better today and rain tried to dampen spirits, the welcome in the hillside that this festival brings is unsurpassed. If you get the chance to go next year, support this really friendly traditional heavy rock festival!

Whether you camp, or get a local hotel, the welcome is the same! From lovely food, great local beer, Trooper if you wanted it and awesome bands, it's a fine weekend.

Saxon remain my band of the weekend for sheer spectacle, songs and entertainment, closely followed by MSG. Support this festival, it could be huge.

beerbeerbeerbeerbeer


9.8.13




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dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE UK AND EUROPEAN DATES FOR JULY/AUGUST IN SUPPORT OF NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'MAKE SOME NOISE'
The Dead Daisies, the biggest new name in Rock, have just recently announced the addition of Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio) as their new lead guitar player

wolf hoffmann WOLF HOFFMANN TO RELEASE SOLO ALBUM 'HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY' ON JULY 1st
"I have always incorporated classical music in my song writing with Accept, especially with 'Metal Heart', but I constantly felt there was so much more that I could do..."

jaegermeister JÄGERMEISTER RELEASE FULL DOCUMENTARY OF WORLD'S FIRST MUSIC GIG ON AIR, SEA AND LAND
"We go bigger every year and because of the nature of this world first this gig was not only a test of friendship but one of supporting each other too..."

john otway JOHN OTWAY PLANNING ON BEING FIRST ARTIST SINCE THE ROLLING STONES TO RECORD IN MONTSERRAT
"Although the old Air Studios are now derelict the studio in the basement of Sir George Martin's house is sound – it just needs rebuilding..."

fates warning FATES WARNING - NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'THEORIES OF FLIGHT' ANNOUNCED, ARTWORK UNVEILED
"There's a loose theme running through a lot of the lyrics, and this developed organically and separately..."

amon amarth RAISE YOUR HORNS AND BE IN AMON AMARTH'S NEW MUSIC VIDEO
Swedish Heavy Metal goliaths Amon Amarth are inviting their fans around the globe to be a part of their forthcoming video...

sixx am SIXX:A.M. ANNOUNCE THE "#REASONTORISE" CAMPAIGN, TOUR DATES AND 'VOL.1 PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED' DETAILS
"It is our duty as citizens of this world to come together, communicate with one another and rise up to demand more of ourselves and our leaders."

armored saint ARMORED SAINT ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN FESTIVAL AND CLUB APPEARANCES
"For our first time in Spain, it's gonna be sick! And as if this wasn't enough - Saint is playing for the first time ever in Japan..."

black country communion BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION TO REFORM IN 2017
"Preparing BCC Rocket Ship Re-launch for 2017 - all systems go."

tarja TARJA PREMIERES OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO OF HER NEW SINGLE 'NO BITTER END'
'No Bitter End', the opening track of the prequel album 'The Brightest Void', is the first glimpse of Tarja's new work – her heaviest to date...

stratovarius STRATOVARIUS RELEASE LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'UNTIL THE END OF DAYS'
"To me it's a testament to the fact that paying attention to song writing and production was expensive, but so worth it..."

brian johnson EXCLUSIVE: PROMINENT AC/DC CREW MEMBER GIVES REMARKABLE INSIGHT INTO AXL ROSE APPOINTMENT
AC/DC are covering themselves in case Axl's poor reputation for unprofessionalism manifests itself...

brian johnson THE DARKEST DAY OF MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE: BRIAN JOHNSON ISSUES PERSONAL STATEMENT ON AC/DC DEPARTURE
"I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that..."

thin lizzy THIN LIZZY ANNOUNCE BASS PLAYER AND NEW DRUMMER FOR 2016/17 ANNIVERSARY SHOWS
Thin Lizzy are undisputed legends and to be a small part of their lineage is a humble honor for me...

ian gillan IAN GILLAN TO PERFORM UNIQUE SOLO SHOW OF DEEP PURPLE CLASSICS IN BULGARIA
There is a possibility that Ian will also play some material from his catalogue outside of Deep Purple...

don airey DEEP PURPLE'S DON AIREY AND FRIENDS ADDED TO CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL PLUS ATOMIC ROOSTER
Expect to hear many classics from Airey's illustrious past which includes time spent with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne as well as his current job with Deep Purple...

wildfire festival WILDFIRE FESTIVAL 2016 ANNOUNCE SUNDAY NIGHT HEADLINERS AND FIVE MORE ACTS
With June creeping ever closer, Wildfire Festival's impressive main stages line-up is all but finalised...

whitesnake THE END OF WHITESNAKE: DAVID COVERDALE TO RETIRE IN 2017
Whitesnake headline the UK's Ramblin Man Festival in July in what could be their final ever UK appearance...

axl rose AXL ROSE CONFIRMED AS AC/DC SINGER FOR THE REMAINING ROCK OR BUST DATES
The worst kept secret in rock is now official...

aerosmith THE END OF AEROSMITH?: NO FAREWELL TOUR CONFIRMED AT THE MOMENT
"A farewell tour is something we've talked about doing for years, let's say roughly in the last five years..."

hrh united ALESTORM, HAMMERFALL, FINSTERFORST, NAPALM DEATH, ARMORED SAINT, VENOM INC. AND EVIL SCARECROW ANNOUNCED FOR HRH UNITED
HRH United 3 will be an exclusive upgraded Metal Edition taking over the entire site @ Camp HRH, Pwllheli, North Wales...

rolling stones PROUD GALLERIES PLAYING HOST TO FABULOUS ROLLING STONES PHOTO EXHIBITION: TERRY O'NEILL TO ATTEND SIGNING SESSION
It's a wonderful book by photographer Terry O'Neill of Rolling Stones images from 1963 to 1965, an era when the Stones were just "breaking through"...

between the buried and me BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN SUMMER DATES
As well as the European tour dates, BTBAM have launched a live video for 'The Ectopic Stroll' whih you can see here...

jade vine LONDON BASED ALTERNATIVE PROG ROCKERS JADE VINE ANNOUNCE ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW
Jade Vine's music has been influenced by artists such as Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Anathema and Pain Of Salvation...
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