Words: Karen Hetherington
Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ Sophie Hextall (C) MindHex Media
Due to the change in dates of last years Ramblin’ Man Fair, this year’s seemed to take a long time to roll around…Excitement was building in the Ramblin Man Fan Group (now like a community in itself) which I was pleased to note lacked the negativity which was so prevalent last year concerning some of the featured acts.
The forecast thunderstorms on Saturday did nothing to deter Ramblers turning out in record numbers and the rain merely threatened to fall on a couple of occasions early on in the day before the skies cleared and the sun gods blessed us for the remainder of the festival.
While retaining certain features that are distinctly ‘Ramblin’ Man’, festival organisers like to shake things up a bit each year, experimenting with the omission/addition of certain elements. Notably absent this year was the Big Red Tent which has proved very popular in the past, whilst the reintroduction of fairground rides – enjoyed by festival goers of all ages and a nice touch in my opinion, were deemed unnecessary by many.
It goes without saying that this festival always delivers an excellent selection of artists spread over four stages but in my opinion, 2019’s line up was particularly strong, making clashes more unfortunate and choices inevitably more difficult.
One of the first billed on Saturday’s agenda were super talented Cornish trio Wille and the Bandits and I have it on good authority that the multi instrumentalists played a blinder of a set on The Outlaw Country Stage which unfortunately I only caught the tail end of as I was stopped in my tracks by the equally fantastic RavenEye who were playing the main stage – the familiarity of the song “Hero” from their album ‘Nova’ proved a hard draw to resist and they delivered an impressive performance overall while the venue was still nicely filling up.
Fronted by Toby Jepson of Little Angel’s fame, the fantastic Wayward Sons who were up next features a host of pedigree musicians who teased the crowd with a set which simply wasn’t long enough.
First introduced to Ramblin’ Man back in 2016, the aptly named Rising Stage has proved a popular and welcome addition ever since. Regularly hosting a large crowd which dramatically increases in size throughout the duration of any given bands set, the stage – which was actually an open sided truck, is home to the future of music, those who will be playing on the main stages in years to come and is the perfect place for up and coming bands to showcase their talents to passing revellers.
I have witnessed some knock out performances on this stage in the last few years but first up for me this year was Collateral who had a substantial crowd waiting for them to kick off, I therefore expected great things… and they did not disappoint. Singer Angelo not only has a fantastic voice, but a charismatic, natural stage presence and an appearance that I would liken to Aerosmiths’ Steve Tyler. The band played a hard rocking half hour set that seemed to reach an all to premature conclusion and I intend to catch them on the road somewhere very soon.
With a slight overlap of time I made my way back to the Main Stage to watch the rest of Ugly Kid Joe. The Californian rockers who reached their pinnacle in the 90’s have had both a lengthy break up and vast changes of personnel and even lead singer Whitfield Crane was not instantly recognisable to me. He was vocally in fine form though and and their set which featured the hits “Cats in the Cradle” and “Everything about You” was well received by an enthusiastic crowd.
Next up on the Main Stage was Jimmy Barnes who packed in an energetic performance complete with female backing vocalists. The Scottish/Australian singer who has previously discredited urban legends and rumours associated with being asked to front AC/DC – past and present, sounded uncannily like Bon Scott throughout the set which I was disappointed didn’t include his hit song and Easybeats cover “Good Times”…
Up at the Outlaw Country Stage I caught the end of Texan guitarist Jesse Dayton. Dayton, known for his associations with Rob Zombie ‘tipped his hat’ to The Devils Rejects by blasting out “Im at Home Getting Hammered (While She’s Out Getting Nailed)” and the crowd were loving it!
Concluding the sets on the Rising Stage for the day were the fantastic Grand Slam, a questionable choice perhaps on this stage as they have origins stretching as far back as 1984, having been originally formed by Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. Original member Lawrence Archer reestablished the band in its current line up in 2018 and they certainly generated enough interest to pull in a good audience…
Running slightly behind schedule The Allman Betts Band were up next on The Outlaw Country Stage, and better late than never I say. The band featuring Devon Allman, son of the late Gregg Allan and Duane Betts, son of Dickey Betts – as the name may suggest, are definitely their fathers sons, in terms of looks, sound and talent. Their set which included a version of Purple Rain was nothing short of phenomenal, the audience were enthralled by them and it was undoubtedly one of the musical highlights of my weekend.
The penultimate act of the evening took me back to the main stage for Cheap Trick who wove their way with ease and expertise through an impressive 16 tracks including “I Want You to Want Me”, “Dream Police” and “The Flame”. Frontman Robin Zander, dressed head to foot in what looked like a white air force uniform with the stars and stripes tucked into his side, looked and sounded like the epitome of an American rock star and while Cheap Trick may have fallen from popularity in the intervening years since their heyday, their 2016 release Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello was a first class addition to their burgeoning repertoire and placed them firmly back in the spotlight.
Bringing the Saturday night to a close for second time at Ramblin’ Man were Black Stone Cherry. The Kentucky hard rock band have accumulated a substantial following over the last few years and it seemed they were back by popular demand wowing the crowd with “Blame it on the Boom Boom”, “White Trash Millionaire” and “Me and Mary Jane”, their finishing track “Peace is Free” nicely wrapped up the first day of musical delights in Mote Park.
The question of what constitutes a headline act has been asked before and with particular relevance to Ramblin’ Man Fair, many voicing their concerns over the choice of finishing acts and I’ve generally thought it was much ado about nothing, however, this year from the point of musical hierarchy, nostalgia and an overall mellower vibe, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the running order should have been reversed and Cheap Trick should have sealed the deal and brought the evening to its conclusion…
What else did you miss at Ramblin’ Man 2019:
Saturday Highlights – Photos (C) Sophie Hextall / MindHex Media
Featuring: Allman Betts Band, Anathema, Bad Touch, Black Stone Cherry, Cellar Door Moon Crow, Cheap Trick, Dust Bowl Jokies, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, KOYO, RavenEye, Ugly Kid Joe, VOLA, Wayward Sons