||RAMBLIN' MAN FAIR PROVES TO BE A SCORCHER
Liz Medhurst, Mark Taylor, Sara Harding, Andy Rawll
Photos by Sean Cameron, Whitesnake photo by Solange Moreira-Yeoell
26th July 2016
The second Ramblin' Man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone was a scorching affair both musically and weather-wise with many highlights to choose from and many memorable moments from a varied bill that had something for nearly everyone.
It's an impressive set up with decent sound, which is a nice change for a UK festival, and with good variety of food and beer, easily walkable distances between the stages and friendly and not overly-officious stewards it's got the potential to become the UK's top rock festival. It's like a smaller version of Download but without the mud and the more extreme type of Metal but Bloodstock takes care of the latter.
We're also very impressed with the festival organisers, The Spirit Of Rock, who were responding to minor complaints on their Facebook page (queues at the bar and the entrance primarily) immediately. We're estimating the attendance at around 20,000 so of course there will be queues and at any event of this size, there will inevitably be the odd thing that doesn't go perfectly smoothly but overall this was a great festival experience.
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Inglorious kicked off proceedings on the main stage and what an opening it was. The band entered one by one to the intro 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and then exploded into 'Until I Die'. The crowd was already more than respectable in size and continued to grow quickly as people got through the queues and raced towards the stage - it was staggeringly obvious that they were a "must-see" for so many.
Despite battling some major sound problems which started during 'Breakaway' and continued into a cover of Rainbow's 'I Surrender' where the speakers loudly crackled and popped and some channels were lost like when headphones get a loose connection, the band put in a polished and strong set that genuinely wowed the audience. With their signature moves and sharp playing, every member was having a ball and their fresh brand of classic hard rock more than satisfied.
The temperature registered 28 degrees and the performance was hotter still and the majority of the park raised their voices and sang along with gusto. 'Holy Water' may have been referring to the ice cold beers that were needed for the conditions, but for whatever reason it seemed like everyone knew the words.
The was also a poignant moment when just before 'Warning', a track about the dangers of substance abuse, a large white butterfly flew right across the inner stage area. It's five years to the day since Amy Winehouse died. Talking about anniversaries, it was four years ago today since vocalist Nathan James was eliminated from 'Superstar', the TV programme to find the lead for a new production of the Lloyd Webber/Rice musical. MetalTalk's Liz Medhurst watched that night and remembers thinking: "He's destined for much bigger and better, this is only the beginning" - and now in 2016 this is the year of Inglorious.
Next up was the much anticipated Dead Daisies who were making their first English appearance of the year after arriving in Europe last week and playing two shows with Inglorious in Dublin and Belfast. Our man Bryan Boyle was at the Dublin gig and you can read all about what was a superb night right here.
Not only was it The Daisies' first English appearance of the year, it was their first of the day as they were also playing the Rock And Blues Custom Show in Derby at 10.30pm on Saturday night. Wisecracks about roadies carrying amps off the stage and de-assembling Brian Tichy's drum kit while the band were still playing their final numbers were doing the rounds, but if there was any pressure on the five to pull this off it most certainly didn't show as they put on a stellar performance that has most certainly won them plenty of new fans.
The Daisies not only matched our expectations, they exceeded them in very fine style indeed. Doug Aldrich was totally magnificent and along with a super-cool and super-confident Marco Mendoza, a lively David Lowy, a commanding frontman in John Corabi and livewire drummer Brian, this band thoroughly owned the Ramblin' Man Main Stage.
'Make Some Noise', Creedence Clearwater's 'Fortunate Son', 'Long Way To Go' (Derby?) and 'Mainline' were all aired from the new forthcoming 'Make Some Noise' album (released August 5th) and despite there being only two people in the crowd who knew the words to the latter, it went down an absolute storm and sent out a very clear message that this album is a "must hear".
As an antidote to these scorchers, the temperate prog of Frost* was an enticing prospect. With a chillingly fine and long-awaited new album, 'Falling Satellites", just released, anticipation was high and the welcome at the Prog stage in the early afternoon was far from icy.
Resplendent in tropical shorts and shirts, the progressive firm of KBMG (King, Mitchell, Blundell, Godfrey) set about making their performance really count with new album opening track 'Numbers'. Terrific counter-pointed vocal harmonies and punchy rhythm and groove of this new track really did add-up and segued seamlessly into one of their oldest tracks, 'Hyperventilate', that somehow melds the urban bombast of Dream Theater, the volcanic melody of Genesis and the panoramic orchestrations of Rabin-era Yes.
The Crimson assurance of 'Signs' provided assessible, yet richly textured alternative to the "florid sleaze" of the Dead Daisies on the main stage. Although at times aurally demanding, as is the best prog, all of Frost*'s songs have strong melodic foundations that foster wider appeal than bands that purvey impeccable style with limited substance. 'Black Light Machine" was a fine example of this and a perfect set closer that was justly applauded by an appreciative crowd.
Terrorvision on the Main Stage had a very hard act to follow and a very large stage to fill and they did a great job. Frontman Tony Wright was resplendent in his orange outfit and full of beans too as he ran around the stage and totally won over the crowd with a fun filled package of twelve of the Bradford boys' best including 'My House', 'Perseverance', 'Oblivion' and 'Celebrity Hit List'.
It was a relentless performance and a proper party in the sunshine with the band proving that not everything that comes out of Yorkshire is of the pudding variety. Well played lads and it's good to see you back in action.
A quick wander over to the Rising Stage was in order as Scarborough's Bruce John Dickinson's Colour Of Noise were attracting attention in the form of a healthy crowd and although he doesn't pilot his band's own 747, the former Little Angels man's band were flying here with some solid numbers and memorable tunes.
BJD himself was one of the main organisers of the Rising Stage, and his band showed how high the standard was. This gig also saw the debut of guitarist Tommy Gleeson, replacing Dan Electro in the line up. He did a sterling job and our man Andy Rawll said this set was the best of the three Noisy shows he has seen this year.
It's always a treat to see Ginger Wildheart on the larger stage and our Geordie buddy put on a terrific show today. His band seem to be more polished every time we see them and it's noticeable just how tight this current tour has made the band.
Ginger himself was so up for this one and he opened with and stormed through three cracking Silver Ginger 5 songs before 'Mother City', 'That's A Nasty Habit You've Got There', Wildhearts' numbers 'Mazel Tov Cocktail' and 'Top Of The World' before ending with a stonking 'Ostracide'. A band on top, top form with a set of tremendous songs that exude personality and Northern charm.
Thin Lizzy frontman Ricky Warwick posted a picture of himself and Ginger after the show and said: "The amount of trouble this man has got me into in the last 25 years... always an inspiration and always a friend!!"
And just when you were starting to think that it wasn't possible to squeeze any more Northerners into a festival review, we bumped into the mighty Biff Byford of Saxon who played the inaugural Ramblin' Man almost exactly one year ago. Biff was here to see newcomers Naked Six on the Rising Stage who were easily one of the top performers in that corner of the festival.
Naked Six don't sound like Saxon at all but they do have a Hawkwind vibe going in which is not a massive surprise as they describe themselves as a three piece alternative/rock/psychedelic group. Seb Byford is the vocalist and guitarist and you'll be hearing a lot more about them on MetalTalk in the coming weeks and months.
There was still one Northerner to go however as one of Teesside's most famous sons was in the "building" and anticipation was already starting to build about the appearance of headliners Whitesnake but there was a lot more to go before David Coverdale and the latest incarnation of the multi-platinum selling band he started 38-years ago were to hit the stage.
Formed in St Albans way back in 1962, The Zombies had the honour of being the oldest band on the Ramblin' Man bill with 54 years of service, although there were a few other artists hot on their tail. On the Prog Stage they delivered a classy set full of timeless influential pop tunes and diverse progressive rock.
Organist Rod Argent tells repetitive anecdotes behind The Zombies' songs and the music is sublime. The complimentary dulcet voice of Colin Blunstone adds its unique smoothness which brings a calming sense of tranquillity to such classics as 'Time Of The Season' and 'She's Not There'. Even Argent's 'Hold Your Head Up' is most welcome with its swirling Hammond solo and The Zombies aptly live up to their latest album title of 'Still Got That Hunger' with a swinging 'Moving On'.
Happy days are here again with the ever reliable Uriah Heep who are more fashionable now than they've ever been in their lengthy career. Heep took no prisoners as they tore into 'Gypsy' and a barnstorming 'Look At Yourself'. New songs 'The Law' and the commercial clout of 'One Minute' sat snugly amongst the classics of old.
'Sunrise' and 'July Morning' sounded glorious in the summer sunshine and new boys, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Davey Rimmer, have added an extra va-va-voom which gives Heep some extra welly. Voices were raised for the acoustic 'Lady In Black' which saw Bernie Shaw's daughter in the audience proudly perched on a family member's shoulder egging everyone on to sing along.
When Uriah Heep are this good, it's no surprise that guitarist Mick Box continually smiles throughout the gig. A ray of golden sunshine.
So with around one hour of sunshine remaining, it was time for a band many people had on top of their "must see" list. Britain may have left Europe but Europe haven't left Britain as Joey Tempest and John Norum showed by captivating an audience who lapped up their every move.
It was clear from the first two numbers, the title track and second track from their last album, 'War Of Kings' and 'Hole In My Pocket', that Europe were on top form and when 'Rock The Night' burst into life the deal was sealed. Europe were triumphant again.
Joey still has all the energy he had when the band first made it big in the 80s and a further reminder of those glory days was delivered with 'Cherokee' before 'Days of Rock n' Roll' from 'War Of Kings' and the inevitable 'The Final Countdown' with its 20,000 backing vocalists rounded things off.
Europe are always a good bet to provide a value for money entertaining show and tonight was no exception. A great addition to an already rich bill.
And so with the daylight now beginning to wane, it was time for a real treat and Thin Lizzy's only UK appearance of 2016. Now we have all heard the "it's not Lizzy without Phil" claims over and over again and there's no dispute that Phil was very special and unique, as the giant stage banners carrying his image demonstrate, but so is Ricky Warwick and he's done an absolutely superb job of stepping into such mighty shoes.
If you haven't seen modern day Lizzy, then do it if you can because it's either this Lizzy or no Lizzy and we're grateful for having been given the opportunity to see them, especially after a performance as superb as Saturday's.
Of course, there won't be many more opportunites as Ricky, Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson don't go out under the Lizzy name any more. It's Black Star Riders now which has a distinct Thin Lizzy feel to it but the guys wanted their own identity, hence the name change. This is a "one-off" string of dates under the Lizzy banner to commemorate forty years since the release of the 'Jailbreak' album and thirty years since we lost Phil Lynott. After these dates, it will be back to BSR business.
And Lizzy have a very special rhythym section for the Anniversary shows, Aerosmith bass player Tom Hamilton and Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis, and both men were given extensive and heartfelt introductions by Ricky, as was Thin Lizzy Godfather Scott Gorham.
'Jailbreak' is a cracking number to start with but it took until third track 'Killer On The Loose' for the sound people to get the levels right but when they finally got the mix and volume correct, Lizzy went on and made a lasting impression. A set-list packed with classics, a band playing out of their skin and demonstrating all their collective years of experience and skill made for a tremendous experience.
There are still two other very important names to mention however and as always, Dean Wharton did a wonderful job on keyboards and a huge round of applause erupted when a man who Ricky introduced as "the worst guitarist Thin Lizzy ever had", a quote the man in question had humourously made himself, Midge Ure, took to the stage for 'Cowboy Song' and 'The Boys Are Back In Town' which got those 20,000 backing singers going again and it was definitely between this one and Europe's party piece as to which was the standout singalong number of the day. Lizzy just edged it from where we were watching.
The very name alone - Whitesnake - is enough to get the pulse racing and there's no denying that the band is in its twilight years now, unless someone can do a Ricky Warwick and unexpectedly step into Sir David's boots but for now, there's no immediate panic as he looked and sounded like he had rolled back the clock twenty years.
Yes, the set-list is designed to provide breathers with a little more soloing than most would like but Whitesnake always did lengthy solos, even as far back as when Ian Paice was on the drumstool and who could ever forget Micky Moody's 'Lovehunter' slide guitar solo in the early 80s. Tonight we got a Joel Hoekstra guitar solo, a Tommy Aldridge drum solo and a Michael Devin bass solo, all of which showed the quality of modern day Whitesnake.
David Coverdale was tweeting all day long in the run up to the show and his personality is there for all to see on his Twitter page which included such gems as: "Gonna Feel Your Body Heat, Ramblers...:)", "Tonight's The Night, Baby!!!" and this one that we particularly like:
This was a show of two halves with the first seven songs all absolute classics and mainly fast paced numbers. 'Bad Boys' was a blistering starter and 'Slide It In' just absolutely kicked.
Those immortal words: "'Ere's a song for you!" meant it was 'Fool For Your Loving' up next and it's lost none of its (snake) bite at all and the same can be said for another Whitesnake classic, 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City'. These two numbers are, in a lot of ways, definitive early Whitesnake and it was a joy to hear them performed live and so brilliantly well.
The second half of the set contained the three solos with the magnificent 'Slow An' Easy' sandwiched between Joel and Michael's slots and a thumping 'Crying In The Rain' leading into Tommy's slot before the evening was rounded off with 'Give Me All Your Love' and the incomparable 'Here I Go Again'.
Sir David nearly brought the house down for the encore of 'Still Of The Night' and it was a nice moment that also went down well with the Whitesnake choir who were in very fine voice tonight. It would be a shame if Whitesnake were to finish as this was a great performance and there's clearly a lot of life left in this great musical institution yet.
No Deep Purple numbers was a surprise but this is billed as Whitesnake's Greatest Hits Tour and with a sackful of classics like this, it wasn't necessary to throw anything extra in which just goes to show how enduring Whitesnake are.
No - it's not over yet and neither should it be because this line-up is most definitely ready and willing. Are you?
And so on to Sunday, where the temperature stayed high, as did the quality of the bill. There were some pretty major stage clashes to deal with, leading to genuine disappointment for many of us, but we are MetalTalk and we are... well a lot of things and one of those is dedicated to the sharp end of rock n' roll so we ran around in the sunshine to catch as much as we could.
As with yesterday, the mainstage opening act was an absolute sizzler as The Graveltones thrilled by going deep into the shadows of the heart of the blues and pulling it out into the light for us all to experience.
Guitarist/vocalist Jimmy O and drummer Mikey Sorbello displayed their unique telepathy as they delivered a hot and intensive dive into huge riffs, fills, rhythms and emotive vocals. The duo really got into their stride by the time they got to 'Can't Tell A Man' and 'In The Throes' where everything soared, including Jimmy as he leapt into the air.
They may have been introduced as the band who took up the least amount of space, but they produced a sound and a delivery that more than gave much bigger bands a run for their money. After final track, 'Never Gonna Let You Go', the sweat on the back of Jimmy's shirt formed perfectly shaped large dark angel wings. The badass angels of rock were with us today and approved of every minute.
Following this, a walk around the smaller stages was in order, to cool down a bit. We caught the impressive experimentation of The Fierce And The Dead, the Hendrix-like vibe of Simo, and then the classy and energetic performance of Stone Broken, who made a real positive impact. It was then back to the Main Stage for another "must-see".
Keeping it well and truly within the Southern rock family are father and uncle of a certain John Fred of Black Stone Cherry fame and these old new boys on the block are the Kentucky Headhunters.
The Hunters have never made it to the UK before to due a fear of flying but having finally broken their flying cherry (!), this group of whiskered whiskey drinkers touched down for the ultimate shindig at Ramblin' Man. Hailed as the Deep Southern heroes of blues rock and first heard in 1968, the band briefly signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label, the senior citizens of the south have matured to perfection like a fine moonshine.
Their mighty fine performance was slicker than a fine pomade. And as the first chords of 'Dixie Lullabies' injected a shot of Rebel across the Ramblin' Man Fair, we were all hotstepping like hillbillies at a hoedown. Flowing seamlessly between their own massive back catalogue into covers from Bill Monroe, Freddie King and Don Gibson, this conglomeration of white haired blues rockers mesmerised the entire crowd.
And we got an appearance by Black Stone Cherry themselves for the finale of The Beatles' 'Hey Jude', providing the highest possible pedigree of "na, na, naahs" in the province. A band that you would be lucky to catch in a run down honky tonk bar have risen again and proved that the South will always rise with some well deserved family help.
As we chatted to the band post gig over a fine bourbon, there were promises of a return UK tour with Black Stone Cherry and that makes us all as happy as a haystack at a hogwash.
It's ten years since The Answer released 'Rise' and the Irish rockers are currently on the road celebrating this anniversary. 'Under The Sky', 'Into The Gutter' and 'Never Too Late' sounded as powerful now as they did then, and the band showed no sign of resting on their laurels, having a driving energy that was infectious.
Cormac Neeson gave a shoutout to fellow countryman Pat McManus, who earlier had wowed the Blues stage with his trio and their blend of top quality dynamic Irish rock. There's something magical about that essence and The Answer have it too. Following this anniversary tour the band will release 'Solas', the new album which we can confirm is their best yet and more than worth looking out for.
Closing out the Rising Stage on this sunny Sunday were Cats In Space. The Cats have made a huge name for themselves this year and their meteoric rise continued with this out of this world performance which opened with the arrival of the title track from their astronomically good album 'Too Many Gods' followed by the radio friendly 'Only In Vegas'.
Their sound is from the 70s and their songs are new and original and there's forgotten treasures only now rediscovered, for example the forthcoming new single and Slade classic 'How Does It Feel'. Everyone donned metaphorical platforms, flares and glitter and abandoned themselves to the intoxication. There's no other band I can think of that can ramp up the happiness levels as quickly as a basket of fluffy kittens.
Right through to the closer, the Sweet classic 'Burn On The Flame', there were collective swoons at the impeccable harmonies and the very best of the 70s sound of glam rock, top tunes and damn fine musicianship. "That's my new favourite band" was a phrase heard several times as the crowd dispersed. Cats In Space take a bow, a packet of catnip and a tub of cream back onto your rocket - we'll be here eagerly awaiting your next landing.
You can't go wrong with energetic Aussie rockers Airbourne at a festival, full of Amber Nectar and not giving a XXXX, it's heads down no-nonsense rocking action all the way.
With AC/DC and Krokus riffs aplenty Airbourne are here to entertain even if that means Joel O'Keeffe smashing a beer can against his head and spraying the contents over the crowd or climbing high up the stage scaffolding and being told off by a 'stage manager' who kicks his arse only for O'Keeffe to go waltzing out amongst the crowd Angus style. The beer never runs dry when Airbourne are here to party.
Seeing space warriors Hawkwind in the broad daylight without the cosmic psychedelic light show didn't have quite the same effect, however their hypnotic sounds soon overcame with the help of beer and blazing sunshine. 'Hassan I Shaba' sounds immense with a haze of grass floating through the air - the Mote Park dry grass that is, not the smoking kind. 'Shot Down In The Night' rounded off another captivating set from the Hawks.
A treat for the Ramblin Man' Fair was a rare UK performance from Procol Harum who gave a stately performance worthy of Royal approval. The lyrics are dark and doomy but the music lifts you to euphoric levels. Gary Brooker MBE has a rich voice at 71-years-old and a gold ole fashioned dark sense of humour.
'Salty Dog' and 'Conquistador' are simply magnificent and Josh Phillips' swirling organ work on 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' was a glorious ending to proceedings on the Prog Stage. The only thing missing was a firework finale, but the impact that Procol Harum made was louder than any bang.
Thunder are worthy of being headliners, especially when you consider how many UK hit singles they have had, however the Sarf Londoners were a most welcome addition to the line-up bringing feel good factor tunes and an earthy British rock sound. Opening with the title track from their recent return to form album 'Wonder Days', Thunder had the crowd immediately in their palm. Danny Bowes was in fine fettle dressed in a white denim jacket sporting a Cats In Space t-shirt.
Luke Morley cranked out the riff to 'Higher Ground' with the chorus sang passionately by the Ramblin' faithful while 'Back Street Symphony' brought back happy memories of their storming Donington debut in 1990 and from then on every song was a winner including the bluesy querky rocker 'I Love You More Than Rock 'N Roll'.
The uplifting and moving ballad 'Love Walked In' had fists in the air and Thunder ended their set with the teasing introduction of 'Dirty Love' which sent the Ramblers into the ultimate knees up.
It may have been their first time headlining a UK festival, but Black Stone Cherry have been quite at home in UK arenas for the past couple of years, and it showed. Bursting onto the stage with verve and forcefulness the Kentuckians headed straight into the strong attitude of 'Me And Mary Jane'. Guitarist Ben Wells was throwing all the shapes in the book, and them some.
This blend of Southern rock with grungy overtones was really suited to the open air and kept the mood of the festival high as 'Blind Man' and 'Rain Wizard' were rapturously received. The down and dirty blues side was well covered with a remarkable 'Bad To The Bone', then the emotions were tugged with 'Things My Father Said', where they were joined by Kentucky Headhunters, Cadillac Three, smartphone torches and fireworks in the park.
This was followed by a live debut of 'Cheaper To Drink Alone'. The familiar 'White Trash Millionaire' and Basil Brush favourite 'Blame It On The Boom Boom' ended a rousing set but Black Stone Cherry were far from finished, returning for an acoustic 'The Rambler'. However the mics failed to pick up Ben Wells' guitar but Chris Robertson was having none of it and carried on anyway and being the pros that they are, they got away with it as the whole of the Ramblin' Man crowd hushed down to listen intently to the acoustic track which gave an intimate campfire vibe with a few thousand guests.
For the finale Chris Robertson said: "We are Black Stone Cherry and just like Motörhead, we play rock n' roll" before storming into an impromptu 'Ace Of Spades'.
That's the way I like it baby, I want the Ramblin' Man Fair to live forever.
Thin Lizzy Setlist:
Are You Ready
Killer On The Loose
Dancing In The Moonlight
Angel Of Death
Waiting For An Alibi
Cowboy Song (with Midge Ure)
The Boys Are Back In Town (with Midge Ure)
Whiskey In The Jar
Slide It In
Love Ain't No Stranger
The Deeper The Love
Fool For Your Loving
Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City
Slow An' Easy
Crying In The Rain (incl. drum solo)
Is This Love
Give Me All Your Love
Here I Go Again
Still Of The Night
River Of Pain
The Devil Made Me Do It
The Thing I Want
I Love You More Than Rock n' Roll
Love Walked In
Black Stone Cherry Setlist:
Me And Mary Jane
Built For Comfort
Bad To The Bone
In My Blood
Things My Father Said
Cheaper To Drink Alone
In Our Dreams
White Trash Millionaire
Blame It On The Boom Boom
Ace Of Spades