Saturday and Sunday Review by: Simon Kneller
The 8th Steelhouse festival took place over the last weekend in July and, once again, the organiser’s were cursed by bad weather, yet they still sold out the 5000 tickets for the first time. The setting is a working farm atop a mountain accessed via an uneven track although improvements had been made following a series of unfortunate car mishaps in the past.
The Bad Flowers had the unenviable task of kick-starting Saturdays proceedings in the rain, and with front-man and guitarist Tom Leighton they have a star in the making, playing songs from their debut album ‘Starting Gun’ including the anthem Thunder Child, and if that title sounds a bit War of the World’s, then the weather definitely set in for Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics. With a set including 3 Heaven’s Basement songs (Fire, Fire, Welcome Home and I Am Electric) plus songs from the band’s debut album, Aaron was clearly having fun and enticing the crowd to join in. Sadly for all involved, with thunder, lightning and a torrent of rain that just didn’t let up, the stage manager had to curtail their set due to the health and safety of the stage and performers.
With a recent instrumental album release, many wondered what ex Jagged Edge,Skin and Red White and Blues guitarist Myke Gray would bring to the stage, and with it being only the bands 3rd show of the year, it was a crowd pleasing set of those former band’s songs including Jagged Edge’s Trouble, to Skin classics House of Love, Money, Shine A Light, and singalong anthem Look But Don’t Touch.
Guitar histrionics of a blues kind next as Alan Nimmo brought his King King band finally to the Steelhouse stage, following a cancellation in 2017 due to illness, they more than made up for it, with a 60 minute set including selections from last year’s Exile and Grace album, and older cuts like the exquisite Rush Hour, Waking Up and the extended guitar workout of A Long History Of Love
King King absolutely upped the ante as the sun came out a little (!) and then the Dan Reed Network took it to a dizzying heights, their brand of funky rock was perfect for a Steelhouse Saturday afternoon, lifting the spirits with an all action performance from Dan, and his bassist Melvin Brannon Jr, guitarist Brion James, drummer Dan Praed, keyboard maestro Rob Daiker, even squeezing in a medley of Enter Sandman, Earth Wind and Fires Let’s Groove, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax and Kiss’s I Was Made For Lovin’ You ! It put smiles on cold and wet faces! Their own material culled from the first two DRN albums bookmarked by the evocative ‘Champion’ from 2017’s comeback album ‘Fight Another Day’. Band of the day so far!
In an exclusive festival performance with his “Co” Myles Kennedy wooed the crowd with 90 minutes made up of material from his acclaimed solo album ‘Year Of the Tiger’ with some Alter Bridge (Addicted To Pain & Watch Over You) and Slash (Standing In The Sun & World On Fire) thrown in for good measure. The highlight of the set for me was an acoustic version of Iron Maiden’s The Trooper on the Trooper stage much to the appreciation of the audience.
Co headliner Glenn Hughes had promised a set of Deep Purple classics and that’s exactly what he delivered, although he went slightly short of the 1974 ‘Cal Jam’ and white suit set !
But we got classics Stormbringer, Might Just Take your Life, You Keep On Moving (surprisingly the only one from Come Taste The Band ) You Fool No One with Hammond keyboard intro from Jesper Bo Hansen, and guitar work from Danish guitarist Soren Anderson, (who was on Glenns 2016 album Resonate) particularly on showstoppers Mistreated and the inevitable Smoke on the Water with the ’74 Purple treatment of Georgia on My Mind
For the encore Steelhouse were treated to a frantic Highway Star with special guest, Myles Kennedy and leaving the cold Welsh night air with a emphatic version of Burn !
So, to Sunday and another gale force wind accompanied by heavy rain and more headaches for organiser’s Max and Mikey. Two of the bands cancelled at short notice as they were unable to get to the Steelhouse venue. The Quireboys were stuck at an airport in Europe having had their flight cancelled whilst The Dead Daisies were “Unable To Play” (Quote Unquote). Therefore set times were extended for the bands already on site.
The Dust Coda opened up proceedings on Sunday playing songs from their self titled debut album and helping the crowd to forget the miserable conditions the weather was throwing at the festival.
Those Damn Crows are a local band and most of the crowd were enthusiastically singing along in unison to the tracks from their Murder And The Motive album. With a couple of new songs thrown in for good measure, the band left the stage to a very loud cheer and the audience wanting more. Keep an eye out for them in the future!
Scotland’s Mason Hill took to the stage next. The band have just landed a support slot on the upcoming Dan Reed Network tour and were keen to show their credentials. With songs from their debut EP and a superb version of the Audioslave track ‘Cochise’ they more than did themselves credit and I certainly wait in anticipation of the aforementioned tour.
Massive Wagons had been anticipated from the beginning of the day and I was interested to see what the fuss was about. At this point the rain was absolutely pouring down although the crowd remained firmly in front of the stage to witness a band who are definitely going places. The first song ‘Back To The Stack’ was a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt and the first crowd surf of the day took place! The band have a new album due for imminent release (Full Nelson) and after this brilliant set, I have already pre-ordered my copy. The band played through 11 tracks and it was heads down hard rock with a front-man (Barry Mills) who can control a crowd.
All 4 of the bands so far have absolutely exceeded the expectations of the crowd and I hope they all continue to produce music and performances as they showed at Steelhouse.
The disappointment the crowd felt due to the no shows from The Quireboys and The Dead Daisies was forgotten as soon as The Wildhearts, with Ginger in particularly fine form, took to the stage. The Wildhearts can always be relied upon to deliver and they duly did so, entertaining the crowd during the early evening in vastly improved conditions.
Sunday Headliners Black Star Riders brought the event to a close. Fresh from their tour in America supporting Saxon and Judas Priest in support of their brilliant album ‘Heavy Fire’ the band delivered an excellent set playing material from all 3 of the albums as well as the obvious Thin Lizzy classics (The Boys Are Back In Town, Jailbreak and Whisky In The Jar). With the enigmatic Ricky Warwick out front and the legend that is Scott Gorham the band have the nucleus to be massive. I have seen Black Star Riders many times now and they just keep performing to a very high standard. Definitely one of my favourite bands and I hope to hear some new material in the not too distant future.
The festival overall is very well organised with just one stage well laid out in a beautiful location (when the sun does eventually shine) and is run by very enthusiastic volunteers who work tirelessly to provide a great weekend for the appreciative crowd. The vendors charge reasonable prices for the food and drink while the merchandise is very good value. Why is it a Steelhouse T-Shirt costs at least £10 less than comparable shirts at similar events?
Overall a weekend spent in superb company with great established rock acts and new bands coming through which is always refreshing to discover.
My thanks to Andy Fox and Ian Gregory for additional information and expertise.