|Steelhouse Festival - Aberbeeg, Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm - 24th & 25th July 2015|
|Written by Rob Watkins & Johnny H|
|Tuesday, 04 August 2015 03:00|
The UK’s best value rock festival is back for its fifth year, and it really does only seem like yesterday when we first started hearing rumours about a Welsh International Classic Rock Festival going to be held within a stone’s throw of where most of us Uber Rockers grew our very first mullets. Granted the initial suggested venue for this event never happened, BUT and this is a huge BUT the bands the guys behind Steelhouse had in mind for that very first event (after this weekend at least) have now pretty much all been up the long and winding road to Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm, and for that brothers and sisters we should all be eternally grateful. To celebrate the event’s fifth birthday then we sent Rob Watkins, Johnny H and Gaz E out in some of the most ridiculously beautiful Welsh countryside you can ever wish to see (when it’s sunny) to watch some of the best classic rock music you can get for your bucks the NP side of the Severn Bridge.
Lawless take to the rain lashed stage as part of the pre-show party prior to the main event the following day, the Stoke-on Trent five piece giving us some proper old school metal. Dual screeching guitars, powerhouse vocals and all that foot on the monitor palaver we all love deep down inside. With tunes such as ‘Metal Time’, ‘SOS’ and ‘F.O.A.D.’ lifted off their 2 albums to date, the wet, cold but totally appreciative and dedicated Steelhouse family are grasping these metal muthas with open arms. Add a little a cappella snippet of ‘Holy Diver’ and you have it all. Meanwhile ‘Seven Year Itch’ the band’s new single has everybody "singing, just singing in the rain".
There seems such a progression on every musical level in leaps and bounds every time i witness the super-fine Welsh foursome known as Buffalo Summer, and tonight there’s an abundance of groove laden bouncing new tunes that are an awesome pre-album release advert for the band’s forthcoming second record, due later in the year. These tunes, mixed in with the now oh so recognizable first album tracks, tunes full of classic retro-tinged rock and roll means this collective are sure as hell going down a storm (excuse the pun) tonight. ‘Down To The River’ is now a true classic within the set and after a well-deserved encore of ‘Typhoid Mary’ the party is just about over, well for tonight anyway.
So after the monsoon weather of the day/night before I was half expecting to hit Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm and find amputation rather than amplification being the order of the day given some of the stories that had been filtering through on social media overnight. However come midday the sun is high in the sky and any suggestion of the place being more than a little Somme-like is replaced by the happy sight of a gloriously full car park. It really does fill my heart with joy to see people supporting these local events because as we’ve said many, many times here on Uber Rock, I would have killed to have seen these bands playing on my doorstep back in the day, and the fact they now are simply demands our attendance.
It’s also great to see local bands given a leg up (so to speak), and today it’s the turn of Florence Black a three piece from Merthyr Tydfil who have been making major inroads into the industry these past couple of years. It’s my first time of experiencing The Black live but those around me know every bloody word to the band’s songs, even the “new ones” so for once I kind of feel a little excluded from a local hard rock phenomena. In saying that though it doesn’t take long or for me to see why my fellow Steelhouse brothers and sisters like this power trio, because just like Motley Crue at Monsters Of Rock ’84 they turn up early, play a blinder and then leave everyone else do the hard work spreading the word about what everyone has missed. Everything just feels right about Florence Black, they have a bassist who plays his Thunderbird at exactly the right height, and in songs like ‘Breaking Down’ and ‘Johnny’ they have the weapons with which to conquer the world. I wanted to be impressed by Florence Black and the guys did just that. This was going to be a tough act to follow.
If there is a band to do it however then Massive Wagons are to be that band. Having been suitably impressed by the quintet’s multi identity debut ‘Fight The System’ it was just a case of which of those versions of the band would show up to play today, would they go old school metal or go for the cock rock strut option? For me personally it’s when they do the latter that the band truly excels and today tracks like ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ and ‘Red Dress’ truly shine just like the golden ball in the sky. There are a few metal moments though that kind of misfire a little - a new song called ‘Ratios’ actually sounds like singer Baz Mills is hollering “Ray Shears” at those headbanging along down the front but other than that I think the most apt comparison I can give Massive Wagons is that they remind me of a British Quiet Riot. A cover of ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ awaits perhaps?
A band guaranteed to bring any (public) house down is Henry’s Funeral Shoe, and the reputation Aled and Brennig Clifford have for doing just that sees them playing to the biggest crowd of the day so far, as the glorious afternoon sunshine provides the perfect ambience for the duo to do what they do best, play dirty delta blues guitar based rock ‘n’ roll. It was only a couple of years ago at this very same event that I was first introduced to the delights of this band live, and today they do it all over again to those not quite so familiar with their material. ‘Janice The Stripper’ from the band’s most recent ‘Comfortable Skin’ EP sounds positively demonic today, which might also have something to do with Aled’s baby’s projectile vomiting, which sadly means he has to leave the site straight after their performance. However by contrast his affable easy going banter between songs is as equally a compelling part of the duo’s appeal. The back story about KISS banning them from playing ‘Gimme Back My Morphine’ proving to be a wonderful piece of comedy gold. ‘Be Your Own Invention’ a song about standing out in the crowd brings to end a set like no other anyone will see here this weekend, and that my friends is what makes Henry’s Funeral Shoe such a unique attraction in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.
There was a point where I thought we’d never see Norn Iron’s Trucker Diablo ever again, but with their new album ‘Rise Above The Noise’ released just last month the boys are back in town (ouch) and raring to make their second appearance at this festival even more memorable than their first. These four guys really do like to ‘Party Like They Started The End Of The World’ and don’t the Steelhouse faithful just love them for it, as tracks like ‘Black And Blue’ and Juggernaut’ leave a seismic and satanic rhythmic impression on the surrounding Welsh valleys. the band's cover of ‘Proud Mary’ makes a welcome, albeit brief, return just to make sure the entire crowd are fully onside with Diablo before ‘The Rebel’ sends everyone off to the bar with Cheshire cat like grins all over their faces. That’s a job truckin’ well done I’d say.
Seven months is a mighty long time in rock ‘n’ roll terms, or so it would seem if it involves The Treatment, the line up of the band that (against all odds) I was actually blown away by at Planet Rockstock seemingly no longer considered sustainable means the arrival of new singer Mitchel Emms and guitarist Tao Grey, who joins his fellow six string brother Tagore Grey, drummer Dhani Mansworth and Rick 'Swoggle' Newman, for what is this line up’s first show on UK soil. So how did the new boys shape up? Well Tao fits in pretty seamlessly on the low slung SG, whilst if there is a better rock “singer” in the UK than Emms right now then you will be hard pushed to find him or her. The guy simply does not hit a bum note as tracks from the band’s back catalogue ricochet around the arena. HOWEVER for me there is now something missing - a Matt Jones sized hole - a void that at this present moment in time Emms, in all his Austin Rocket like good looking glory, just can’t quite fill. The kids and ladies present love The Treatment though, and I can understand why, songs like ‘Emergency’ and ‘Bloodsucker’ sound enormous in these surroundings (the sound all day being absolutely top notch I must say), but as I said after my previous live encounter with The Treatment whilst I appreciate that bands have to evolve. this for me this was a slight backwards step from the version of the band I last witnessed live. Nurse, the screens – I need a lie down the sun might be getting to me!
Nazareth hit the stage with some real and truthful classic rock performed here at it’s very finest, with songs like ‘Razamanaz’, `’This Flight Tonight’, ‘Bad Bad Boy’ and ‘Hair Of The Dog’ instantly all my childhood memories are gloriously flooding back to the sounds of this fine group. I’m sure the congregated Steelhouse massive are digging this performance too, it sure looks that way. My initial concerns regarding the Nazareth line up without certain past members was soon blown away...long live Nazareth. I have total and utter respect for these guys. With original member Pete Agnew still banging away on his four string and add the unique vocal prowess of Carl Sentance especially on ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Broken Down Angel’ this is pure quality...thanks for the memories guys.
There no doubting Y&T will knock everybody out tonight with their fan base pretty dominant at the Steelhouse this sunny evening, and that`s exactly what they do opening with the timeless ‘Hurricane’. We then get the 1982 ‘Black Tiger’ record as previously promised played in its entirety, although performed here re-sequenced with side two played first. From a group who`ve honed their talent so creatively from yesterday to today so to speak, for me on a personal note this album has a huge significance as this was the first band I actually witnessed live way back in 1982 at Hammy O with AC/DC, plus when they add the masterpiece ‘Mean Streak’ and ‘Rescue Me’` before getting back down into side 1 of ‘Black Tiger’ I’m actually lost for words. This was a truly wondrous and beautifully received set from Mr Meniketti and his musical entourage, but then again would you expect anything less?
Saturday headline act UFO also take a step back to the early eighties opening tonight with the classic `We Belong To The Night. Now whatever your personal opinion may be regarding this band, there`s no doubting the legendary status within rock music that they should be afforded. ‘Lights Out’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ are true classic stompers, and who would believe we are here taking in a live performance from one of the all time greatest rock bands right here on a mountain so so close to home, it’s actually all quite beautiful. Oh yeah what a band, Phil Mogg, god bless him, still has “it” in abundance and ‘Love To Love’ as always features Paul Raymond on keyboards (and guitar) who is still exuding that cool persona, Andy Parker meanwhile pounds away behind the kit and of course Vinnie Moore another in the lineage of classic axemen that have graced this wondrous group is displaying some rifftastic moments of six string brilliance. Let`s also not forget bassist Rob De Luca either who rounds off this super tight musical outfit. Add in a stunning headline sound oh and that unmistakable logo up there on the backdrop, and a set closing with ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’ - its boom, boom, boom! Timeless musical classics one and all.
What more can you say? That’s me over and out from day one of Steelhouse 2015. Now what surprises will tomorrow bring?
Saturday live photography by Russell Prothero http://www.russellprothero.co.uk/
Steelhouse 2016 will take place on July 23rd and 24th and you can get your early bird tickets for the weekend for just £60 by following this link http://www.steelhousefestival.com/tickets.html