Collective thoughts and ramblings: Karen Hetherington
Picture Credits: Adrian Hextall (MindHex Media)
Picture Credits: Robert Sutton (Robert Sutton Photography)
The Ramblin’ Man Fair was the definitive highlight of my musical year in 2015 and with this year’s event seeing the addition of an extra stage, meaning even more excellent bands on the bill, it was with much enthusiasm that I set out to experience it again.
The recent heatwave [Dear Rest of the World… for us heatwave means more than 2 days at temperatures above 25 degrees Celcius: Weather Editor] in the UK was sure to provide much more pleasant conditions for a festival such as this but as I entered Mote Park I slightly recoiled in horror as I observed the long and winding queues to gain entry. Early as it was, many festival goers looked as though they were already wilting in the heat and although I was there in good time and was fortunate enough to bypass most of this, it was hard to envisage this huge volume of people filtering through before the first bands of the day commenced their acts. As it was, I made it to the main stage just in time to see Inglorious.
They were one of the bands I was determined not to miss and after kicking off with” Until I Die” they steamrolled through their set which seemed to go all too quickly. With the exception of Rainbow’s “I Surrender” thrown in, their set list consisted of their debut album “Inglorious” – and the crowd loved it, “High Flying Gypsy” and “Holy Water” proving particularly popular. This being my third live experience of this band, I was thrilled to see them open this festival and not surprised to note that they sounded every bit as good in the open air as they had in the smaller, more intimate venues they have played. I considered that from the bands point of view, opening at a festival such as this on the main stage had given them a chance to introduce their sound to a much wider audience who may otherwise not be familiar with them and I think this proved the case on this occasion. One of the highlights of my day, these hugely talented musicians got things off to amazing start. Sadly, however, many did miss their act – or much of it waiting to gain access to the festival.
I set off thereafter to explore the expanded festival site and was slightly disorientated at the much altered layout. There was a wide range of food and drink on offer as there had been last year as well as ice creams vans, mobile phone charging points, cash machines and a stall selling cigarettes and essentials. A great selection of merchandise was available and everything from vinyl, photographs and rock memorabilia to hats, clothing and jewellery could be purchased for a reasonable price. Harley Davidson and Triumph Motorcycles had a great set up in the main arena and this proved to be a constant hive of activity. As great music and motorcycles have always gone hand in hand for me I found the addition of this stall a great feature. An Indian Motorcycle “Wall of Death” was also set up on the peripheral.
Seating, in the form of hay bales seemed very sparse this year and what was provided seemed lost in the expanse resulting in many taking rest and shade amongst the trees.
While I was circulating I caught the last of the set of Mason Hill and the start of Massive Wagons on the Rising Stage and was hugely impressed with both bands, this stage was a very welcome addition to the festival hosting many quality acts throughout the day. These up and coming bands deserve to be heard and they definitely drew a lot of attention. After finishing up their sets bands departed the Rising Stage and mingled into the main thoroughfare, where many famous faces were spotted throughout the day.
Having taken a rain check to chat with opening act Inglorious, I then checked out a bit of Bob Wayne on the Outlaw Country Tent but was forced out by the intense heat and headed back to the Prog stage area. On returning to the main hub I caught a couple of songs by 80’s rockers Europe including “Rock the Night”. Joey Tempests’ vocals were sounding amazing and I was hit by a very welcome wave of nostalgia, before returning once more to the Prog stage just in time to see The Zombies perform the last song of their set, the classic “She’s Not There”.
Up next on the Prog stage were classic English rock band Uriah Heep. Spinning out tracks such as Gypsy, Sunrise, Lady in Black and Easy Livin, I was absolutely blown away by their performance which by far exceeded all my expectations. Bernie Shaws’ vocals were amazing and the set was played out with a raw energy I wasn’t quite expecting from a band who have been on the go since 1969. Needless to say their vibe spilled over into the audience who were every bit an enthusiastic as the band themselves.
Back down at the main stage, I caught the last of Thin Lizzys’ set which surprisingly featured Midge Ure guesting on the “The Boys are Back in Town” before they finished with classic hit and essential crowd pleaser “Whiskey in the Jar”.
Considering I had spent the least amount of time at the Outlaw Country Tent, I thought I better have another look in and see what was happening there. I was not prepared for what was coming and as Hayseed Dixie struck up I didn’t quite know whether to laugh, cry or dance so I done the latter. I surprised myself at being completely sucked into the parody of their set and immensely enjoyed their unusual bluegrass/rockgrass take on some of my favourite songs including AC/DCs “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Black Sabbaths “War Pigs”. In the end I literally had to tear myself away to head back again to the main stage for headliners Whitesnake.
Having been a lifelong Whitesnake fan despite various personnel changes, I was super excited about them giving the last performance of the evening – and they did not disappoint. In my opinion, David Coverdale gave a fantastic vocal performance considering that his voice has wavered considerably over the past few years and the obvious consideration that sound carries differently in the open air. In contrast to when I last seen them in December of 2015 when they focused on Whitesnake – “The Purple Album”, the crowd were treated to a set list consisting of Whitesnakes Greatest Hits which was a logical choice on this occasion. Classics such as “Slide it In”, “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Here I go Again” all featured and the set was broken up by fantastic guitar solos by Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra as well as Tommy Aldridge’s famous drum solo which I always find a welcome interlude. The highlights for me were the classic “Slow an Easy” and the somewhat predictable but never disappointing finisher “Still of the Night”. I heard whispers in the audience that 3 solos was overkill and that they expected more songs, but given that Coverdale was perhaps trying to conserve his voice and that I would rather have quality over quantity their set seemed pretty damn good to me…
As thousands of fans exited the venue in an extraordinarily quiet and orderly fashion after Whitesnake had wrapped it up, I contemplated what an amazing, if at times overwhelming day it had been all round and set off to chill out and recharge for day two…..