Collective thoughts and ramblings: Karen Hetherington
Picture Credits: Adrian Hextall (MindHex Media)
Picture Credits: Robert Sutton (Robert Sutton Photography)
Arriving for day two of the Ramblin Man Fair slightly later than planned, I was relieved that the temperature had cooled to something much more pleasant and there wasn’t a queue in sight.
I knew that the Sunday was never going to be easy with many more band clashes for me than the previous day and whilst The Ramblin Man Fair app definitely made it easier to try and schedule things, there were still some unavoidable disappointments as well as some surprising musical highlights.
First up for me was the excellent Will Wilde on the Rising Stage where I lingered longer than intended before making my way to the Blues tent which had been the Outlaw Country tent the day before.
I could see on approach that it was completely packed out and as I drew closer I realised why. Blues guitar virtuoso JD Simo was nearly lifting the roof off the tent and the crowd were absolutely in awe. I had only intended to listen to 2 or 3 songs here but reasoned that this one was definitely worth hearing out. The sheer talent of Simo is indescribable and needs to be witnessed to be fully appreciated; it was one of the ultimate highlights of my weekend. The Simo act also consisted of a brief but incredible drum solo and concluded with the Beatles classic “Get by with a little help from my friends”, played in the more commonly known style of Joe Cocker. Rapturous and prolonged applause followed along with the feeling, for me, that I had just witnessed something spectacular.
Over at the main stage I caught the tail end of The Answer, a band I am not overly familiar with but had intended to watch on recommendation. I concluded that they sounded fantastic and I was gutted I didn’t hear more of their set.
Walking back past the fully equipped and very impressive Boss Guitar Truck, adjacent to the Rising Stage, Dirty Thrills immediately caught and demanded my total attention. A relatively new band I was completely unfamiliar with, they had me hooked within seconds. Vocalist Louis James had the crowd in the palm of his hand – with his classic blues/rock voice he reminded me of a young Paul Rogers as he worked the stage with moves reminiscent of Rocks glory days. Accompanied by the amazing guitar riffs of Jack Fawdry, fantastic bass grooves of Aaron Plows and the incredible drumming of Steve Corrigan, this band absolutely blew me away. Their performance was flawless. Although I didn’t know any of their songs they all sounded strangely familiar in the best possible way. I hung around for a quick word with them after they finished up before heading off in search of their CD. Sold!
After noticing a pattern emerging , being that I was finding it impossible to tear myself away from bands that I hadn’t intended to watch and missing acts that I had, I made my way up to the Prog stage in good time to see Hawkwind setting up. I watched in fascination at the meticulous attention to detail which went into getting everything quite right (typical of Progressive music really), before they began their set. Having never seen Hawkwind live I was advised to expect the unexpected and what I witnessed was definitely unexpected – in the obscurely pleasant manner associated with this band, I have always been of the opinion that you either “get” them or you don’t.
While the Ramblin Man Fair is a mix of young and old and all in between, I had observed that the Prog stage had attracted an older crowd over the past couple of days and that Hawkwind had been the most “Prog” band I had seen on stage so far. I therefore remarked to the person next to me that it should have been more aptly named “The Old Band Stage” at which they corrected “The Old Hand Stage” more like. Perhaps so, but after a quick detour to the Blues tent which was packed out again for the fantastic Walter Trout, I got to the main stage just in time to hear Thunder play “Love Walked In” then I was back up at the Prog stage again to take in the sensational Procol Harum.
The lighting on the stage for Procol was impressive, and as the sun was starting to go down this was given even more emphasis. However, Impressive as the lighting was, it paled into comparison with the experience of seeing this band live. Over the weekend the Prog stage featured some bands that I’m sure many either thought they would never see or thought they would never see again and I considered myself very privileged to have done so.
As Procol Harum concluded the acts on the Prog stage with (after a few deliberate false starts), “Whiter Shade of Pale”, there was definitely a very emotive feeling hanging in the air. I was content after hearing that and could have left the festival feeling euphoric, but it wasn’t over yet…
Back down at the Blues tent the magnificent Warren Haynes was midway through The Allman Brothers classic instrumental “”Jessica” and just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any better, the sensational Bernie Marsden was brought on stage to play guitar along with Warren on the concluding song of the set, the magnificent and very appropriately named “Two of a Kind”. Enough Said!
Whilst Karen was enjoying the delights of the Blues tent, Paul Anthony, Planet Rocks breakfast show presenter was introducing main stage headliners, Black Stone Cherry. Proving that the slight hint of sunshine will cause a Brit to get his legs out, Paul reminded us all why this young band from Kentucky were the rightful headliners to close out the Sunday night at Ramblin’ Man Fair [never one to miss a photo opportunity editor!].
Having realised at this late stage that I hadn’t seen any of headliners Black Stone Cherrys’ set, I swiftly made my way over to the main stage just in time to see them finish off an acoustic number. Straight up next and the final song of the evening was an excellent cover version of “Ace of Spades”. In a weekend where I saw more Lemmy T-Shirts than a Motorhead concert I thought of this as not only a fitting tribute to the man himself, but also the perfect conclusion to an outstanding weekend.
This festival has a relaxed vibe that I haven’t experienced at any others and draws friendly, like minded individuals of all ages. A weekend of great company for serious music lovers, The Ramblin Man Fair is essentially what you make it and I would be very surprised if anyone saw the exact same line up over the weekend as everyone’s experiences will be unique and varied but it was remarked upon to me while I was exiting the venue on Sunday night that if you are truly torn between which bands to watch at a festival, it’s a sure sign that they have put on a hell of a good show!