RAMBLIN MAN FAIR
25-26TH JULY 2015
Team Rock, the people behind fanboy favourites Classic Rock, Prog and Blues Magazine came up with the clever idea of hosting their own festival – genius! Given the nature of the beast. one could be excused for thinking that the festival was aimed at attracting a particular age group. Of course there were plenty there who remember Blue Oyster Cult, Gregg Allman and Ian Anderson the first time around; But alongside the genre legends are the new blood who follow on from those musical pioneers to keeping the spirit of music alive. Bands like Rival Sons, Riverside and Haken ensured that Ramblin Man Fair successfully appeals to all fans. The great thing about a festival is that you always come away being inspired by the music you have heard, and the bands of whom you know little are always the ones that surprise you the most.
Saturday's proceedings on the Classic Rock Stage commenced with newly reformed 80’s Belfast band No Hot Ashes.Hot on the trail of their recent slots supporting UFO and Foreigner, Eamonn Nancarrow and co seem to be getting their mojo back.
Toseland put on another consistently energetic show. Given his already legendary status to all biking enthusiasts, James has moved with ease to his second career as a fledgling rock star. In the last few years he has developed into a confident, capable and entertaining performer. Kicking off with Crash Landing, the band ran through a set of straight up no nonsense rock numbers including some newer material and finished with Renegade, the title track from Toseland’s first album, a great song that has all the hallmarks of a potential rock classic.
Despite spending twelve long years in the wilderness before reforming again in 2007, FMwere a pleasant surprise and proved to be a popular wildcard on the day. There can be no doubt that front man and original founding member Steve Overland still possesses a wonderfully distinctive voice that clearly identifies FM. The band delivered classic rock with songs such as Diggin Up The Dirt, That Girl, Closer To Heaven and I Belong To The Night. Their sound was perfectly suited to a larger environment, and perhaps a reminder of a band who should have been bigger in their hey-day.
With the exception of only a few tracks that included Godzilla and their most well known track Don’t Fear The Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult produced a set list was based on their live album On Your Feet Or On Your Knees. Right from the off this was a frenetic, non stop set that was typical BOC – fast, flashy with some slick guitar work from Buck and Eric.
Saxon followed BOC and Biff etal put on their usual reliably entertaining show filled with great rock tracks from their current Warriors Of The Road World Tour. It is indeed a set list 35 years in the making, cramming everything from Motorcycle Man, Princess Of The Night, 747 (Strangers In The Night) and Sacrifice into a much too short set. On the plus side, they have a new album due out in the Autumn which we can get our teeth into!
As Dream Theatrefront man James Labrie observed from all the DT t-shirts around, many had come to witness their favourite band in action. Those at Mote Park had already witnessed some fine performances but now it was the turn of John Petrucci to up the ante. He certainly showed why he is widely considered to be one of the best metal guitarists to walk the planet, but overall the bands performance, whilst more than competent seemed a little tired and lacking in their usual passion. Although this can be forgiven considering they have proved themselves stadium worthy the world over. From the wonderful riff and haunting vocals and superb guitar work in Afterlife through to the simple but beautifully delivered The Spirit Carries On, Dream Theatre are one of the greatest technical bands of their generation.
The same could be said for headline act The Scorpions, who put on an entertaining show but they too appeared a little battle weary with Klaus Meine's voice clearly struggling in places. But as one of the most successful rock bands ever does it really matter? The band have a 50 year legacy and more albums and awards than you can shake a poisonous tail at and as one of the originators of rock they are certainly not to be sniffed at. The set contained some grand showmanship and a stella song list which was a look back at the greatest hits of the Scorpions. Wind Of Change, The Zoo, Black Out, Speedy's Coming were all there, including an encore of Still Loving You and Rock You Like A Hurricane. As they march towards their final hurrah in 2016, if their opening number - Going Out With A Bang was their intention, then they certainly succeeded.
On the Prog and Country Outlaw Stages things were just as varied in style and just as great musically. Jess and The Bandits opened on the Outlaw Stage performing tracks from their debut country rock album Here We Go Again. Texas native Jess Clemmons and her British Bandits are a great modern country band. Jess has a blinder of a voice and a real soulful country feel. Already the band are receiving plenty of airplay on BBC Radio 2 and begin their headline UK tour later in the year.
Tennessee five piece, Della Maecontinued the American vibe with some terrific Bluegrass music. Bob Wayne added a bit of humour to the Outlaw stage with his hillbilly comedy and parody songs,
Think The Wurzels meets Weird Al.
Buck & Evans have had a lot of hype surrounding them and they are simply phenomenal live. Chris Buck and Sally Anne Evans may have only formed their duo in 2013, but their sound is well developed and some of their songs are simply sensational with Impossible and Ain't No Moonlight particularly standing out.
Hayseed Dixieplay some mean bluegrass and some of the most impressive cover versions ever! You Shook Me All Night Long, Don't Stop Believing and a worthy version of Bohemian Rapsody – somebody tell Kanye this is how it's done!
On the Prog stage, Hakenwere the real gem of the festival and would have easily surpassed the activities on the main stage. Their musicianship is superb. With their Zappaesque syncopation they are clever, melodic and a simply outstanding party for your ears and a new universe for your brain. They have combined their influences which unsurprisingly include King Crimson and Pink Floyd, to put a modern progressive metal spin on the genre to create an original style. Cockroach King is a killer track to hear live too! They are never dull and there is something new to harvest from every listen.
Liverpool based Anathema were a hugely popular choice. Lead singer Vincent Cavanagh gives everything in a mesmerising performance of their self titled song. Their frenetic set was filled with great tracks from their last three albums. Throughout their ten albums their sound has evolved dramatically, whilst still retaining the core essence of progressive metal, it's little wonder they were such a crowd puller.
One of the finest prog bands from the 70s, Camel, headlined on Saturday. Led by founding member Andrew Latimer the band performed some of their classic material, Lady Fantasy, Song Within A Song, White Rider, Never Let Go. A great set for die hards to hear some of the early tracks performed live. Unfortunately they were well and truly upstaged by a very late starting Scorpions on the main stage which ended up clashing with their start time!
Sundays vibe had a different feel, the Country Outlaw Stage was changed to the Blues tent and the overall feel of the music was much more akin to the genre. Even the weather was on the side of the music with gloomy grey sky and pissing rain. Sister Rosetta Tharp would have been proud, and didn't it rain!
Swedish rock bandBlues Pillsreally set the mood. Vocalist Elin Larsson was on full form with some powerhouse female rock vocals as she blasted through High Class Woman and a cover of the Tony Joe White track elements and Things. A great band with a old school feel they certainly follow the trend for the Scandinavians producing some fantastic rock music of late.
Icelandic rockers Solstafir, did not bring with them any sun rays, as their names translation would suggest. They did however bring some atmospheric progressive music, which would not have been out of place on Saturdays line up. Tracks like Dagmal and Otta are perhaps the reason why the band have been nominated for a Vanguard (breakthrough) award at this years Progressive Music Awards.
The Quireboyslivened up proceedings and many were prepared to get soaked watching the band doing what they do best – playing good old fashioned rock and roll! Spike was on top form, working the stage and kicking out his bluesy, husky vocals to Black Mariah, Hey You and Too Much Of A Good Thing. Sadly nothing from their latest album, St Cecilia and the Gypsy Soul, but plenty other classic tracks to brighten up the day.
The Temperance Movementseemed to attract more rain with lead singer Phil Campbell doing his own rain dance on stage. The guy certainly has some serious energy jerking and gyrating like Mick Jagger on speed and is still able to sing at the same time too! (Funnily enough they were the guest band for the Stones back in 2014 – I think Phil got some tips!) The band are impressive and wild from the punky blues 3 Bullets to the laid back, soulful Smouldering, The Temperance Movement are a truly great modern British rock and roll band.
Another great rock and roll band are Rival Sons. Hailed as the new Led Zeppelin, it is as if the fantastic four did go to California just to find another four musicians to follow them. Rival Sons nail that unique British blues rock sound, but add a sprinkling of American glamour. Electric Man has already established itself as a modern rock track to be reckoned with and Open My Eyes embodies the aggression of Kashmir and the acoustic subtlety of Ramble On. Jay Buchanan's vocals are spot on and he embodies the music he performs. Scott Holiday's guitars are a wall of sound and let's not forget the punchy percussion of Mike Miley and Dave Beste. Rival Sons lived up to their buzz and were a hard act to follow on the Classic Rock Stage.
Seasick Steve seemed an unusual but popular choice for the main stage as a warm up for head-liner Gregg Allman. With his collection of custom guitars and drummer Dan Magnusson, Steve rock and rolled through some great personal tracks like Thunderbird, Roy's Gang and Barracuda 68. His humorous and personal style feels a tad too intimate for the main CR stage, especially as his staging was pushed right to the back of the proscenium arch, which was crap if you were down the front. But at least the sun was out!
Joanne Shaw Taylorhas been building up quite a rep as a guitar chick who plays a mean blues, for quite some time. Just Another Word is a smooth bitter sweet love song and Watch Em' Burn is full of gritty blues rock greatness with a killer bass riff and some tasteful soloing from JST. Over the years her playing has become slicker and heavier, and her husky vocals more aggressive and punchy but still soulful. Having recently turned 30 she has plenty of musical longevity as she straddles both blues and rock camps and proves that the gals can wield a mean axe just as well as the guys.
Bernie Marsden headlined the Blues Tent proving his versatility from a rock to blues man with some cracking tracks. Whose Fooling Who? Was great to hear performed live along with versions of Born under a Bad Sign and Whitesnake classics, Fool for Your Loving and Here I Go Again which had the Blues tent singing along with the anthemic choruses. The prog stage also featured a stella performances by Polish prog rockers Knifeworld, who, like so many bands this weekend were an absorbing and musically enthralling act for many who had only just discovered their music - well worth a look. Ian Anderson, an original prog folk legend gave us a feel of middle earth with his enchanting flute playing. Living In the Past, Thick as a brick, Aqualung and Toccata and Fugue all cast a spell on the audience.
Marillion, despite having some commercial success in the 80s have become a cult band. Steve 'H' Hogarth gave a theatrical and impassioned performance throughout their set. A version of Sugar Mice was a nice mid set throwback to the early years too.
Gregg Allman and his band although headlining Ramblin Man Fair 2015 certainly were no way near as popular as the Scorpions the previous night or indeed Marillion. Greggs gradual shift away from southern rock and towards more blues, R & B based sets was always going to attract a niche audience.
Those who weren't tempted away by the bright lights and sonic booms of the prog stage witnessed a simply staged set replete with solo and Allman Brothers tracks. Opening with Statesboro Blues and I’m No Angel, through to Stormy Monday, Don’t Want You No More and It's Not My Cross To Bear from their first eponymous album. Whilst Gregg took centre stage for most of the proceedings, Scott Sharrard not only demonstrated that he was a mean guitar player and had his Wes Mongomery octave playing down to a tee, but showed that he had just the right vocal credentials to sing when called upon. When Gregg took a break the talent of this band shone through. They launched into a ten minute jazz/funk extravaganza of riffs, solo’s and dual percussion work under the title of Cradle of Civilisation and with Gregg back they finished the set with an encore One Way Out. Apart from the odd musical flight of fancy, if you were hoping for a set of flashy showmanship, you were at the wrong stage. Gregg Allman and his band offered a solid no frills end to the festival although it was a shame there was no Ramblin Man included to mark its festival namesake.
As you would expect from Team Rock, the standard of the festival was top notch. The first Rambin Man Fair had a terrific vibe a truly relaxed atmosphere with some great concessions – lets not forget lashings of Trooper ale too! And of course an eclectic mix of musicians and music – something for all classic rock fans. Ramble on!