STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL – Ebbw Vale, Wales – Friday 27th July – Sunday 29th July LIVE REVIEW

September 16, 2018

Mark Warburton (review)
Pippa Maunder-Warburton (photos)

DAY 1.

Well our first Steelhouse Festival for ROCK-ZONE UK proved to be a memorable one in many ways. Starting off with one of the worst road’s I’ve ever driven on (next time I’m coming in a land rover) to get up to the top of the mountain, that is home to the highest festival in the UK. Thankfully we reached the top without any drama and were welcomed by friendly, helpful staff who worked tirelessly over the entire weekend in shocking weather conditions.

Winning the online competition for the coveted opening slot, Fragile Things kicked the festival off in style, with a fun filled energetic set. Vocalist Ritchie Hevanz (formally of Heaven’s Basement & personal favourites ROADSTAR) warmed the small but growing crowd up nicely, with the energetic ‘The Big Reveal’ and the band’s latest single “Disappear” which increased quite dramatically by the time they left the stage, a great opening set.

 

Next up are melodic rockers Departed, late additions to the bill, and one new band I was interested in hearing. Opening track ‘Superstitious’ gets the crowd moving, and by the time tracks such as ‘All the Way’ and ‘All I Want’ have been delivered, it’s clear to see they have the crowd impressed. The melodic ‘Steal Your Crown’ and ‘Pretty Little Thing’ showcase some great vocals and crunching guitars, with ‘Soul’ Shaker’ and ‘Come On’ bringing this enjoyable set to a close.

 

 

 Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons raise a big cheer as they wander onto the stage to play an high octane fuelled set which of course includes some of the Motorhead classics for good measure. ‘Big Mouth’ and ‘Welcome to Hell’ get this uptempo set going before we are treated to the first two Motorhead tunes, ‘Rock Out’ and ‘Going To Brazil’. During ‘Freak Show’ Phil Campbell brings up the biggest cheer of the day so far, when he uses his Welsh dragon guitar, which is followed by another Motorhead tune ‘Born to Raise Hell’. During “Get on Your Knees”, livewire singer Neil Star encourages the crowd to face each other and stick up their middle fingers and shouting “Get on your Knees”. ‘Ringleader’ and ‘Dark Days’ lead us nicely into the Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’ which was played as a tribute to the members of Motorhead who are no longer with us. Which brings us to final tunes, the iconic rock anthem, ‘The Ace of Spades’ which got the packed crowd going mental, with some headbanging and moshing, and ‘High Rule’  brings this brilliant set to a close.

 

So, onto tonight’s headliners, and returning to Steelhouse for the second year running, Stone Broken, who took to the stage to a fantastic roar, that echoed all over the valley, and I will challenge anyone who says that this young band don’t deserve their meteoric rise to headline status, from a band I witnessed play on the Rising Stage at Ramblin Man in 2016.

Yes, they sound like Nickelback, which isn’t such a bad thing in my eyes, and offer up super friendly radio rock of the highest order which is delivered by superb musicianship and quality vocals. ‘Worth Fighting For’ kicks off this brilliant set, its seems a real crowd pleaser, with their stage performance tight and measured. Rich Moss is a cracking young vocalist, with a great backing band that are mature beyond their years. Although I’m not a fan of drum solos, its seem to be the order of the day for a headline band now, and to be fair, Robyn Haycock delivered a cracker, that got this appreciative crowd going. Another highlight was when Rich Moss made a moving dedication to Mike James before the opening notes of “Wait for You”. For me there are no doubts that this band are on the fast track rise to mega stardom, and with the band currently on tour in America, it won’t be long before you see Stone Broken, headline arenas.

So as the hardened festival goers carried on drinking into the night, we made the precarious journey back down the mountain for our short trip back home.

 

DAY 2

So, with the weather a little mixed to say the least, and the forecast not looking great for the rest of the day, we arrived on top of the mountain for day 2. First band of the day, hard rockers The Bad Flowers from Birmingham kick off proceedings with a great in your face rock n roll set. They have a great vocalist/guitarist in Tom Leighton, and if the awful weather hadn’t cleared people’s hangovers then this band surely would do. With the weather so poor, tracks titled “Hurricane” and “Thunder Child”, did make me chuckle. This three-piece delivered a great set to the smaller than expected audience at the stage, but many more watching from the covered bar area, the band received a warm welcome

By the time Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics took to the stage, the weather had unfortunately turned into a monsoon, and showing no signs of clearing up. Although this didn’t deter frontman, Buchanan who struts about the stage like he owns it and is mesmerising to watch. So, despite the conditions, they band blasted through a set containing both Cult Classics and Heaven’s Basement tracks. First up we have ‘Left Me for Dead’ which is swiftly followed by the great Heavens Basement tune ‘Fire Fire’ another Cult Classics tune ‘The Devil That Needs You’ gets the crowd moving before ‘Welcome Home’ and Fire in The Fields of Mayhem are received by this wet but appreciate crowd. Unfortunately, their set had to be cut short due to the lightening, and was brought to an abrupt close with the excellent Heavens Basement tune ‘I Am Electric’ and ‘Mind Of A Mute’ , which didn’t deter this from being a thoroughly enjoyable set.

 

Thankfully the rain started to subside for the next act, and one I had been looking forward to the most, ex Jagged Edge, Skin and Red, White & Blues guitar player Myke Gray. With his band featuring multi-talented vocalist Phil Conalane, and powerhouse drummer Matthew Blackout from Tigertailz, I was very eager to see what these boys could do in the live arena. The set kicks off with ‘Trouble’ and ‘Stand Up for Rock N Roll’ before we are treated to a personal favourite of the mine, the Skin classic ‘House Of Love’ from the bands brilliant debut release. The band seem to be really enjoying themselves on stage and plough through cracking tunes such as ‘Stronger’, Skin tune ‘Money’ and a brilliant version of ‘Take Me Down the River’. 90s rock dancefloor classic and Skin anthem, the sublime ‘Look but Don’t Touch’ get the crowd moving, before ‘Shine Your Light’ brings this amazing set to a close

So, with them unable to make it last year, blues rockers King King took to the stage, with frontman, Alan Nimmo wearing his trademark kilt and with a huge grin go straight into ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’. The whole band looked chilled and were clearly enjoying themselves, with the crowd, who were dancing in the rain and lapping up every note Nimmo played.

King King might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and this, for me is the first time I’ve witnessed the band live, and I was suitably impressed with the songs on offer and musicianship today. I know there are bigger names on the blues scene, but I doubt it will be long before this band are up there with the big boys of the scene. Unfortunately, I didn’t witness the whole set, as by this point, we were freezing cold, and went into Motley Brew (brilliant name) tent for a cup of tea & warm up, in the knowledge we will see the band again very soon supporting Europe on their forthcoming tour.

We headed back into the arena for the next act early to get a good spot to witness one of my all-time favourite bands, funk-rock masters, Dan Reed Network. The set kicks off with the sublime ‘Cruise Together’, with its amazing bass tones and rasping guitars, which is swiftly followed by another ‘Slam’ album classic, the mesmerising ‘Under My Skin’. The upbeat and very catchy ‘Baby Now I’ gets this packed crowd rocking, before ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’ from the bands brilliant debut album takes it down a peg or two. The soulful ballad from ‘Slam’ ‘Rainbow Child’ get the crowd singing along to every word, and you can see the smile on Dan Reed’s face a mile wide. ‘Champion’ from the bands 2016 album ‘Fight Another Day’ goes down well with people that probably only know the band for their first three well known albums. ‘Make it Easy’ takes the beat up another level again before Dan Reed Network close their set with probably their 3 best known tunes. 80s rock dancefloor classic ‘Tiger in A Dress’ get the crowd singing & dancing, before my personal favourite from the band’s debut album ‘Ritual’ takes the crowd to fever pitch, before funk rock classic and first ever Dan Reed Network tune I heard way back in 1988, the amazing ‘Get To You’ bring the set to a close. I could have watching them play all night as they were absolutely on fire today, and me for one cannot wait for the forthcoming Dan Reed Network tour in the winter.

 

Having seen Myles Kennedy with Alter Bridge & Slash several times over the past 5 years or so, I was looking forward to this solo show which is promoting his album “Year of the Tiger”, with intimate, acoustic shows, but here he was accompanied by a bassist and drummer. This for me, has allowed him to add extra depth to his chosen setlist and play tracks that were more suited to a festival environment. The set kicks off with ‘Devil on The Wall’ and is swiftly followed by ‘The Great Beyond’ but unfortunately, and maybe due to the awful weather, the crowd seemed a bit flat for some reason. Myles and his backing band were excellent, but the crowd only seemed to come to life during the Slash feat Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators tune ‘Standing In The Sun’ and the awesome Alter Bridge tune ‘Addicted to Pain’. The crowd went into a lull again, until we were treated to a cover of the Iron Maiden classic ‘The Trooper’ and the Alter Bridge tune ‘Watch Over You ‘. Another Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators tune ‘World on Fire’ and the sublime ‘Year of The Tiger’ title track brings this entertaining set to a close.

We were both eagerly awaiting tonight’s headliner, Glenn Hughes performing those classic Deep Purple songs, some of which I’ve never heard live before. So as the rain baits for a while the band hit the stage, the backdrop was suitably 70s retro and Hughes, with his trademark flowing curls looks just as good as he did back in the day.

First up is a personal favourite of mine, the immense rock anthem ‘Stormbringer’ with its amazing vocals and brilliant guitars from the very talented Soren Anderson. ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ and the wonderful ‘Sail Away’ are followed by another fan favourite, the sublime ‘You Keep on Moving’. ‘You Fool No One’ is proceeded by brilliant Deep Purple classic ‘Mistreated’ which Glenn Hughes does real justice to. Up next is one of the most famous Rock anthem’s ever ‘Smoke on The Water’ which features snippets of ‘Georgia on My Mind’ thrown in for good measure, and went down an absolute storm, no pun intended, with this packed crowd.

First Encore ‘Highway Star’, which featured Myles Kennedy joining the band onstage was magical, as Two of the biggest names in rock sharing the stage is not something you see every day. This brilliant headline set is brought to a close with a thundering version of ‘Burn’ as the crowd goes wild. A great end to day 2, that even the horrendous weather couldn’t dampen.

DAY 3.

There was a tentative start to Sunday as the awful weather continued, the driving conditions were treacherous as we were parking up on the field, and we made sure we parked up as near to exit as possible in fear we might not be able to get out later. The organisers kindly opened the arena early so those in the campsite had access to the bar and food stalls.

Due to the delays, those who had ventured into the arena were treated to a little something special. As a riff started blasting out of the stage speakers, those congregated in the beer tent rushed down to the barrier to watch Black Star Riders, from which Pippa obtained our only photos of the band, perform their sound check. I think this was ample compensation for the weather, and Sound check over, most headed back to the beer tent with the hardcore rock fans remaining, waiting in anticipation for the first act of the day. With tales of the certain bands not performing, and much later than scheduled, The Dust Coda hit the stage, who were initially performing to a smaller crowd than I had hoped soon had people venturing out of the beer tents. Vocalist John Drake barely left the walkway as they tirelessly played their way through the weather with a selection of tracks from their self-titled debut album, which included “When the Tide Comes In” and “Save Me”. New track, “Let Me Go” goes down well with crowd and considering these conditions the band put on a great performance.

Unsurprisingly, not many people sought shelter from the rain as they waited patiently for the next act, who announced their arrival with vocalist Shane Greenhall proudly standing front and centre, singing the now trademark “We are Those Damn Crows”. I’m not sure anybody in the arena needed reminding of this as most of them willingly joined in. This band is becoming a real draw on the rock gig circuit and it’s not difficult to see why. Opening with the catchy “I Don’t Give A Damn”, Greenhall has the crowd loving every minute from the off. With such great stage presence, it’s easy to forget about the rest of this talented band. Chants of “Ronnie…Ronnie” are heard from the ever-growing crowd, much to the delight of Drummer Ronnie Huxford. The set was ripped through and was brought to a close with the excellent “Rock ‘n Roll Aint Dead”, with the whole of the crowd singing “Who says rock ‘n’ roll is dead?” back to the delighted Crows.

Unfortunately, the rumours that I’d heard around the Press tent of bands pulling out, were eventually confirmed, that due to logistical problems, The Quireboys and The Dead Daisies were unable to make it up the mountain. This was very disappointing for the fans that had made the journey to see them, including Pippa & Myself, and there was quite a lot of anger directed at The Dead Daisies in particular. However, the organisers tried to soften the blow in the best way possible; by reducing prices at the bar and giving two bands extended sets

So, the first of these bands – Mason Hill – had a reasonable size crowd at the start of their set but had easily increased by the time their set finished. Touring extensively on the back of their self-titled debut EP, they are now able to add a host of new tracks from their up and coming album to their set. This is a band that has the Modern hard edge, rock catchy riffs and arena ready choruses like Black Stone Cherry & Shinedown have. From the melodic “Now You See Me”, to the wonderful “Out of Reach”, and the brilliant “Where I Belong” with its stunning guitar solo by James Bird, the tempo is continually changing. Frontman Scott Taylor is a great vocalist, and delivers each track to the full, with a great backing band to boot, which entailed in a great set that kept the very wet crowd entertained throughout.

One band id been waiting for all weekend were up next, the truly bonkers and brilliant Massive Wagons, as vocalist Barry Mills bounced onto the stage wearing a pair of bright green trousers and a bowler hat. He reminds me of a Labrador puppy, I once lovingly had, and he completely mad as a box of frogs too. So, despite the continued awful weather conditions tracks like “Ratio” and Tokyo” had everyone jumping about, dancing and singing along; this band is a real family band, who appeal to all. They are a super fun filled band to watch, and their catchy choruses make sure that crowd interaction never dwindles, but there are some very thought-provoking lyrics at the heart of some of those seemingly fun tracks, “China Plates” being a fine example, making them for me one of the bands of the weekend.

At this point due to the awful weather and fear of not getting out of the carpark (which we drove sideways in the mud until we got out), we decided to call it a day at our first ever Steelhouse Festival. However close friends who braved the last two bands told me that The Wildhearts played a blinding set, before Black Star Riders drew the weekend to a close filling the Sunday headline slot. Ricky Warwick is probably one of the best front men and nicest people out there and took audience through a greatest hit set plus a few Thin Lizzy Tracks thrown in for good measure. With fan favourite’s such as “Bound for Glory”, and tracks from their latest album “Heavy Fire”, plus a few those classic Thin Lizzy tunes.

In my opinion, Steelhouse is a great value Rock festival, with great people and great staff, its well organised, so what’s not to like, here’s to 2019.

 

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