Review : Karen Hetherington, (Reviewer / Contributor Myglobalmind Webzine)
2nd Opinion & photography credit: Adrian Hextall (Photographer Myglobalmind Webzine)
Arriving at the Ramblin Man Fair on Sunday with three young children in tow amidst heavy downpours, I have to confess my spirits were not high and I envisaged a total washout as dreams of us sitting on picnic blankets, sun beating down, listening to some great tunes quickly evaporated.
The site was located about a two minute walk from the coach drop off point and as I entered the venue I was initially impressed by the excellent organisation of this festival and how compact and easily accessible everything was. Despite the very unpleasant weather it truly was a feast for the eyes and with a small fairground on site and strategically placed bales of hay for seats it nearly looked like a scene from another time. Despite this being the second day of the festival I was amazed that the ground was still intact and not the usual quagmire you would expect in inclement conditions.
I wasn’t there long before Blues Pills took to the Classic Rock stage. The Swedish group opened with High Class Woman and seemed to draw an audience quickly. I confess I am unfamiliar with this band but was instantly taken with singer Elin Larssons’ strong voice. As they were wrapping up their set – I set off to explore the other delights in the vicinity.
A fantastic range of beers were on offer alongside nearly every possible type of cuisine. Stalls offered a wide range of merchandise with some very unique clothing and jewellery – as well as wellies, umbrellas and macs for the unprepared, like myself. Grand stand seating was provided at both the Classic and Prog stages.
Offering shelter from the elements were the VIP lounge which was decked out in finery one would not expect to see at such an event, with a full bar, food stall, a woven “carpet of sorts” and leather sofas provided for seating. It offered a spectacular vantage point to watch the acts on the main stage while lounging under cover. Another fantastic feature was the cinema tent with showings of classic rock videos such as ZZ Top, Aerosmith and Jethro Tull throughout the day. Plenty of rowed seating was provided with a generous sized screen and I took advantage of this feature when the rain became torrential.
By far the most popular, however, was the Blues tent which was packed out day and night as it featured some amazing acts as well as respite from the elements. Mick Ralphs delighted the crowd in there with “Feel like makin love” and Can’t get enough” while later in the evening Bernie Marsden belted out classics such as “Fool for your loving” and “Here I go again”.
Over on the main stage the Quireboys set featured Black Mariah, Tramps and Thieves and Mona Lisa smiled and the band put on an amazing show despite Spike quipping that “the weather was like a wet Friday night in Newcastle”.
Rival Sons drew quite a crowd but I only caught their last two songs – “Where I’ve been” and “Open my eyes” before heading over to the Prog stage to check out French Prog Metal group Alcest who were thoroughly enjoyable, if slightly sombre in comparison to Ian Anderson who was up next just as the rain stopped and the sun peeked through the clouds.
He took to the stage with the zest and energy of a teenager and played a full set of the classic Tull repertoire to a very generous crowd and was exceedingly well received. Instrumental Bouree was a personal highlight for me and the encore Locomotive Breath was a real crowd pleaser and was well drawn out, much to my delight.
After Ian Anderson departed, I quickly returned the main stage to catch the remainder of Gregg Allman’s classics. “Don’t want you no more”, “Midnight Rider and “One way out” provided a perfect melodic backdrop to bring this festival to its conclusion.
The quality of the acts at this festival were of such a high calibre that I nearly experienced sensory overload trying to take them all in and there were several clashes and much circulating for me as I was afraid of missing something and unfortunately did, I felt more than slightly torn on a few occasions. Having so many superior bands on three different stages was just too much to cover and I was gutted to miss Seasick Steve who I had to forego to claim a front of stage spot for Ian Anderson. Spoilt for choice musically, and otherwise at the Ramblin Man would be a vast understatement.
A beautiful firework display lit up the skies towards the end of the night, which for me, ended with another switch back to the Prog stage to see Marillion who put on a truly phenomenal performance featuring the classic “Sugar Mice”,” Neverland” and a very lengthy “The Invisible Man” as an encore. Singer “H” has an amazing voice which, in my opinion, sounds even better live. It was the perfect end to the evening, which had remained dry from about 6.30pm onwards.
The Ramblin Man fair by far exceeded my expectations in all manner of ways. The crowd of young and old and all in between had come from far and wide to revel in what was described as “a weekend of all our music passions combined with much, much more”. And they got it. It was impossible to know what to expect as this was their first year but excellent organisation, a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere alongside possibly the best selection of bands ever in one place combined to make this a huge success. It was also extremely child friendly and had great disabled access. For anyone with a serious passion for music, this is a festival not to be missed. I suspect most of the Ramblers will be set to return next year. I certainly will. It was a pity we didn’t see a better appearance from the sun, but hey, who says it isn’t fun to dance in the rain?
SECOND OPINION (Adrian Hextall)
The great thing about festivals is that each person creates their own experience and day out of the bands, stages and entertainment on offer. Karen clearly had a great day out at what proved to be an excellent family friendly festival and I too made the most of the acts on offer as I wandered around camera in hand full of the the joys bestowed on me by Scorpions the previous night.
In addition to some of the acts Karen has already mentioned I also managed to take in some that she missed.
Solstafir certainly looked the part and as an act gave a tight performance early on in the day on the main Classic Rock stage. Their music whilst entertaining can be a little gloomy and as such, mixed with pretty grey skys and fairly heavy rain it’s not quite what was needed. Danny Bryant and Riverside gave me the opportunity to check out the packed Blues tent and Prog Stage respectively with Danny happily pointing out that whilst it was great so many had gone to see him, he did wonder if the fact that it was pouring with rain may have been a factor! His energised Blues driven set actually did the opposite and banished the blues and was a welcome break from the damp outside.
Riverside braved the elements as the rain swirled around the festival arena and still managed to turn in a great set of atmospheric Pink Floyd-esque material.
The Temperance Movement brought an interesting mix to the main stage with vocalist Phil Cambell bringing his inner Oasis to the party rather than his Paul Rodgers impression to which his voice is the perfect fit. He has amazing stage presence though and grinned, gurned, bounced and flailed his was through the band’s wonderful classic blues infused rock set.
Unlike Karen, I managed to take in all of Seasick Steve’s set and am overjoyed that I did. Having been slightly dubious about “this grizzled old blues artist who makes his own instruments” as a friend of mine had told me, what was presented was one of the most energised, original, dynamic sets I’ve seen in many years. The success he has had in the latter part of his career is thoroughly deserved and long, long overdue.
Ramblin Man Fair is already selling tickets for 2016, with bands petitioning on their sites to play. The Amorettes get my vote I think!