Hair Metal Heaven – Hull, The Welly Club/City Hall – 25/26 August 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hughes   
Friday, 08 September 2017 04:30

When a poster for Hair Metal Heaven appeared online earlier this year it seemed too good to be true. Was it a piss take? The name was pretty cheesy, the location certainly not the usual Mecca for any sort of rock festival. The bands? OK, some of them have certainly been touring recently, but Smashed Gladys, Princess Pang and Spread Eagle? Hell, some of these bands have not been heard of since their debut albums hit the shelves back in the late ‘80s!

 

Hair Metal Heaven banner

 

Intrigued, we did a bit of digging. OK , Hull is currently the UK City of Culture for 2017, delivering 365 days of transformative cultural activity… so that makes sense, there will be some money for these sort of events. And some of these bands are doing other European dates, so maybe it could actually happen! Über Rock kept one ear to the ground and one eye on the announcements for the three-day line up. More bands were announced: the likes of TNT, Junkyard and Vain alongside new blood such as Diemonds and Shiraz Lane mixed it up nicely. By the time a VIP acoustic show from Michael Monroe and a special all-star Sunday headliner were announced, it was hotting up to actually live up to the title and - well, suckers for retro rock that we are, we were sold. Unfortunately, Smashed Gladys and Circus Of Power cancelled in the lead up, but the overall line up was still strong enough to pull in the punters.

 

Things kicked off on the Friday at The Welly Club where the likes of Crazy Lixx, Babylon AD and Hardline turned up the heat. Über Rock couldn’t make the Friday, as we were still flipping burgers: but, by all accounts, things were running behind schedule and it was ridiculously hot in the tiny club venue, but all the bands delivered.

 

Shiraz Lane - HMH

 

With Saturday traffic and late hotel check-ins to contend with, I was reckoning on getting to Hull City Hall for 3pm. I would miss the first few bands, but get there in plenty of time to catch the ones I really didn’t want to miss. As I enter Finnish sleazesters Shiraz Lane are in full flow: they were due to finish their set an hour ago, so I guess things are running behind today too! Living it like it’s 1990, musically I’d put them somewhere between Skid Row and Danger Danger. They have got metal riffs, high octane vocals and full on catchy choruses. A stadium-sized ball of energy, they deliver the goods like they are playing to a sold out stadium. They pull a decent crowd and go down a storm, that’s one CD I need to buy already!

 

Time to grab a quick pint before New York rockers Killcode hit the stage. Killcode seem to be at the wrong festival to be honest. Their brand of grungy, biker rock has hints of southern rock too which is never a bad thing in my book. The likes of ‘6am Again’ sounds like Monster Magnet to these ears and singer Tom Morrisson, in his aviators and tache certainly has a Dave Wyndorf/ Axl Rose thing going on in his delivery. They sound pretty good.

 

I know nothing about The Poodles: I wouldn’t give a band with a name that shit the time of day! For me, The Poodles, like Reckless Love, are a band who straddle the line between rock ‘n’ roll parody and reality. If they were from America I would say parody, but these guys of course hail from Stockholm, Sweden, so go figure. To give The Poodles their due, they are entertaining and their generic, Eurovision pop metal is perfect for a Saturday afternoon in Hull, right? Euro metal a-go-go!

 

Spread Eagle - HRH Sleaze

PHOTO CREDIT: The Dark Queen

 

NY street metal merchants Spread Eagle disappeared off the face of the earth in the early ‘90s after just two albums. Sleazy and heavy in equal measures, they were a more dangerous sounding proposition than their glam rock contemporaries. I put them in the same sorta metal genre as Love/Hate and Every Mothers Nightmare at the time. They have been touring on and off the last few years with original vocalist Ray West and bassist Rob De Luca still present. They take things up a notch today and sound great. ‘Back On The Bitch’ is as heavy and sleazy as it was back in the day. With the bassist and guitarist soon stripped to the waist, Ray screams out the likes of ‘Broken City’ and ‘Suzi Suicide’ and they ease into their set like they have never been away. Ray announces from the stage they will return to the UK next year. An awesome blast from the past, I’ll be there.

 

The great thing about this festival for me, is that there are several bands to check off ‘The List’ - and funnily enough Junkyard are not one of them. I saw them with The Almighty at St David’s Hall in Cardiff back in 1991 - a legendary evening that ended with Junkyard jamming at the after party.

 

The last of a run of UK shows that sees the band return to our shores for the first time in 26 years, you could say their performance has been a long time coming. ‘Life Sentence’ kicks off their set in style, the band looking like a gang in their trademark cut off denims with the Junkyard logo emblazoned on the back. They sound ace! More raw and punky than a lot of the other bands on the bill, they mix up classics like ‘Blooze’ and ‘Simple Man’ with ‘Faded’ and ‘W.F.L.W.F.’ from killer new album ‘High Water’. It is so good to hear the likes of ‘Hands Off’ and ‘Misery Loves Company’ live again after all these years. Singer David Roach’s spitting, raw delivery is the perfect contrast to the rumbling bass of Todd Muscat and the twin blues licks of Tim Mosher and Jimmy James. They finish, of course with the anthemic ‘Hollywood’ and it goes down a storm. Junkyard are in a different league to any other band that have played so far in my opinion. So good, I bought a T-shirt.

 

Vain - HRH Sleaze

PHOTO CREDIT: The Dark Queen

 

Now, Vain definitely are a band to check off my list. I missed them back in the day. Their debut album ‘No Respect’ remains an all-time classic that does not age with time and new album ‘Rolling With The Punches’ proves they still have it. The fact that the line-up is 4/5ths original, means this show is one not to miss for me and they are probably the band I have been the most excited about seeing. Watching the band strike out the opening chords to ‘Secrets’ is sublime music to my ears as the goosebumps rise, turns out Vain have still got it live too! The ever bare-footed frontman Davy Vain, prowls the stage, an energetic and engaging frontman. He’s a storyteller and most of his stories are about “pussy”; but let’s face it, most of his songs are about sex anyway, so it makes sense! Classic follows classic: ‘Icy’, ‘Down For The Third Time’, ‘1000 Degrees’ - they all sound amazing. Guitarist Jamie Scott especially seems to be loving it up there, peeling off those awesome guitar licks and Davy’s voice sounds just as strong as it did all those years ago. ‘No Respect’ and a killer ‘Beat The Bullet’ finish off a sublime set and to be honest Vain were freaking awesome! Band of the day, even if Davy did do the ultimate faux pas and shout “how ya doin’ London!”

 

The good thing about a city centre venue for a festival is that if you fancy some food or there is a large queue at the bar, you do not have to venture far to find either. Pubs and shops are frequented in the summer sun as there is plenty of time between bands to have a break and do a bit of wondering or just a spot of people watching. The game of spotting the most obscure band T-shirt is always something that I like to do at any gig and this festival is especially good for that. Where else could you possibly see tees from bands such as Blackboard Jungle rubbing shoulders with the likes of Roxy Blue and Blackeyed Susan?

 

Danger Danger

 

Next up, Danger Danger are a band that passed me by back in the day… I say pass me by: I mean I gave them a wide birth after hearing ‘Naughty Naughty’. Way too pop metal for my rock ‘n’ roll tastes at the time, I would take the piss out of anyone who liked them with great satisfaction. Turns out Danger Danger are great live, so I’m eating my words today! While I feel they are a band that are all chorus and no substance, they get probably the biggest crowd response of the night, so what the hell do I know! There’s no denying the back catalogue: the likes of ‘Monkey Business’ and’ Bang Bang’ are tongue in cheek hair metal anthems, and while bassist Bruno Ravel may well have LSD (that’s Lead Singer Disease for the uninitiated) and spends more time talking to the audience than main man Ted Poley, I find myself enjoying them immensely. With the addition of Trixter’s Steve Brown on guitar, Danger Danger were a surprise hit (just don’t tell anyone I told you that).

 

Norwegian rockers TNT headline the Saturday night. Now, with the bands running way behind schedule and Michael Monroe’s VIP set due to now over lap TNT’s performance, VIP ticket holders had a difficult choice. Do they leave in good time, miss the headliner to secure a good place for Monroe or do they at least watch part of TNT’s set and hope the trek to Fruit across town will give them enough time? By the diminished crowd for TNT, I would say most went for the first option, which in hindsight was probably a bad move.

 

TNT - HMH

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/TNTtheband/

 

It turns out Michael Monroe’s set was cancelled at the last minute, with no warning or announcement. People who payed extra for a special VIP performance were left in Fruit staring at an empty stage for over an hour before being told Michael Monroe would not be playing. With TNT’s set now well and truly over, many fans’ night came to an abrupt end. What followed was a night of angry posts on social media and a lot of deleted threads. With no word or apology from the promoter, things did not end on a high for Hair Metal Heaven on Saturday night. Whether the promoter, artist or management were to blame is beside the point, it’s the fans who lose out tonight.

 

Of course, back in Hull City Hall, the rest of us punters were oblivious and to be honest the VIP bunch didn’t miss much. There were two guys stood next to me with their fingers in their ears for the four or five songs I endured of TNT. You could say Tony Harnell’s high octane vocals are an acquired taste. It wouldn’t be so bad if the band had some energy going on up there, or maybe it was just because it had been a long day, but I had enough after four songs. It was all a bit too proggy sounding for me: hell they were the only band of the day to have a keyboard player! For me, it was time to take the long walk back to my hotel, dodge the gap toothed, badly tattooed pissheads and save myself for tomorrow…

 

All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.