18 November 2018

HARD ROCK HELL XII

HARD ROCK HELL XII

Pwhelli, Wales

8-11TH November 2018

 

By Smudge

& Tina Culbertson / Caroline Parker where noted

 

Welcome to the second annual Hard Rock Hell awards and the twelfth Hard Rock Hell event.

Set in picturesque North Wales, most attendees had long distances to travel to get there… but it’s worth it!

Getting here early enough to settle in and decide what to wear, imagine my surprise and shock when I find our very own Caroline Parker and I have the exact same outfit on! In an act of pure gallantry, I changed my outfit.

 

Wednesday

Smudge:

We were all treated to a walk along the red carpet then a quick snap with the stunning and scantily clad Area 51 dancers – what these girls do with fire is amazing!

Off we went to get seated and waiting on the tables were bottles of Burnt Out Wreck whiskey and Fireball. Oh well – shame not to.

Area 51 took the stage with their fire sticks and moved like hungry felines until the ceremony started in earnest.

 

Categories and winners were –

Angels Of Rock – Tequila Mockingbyrd.

Rising Stars – Those Damn Crows.

Axeman – Phil Campbell.

Stoner Lords – Orange Goblin.

Young Blood – Footprints In The Custard.

Global Heroes – Michael Monroe.

Metal Maniacs – Saxon.

Tub Thumper – Nigel Glockler (Saxon).

Mjolnir – Dave Brock (Hawkwind) and the Legend – Biff from Saxon.

 

All awards were thoroughly deserved and it was great seeing some getting the recognition they richly deserved.

In between the awards we were entertained by four young bands who played short sets.

First up were Collateral who knocked out some basic inoffensive glam.

Gorilla Riot started with a fine acoustic number then plugged in and got the place rockin’ southern style.

My table mates Devilfire took the awards by the scruff of the neck and rattled out some stunning rock n roll until Those Damn Crows closed the night with a rousing set of catchy heavy rock.

Thursday

Smudge:

So I can honestly say a good time was had by all last night and judging by my hangover I did too — I really should know better. Hey, we’re gonna do it all again today! Bring it on….

I met up with my old mate the Duke of Bordello himself Andy Barrott and we decided just for shits n giggles to enter the Metal quiz. Being the last to register we called ourselves ‘Last In Line’ and settled in with the rest to test our knowledge of all things Metal. We only fuckin won! Yes ladies and gents this team of two took on the might of the Hard Rock Hell punters – who know their stuff let me tell you – and put them to shame! Winning by a solitary point we basked in our triumph and readily accepted our plaudits from the other teams. The prize giving ceremony is tomorrow.

So it was off to the main stage where Eden’s Curse were due to kick things off. Not really my cup of tea, they made a good fist of livening up the crowd and the nice surprise of having Helen Hurt join on vocals for ‘When Angels and Demons Collide’.

Suitably warmed up and after another pint I was interested to see what Myke Gray had to offer. Knowing him only by reputation I can honestly say Gray and his band knocked my socks off! They came on and started playing a heavy jam then this voice came booming out of the PA. I looked a little closer and I just about saw a diminutive female in leopard print pants sing her arse off. Kim Jennett has a voice like a skyscraper and can she work a crowd! ‘Stand Up For Rock n Roll’ yes we did! ‘House Of Love’ had a simple rhythm which got everyone bouncing then we got some slower moodier stuff which showed another side of this girls voice and the diversity of Gray’s playing. It was now obvious why he was in such high demand back in the day. For me the highlight was a rousing ‘Take Me Down To The River’ which proved this chick can move too! A fabulous set, well paced and packed with surprises.

It’s the job of the bands lower down the bill to make things difficult for those higher up. Myke Gray certainly did that so it was down to Rock Goddess to step up. They most certainly took the challenge and ripped out songs old and new plus this was new bass player Jenny’s first ever gig with Rock Goddess. She looked like she had been there for years. ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’, ‘Gotta Let Your Down’, new track ‘Back Off’ and ‘Heavy Metal Rock n Roll’ got everybody going and when Jody tells you to clap… you clap! Rock Goddess were on fire and continued the momentum from Myke Gray.

Next up were Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. Now to say they took it to the next level is an understatement. These boys tore the whole of Wales a new arse with a controlled display of no nonsense, down n dirty LOUD! Speedfreak rock n roll. Their own songs like ‘Big Mouth’, ‘Get On Your Knees’, ‘Ringleader’ and ‘High Rule’ are every bit the equal of anything Motorhead produced. When they played the Motorhead songs though it was with a fire and passion that gave them a new lease of life. We got ‘Rock Out’, ‘Born To Raise Hell’, ‘Ramones’, ‘The Game’ ‘Ace Of Spades’ the most incendiary version of ‘Silver Machine’ I have ever heard and set closer ‘Bomber’. This is how it should be! Loud, vulgar, fast and aggressive. The music of rebellion! Go and see these guys NOW! They’re currently on tour in the UK. You won’t be disappointed.

Talking of disappointment – Michael Schenker Fest promised a great deal but provided very little. Having all four of his singers seemed like a genius move. It kept his classic material faithful and the new album relevant – however some of the performances left a lot to be desired and that ruined it for a lot of people. The set started on a surreal note as Schenker entered solo and started to SING! He invited us to join in on the Scorpions classic ‘Holiday’ and all I saw was confusion. He then opened the set proper with ‘Doctor Doctor’ with Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden and Robin McAuley all sharing verses. Doogie White then took over for a couple with the other three providing backing vocals and looking decidedly awkward. The crowd were non-plussed and decided to vote with their feet and left the stage. Many were heard talking about the poor performance of a couple of the singers which I have to agree with. Both Bonnet and Barden were definitely off ‘form’ and although Doogie White is a fine singer he still hasn’t got to grips with the UFO lyrics. That said the people who stayed looked as though they enjoyed themselves, but the general consensus was that this could have been a whole lot better – still there’s always tomorrow.

Friday

Smudge:

Up early and hangover free, but boy do I feel every one of my 50 years. My legs ache, my back is sore and I’m almost stone deaf. Do you see what us scribes do for you? All this is really self-inflicted so I don’t expect any sympathy.

Having played a short intimate acoustic set at the un-rock n roll time of 11am Dead Man’s Whiskey then plugged in and blew the hang overs well and truly away with their hybrid of Sabbath/Guns n Roses and a dash of southern rock for good measure. Singer Nico Rogers is a perfect blend of Ronnie Van Zant and Chris Cornell. Cranking out two vicious rockers they then surprised us all with a southern fried cover Seal’s ‘A Kiss From A Rose’. Inspired! On they went to a growing crowd they finished in fine style with their new single ‘Racing Bullet’ – a Skynyrd/Motorhead amalgam. What a great start to the day and being the first band on they had the whole crowd to themselves.

I hung around the second stage just to see Blind River. I heard some good things about them as well as having two former members of Godsized in their ranks I was keen to see them. I was not disappointed. Blind River are right up my street with riffs bigger than Snowden and grooves bigger than the Grand Canyon, they destroyed all in their path. I had calls from my mates in Texas and Nashville saying the noise was audible over the Atlantic and what a joyous racket they made. All the songs were taken from their recently released self-titled debut. ‘Resurrection Sister’ was low down n dirty blues played at speed whilst ‘Freedom Dealer’ was a pure Sabbath/Motorhead hybrid then ‘Home’ a Southern rock stormer that sounded absolutely huge. Final song came with a warning from singer Harry Armstrong – ‘This grooves like a muthafucka’ he wasn’t wrong. ‘Can’t Sleep Sober’ did exactly that. To me this band is what it’s all about – the music of rebellion! Loud heavy dirty sweat stained beer n whiskey soaked rock n roll. Well done for a phenomenal set that got the people ready for their day.

Next up was the alt metal of Renegade Twelve who wore their Pantera hearts on their sleeves and produced a self assured display of vibrant modern melodic metal. Stage 2 really was the place to be.

I skipped over to the main stage to catch Thunderstick and really wish I hadn’t. All I heard was basic pub metal with a screechy lady who changed costumes more times than Cher. Yes, Thunderstick did wear his mask but it could hardly be seen in the darkness as well as being obscured behind his kit. I gave it a couple of numbers, one of which I realised was the Samson classic ‘Riding With The Angels’ until I decided to catch Voodoo Blood instead.

Voodoo Blood feature Kim Jennett on vocals who ably assisted Myke Gray yesterday. The three piece band entered and started a big bluesy jam then on came Jennett. From the second she stepped foot on the stage she owned the place. This girl can do it all. She sings like an angel, growls like a beast, moves with the grace and flexibility of a ballerina has a mouth like a sailor and mind like a Welsh railway – One track and dirty! All this is backed by what I can only describe as the devil’s blues. Riffs that Jimmy Page will probably steal and rhythms sexy enough to sacrifice a virgin to. Pulling tracks off their recently released ep ‘Fresh Hell’ they chucked in a couple of others like ‘Headhunter’ and ‘Sheer Black’ plus a superb ‘Immigrant Song’ too.

After seeing the first four bands on today it has filled me with hope and a real belief that there is something happening in the rock world in the UK.

Tina:

In between all the press admin (yes I’m the nerd they keep out the back chained to the laptop) I manage to brave the wild, wet and windy Welsh weather to make it to stage 2 in time to catch VA Rocks, an all-girl, all-blonde 3 piece from Sweden, first thing that strikes me is these girls got balls! Lead vocalist/guitarist Ida Svensson Vollmer is in fine voice and gives her all to the large crowd that has amassed. We all enjoy having a good old singalong to their cover of Led Zep’s ‘Rock n Roll’ as well as getting our rocks off to some of their own songs ‘Rockbitch’, ‘Here Comes Trouble’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Sunday Walk of Shame’ (I bet a few here will be singing that song come Sunday morning hee hee…). As their album title suggests they indeed ‘Pull No Punches’ and I will definitely be checking these girls out again.

Smudge:

I headed back to the second stage to see City of Thieves. Now I knew them when they were called Four Wheel Drive. They rocked it up like AC/DC as a four piece back in the day, now they’re a trio and they are still following the well-worn AC/DC basic rock n roll path – they do it incredibly well and they had a decent sized crowd watching considering Dan Reed Network were on the main stage.

Caz Parker:

Main Stage Friday Night, enter the Dan Reed Network – if ever there were a band you can enjoy live whether you’re a fan or not, it’s the DRN.  Dan and his band Melvin, Brion, Dan Pred and Rob couldn’t have looked more pleased to be on stage bringing their unique blend of funky rock, in fact, I’d go so far as to say they are the happiest live band you’ll ever see J

I was chatting with Bass Player Melvin before the gig and he was excited to tell me that for this tour they’ve added songs to the set that haven’t been played live since back in the day – quite right as the set kicked off with ‘Rock You All Night Long’ from their 1988 self-titled album, followed up with the more recent ‘Divided’ from their 2016 album ‘Fight Another Day’.  Still beaming and evidently having all the fun, the band then treated us to ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’, ‘Under My Skin’, ‘Doin’ the Love Thing’ and firm fan fave ‘Baby Now I’ from the 1991 album Heat, which they split in the middle with a very funky bass solo by Melvin which morphed into a fabulous medley from Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, through Metallica’s Enter Sandman, into Earth Wind & Fire’s Let’s Groove, Kiss – I Was Made For Lovin’ You and grooved right back into Baby Now I.  Dan reminded us of his deeply spiritual side when he introduced next song ‘Champion’ from their 2016 album and said “it’s about surrounding yourself with people that believe in your dreams” – good advice as always Dan, thank you.

The set finished with classic hits ‘Make It Easy On Me’, ‘Ritual’ and ‘Get To You’.  That’s the thing about DRN… the groove, the catchy lyrics and their sheer enjoyment of what they do are utterly infectious.  I’m still humming those songs days later – entertainment value definitely turned up to 11.

 

Caz Parker:

I had to hot foot it straight from Dan Reed Network to Stage 2 to catch the remainder of the set by Anchor Lane, mainly because their new guitarist Lawrence O’Brien had formally ‘blown me away’ when he played in HRH Ibiza earlier this year with his previous band Attica Rage and he didn’t disappoint this time either.  This is another fantastic young hard rock band from Scotland who perform like they’re in a stadium, bringing energy, giving it all they’ve got, backed up with a great response from the crowd.  Setlist comprised of ‘Found out’, ‘Runaway’, Annie, ‘Rising Up’, ‘Take Some Time’, ‘Cruel World’, the infectious, sing along ‘Flatline’ (the na na na na song) and fan favourite and their first single released ‘Finished For Twelve’ to close.  Watch out for these guys, I guarantee we’ll be seeing more of them.

Smudge:

Next up for me were Girlschool on the main stage. Despite a couple of technical hitches where Kim McAuliffe had to do some comedy improv – ‘What do you call a person who hangs around with musicians?  A drummer!’ They basically rattled out a shed load of classics and some off their latest ‘Guilty As Sin’. Never seen them before but now I can see why Motorhead and Saxon love ‘em so much. These girls rock and they rock hard, plus they make it look so easy with a relentless pace. No ballads here and all three at the front shared vocal duties. I don’t know why I was so surprised, but as I said the pace was relentless, there was absolutely no let up and apart from the false start the band hardly took a breath.

Now I had seen Saxon a couple of weeks ago in Portsmouth and I’ve seen them numerous times before. Now they have reached a level of consistency that is quite frankly frightening. The set was pretty much the same as was the execution – absolutely world class. Biff and his loyal band of brothers went through tracks from their latest ‘Thunderbolt’ as well as a slew of classics that everybody sang along with but the highlights for me were ‘Dallas 1PM’ and first encore ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ which gave me the goosebumps. 2 hours of full on Yorkshire steel left me and the crowd totally spent.

 

 

Saturday

Smudge:

Up early again but feeling groggy. What I needed was a hard rockin’ bluesy trio to get my blood flowing. Thank god The Bad Flowers were on stage 2. I was in the coffee shop next door with boss 1 Tina and boss 2 Caz sorting the arrangements for the day which soon went out of the window when they started playing. The staff had to hold onto the cups to stop them falling off the shelves due to the power riffing coming through the walls. Only a 30 minute set but they managed to put in a new song along with those on their debut album. ‘Thunderchild’ was a monster groove and should be retitled ‘Thunderfingers’ after bassman Dale Tonks who put down lines that registered on the Richter scale. ‘Rich Man’ was introduced as being a song about being ‘broke as fuck!’ then ‘City Lights’ brought the power blues and got quite sexy too.

A storming start that set us up nicely for Ryders Creed who opened the main stage last year. They did such a good job they got invited back. There was a sense of ‘we’re gonna tear this place up’ as they entered the stage and by god they did. Opening with the rolling ‘Ryder’ got everybody moving then ‘On The Road’ sexed it up with a mighty groove which kept going on the immense ‘Headspace’. ‘Raise The Hoof’ was dedicated to a particular brand of spiced rum that from my hazy memory caused some pretty appalling behaviour at last year’s awards, but what happens at HRH stays at HRH. Right? Ryders Creed came, saw and conquered in style. Lead singer Ryan Hulme mentioned the New Wave Of Classic Rock is becoming a bit of thing and he’s right. The wealth of talent evident in the last few days has been astounding and right at the forefront of this ‘movement’ is definitely Ryders Creed.

Tina:

I’ve got to butt in here and say it’s 12:45 on a cold, wet, coffee fueled early Saturday afternoon (just!), but as soon as I walked into stage 2 Ryders Creed instantly transported me into the kind of Cloven Hoof fueled sweaty midnight gigs that we all love, the whole place was fist pumping, clapping and shouting along under the intense command of frontman Ryan. They have the songs, the swagger, the high kicks (Lee Spencer!) and the ability to work up a crowd of fans and newbies alike, no matter the time of day. On Form! We should be seeing them higher up the bill any day now.

Smudge:

Time for something completely different – The Dukes of Bordello who main man Andy Barrott describes as punk/metal/rock n roll/psycho-billy. Well let’s just say it’s full on rock n roll with a double bass that got everybody moving – even two well-built blokes who decided to twerk. I will never unsee that image! The Dukes carried on the party vibe set by Ryders Creed with opener ‘All In The Name Of Rock n Roll’ and ‘Hellvis’ going hell for leather. ‘Wrecking Ball’ and single ‘Down in The Gutter’ was fun all the way. ‘Strictnine’, ‘Born To Die’, ‘Comeback Wilko (All Is Forgiven)’ to quote Barrott ‘written about the imminent death of Wilko Johnson then the bastard survived!’ and ‘Scream If You Wanna Go Faster’ all whizzed by. Judging from the reaction and the size of the crowd they pulled The Dukes were just what people needed. Die-hard metalheads were seen bopping and nodding.

Tina:

The Rising Souls turned in a notable Stage 2 performance thanks to their new-blues sound and the very enjoyable whisky-edged voice of Dave Kelso, I chilled out nicely to their laid back vibes of  ‘I’m Comin’ and ‘Walk On’, although if it were me I’d also pop a flash guitar hero into this band to make it less jam and more wham bam thank you mam!

Tina:

I’d been waiting to catch the Walkway set on Stage 2 since seeing guitarist James Ready as one of Eric Martin’s guest guitarists on his recent UK acoustic tour, James is a young fresh exciting guitarist and definitely one to watch out for, you’ll recognise him by his socks. Fronted by brother Chris Ready, Walkway delivered no nonsense classic rock n roll such as ‘One Touch Too Much’ and they are tight! I don’t know why I’m reminded of The Darkness, maybe it’s the tight red pants, or maybe these guys are going places.

Smudge:

As a result of our minimal production meeting this morning it was agreed that I should ‘camp’ myself on the main stage once Massive arrived. Four Aussie tearaways took the stage and you knew what to expect – heavy bluesy riffs four on the floor rhythms and a raspy singer. But you also know you are in for a good time and that’s exactly what they gave us apart from a pointless although brief drum solo.

The strains of Mud’s ‘Tiger Feet’ came belting out of the PA and those of us of a certain age did the stupid dance then Tygers Of Pan Tang appeared and got us going with a superb set of classic hard rock. Judging from the disappointed face of drummer Craig Ellis things had to end. The Tygers played their hearts out to an almost capacity crowd and the permanently smiling face Robb Weir said it all. A superb set of world class heavy rock.

It was with interest that I remained to catch John Coghlan’s Quo. I had seen his Diesel band back in the 80’s and just about remember the night at some pub in Fulham so I was expecting a fairly good time, but I didn’t know it was going to be this good! The band sauntered on and they became their roles. We had consumed the right amount of beer as they launched into ‘Caroline’ and the party really started – it was straight into ‘Roll Over Lay Down’ and the surprise ‘April, Spring, Summer and Wednesdays’ with everybody singing the ‘na na na’s’ , ‘Break The Rules’, ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’ and the mighty ‘Paper Plane’ proving you only need three chords! Then came ‘Rain’ the non PC ‘Big Fat Mama’ (it was the 70’s after all), ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ and finally ‘Down Down’. I just don’t get the musical snobbery that surrounds Quo. Tonight proved that simplicity is best. The place was rammed and the bar was the busiest I’d seen. This was just good time fun rock n roll where we all made complete fools of ourselves dancing, jumping and air guitaring.

Femme Fatale had to follow that. Good luck! The crowd had thinned dramatically and they found it difficult to get whoever was left going again. Lorraine Lewis spent too much time talking and the music was average at best.

The Dead Daisies however brought it all back. Coming on with the Alex Harvey number ‘Midnight Moses’ they rocked for two solid hours. I’m not that familiar with their back catalogue but they did help me by throwing in a few covers like ‘Join Together’, ‘Bitch’ and ‘Highway Star’. Another band who didn’t relent throughout the set and gave everybody what they wanted – a thoroughly good time.

I thought that was it but my bosses Tina and Caz had other ideas. It was back to the second stage to see The Wild! from Canada and consume even more alcohol. I was only acting on orders, but whose idea were the Jagerbombs?

Well done the Hard Rock Hell team for another outstanding festival. Well organised, friendly and great value for money. So a huge thank you to Jonni, Fleur, Lorraine and the amazing Claire Lloyd who looks after us press loonies so well. Also, massive thanks and most probably sincere apologies to the Big Bossman Adam and Tony my unfortunate rooms mates, plus Tina, Caz and my erstwhile partner in crime The Duke of Bordello himself Andy Barrott and his mate Big Dave.

I might just have recovered in time for next years? Are you with me?