Review & Photography : Adrian Hextall, (Reviewer / Contributor Myglobalmind Webzine)
What a difference a day makes. So sang Renee Olstead in the classic song from yesteryear. The day before the inaugural Ramblin Man Fair, the heavens opened and it looked like it could all be a washout. Then, it’s rumoured, Klaus Meine steps forward, has a word with the powers that be, pointing out that Scorpions “don’t do rain” and the day they headline is an absolute dream. Hot sunny weather, the middle of a beautiful country park in the heart of Kent (The Garden of England), real ale on draught (Iron Maiden’s Trooper Ale), a real ale tent and 3 stages containing the best that Classic Rock, Progressive Rock and Outlaw Country music have to offer.
Taking over from where High Voltage Festival left off, Ramblin Man Fair offers a sweet festival experience to around 20,000 willing participants that want the bands but without the hassle of juggling too many stages and trying to get past some 80,000 plus festival goers milling around in various stages of inebriation. Definitely wanting to appeal to families and people of all ages, under 12s were able to attend for free as long as they were accompanied. A nice touch in this day and age where child care costs a small fortune and in all honesty, you want your kids to grow up knowing the music and the bands that you fell in love with, hoping a little bit might rub off on them.
Multiple bars, great food and for those with a bit of extra money, a VIP area, all beckoned during the day helping the music and the ale join together in wonderful harmony.
To get the ball rolling we had No Hot Ashes, fresh of the reunion boat and a tour supporting FM, the Belfast lads really started the day well. Summery note perfect AOR, they are another band that deserve, like their recent tour mates, a second crack at the business. Older and wiser and still able to deliver the goods better than some of the more modern bands, No Hot Ashes are worth checking out. File alongside Angels or Kings, FM, Romeos Daughter and more.
One modern band that can cut it however and deliver a set that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the more established acts on the bill is Toseland. Fresh faced, energised and fronted by the sort of guy you want to hate because everything he touches turns to gold. Of course in reality, you generate nothing but respect because James Toseland is just the nicest bloke, has a belting set of pipes on him and was the former 2007 World Superbike Champion. So fair play! He also looks remarkably like a younger, taller version of Tom Cruise, circa Mission Impossible 2. So if the music career fails (which of course it won’t!) then there’s always an opportunity as a celebrity look alike. Toseland’s set is uplifting, energetic and is the first time the band has performed on a festival main stage.
To ensure that I didn’t miss something special, a wander round the site was definitely needed and before FM arrived on the main stage, the Prog Stage offered up Touchstone. Unbeknownst to me, their set was to be one of their last before the band go an indefinite hiatus. Thankfully, chance allowed me to watch their set and the beautiful voice of Kim “Elkie” Seviour is one that will ring in my head for some weeks to come. A shame they are calling it a day but what a way to be able to finish. Excellent set.
Next up, FM, touring in support of recent album ‘Heroes and Villains’ and, as an unashamed fan of the group, I can safely say they have perfected the art of musical bliss. Another band whose career has shot upwards at the second attempt, thanks to that reunion show at Firefest back in 2007. Several albums and E.P.s later and they are regularly on the playlist of national radio in the UK, something few would ever have dreamed possible.
Their set contains old and new material and it all blends together perfectly. Great set and the first major highlight of the day for me.
A pint of Trooper Ale later and again, the world was put to right. It also tee’d me up perfectly for Blue Oyster Cult. Now I never expected them to be a love them or loathe them band (c’mon they did do ‘Reaper’ after all !!) yet they seemed to divide opinion around the festival arena for some time after the set. Their set list, to me, was exactly right, their delivery was uber professional with every pose, shape and band exchange perfectly choreographed. The hits including ‘Godzilla’ and of course ‘Don’t Fear (the Reaper)’ were all present and correct. Great show and an item I now get to tick off my “Bands to see before I’m 50” list.
If you speak to my esteemed colleague at MyGlobalMind, Robert Sutton, Robert will happily tell you that Saxon don’t do a bad show and that their set at Ramblin Man Fair was no exception. My view on this however is slightly different. Saxon’s set was workmanlike and they certainly gave it their all. Unfortunately their all felt like the same all they have played for many many years now. They started well enough but somewhere near the 30 minute mark it all went a bit wrong. Drinks were thrown at Biff which I’ll never condone and people did wander off. Whatever triggered events in the latter half of the set left it all feeling a bit flat which was a shame.
Excited at seeing a full set from Dream Theater, promoted to main stage as they are simply too big a band to play the smaller Prog Stage, we were granted a 15 minute slot to photograph them from the pit. 15 minutes as opposed to three songs, that’s generous I thought. Not so much. More a case of not being entirely sure where one lengthy prog workout ended and the next one commenced. I’m not even sure if the band completed three songs in our allotted time slot. There was no denying that musically they were as technically proficient as it is humanly possible to be and James La Brie has an amazing voice on him as well. For the non-prog crowd, their commercial hit, ‘Pull Me Under’ would have been nice but no joy sadly. A strong crowd response however would suggest I was perhaps in the minority this time.
As the sun then began to set, the greatest dilemma emerged. Would it be possible to watch the start of Scorpions set, then dash over to catch Jason and the Scorchers in the Country Outlaw tent before returning to see Scorpions finish Saturday night in style?
The simple answer is NO. Coming on stage almost 30 minutes later than advertised put paid to any chance of watching what I imagine would have been a great Country \ Punk fuelled romp in the tent. Instead, Scorpions won out and what an amazing set it was. From the off there is no recognition that the band have been going for 50 years and (since 2010) have been considering calling it a day. Whatever has happened since the ‘FINAL’ tour announcement has clearly given them second wind and boy what an amazing end result. Klaus Meine (fresh from ensuring the sunny warm day stayed with us) sounded like a man 30 years younger. His voice is in peak form and the rest of the band deliver in spades as well. One highlight was ‘Going Out With A Bang’ from their latest album and it fits perfectly alongside classics such as ‘The Zoo’ , ‘Dynamite’, ‘Send An Angel’, ‘Wind of Change’ and of course the obligatory ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane.’
With a stage sets and video screens that presented their history in full and saw drummer James Kottak perched miles above the band it was the perfect end to a perfect day. How on earth Day 2 would top this is anyone’s guess!
Going Out with a Bang
Make It Real
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
In the Line of Fire
Big City Nights
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane
RAMBLIN MAN FAIR – SATURDAY GALLERY