Gig Reviews 2021
Photos courtesy of John Bull of RockRPix
The Dead Daisies
Shepherds Bush Empire
10th November 2021
Don't forget your Covid pass. The friendly reminder that thankfully I heeded. Those who didn't weren't allowed access to one of London most iconic music venues, The Shepherds Bush Empire. How times have changed. There was a time when you were refused entry if you failed to prove your age. That hasn't happened to me for a long time... Now its failure to produce digital proof of inoculation. The way things were. The way things are now. Which nicely sums up the two main acts tonight. Unfortunately I was unable to enjoy the short set by Grand Slam, who I had seen previously at Ramblin Man, thanks to the delights of London's travel infrastructure.
The London Quireboys, as they were originally known, have been playing the same brand of blues rock and roll since the early eighties, with a virtually unchanged line up. Guitarists Paul Guerin and Guy Griffin both wield beautiful Vintage Guitars – Guy often using a T-type when not sporting a Les Paul, and a particularly gorgeous blue T Type for the slide drenched There She Goes Again. Paul a natural burst Les Paul that naturally makes me want to burst... Keyboardist Keith Weir is another of the long time band members who sits unassumingly at the back, keeping the rhythm section in check whilst the iconic frontman Spike runs the show. I should say makes the show because, no matter how sublime and skilled the rest are, it's Spike who is the Quireboys. The headscarfed Geordie, resplendent in his usual gypsy attire, and always with a drink in his hand, swaggers, staggers, sings and slurs his way into our hearts with all the bonhommie you come to expect from a child of Englands party town. He may be partial to the occasional drink, but Spike is the consumate professional, always delivering a full on awesome singing talent, infused with passion and charm, in a warming manner which has remained unchanged in 37 plus years. And two years absence has only made his heart grow stronger. When not delivering classic after classic like Whipping Boy, There She Goes Again and Hey You, he is bantering with the audience. Remembering the days at Gossips of nearby Dean Street, where every week there was a night of 80's style glam rock - Decadence it was called. And just for an hour, we are taken back there as the packed Shepherd Bush crowd, now sporting slightly less hair and spandex, bask in the joy of proper rock and roll. Even the sultry I Don't Love You Anymore raises a happy cheer after a heartfelt and heavy singalong. And the mood is lifter with a YeeHa! as the upbeat Sweet Mary Ann whups us back into shape. And closing legend of a song 7'O'Clock reminds us that it's time for a party - so we do. Cheers says Spike raising his glass. Cheers is what he gets - rapturous ones. I have said it before, and i will say it again, when it comes to the Quireboys, this IS rock and roll.
Man on the Loose
Long Time Comin'
There She Goes Again
I Don't Love You Anymore
Sweet Mary Ann
Now when it comes to change, tonight's headline act The Dead Daisies are the masters. Formed in 2013 by Australian guitarist Dave Lowy, the band has been a constant revolving door of quality musicians. I fell in love with the band back in 2016 when i saw them in Camden with The Answer. At that time they were a 5 piece fronted by John Corabi and with Michael Mendoza on bass. Corabi sang vocals on what for me is still my favourite Motley Crue album. It was with that line up that the excellent Make Some Noise and Burn It Down albums were released. The current line up includes the ever present Lowy, plus guitar legend Doug Aldrich. And joining the band this year is the now legendary Tommy Clufetos, a notably unsmiling drummer, who could be the poster child for the Spinal Tap school of muppet style drummers. Clufetos is no muppet though, having battered skins for Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and, most notably for me, Black Sabbath on their final tour. But the most notable 'new boy' - a most inapropriate label - is ex Deep Purple vocalist, and bassist, Glenn Hughes. The now septuagenarian singer, still the current frontman from blues supergroup Black Country Communion was born in Staffordshire but has been living in LA for the last 15 years. And Hughes has obviously soaked up the LA scene as he stands center stage, clad in a red crushed velvet jacket and matching jeans, white Converse, flowing locks and standard issue LA suntan and white teeth. The experienced singer beams a warming smile, never straying from his face, that is endearing to all. 'There's nothing like coming home' he cries to the London crowd - only about 130 miles out Glenn - as the quartet launch into opener Unspoken. Guitarists Doug Aldrich and David Lowy bring twin Gibson goodness through Marshall and Friedman stacks. Lowy sports a white SG or Flying V whilst Aldrich wields a Les Paul. The two axemen strike a notable contrast. Aldrich is a big muscled. Blond haired Adonis, wearing just a leather waistcoat, above his massively ripped jeans, allowing him to flex his rippled muscle. Lowy, by contrast, is a slight unassuming looking fellow, in simple jeans and t-shirt, although no less of a presence.
A note of praise here for Alrich who, after the traditional three song limit for the compacted mass of photographers ended, fist bumped every one of them before the were ushered away by security. It's great to see these often maligned hard working music fans being given some level of recognition from those that they make look good.
But it's all about frontman Glenn Hughes. It is fair to say that the Daisies have started a new chapter in their story, and tonight is very much about the new line up. Some of the earlier classics like Mexico and Lock n Load feel distinctly lacklustre whilst newer material like Chosen And Justified and Saving Grace are sung with passion. It's a shame as the early Daisies material is quality rock.
'How do you feel?' enquires Mr H. We feel great as the quality of both the songs, and the artists, imbues our souls with much missed quality live rock music. The ever smiling frontman, bedazzling us with his pearly whites and impressive vocals, frequents the set with his ear piercing scream most of us only achieve when standing barefoot upon a propriety brand of children's building block.
The Daisies are no strangers to covers - Fortunate Son and Midnight Moses being tonight's offering - the latter being a particular favourite of mine which Glenn allows the audience to sing in his stead. But we now also have a couple of old Deep Purple classics added to the set list including the soulful Mistreated which followed a Clufetos drum solo. 12 minutes of Mistreated did feel a little long, especially as it was punctuated frequently with Lego induced shrieks. 'How do you feel?' Hughes asks again - still good thanks. Leave Me Alone, having Aldrich join vocals with Hughes, is an older song dome well with nice and heavy vocals. The crowd reacts accordingly and prompts Hughes to exclaim to the crowd 'You are bloody good tonight London' and extol the importance of communication between the fans and the band. It's heartfelt and well received. As is the news of an 18 month tour due to start next year. Like No Other, complete with a Hughes Bassline solo, is another new track that the crowd sing warmly along to. Hughes drinks it all in - he does love an appreciative audience. And at the end of Holy Ground, he signs off with 'Peace and Love to everybody'. Feeling the love Glenn.
The quartet quickly return for an excellent rendition of Long Way To Go, a great rock song that never fails to get the blood pumping. And it's no surprise that the closing song is another Hughes classic - Deep Purple's Burn. It's a classic for a reason and a fitting addition to the Daisies collection of covers. Aldrich does an excellent job of covering the keyboard parts, and Hughes is in his element with more ear piercing screams than a barefoot Cèilidh in a lego factory. A fine way to bring the Glenn Hughes show to a cracking conclusion.
So the old , the new, the borrowed and the blues. We got it all tonight. King Cnut tried to hold back the waves to no avail. Change happens - it's a regular way of life these days. And we need to change with it. The Daisies are a band imbued with the spirit of change. Spike is a man imbued with spirits - no change there then. As i head back into the night, clutching my obligatory face mask for the delights of my journey home, i ponder the night. The need to take every moment and enjoy it while it happens, because you never know what will happen, underlines why live music is so important. It's that joy of feeling alive in the now, experiencing moments that can never happen again. So get out her and enjoy your favourite bands while they are still out there performing. Although both Spike and Glenn will probably still be out there doing what they do best for another 30 plus years. 'How do you feel?' Glenn asked for the umpteenth time as he left the stage. 'Cheers' Spike calls as he leaves. Some things never change.
Dead Daisies setlist
Dead and Gone
Chosen and Justified
Bustle and Flow
Lock 'n' Load
(Deep Purple cover)
Leave Me Alone
Like No Other (Bassline)
Holy Ground (Shake the Memory)
Long Way to Go
Hard Rock Hell 14 - Day 3
6th November 2021
And so to the final day. As per previous years the acts tend to get better as the festival goes on but then this year isn't like any other year. Again we have a reduced line up and a notable late start and early finish. So after a late breakfast and an early lunch, we mosey on down to see what the day will bring. Albeit there is only a couple of hours of daylight left. But in the dark of the mosh, it could be any time.
Our moseying brings us to stage 1 where me and me pardners say howdi to the Sons of Liberty, a Southern Rock band from the wild west - Bristol Yee-haa as they say in the South West. Although only formed in 2018, the band members are no spring chickens. If these are the Sons of Liberty, I can't imagine what the Grandfather's of Liberty must look like... Bedecked in Southern American attire, festooned with feathers and stetson hats, you could be forgiven for thinking the ancestors of Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot had arrived. And as they launch into Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief you are thankful that the twin guitar quintet have such fine pedigree. They have the skills and the experience to give the aforementioned icons of southern boogie a run for their money. Although serious and passionate about their music, the band generate a whole heap of fun with tracks like Up Shit Creek Without A Paddle and Beef Jerkie Boogie that are both light hearted and yet seriously kick arse southern rock. Front man Rob Cookley may quip about his age but his vocal pipes are still functioning, and then some, both with power and range that gets the message across. And for all the fun, there are some serious messages too. Don't Hide Behind Your Weakness is self explanatory with Damaged Reputation getting some radio attention. Into The Great Unknown is a fine slow arpeggio which allows twin guitarists Fred Hale & Andy ‘Moose’ Muse to show their considerable skills. The Sons of Liberty are a fine band for one so recently formed and are a fitting start to what will be a fine day's music.
We take a brief visit to stage 2 where we catch the Lords Of Ruin, a five piece from 'The Cold North Of England ' who cite an eclectic mix of inspiring artists but are clearly a metal band at heart. Frontman Dox, in heavy make up and gothic style attire would not look out of place fronting a death metal band, but is far too eloquent a singer. The twin Schecter guitars of Kev and Stones are harsh but fair and provide a heavy backdrop to the piercing voice of Dox. Metal done well, they are an excellent act.
Stage 1 continues to go from strength to strength, to the extent that we rarely foray away which is unfortunate as there are a number of fine acts on stage 2 that deserve more of our attention than we can give. Keeping us on stage 1 are Nitroville, a London based 5 piece who had performed an acoustic set earlier in the day. Fronted by songstress Tola Lamont (who apparently had forgotten to pack bassist pedals) the twin Les Paul outfit also derive from a southern rock heritage, like the Sons Of Liberty before them. But Tola and Cookley are very different kettles of creole with Lamont having strong yet sensual vocals. It would be great to see those two do a duet. They open with Apophis 2029, the song named after the asteroid that is due to hit this planet and the year. It had better not hit anywhere near London as it will have a formidable Ms Lamont to deal with. Second track Spitfire could be used to describe her vocals at times.
Nitrovilles set of a dirty dozen blues tinged southern rock crackers is well received with notable tracks Dead Man's Hand and closer Coming On Strong being particularly pleasing.
Ryders Creed, fronted by Ryan Antony, have become a bit of a phenomenon, with the midland quartet that only formed in 2017 appearing high on the bill at some prestigious events. That's probably because they are good enough. With this years erratic line up changes it wouldn't have been a surprise to have seen them headline, and they would have made a damn fine go of it too. Their set is heavily drawn from their latest album Lost Souls, released in March 2020, just as the world turned upside down. Opener Memories is a great guitar riff heavy rock vessel that allows Antony to show off his impressive vocals. Believer, Lost Souls and Unleashed are other notable tracks from the new album. Believer is a soulful track, written about those 'in between times' when we all struggle with life. 'It's OK to be not ok' cries Antony as he extols the need to share feelings amongst others when feeling down, a sentiment applauded by all. It's a rocking set that has the crowd in fine form. Such that during closer My Life, the usual split the crowd in two for competitive chanting was abandoned by Antony almost immediately - 'we are one big family today' he cites. Too right.
Piston are another Midlands based band that I had the pleasure of seeing at Rambling Man a few years ago. Then they were a young fresh faced bunch of upstarts on the Rising stage of new talent. Now they are the young fresh faced bunch of upstarts on the main stage. And they have earned the right to be there. Handsome frontman Rob Angelico is exported to remove his top from the start, something that Gretsch weilding axeman Jack Edwards says he has never done before. I find that hard to believe. Because the sultry Angelico owns the stage, his powerful vocals interspersed with the thud of swooning women. Launching beach balls into the audience - available from the merch stand alongside band bottle openers and lighters..... - the band kick off a rocking set with Dynamite, an appropriately named track if ever there was one. Whilst there previous sets have been heavy with covers, the band now have a fine repertoire of their own including Rainmaker, One More Day and Leave If You Dare but it's the closing cover of Proud Mary that really hits the spot.
And so to the final few bands of the festival. The first of whom, for those of us who have attended all the previous events held in the dark recesses of Wales, have become synonymous with the event. Tigertailz are a band we have followed for many a year with sole surviving member Jay Pepper holding together what has been a troubled ship. The Tailz have been around since 1983 although there was a hiatus between 1996 and 2005 when drummer Matthew Blakout joined the band. But, alongside bassist Betty Burton, its lead vocalist and guitarist Rob Wylde who takes the limelight, although always with due deference to JP. Despite some technical issues that sees their set delayed by 30 minutes, the glam rockers hit the stage with tremendous energy. Wylde, with his flowing Blond locks, is a whole bundle of vitality whose move from bass guitar to vocals in 2015 injected new vigour into the band. The set is a classic of glam rock with all the hair, leather, make up and bandanas you would expect, as well as some awesome rock tracks that have been honed to perfection over many years. There are many die hard Tailz fans in the audience so it's no surprise that for many this is the band of the weekend.
Squeeze It Dry
Noise Level Critical
I Can Fight Dirty Too
Shoot to Kill
Dirty Needles (Poison cover)
All the Girls
Twist and Shake
Call of the Wild
Livin' Without You
Love Bomb Baby
And talking of tremendous energy, that is an understatement when describing vocalist Tony Wright of Bradford based Terrorvision. He just does not stop. Terrorvision are a band that somehow passed me by in their formative and fruitful early 90's years. But not so my companions who idolise them. I saw them perform as support for Thunder years ago at the atmosphere devoid Wembley Arena and wasn't sure what the fuss was all about. Well tonight I am enlightened. Put this 5 piece bundle of pure fun energy in a packed, dark, low ceilinged venue and you get all the ingredients for a fun packed night of power pop rock served up hot to satisfy every appetite. Hard rocking tones, great singalong tunes and a visual and audible feast. All these food references - I must have the munchies. That's the way I like it. Which is the music that the band takes to the stage to. We are then treated to a 22 song set of non stop gloriousness that leaves me frankly breathless. Which is how I want to feel. The set includes many a singalong song - it's what the good time party band are all about - including Alice What's The Matter, Middleman, Tequila, Oblivion (Do wup...) and the closer and anthemic Perseverance (whales and dolphins...). But there are some more laid back songs in there too like Didn't Bleed Red and their mod if respect that is The Night That Lemmy Died. But its the fast paced frantic fun that will stick in my mind as one of those gigs you never forget. Apparently there was a fire alarm at some time during the set. Nobody noticed and nobody cared. And Nobody Does It Better sang Carly Simon as they finally leave the stage. No argument from me.
Pretend Best Friend
Come Home Beanie
If I Was You
Alice What's the Matter
Didn't Bleed Red
Urban Space Crime
Run & Hide
Celebrity Hit List
The Night That Lemmy Died
From Out of Nothing
Some People Say
D'Ya Wanna Go Faster
And so to the closing act for an unusual end to an unusual festival. Substitutes for the original headliners Skid Row, the nothing like an 80s glam metal band Orange Goblin take the final slot. Fronted by the giant of a man Ben Ward, this die hard heavy metal band are unapologetically dedicated to metal in its purist form. Not that Ward would apologise for anything. He is a force to be reckoned with and the Orange Goblin faithful will follow their messiahs bidding without question. They wouldn't dare. The music is hard and fast and uncompromising. I have seen them headline smaller stages before with their almost fanatical followers pumped up to a frenzy. Unfortunately tonight, the obligatory mosh, usually controlled by the unwritten rules of those of us who love to get physical with like minded dervishes, is the scene of an unfortunate accident that leaves one fan down with a particularly nasty head wound. It was not down to anything that I could see but just appeared to be one of those chance happenings in what must surely be considered an extreme sport. This security staff where quick to step in and give aid, clearing the venue to ensure that the luckless fan was properly cared for. The venue was subsequently reopened but by then there were few people sober enough to return so the event drew to a close.
Like the unlucky casualty, who we understand recovered OK, there will be a few sore heads tomorrow. It's been a funny festival, although all quite understandable in the circumstances. But still the core of a great weekend is there - good music, good friends and fine beer - all well organised and handled by the HRH team. So as the HRH teenager disappears back under the duvet for another year, we are already looking forward to his 15th birthday, with Skid Row, The Darkness and Ugly Kid Joe set to join the party. Until then it's another year of moody rebelliousness. Because we can all be a bit like that, regardless of our age. Oh Mother, it's so unfair....
Hard Rock Hell 14 - Day 2
5th November 2021
Morning campers. Day 2 dawns as a beautiful sunny day, surely an omen for a great day ahead. Unfortunately it's a false dawn as news trickles in that mainstage powerhouses Wolfsbane have had to cancel due to one of their members being tested positive for Covid. A heartfelt message from the band apologises and sends warm wishes to all as well as the promise to see us at HRH 15. It's a blow to many who have attended specifically to see them but it's an all too common situation at the moment that we all accept with our best wishes going out to the band.
So where does that leave our already depleted line up which today is spread thinly across two stages? Well, after a shuffle of the planned running order we shuffle into stage 1, at the unusually late start time of 2pm to see who the HRH team could rustle up at such late notice.
Slightly out of genre, and totally out of Essex, are two piece classic punk outfit The Meffs. Lily Hopkins fronts the duo with Lewis Copsey on drums. Lily, resplendent in classic punk Fred Perry button down shirt, braces and boots sports a no nonsense Fender Telecaster with her no nonsense half shaved head and attitude. They launch into a strongly politicaly and socially motivated set that is classic simple angry punk. Despite being simple, the two instruments make a full sound as Lilys stripped down playing is excellent at making a full rhythm and melody without interfering with the focus of the band, the lyrics. 'Don't believe everything you read in the Daily Mail' she cries , 'In fact, don't believe anything you read' before launching into songs like Get Real and Broken Britain commenting on subjects like homelessness, inequality, poverty and corruption, and all blamed upon the government. Its old school punk with old school anarchy. And it's good. Despite the strong serious nature of the message it is delivered with a smile and a sense of humour although still with a passion that is admirable and appreciated by the audience whatever their political leanings. There is also a brief break from politics to sing about football although their passion for Colchester United is not quite so antagonistic. The Meffs are a fine last minute local replacement that start day 2 with a bang, a crash, a wallop and a smile.
Day 2 continues with the obligatory festival practice of moving between the stages interspersed with beers and 'a mooch at the merch'. Although much of the mooching was missed due to most of it being somewhat off piste. Unlike the beers which were everywhere and strong enough to get us very piste. And a quick word of praise for the selection of beers available, which were varied and interesting, unlike many an event where brewery sponsorship limits availability to everything you never want to drink. Plus Guinness. And a big shout out to the many bar staff who cheerfully distribute the elixir of life in an efficient way with as little waiting time as possible. Although many punters were happy to camp around the bars and drink at leisure whilst catching up with friends old and new rather than heading down to the mosh pit. It's a warm friendly environment, full of good feeling and good cheer, that I had forgotten how much I miss. After a long spell of isolation, it's good to be surrounded by familiar faces, sounds and smells. I'm, back home again.
Heading to stage 2 we discover South Wales own Pearler, a hairy and heavy 4 piece named after the best pint/meal/gig you ever had. As their band slogan says 'Pearler - you know when you have had one'. And you are guaranteed a pearler from the band that have some serious pedigree behind it's flippant facade. Lead singer 'Wendell Kingpin' is actually Steve Williams of The Sheershock Revival, the band that Stereophonics Stuart Cable joined. Wendell is joined by the rest of his pseudonymed cohort to produce some chugging, down tuned metal that has both glammy Motley Crue and doomy Faith No More. It says a lot about their attitudes to music and fun that Wendell has The Wildhearts written prominently across the front of his guitar. Their short set, is well received by the already packed crowd in the smaller stage 2. Another nod, this time to the sound engineers who do an excellent job of getting the levels right in both stages, a difficult task in view of the constantly changing bands and conditions.
Back on stage 1, original openers Bastette take to the stage and, like day 1, maintain the variation of bands across the weekend. They are as different from The Meffs as can be. Although both fronted by strong female singers, whereas Lily would likely kick you in the mosh pit but laugh out loud doing so, front woman Caroline Eve Kenyan would bring you to your knees with just one look from her sultry smouldering eyes. But her skin tight black pvc cat suit will have you upright and ready for action in moments..... (ahem...) The Lancashire 5 piece take their inspiration from Halestorm (as do we all) and The Pretty Reckless with a set of power rock songs that let's the empowered frontwoman show off her considerable vocal talents. Aided by Eoin Kelly on guitar, Paddy Duffy on bass and Rob Hirst on drums, Caroline owns the stage with every eye fixed upon her. But it's not just about the look. Shut your eyes for a moment and you know the sound of her voice, supported by hard rocking Gibson and PRS guitars, is the real reason the blood is pumping hard though your veins. Not that I would recommend that Bastette do anything different, but you need to listen to the band to hear just how good they are and how tight they sound. Songs like Stand Back are personal, and played accordingly, and all are well written. Even a technical hitch during the final song Rollercoaster didn't detract from the polished performance. 'You are all fabulous' cries Caroline as the band leaves the stage. I couldn't think of a better way of describing them too.
A brief visit to stage 2 finds FyreSky, a 4 piece goth Doom rock also from Essex. Having been through a number of changes, the relatively stable trio of Gabriel Valentine (vocals and guitar), Kris White (bass and vocals) and Nicole Lastauskas (guitar and vocals) are joined tonight by birthday boy Jack Morris on drums. Their set is short but entertaining with Gabriel providing to be a charismatic frontman. From own material like Carpe Noctum and Starchaser (an award winning song) to notable covers like The Time Warp and Britneys Toxic, the set entertains. It was amusing to see the looks on the faces of the Doom merchants in the audience when a metal version of Toxic was revealed. But it was well it received and had them dancing in the aisles. As was Pleasure For Pain, a song about kinky sex. As opposed to regular sex. One involves a feather, the other involves the whole chicken.
Talking of a bit strange, let me introduce you to Ward XV1, an eclectic troupe of performers who may just be for me the find of the weekend. The macabre mass of monochrome madness performed their theatre of (bad) dreams to a curious audience who had watched them assemble their bizarre collection of stage props. Clearly influenced by the Alice Cooper school of theatrics, the band perform a disturbing story of the troubled life of frontwoman Psychoberrie. Appearing on stage in her black and white striped Andy Pandy suit, clutching a Teddy bear, we are guided through her personal hell of her childhood and splintered relationship with her mother. Her metamorphosis into an angel of death, helpfully aided by 'the shadows' sees her gun down her cruel mother (played by her mother) as well as taking a chainsaw to her unshadowed demons. It's slightly disturbing but entirely entertaining as the crowd grow into the whole show and suddenly 60 minutes have disappeared. The finale sees the gleefully mad Psychoberrie and her now reanimated corpse dive into the crowd to start a fun but frantic polka circle whilst the band plays on. And a shout out here to guitarist Lex who's fretboard skills were excellent and wholly appropriate to the show. Nice Hagstrom guitar too. Ward XV1 are an interesting act that I recommend you check out for yourself. I will be seeing them again as soon as I can.
The Screaming Eagles take us back to as standard a type of rock as you can get - a notable change again from the previous act. And that standard is very high. The four piece provide some riffy rock fronted by Irishman Chris Fry whose Chris Robertson style vocals add to the rocking sound reminiscent of Black Stone Cherry and Airbourne. It's some strong but soulful singing backed up with straight up Les Paul straight into a cranked Marshall goodness guitar glory. No pedals - is there any better sound? Great soloing too although the band could do with a rhythm guitarist at these times as despite bassist Ryan Lillys excellent efforts, we lose the rhythm that is the foundation of this excellent rock sound. Tracks like Take It All Away, Take My Time and Sold Me Down The River really get the now packed audience rocking as does their cover of Roadhouse Blues. But their latest release Thunder And Lightning from their new album is a fine piece of work that is well worth a listen too. Signing off with a cover of AC-DCs It's A Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock And Roll, you can see why this young rock and roll band are already moving up the stage order and will no doubt be headlining themselves before long.
Talking of which, the original headline act for tonight arrives now with all the gravitas and expectations you would expect from a rock legend. Not that the quiet self titled Welsh Wanker cares. Phil Campbell and his Bastard Sons know that their legion of fans, mainly originating from the diminutive Welsh wizards previous combo (you may have heard of them) will not let them down. Emerging to the strains of Deep Purples Highway Star, leave no one confused as to who they are as they launch into We're The Bastards. Glad we have that sorted then. Although you might have been confused as their excellent set is a mix full of Motorhead songs including Rock Out, Born To Raise Hell, Going To Brazil and the obligatory Ace Of Spades but it is the Bastards own material that is attracting a loyal following of fellow Bastards. Songs including High Rule and the crowd splitting shout along Get on Your Knees are strong songs too although trying to split such a packed crowd of devoted fans in such a tight environment is no easy task. Phils own These Old Boots get an airing too as does the ode to Lemmy Silver Machine which the crowd appreciate. A word about new vocalist Joel Peters. Big shoes to fill, both of the aforementioned Mr Kilmister and predecessor Neil Starr, Joel does an excellent job of fronting a charismatic line up with just enough level of individuality, and boundless energy, as well as having impressive vocal skills. Closing with a final Motorhead cover Killed By Death the exhausted and sweaty masses know they have been where they belong, getting down and dirty with the songs that are the fabric of their lives both past, present and hopefully for years to come. Phil will see to that.
So now promoted to headline spot, former Wasp guitarist Chris Holmes And The Mean Men have to follow a top headline act. The crowd wait expectantly for a set sprinkled with Wasp classics and are not disappointed as he opens with On Your Knees. The 63 year old monster axeman has lead a hard life and, despite his considerable frame and presence, us showing the ravages of a decadent lifestyle. But there is no doubting his guitar playing skills. It doesn't harm that he surrounds himself with young skilful musicians either. The set includes a number of Wasp tracks to enable him to show his fretboard prowess including L.O.V.E. Machine, Sleeping and the anthemic Wild Child as well as other covers including Born To Be Wild, Fortunate Son and Rockin The Free World. There are some notable songs of his own including the self explanatory I've Had Enough but the encore is another cover - AC-DCs Highway To Hell. Nowt wrong with that - every covers band will include it. It's a fine set but probably not a headline set. Not that Mr Holmes would care about, nor should he - he's an icon.
So the first full day is over and my efforts to switch between stages has been woeful. There were some great acts on stage 2 but it was difficult to tear myself away from the quality on stage 1. As per previous years, each day the standard gets steadily better. A got omen for tomorrow then. Sleep tight and don't forget your (blood soaked) Teddy bear...
Hard Rock Hell 14 - Day 1
4th November 2021
I'm back! It's Back! Like the pubescent teenager that it is, the 14 year old Hard Rock Hell festival has dragged itself out from under its bedclothes, after what seems like an inordinate amount of time asleep, to emerge with all the piss and vinegar, and zest for life, that bring us back every year. It's the second year at the Great Yarmouth site, with many teenage angst issues to resolve, and this year with the added complications of the post (ongoing?) pandemic to contend with. The first being the main stage set up and sound which at HRH 13 were disorganised and infuriating. Just like most teenagers. This year the layout of the main stage us vastly improved and the sound seemed to be both louder and clearer. The rest of the site remains much the same although the poor merch minions have been relegated to the other side of the camp out in the pouring rain. They won't be doing much business this weekend....
The organisation is smooth and the security is friendly although the numbers appear to be slightly down. Hardly surprising in the current climate. But for those who are here it's a welcome return to 'normality' with many a familiar face catching up after what seems like a lifetime apart. This years line up is the leanest by far with a number of changes and notably fewer acts. The music starts later and finishes earlier although the variety remains high with bands from many different styles and from different countries eager to beat the music industry crushing symptoms of the last 18 months. There is no masking their enthusiasm that's for sure.
The only masks spotted so far are the costume masks of the dancers from Area 51 who prance around in military style outfits to the sound of Rammstein in the Opening Ceremony. And then strip down to their non standard issue underwear in the obligatory salacious finale. Attention and stand by your beds! I'm sure that was going through other people's minds too right? Despite the surprising lack of pyrotechnics they still managed to warm the audience that was slowly trickling through the doors.
As per usual, Thursday night is a single stage affair with many of the bands suffering from the previous nights awards ceremony. But Thursday is the start of the three day event and this year sees again variety in the acts with the HRH machine looking to provide something for everyone. Opening act are Worcesters Gypsy Pistoleros who describe themselves as the best Flamenco Sleaze band in the world. Stiff competition I'm sure. Bit like the opening ceremony.... The three piece apparently sacked their bass player the previous evening - he was notably absent - yet their sound is heavily bass ridden. Must be his ghost. The sombrero touting front man Lee Mark Jones is daubed in macabre make up making him and his troupe look more theatrical than Area 51. The set is a theatrical romp of fun and enthusiasm with an unusual rendition of Living La Vida Loca that would make Ricky Martin turn in the grave that the freaky flamencoists would relish interring him in.
Following the freak show are a young Spanish band called the Happy Freuds. In stark contrast, their stage presence is minimal, almost as if they are stroppy teenagers not wanting to be seen with us old folks. But also full of fire and passion in their heavy chugging rock sound. Lead singer Teo Holmstrom sheepishly admits he's only 22 - a bit old for a teenager but they do stay that way for longer these days. Hah, in my day we had been down the mines, had a dozen children and fought three world wars by that age... I digress. The four piece - 2 Swedish brothers and two Spanish - pump out some 90s Alt Rock influenced tones that is heavy stuff. Sporting Epiphone and Charvel axes, Teo and guitarist Maverick Devene blast us through an excellent set that includes their tracks The Mountain, Allan's Big Feet, In Black and No Rush. A great sounding band that will no doubt hone their craft and grow into a classic band. One to watch.
South of Salem are up next. A 5 piece from Bournemouth, they bring a distinctly punk edge. Not that that's what the hard rockers would describe themselves as but the sound system tonight has a pleasing hard edge to it - the bands all appear to be using the Marshall amps provided. Frontman Joey Draper leads the charge with some serious attitude rock, backed up by the twin guitars of Fish and Kodi, a double act of dubious nomenclature. It's hard and fast although not without feeling - No Plague Like Home being one track highlighting the angst of the last 18 months and Demons Are Forever which highlights the issues of suicide, a subject they and many others feel passionately about. It's a strong set that is well received by the now growing crowd, making the low ceilinged venue feel like a dark edgy subterranean club. Excellent stuff.
German rock quartet The New Roses only flew into the country this morning which what might explain why the Teutons were uncharacteristically late on stage. Not that there was any rush as the leaner line up allows plenty of time between acts to sample some of the fine ales on offer. But when they do make it on stage they don't disappoint. Lead singer Timmy Rough has the looks of a wayward Aragorn but with the vocals of early Blackie Lawless. It's a great sound with the heavy rock and roll sound - AC-DC inspired maybe - with strong echoing vocals. Rough sports a hollowbody Les Paul which gives the rock a rich twang whilst Dizzy Presleys PRS provides the balls out chugg. Songs like It's A Long Way give the now swollen audience a chance to sing along whilst Whisky Nightmare is almost a slow ballad. Almost, but not quite. When latest release Glory Road starts with just Rough vocalising to his stripped down clean guitar we see a slightly softer side although the song builds with the other members joining to create some anthemic rock. But crowd pleaser Down By The River brings everything back to where it belongs and closer Thirsty leaves us thirsty for more. Cue the real ales - do I fancy a Wherry, Reedlighter or Nog?
Talking of belonging, if any band belongs to the Hard Rock Hell line up, it's the Black Spiders. They have probably played more of the 14 events than any other band. Another high energy outfit, hailing from Sheffield, they inject their own brand of steel into proceedings watched by their faithful followers adorned in hot pants and cycling helmets (I have no idea....). Currently touring their latest EP Deaf Proof, the volumes proved that we are anything but. The faithful loved them.
But we love The Wildhearts more. I have seen Ginger in his various guises many times but tonight is probably the best show I have seen him and his band perform. It was back to the high energy full on rock come punk that made The Wildhearts the stuff on angry teenage legend. With the afore mentioned rock sound of the Marshall Amps, and the high volume levels, Ginger was virtually screaming into his microphone, whilst battering his Les Paul, giving the feel of an early 80s punk sound a la Skids or Sham 69. But still with the Ginger finesse. The set was a breathless non stop tour of classics including Vanilla Radio, Caffeine Bomb and Sick Of Drugs. Its an awesome of display of what makes rock music so addictive, all spit and little polish and as subtle as a Numan Erectile Dysfunction advert. There is a huge following for the band in the now heaving venue which suits this down and dirty rock. Although they are strangely unresponsive to the rare breaks for banter from the Geordie frontman. But its a worthy headline act that finishes oh too soon with classics My Baby Is A Headfuck and I Want To Go Where The People Go that has the moshers moshing and the singers singing. Ginger, you and your band were awesome tonight. Keep it raw - keep it right.
So ends day 1 of the festival that could have been a washout. But the only washout is the November rain - the slick HRH team and excellent bands saw to that. Yes, it's a stripped down affair this year. Hardly surprising in the current climate. But like The Wildhearts set, sometimes less is more. More or less anyway.
Let's see what day 2 brings.