Hafan y Mor, Pwllheli
10th - 12th March 2016
Mark Taylor and Chris Nelson: Photos by John Inglis
It's that time of year when the rock and metal faithful congregate together under various arenas of a holiday camp to enjoy three days of drunkenness, music, and a real good time. This time it was two festivals rolled into one with the Hammerfest catering for fans who like their music fast and furious and the HRH AOR for those who like a bit of melody and coherent vocals.
After the long scenic journey through God's country and a meet up with the MetalTalk team in the caravan and a few shots of Jack Daniels, we dumped our gear and headed off to catch the first band of the day on the Thursday AOR pre-party stage.
Toi were a new entity but extremely good at what they did, and it didn't take very long to impress a soon growing audience of fans entering the room. The band from Glasgow, Scotland put in a superbly polished set of tracks taken from their critically acclaimed debut album, 'Water Into Wine', and were a great way to start the day, and certainly a band to look out for in the near future.
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Beautiful Strangers are a five piece from Swansea and were equally as impressive as the first band of the day Toi. The band are self funded and self-released their debut album 'Forgive & Forget'.
It had been a long drive down, so we went back to the digs to freshen up and eat, and finally made it back to the arena at 8.10 in the evening. By now people were starting to get into alcohol infused party mode and what better way to fuel their cravings than The Quireboys. Always a better live band than on record, they quickly fired up into greatest hits mode and worked the crowd into the usual frenzy with hits such as 'Hey You', '7 O'Clock' and 'Mona Lisa Smiled'. Spike has always been charismatic and has a stage presence to die for, so with him in top flight and the fans eating out the palm of his hands, there was never going to be any other outcome than brilliant.
Maybe because it was 11.40pm by now the crowd thinned out very quickly after The Quireboys came off stage, not giving The V much of a chance to win them over. The band is an off shoot of Benedictum fronted by larger than life Veronica Freeman and after the good reviews of the debut album 'Now Or Never' I can see them being a permanent fixture on the live front for some years to come. So without further ado the band ploughed into a great live set of tracks taken from just that album and won over what was left of the crowd with stalwart performances from her new band and a never say die attitude to her music. Maybe if the time slot had been better it would have turned out very different but by now many had enough leaving the fans to walk the plank with the final band of the day, Captain Blackbeard.
Tragedy closed the Hammerfest stage whose sense of humour can give some people the Hee Bee Gee Bees but they got the crowd throwing their best John Travolta moves but gave us the Night Fever rash.
Olli, Reckless Love
So into day two we dive with a crisp walk over to the Hammerfest stage at 2.00pm to catch the opening set of the very talked about Stone Broken. From Chris Nelson's hometown of Walsall comes another thriving force of rock from what has been one of the outstanding areas for music for some decades now. Profiling songs from their debut album 'All In Time', they pounded out tracks of pure excellence and the crowd loved every minute of it, singing along to an album that's only been released a couple of months. Sounding very much like a young Nickelback and with a female drummer the band certainly got tongues wagging; a bright future is in place for this band in the very foreseeable.
Rich Moss, Stone Broken
In the HRH arena were Scotland's finest sons Estrella. We've seen the boys live a few times now and they never fail to impress, owning the stage with poses and songs to back up the bravado. Playing songs from their two albums 'Come Out To Play' and 'We Will Go On', the Gunn Brothers do what they do best and win over new fans and old with their Aerosmith influenced style of rock. The reaction from people leaving the arena after their set was a joy to listen to with not a bad word spoken about another astonishing performance. The boys should be proud.
Next band on the stage were Iconic Eye, who didn't go down well at all. The problem was vocalist Tim Dawkes who didn't look comfortable on stage and is a poor imitation of the vocalist from the debut album Lee Small. Don't know what the problem was getting Lee to join the band full time but it would have been in their favour to have talked him round, at least for a gig of this high coverage. The album is quality, but the songs didn't come across well with vocal notes being dropped left right and centre. Cover versions of Aerosmith's 'Sweet Emotion' and Python Lee Jackson's 'In A Broken Dream' were flatter than Kate Moss' chest and made the band look like a pub band. A missed opportunity.
On the Hammerfest stage the day belonged to Finnish metallers Battle Beast who travelled especially to be here and showed no signs of travel fatigue as they gave a pulsating set delivered with good humour and clout. Vocalist Noora Louhimo can make young boys tremor with her witch like voice and Mad Max sexy look. Hands down the band of the day.
Kane'd were are a bizarre choice for the AOR stage. Sounding like Anastasia with a little bit of pop and punk thrown in the mix they were half descent at what they did, but lost the interest of half the crowd because of this reason.
Thankfully Blood Red Saints were on stage next and what a thanksgiving it was. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Winger, Giant and Hardline was always going to be a win win situation with a crowd like this. Their debut album 'Speedway' was in a lot of journalist's top albums of 2015, and rightly so, and the good thing about it is it transforms expertly into an ecstatic live experience. Pete Godfrey (In Faith) is an astounding vocalist and partnering alongside ex Angels Or Kings bassist Rob Naylor, Pete Newdeck of Tainted Nation/Eden's Curse, Lee Revill had the best guitar sound of the whole weekend. They turned out be one of the highlights of the whole weekend. The thing going in their favour apart from the great songs and musicianship is Pete Godfrey's talent to involve the crowd in his quirky banter (although that might not work in countries without the British sense of humour) and their fun feel to the whole shenanigans.
Russ Ballard came on next and has a superb back catalogue of song writing gems. Mainly associated with the band Argent, Russ belted out classic after classic such as 'God Gave Rock & Roll To You' and 'Hold Your Head Up'. Songs he wrote for other artists such as Hot Chocolate's 'You Win Again', Rainbow's 'Since You Been Gone' and numerous others were aired to a very appreciative audience. Long may he continue to bring musical honey to our ears.
Back on the Hammerfest stage there were more battle metal antics to be had with Turisas. Many fans had painted their faces in the war colours of red and black. The Vikings raped and pillaged their way through a highly entertaining set proving that Turisas still have plenty to offer.
Danny Filth, Cradle Of Filth
Followed by Cradle Of Filth, it had to be said that Dani Filth and his Gothic gang seemed to be a little out of place on such a small stage prevented from using their usual heavy dosage of pyrotechnics but they still ended the Hammerfest stage in their own unique fashion.
Tyketto rarely do a bad performance and they certainly were not going to start tonight. Danny Vaughn and the boys were on fire once again as they played the debut album 'Don't Come Easy' from end to start, because as Danny said, if he played 'Forever Young' first everyone would go home. AS IF). It was a stroke of genius and had everybody singing every word to every song, even putting in a rendition of 'Walk Away', which was on the b-side of 'Forever Young', and a track we've never heard played live before. One of the sets of the weekend which made three quarters of their fans lose their voices. Follow that JLT, and follow that he did.
Danny Vaughn, Tyketto
He didn't get the expected phone call from Ritchie Blackmore but Joe Lynn Turner hasn't shunned his Rainbow roots. This was the first time that Joe Lynn Turner had ever done a full on electric rock show in the UK and he didn't disappoint with a set of Rainbow classics from his time with the band. Opening with the hard driving 'Death Alley Driver' before delving into the AOR bliss of hits such as 'Street Of Dreams', 'Stone Cold' and 'I Surrender'. What a shame that songwriter Russ Ballard didn't join Turner for that one. Even Turner's time with Deep Purple got a look in with the underrated 'King Of Dreams'. A comprehensive hit that really pleased fans of the Blackmore/Turner era.
And the last day of three once again would not let us down. Before the day started on the main stages, Australian band The Radio Sun did an acoustic set in the owners lounge to a very select audience. The sound was sublime, the songs came across brilliantly in that laid back setting and the boys did themselves proud with funny banter, great stories but more than that a feeling of really wanting to be here to perform for their fans. Please come back soon.
Joe Lynn Turner
The first band of the day to appear on the Sleaze stage were Teenage Casket Company. Fronted by Tigertailz frontman Rob Wylde they ripped the stage a new ass and commanded a rapturous audience from the start. Tight, complex and full of great throw away but kick ass songs and with a great addition of the Beastie Boys classic 'Fight For Your Right' had the fans eating out the palm of their hand.
A fabulous start to the day was followed by the Godfather of Glam Rocky Shades (ex Wrathchild) with Wildside Riot on the sleaze stage and the band that has travelled 36 hours to get here from down under The Radio Sun playing their electric show on the main AOR stage. As the stages were luckily so close together there was a chance to check out both bands and witness two faultless sets of new melodic rock classics with Australia's finest and the best of glam/sleaze classics from the Shadesmeister.
As the bands played on there was a scrum for the TV screens as Wales were playing England in the rugby. How sweet is was to be on Welsh soil and watch England smash the Welsh into the grand slammer.
So after the match it was back to the venue to see the mighty Talon hit the stage. Great songs, great stage presence and a borrowed guitar later they once again triumphed winning over a very enthusiastic crowd of fans old and new with great renditions of songs from their back catalogue that went down an absolute storm.
The Radio Sun
Heading for the high jump on the Stoner stage were Reading dead certs Ded Orse who gave a wise bulldozing slab of grungy stoner rock. Singer Queasy Phil has a voice not too dissimilar to James Hetfield and also has a refreshing sense of humour. Their debut album is in the pipeline but you can be sure of backing a winner with Ded Orse and they certainly didn't leave anyone with a long face.
The band of the weekend by a million miles were the Dan Reed Network. They blew us away at the Rockingham Festival last year in Nottingham, and once again were a total hit with a crowd that seemed to know every song thrown their way. Dan Reed is more alive than when he is churning out his solo material. The Network's hits have a more vibrant electric bounce with his band of brothers. 'Rainbow Child', 'Baby Now I', 'Tiger In A Dress' and numerous others brought a sense of class to the evening's entertainment.
Dan Reed Network
Quiet Riot were playing their first UK date in over three decades. Sadly motor mouth Kevin DuBrow is no longer with us and his vocalist spot is taken by Jizzy Pearl. Frank Banali is the sole original member left in the band and he certainly knows how to bang the drums hard and heavy high up on his riser.
Quiet Riot clunked and clangered their way through the set but they managed to rock the boys and girls with their cover of Slade's 'Cum On Feel The Noize', the first ever US metal Number 1 single no less and their own anthem 'Metal Health'. Dumb metal in it's purest form, the way it should be.
Gilby Clarke was surprisingly very good with his power trio band. A set made up of solo material, a couple of Rolling Stones covers as well as one from The Who plus a cover of reminders of his time spent with Guns N' Roses. A captivating set that ended the AOR stage in style.
Exodus smashed the Hammerfest stage with some vintage pedigree thrash. Whilst the so called Big 4 of thrash dilute their sound these days, Exodus are still keeping it mighty real. The tomfoolery antics of Lawnmower Deth rounded off the weekend the for those who could still stand or drink.
A cracking weekend that can break many a good man.
Jizzy Pearl, Quiet Riot