Hard Rock Hell United – Camp HRH Pwllheli, 12th March 2016
April 10, 2016
Well, how did that happen? Suddenly it was Day 3 and the last day of music for HRH United 2016. By now my feet (or more specifically, my right ankle) was in agony and saying I was a bit tired would have been an understatement. However, one more day meant bashing through the pain wall and heading off for interviews and getting ready for the bands on my list for today.
First up for me was Teenage Casket Company. Featuring Rob Wylde (yes, he of Tigertailz) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, TCC have been around a while and produce a rather wonderful blend of glammy (ish) rock that is really high on the pop sensibilities front. Great melody and lots of fun – confirming what I thought the first time I saw them at The Railway in Bolton last year. Stand out songs for me were “Best Friend is My Radio” and “(You Only Love Me) When You Hate Me”, but this was a blast of quality to start the day with.
At the tail end of 2015, a friend of mine asked if I had heard The Radio Sun album “Heaven or Heartbreak” as he thought that it would be right up my street. At that stage I hadn’t and, despite getting a copy, I had only really heard “Caught Between Heaven and a Heartbreak” up until the week before the festival (although I did listen to it as part of my homework leading up to HRH). The album showcased exactly why The Radio Sun should be right up that street of mine – fabulous guitar parts with fluid, technical solos (where suited to the song) and a lovely crunchy rhythm, perfect harmonies in the vocals and incredibly catchy songs. What really made my weekend, however, was the joy and passion that the guys from Australia exhibited on that main stage. Four blokes who’d travelled half way around the world purely for today’s performance and were clearly relishing the opportunity to show the UK what they could do. Playing tracks from the aforementioned album and the debut, “Wrong Things Right”, the wizards from Oz (see what I did there?) grabbed this opportunity firmly with four sets of hands and managed to cram in as many songs as they could – and to my mind, I would have been happy for them to play even more songs for longer. One of my new favourite obsessions? You bet – I just wish I could get hold of a copy of their EP. Perhaps, they can be persuaded to re-release when they come back to the UK?
Next up was one of the rare line-up clashes. The Burning Crows had taken the place of JettBlack (who had recently announced they were going on hiatus) and were on the main stage at the same time as BlackRain on the Sleaze stage. Undaunted by my body giving up the ghost on me, I decided to split my time between the stages. The burning Crows had a bluesy swagger to their sound. Again clearly enjoying themselves and proving popular with the crowd they were clearly a worthy addition to the bill. Thoroughly enjoyable and I hope to catch them again soon.
BlackRain always strike me as a much younger French version of Motley Crue, only in Swan Hellion they have a singer who can … erm … sing. With a crowd funded second album just out, these likeable Frenchmen came to party like it was 1987 and boy did they deliver. Even throwing in a Twisted Sister cover that they made their own – this was a stunning performance full of glam and good humour.
Next on the main stage were Newman. With a frontman like Steve Newman, this was always going to be a great set. Starting with the title track from latest album “The Elegance Machine”, this set proved why Steve and the boys always go down well. Great songs, great vocals and a fantastically tight band. Mentioning the score of the international rugby match between England and Wales also showed bravery – England were winning, a big cheer went up … and then all the England fans remembered they were in Wales. Oopsy. With 11 albums under their belt, selecting a set must be tricky, but with quality in abundance Newman can never really go wrong. Splendid melodic rock/AOR of the highest order.
After stopping for a bit of a break and a spot of sustenance, the next band caught were the mask wearing Marvel. I couldn’t decide what style of music I would class it as but I did enjoy the noise produced by the slightly off the wall Scandinavians – what were those pilot outfits all about?
And then there were three … left to go in the main arena, that is. First up, the resurrected and rejuvenated Dan Reed Network. Having been a fan back in the day (as the kids say), I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr Reed many times since his return to live performance as a solo artist and always enjoyed his acoustic performances and those with a band to “bring the noise” occasionally. However, it was always tinged with some disappointment when he said that he couldn’t foresee the Network ever getting back together – there was always something rather special about their multi racial, funked up brand of rock and to my ears that came from the sum of the parts. I was delighted when it was announced that they were going to get together again to play Download a couple of years ago and from the show I witnessed they were clearly loving being back together. So much so that they announced that they were going to see if a new album was possible (it was – out in June on Frontiers) and I had the pleasure of seeing them again at the end of 2015 on the UK tour. Tonight was something beyond special. The rust of years apart has clearly been expertly removed and, boy, did they show us that class is a permanent trait. Even throwing in new song “Divided” did nothing to let the collective feet off the gas pedal. “Rainbow Child”, “Ritual” and “Under My Skin” were highlights – but this was possibly THE performance of the day. Simply wonderful and roll on June when the new album “Fight Another Day” – but in the meantime you can catch the Dan Reed/Danny Vaughn acoustic tour in May.
The latest incarnation of Quiet Riot were the headliners for Saturday. With a long career and a solid back catalogue it was clear that the crowd were up for the party. With Jizzy Pearl taking the lead, only Frankie Banali remains of the most commercially successful line-up of the band. Clearly they played the biggest hits,” Cum On Feel the Noize” and “Mama Weer All Crazee” being in the mix but the most rapturous reception was for “Metal Health”. As much as I enjoy Quiet Riot, the show didn’t really do it for me (I preferred Jizzy’s Love/Hate last year) but you can’t deny the crowd thought it was immense. A packed arena and a show designed to entertain.
Last up was Gilby Clarke, erstwhile replacement for Izzy Stradlin in Guns n Roses and also seen on the Rockstar Supernova US reality show (a bit like X-Factor but WAY cooler). Now I’ve been a fan for a while having purchased a couple of his solo records but have never seen him live. The set consisted of a few of his own songs mixed with quite a lot of cover versions (if memory serves correctly, quite a few Rolling Stones numbers) all of which, I felt, rounded off the festival nicely. Mentions were made of the covers in quite negative tones but, to be honest, would a set full of his own work have gone down well? Who knows? I enjoyed it and Gilby plays a mean guitar.
So, I hear you ask, who were your bands of the weekend? Favourites that I knew before – Dan Reed Network, The Quireboys, Reckless Love< Blood Red Saints and Estrella.
New favourites that I suddenly had to have all their recorded material? Kane’d, Knock Out Kaine, Teenage Casket Company and The Radio Sun.
An awesome weekend and I can’t wait for next year (the caravan is booked already!)
By David Wilson