Words; Karen Hetherington / Pictures; Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
(extra words ; Adrian Hextall)
Year three of the Ramblin’ Man started for me on the Saturday. Having missed Friday nights entertainment (I was there.. review to follow, Adrian) I was a little dispirited to arrive at around the same time as the rain and with huge grey clouds looming overhead, the chance of a clear day wasn’t looking likely. Almost immediate entry was gained, as opposed to last years queues and I was unsure if this was due to many Ramblers having attended the night before, or crowds holding off to see if the weather would improve.
I wasted no time exploring the site before heading to the Grooverider Stage to see Dirty Thrills. First on my ‘got to see’ list, if there was ever a band to lift your spirits it’s this one. Having first stumbled across the band accidentally at last years Ramblin Man, I was immediately hooked on their sound and have seen them at every possible opportunity since. I was delighted therefore that this year they were playing on a much larger stage to a considerably larger audience which I reasoned would have been larger still had they not have been billed as the first band on the stage that day. With their raw, bluesy rock and captivating stage presence, they are every bit as fantastic to watch as they are to listen to.
With Karen starting her day with rising rockers Dirty Thrill, I had taken the opportunity to get in before the rain and see Jared James Nichols on the main stage. The American blues-rock guitarist and singer from the state of Wisconsin is a great way to warm up a crowd and managed to keep the rain off during his short set. With just three people on stage and a large stage to work with, you’d think a simple stripped down show might get lost but no, Jared has a few tricks up his sleeve. Known for his high-energy performances and ‘pick-less’ electric guitar playing technique it’s difficult to decide whether to watch the show or focus on his hands and marvel at the sounds he wrings out of his ‘signature’ single-pickup Les Paul Custom nick-named Old Glory. His early 1970s hard-rock sound was an ideal way to commence the day and getting a set in before the rain came was a secondary and welcome result. [Adrian]
Having wrapped up their set I had a quick scout round to see what changes, if any had been made to this years festival. The Rising Stage, Planet Rock Stage and Outlaw Country Stage were all as they were last year. The Prog stage had been renamed ‘Grooverider’ Stage for the Saturday only and was moved to the back of the uppermost part of the festival site. The hay bales which I thought added a rustic touch to the venue and I had remarked were sparse last year, were this year missing altogether and instead replaced with more sturdy and arguably more practical picnic tables situated around the food vendors . The usual wide variety of food stalls were positioned both on the peripheral of the lower festival site and along the back of the upper festival site catering to all tastes, however, I did notice less merchandise stalls than in previous years. The Motorcycle Wall of Death was back for its second year as was the Harley Davidson stand. I was also pleased to note that Londons’ Big Red bar had a tent, it was great to see this fantastic bar on tour! Planet Rock had a signing tent on the upper festival site giving festival goers the opportunity for a meet and greet with some of the bands and unsurprisingly this proved extremely popular!
Letting Karen head back to the main stage for Toseland, i chose instead to stick with the Grooverider Stage and another U.S. act, Lionize. With new album ‘Nuclear Soul’ due out soon, the opportunity to see the band could not be missed. Decked out in a gold outfit that was 10 cents away from a replica of that worn by Mike Myers’ Goldmember, lead vocalist Nate Bergman led the band through a mix of old and new tunes. Ably supported by the unique reggae, dub music, go-go, and funk vibe that Chris Brooks Hammond organ brings to the table, the newer material really stands out with notab;e ‘Ain’t It A Shame’ drawing more and more people to the stage. If ever a song can help propel a band to the next level it’s this one. The size of venues on their accompanying tour whilst in the UK & Ireland are such that it’s likely you’ll not see them in such intimate surroundings again. Make the most of it while you can. [Adrian]
Making my way over to the Planet Rock stage in time to see Toseland, I observed a large crowd had already assembled to see the former Superbike Champion. I stuck around for “Living in a Moment”, “Cradle the Rage” – from their latest album, released last March and the fantastic “Life is Beautiful” but unfortunately the driving rain forced me to take cover in the VIP area which was absolutely packed to the rafters. As Toseland finished up my ear was still trained on the Main Stage as British Lion were up next. Despite the continued onslaught of bad weather, the VIP area cleared somewhat and I suspected the draw of veteran Metalman Steve Harris was too good to miss.
With the world and his Mum back at the main stage for Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris’ side project ‘British Lion’, the Rising Stage, a marvellous idea that helps showcase so many up and coming bands and is definitely helping identify future headliners for the main stages, played host to Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics. To say Aaron looked sharp and brought the swagger to the Rising Stage would be an understatement. Looking every inch like he should have been fronting the Kinks back in the day, Aaron and the band presented a fresh alternative to the familiar classic rock and metal sound that was taking place over on the main stage. Like a bottle of beer with a dash of tequila thrown in for good measure, Aaron was disarmingly refreshing and that makes for a very bright future. [Adrian]
Still taking shelter from the elements I caught a few songs by Reef “Just Feel Love”, “ Higher Vibration” and the iconic “Place Your Hands” before making a beeline for the Rising Stage to cross another one off my list in the form of Bad Touch. I absolutely loved their last album and vowed to see them live as soon as possible and they did not disappoint, they ploughed their way through their all too short set – which consisted of tracks from their latest album, all too quickly. Larger stage, longer set required next year perhaps?
Celebrating the release of a new album, their first in some 9 years, Ghoultown played a set out of the rain on the Outlaw Country Stage. The tent, packed to the rafters, meant the band were playing in some considerable heat but their particular brand of Texan gothabilly went down extremely well with a crowd looking for something a little different. Equal parts western horror novel and gothic Americana, the band were a welcome addition to Ramblin’ Man. If you’d like more detail about them, ask Karen when you see her. Apparently the hotel bar ran out of tequila at around 4am!! [Adrian]
Throughout the day I heard a barrage of complaints from festival goers, lack of toilets, poor headlining act, overcrowded VIP area etc but by far the majority of issues were regarding the one thing that was unquestionably beyond festival organisers control – the weather. In the unpredictable British climate booking tickets for any open air music event is always going to be a gamble. Mote Park is a great venue and the site could hardly be described as a quagmire, with the exception of erecting a few areas where Ramblers could take shelter, I am unsure what more could be done. As far as the line up was concerned , it goes without saying that not everyone is going to like every band. Fortunately Ramblin’ Man has four stages running simultaneously and as I have found over the last 3 years this affords the opportunity for plenty of pleasant musical surprises.
Making a welcome appearance on the Rising Stage, Toby Jepson’s latest outfit Wayward Sons played what was only their 3rd or 4th show. For the first time since leaving Little Angels, Toby seems to have assembled a solid band, verging on supergroup, that delivered some classic rock sounds and allowed Toby to once again, front and centre, be the front man he was designed to be. Singing his own songs and not someone else’s, Toby looked like he was having an absolute blast. The band is completed by Nic Wastell (bass, Chrome Molly) who cannot stand still on stage for more than 30 seconds, Phil Martini (drums, Spear Of Destiny, ex Quireboys, Joe Elliot’s Down and Outs) Sam Wood (guitar, Treason Kings) and Dave Kemp (keys, ex Little Angels touring band). Their album ‘Ghosts of Yet to Come’ formed most of their set with the added bonus of Little Angels ‘Young Gods’ that got the crowd bouncing and singing along. One to watch out for in the next 12 months. [Adrian]
Absolutely soaked to the skin I made for the Planet Rock Stage once again to catch LA metal band Dokken. Undoubtedly one of the most popular acts of the day, “The Hunter”, “Kiss of Death” and “Dream Warriors” featured in their set which finished off with “In my Dreams”. Heading over to the Outlaw Country Stage, I had intended to watch the end of Dan Baird but when I got there I knew I had precious little chance of getting into it… well a stage with a tent is always going to be a popular choice on a rainy day…
Great choice of bands to both see at the same time. I’d been waiting since 1998 to see Dokken live once more. Whilst the original line up isn’t in the UK, the one that performed was more than up to the task in hand. Don Dokken and Mick Brown remain with Jon Levin doing a fantastic job on guitar. Chris McCarvill completed the line up on bass and all of the hits as Karen has identified kept the fans happy as the rain continued to pour. For those that (and there were a few) complianed that Don’s voice isn’t what it used to be, I’d disagree. He sounded fine to me and brought to life many of the songs I fondly remember from the 80s and 90s. [Adrian]
Unfortunately by around 8pm this Rambler had had enough for the day and headed off back to the hotel for some liquid refreshments and to ponder the question “what calibre of band qualify as a headlining act”? Is it the band who are the most famous? Most nostalgic? Have been on the go the longest? Or the band with the most albums under their belt? For me, it’s the band who make me walk away feeling wowed and as if I have just witnessed something spectacular, irrespective of their fame or longevity.
As Karen looked to head off into the rain soaked and cloud filled sunset (not yet knowing a night of hard drinking would face her with the members of Ghoultown, she missed out on great sets from Black Star Riders and headliners Extreme. First up on the main stage were Black Star Riders. With enough albums under their belt to be able to play a lengthy set of original material and keep the older Thin Lizzy content to a minimum, Black Star Riders are truly a band with their own identity. The older Lizzy material may have helped launch them but nowadays they an accomplished and immensely tight classic rock band and the crowd lapped it up. It was the largest crowd of the day and the band played on whilst the heavens continued to pour their contents on to everyone’s heads. Rock star shapes, classic solos, spotlight moments and even a stock of flame cannons left a lasting impression on the crowd, so much so that some of the old guard decided to call it quits and depart soon after BSR finished their set. It was a mistake to do so because Extreme not only showed Ramblin’ Man Fair what a headline set should look and sound like, the weather also decided to pay attention and it stopped raining as they came on stage. [Adrian]
WELL DONE! No other way to say it. If the crowd is thinning thanks to the weather then the only thing to do is come on and storm it with the first three songs. That is exactly what Extreme did and by the time ‘Get The Funk Out’ had played out, the rain had stopped the crowd were bouncing and people were once more having fun.
The interaction between the members of the band showed an outfit that had down this before. Deliver a set, win the crowd and keep them entertained. Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt played the part of the classic rock partnership, the lead vocalist and the lead guitarist, brothers in music. Nuno enthralled with his guitar work, Cherone played the cheeky front-man pulling all of the mischievous moves out of his box of tricks.
‘That song’ drew a great response from the crowd and has lighters held aloft as everyone sang along. For many, ‘More Than Words’ is one of the few international hits they knew by Extreme so to win them over and see grins on faces in light of such a crappy day weather wise was impressive to say the least.
With one of my faves, Decadence Dance, played as well as the aforementioned Get The Funk Out, I was as happy as could be and as they finished to a great sing along of Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’, this was a real case of triumph over adversity. WELL DONE! [Adrian]
It (‘s a Monster
Li’l Jack Horny
Get the Funk Out
Rest in Peace
Play with Me
More Than Words
Am I Ever Gonna Change
Take Us Alive
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen cover)
Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee
We Are the Champions (Queen cover)
Rise ‘n’ Shine (tape outro)