Hard Rock Hell XI Day 1 – Camp HRH, Pwllheli 9th November 2017

Almost a year ago I moved to paradise – well my own little piece of paradise and all is great. However, I have discovered that the journey to my favourite festivals at Camp HRH have become something of a logistical nightmare. Pwllheli has always been, shall we see a tricky journey, but now it is a seven and a half hour slog involving trips to drop the dog in kennels and I always forget the last 70 miles takes an inordinate portion of the journey time. Apart from realising that I had left my cash and cards in sunny Northumberland an uneventful, but long, journey saw Team Rock-Zone UK arrive at the media centre around 5.30pm and once we had gained access to our caravan (don’t ask) it was time to hit the main stage. Fortunately, the workload was to be spread for the weekend with the awesome Darren Thompson joining the crew to lighten the photographic duties we were all set – unfortunately missing the first couple of acts but despite that misfortune it was time to let battle commence.

First up were KillCode. Having first encountered this New York monster of a band at Hair Metal Heaven in August I knew I had to see tonight’s set. The event in August gave me time to get to know Tom (vocals) and DC (guitar) quite well and, once again their set did not fail to hit the bullseye. Again I heard comments liking them to Rage Against the Machine but I don’t hear that. A very current twist on classic rock with clear individual influences making for a whole that is truly their own. When they say “Kill” you say “Code”. Check out their albums and videos you will not be diso=appointed.

Hot on their heels were the eagerly awaited and much talked about Black Aces. This hard rocking Australian band really went down a storm with the Main Arena crowd. Again all the HRH faithful made their way in to se the Aussies do their thing. Giving their own slant on the Down Under Rock sound, they mixed older songs with material from their latest, just released, album. If you love straight ahead rock n roll they will be just the band for you and are another of the new wave of faithful keeping the AC-DC flame alive.

Next came my band of the year, Wayward Sons. Quite simply they blew the roof off the joint. Despite having seen them less than a month previously, the show in Newcastle meant that, for me, they were the band that I wanted to see the most this weekend. Toby, Nic, Sam, Dave and Phil did not disappoint. Blasting through songs from “Ghosts of Yet to Come”, they proved that Wayward Sons re a rock band for today – the music stands on their own merit and the performance is clearly from people who truly believe in what they are doing and are having a great time. Sure enough, Toby launched his guitar to the roadies – making it a truly flying Vee. Even a spot of technical hitch didn’t dampen the atmosphere nor change the vibe. In fact the only surprise for these old ears was that, in amongst the great stuff from the latest record (please, let’s have another one as soon as you can), all of a sudden a swift keyboard riff from Mr Kemp caught my attention. Ah, I thought, a little nod to the past – how wonderful. How wrong could I be? Not just a nod, we were treated to “Young Gods” – stillas fresh as ever and sitting nicely in amongst the new stuff. 

To close the night, and another must see for me, was headliner Dee Snider. What a performer! Surrounding himself with a great band, Dee was a perfect first night headline act. Bringing, new stuff and, of course, Twisted Sister classics mixed with an old school vaudevillian style of between song banter Dee really brought the house down (what was left after Wayward Sons, anyway). “We’re Not Going To Take It”?, yes we were – and I wanted more and more. When he told the story of his ill mother I don’t think the crowd quite knew how to react, but ever the performer he turned it into a gag and told the tale of how she prefers Mariah Carey! In fact, judging by his story that her cover of one of his songs (Mariah’s that is, not his mum) buying his house – I think Mr Snider has more than a small soft spot for Ms C.

And that was that for day one. Time to recharge batteries, literally and metaphorically. Time to return to the caravan and get ready for the onslaught of the next day.

Photography Copyright Darren Thompson and David Wilson 2017

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