09 July 2018

Review: Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018 by Louise Gould

2018 saw the 4th annual Ramblin’ Man Fair descend on Mote Park Maidstone. Running from the 29th June – 1st July, covering Prog, Classic Rock, Blues and Country, with a line-up of 38 bands. Lets take a closer look.

Although we weren’t in attendance until midday on the 30th, Friday nights entertainment was supplied by Therapy, Kris Barras Band and Thomas Wynn and The Believers.

Saturday’s fun kicked off at 12.30 in the Rising Stage tent where Those Damn Crows had a captive audience as they were the only band on at that point !! A welcome respite from the blistering sun we endured over the two days we were there thus, the Rising Stage tent was extremely popular !! On Sunday, the emphasis changed and Prog became the order of the day.

The Country Stage, held on a very open construction at the top of the field became a Blues Stage on Sunday. This proved to be a minefield of challenges for the many photographers in residence due to a backdrop of blue sky!! Not without a few technical glitches too, which severely delayed the lineup on Sunday, running in excess of 1 hour late…..

So with a very general description of the layout established with the usual plethora of food outlets, beer tents, clothes vendors, holographic cinema tent (I shit you not), ice cream vans, Harley Davison motorbikes and racing teams, there was certainly no shortage of things to do, see and listen to (although the wall of death was conspicuous in its absence!!).

So, here in no particular order of priority, is an overview of the weekend including highlights of the weekend and maybe an insight with what was missed.

Merch was in abundance at the usual grossly inflated prices, but one thing I feel was very good value for money was the festival programme plus a set of nice laminated cards on a lanyard which gave you stage times and running orders for all stages, a very easy reference throughout the day, to remind you who you were missing on a competing stage. If you’re a regular festival goer you’ll understand the frustration of finding the clash between stages when two of your favourite bands just happen to be on at the same time (Von Hertzon Brothers and Sons of Apollo spring to mind immediately – CLASH OF THE PROG TITANS !!)

Most of the time you just “cherry pick” your way through the day, checking out as much as you can, but ultimately regretting the fact you don’t get to see the end of a set (unless you can stay awake to catch the headline acts on the main stage – Mott The Hoople and The Cult, but more of that later!!)

Most of the weekend went pretty much to plan, but there were a few technical issues which delayed certain acts – Fish had to curtail his set due to Mostly Autumn’s on-stage delay and, as previously stated, the Blues stage suffered a 1 hour setback due to generator problems and a 30 minute curfew at 14.00 on the Sunday across all stages – WTF ??

During interviews, all the bands we spoke to said their set went well with a very healthy response from the assembled masses, overall I think the event proved to be an excellent opportunity for all acts to showcase their skills and music.

In fact, I would suggest that the RISING STARS stage on the Saturday probably had the best attended crowd (probably as it was a welcome respite from the sun, he he).

With a lineup that consisted of:- Those Damn Crows, The Rising Souls, The Dust Coda, Henry’s Funeral Shoe, The Rocket Dolls, Gorilla Riot, Dead Man’s Whiskey and Icarus Falls – the scope of talent was undisputed. I would suggest we will be seeing more than a few of these bands play to bigger stages in the near future, it was indeed a privilege.

For many it was their first festival and some, their first time in the UK!! Watch this space.

The organisation throughout the entire weekend was impeccable, with bands and equipment moving on and off stage with military precision.

Standout performances include: Myles Kennedy who’s solo acoustic set on the country stage was nothing short of amazing. A huge crowd is somewhat of a giveaway and he certainly had that!!

What a voice, truly one of the greatest vocalists in modern Rock.

Halestorm – With a sell out tour on the cards and a fast growing fan base Lizzie Hale – what a voice, a female Myles Kennedy. Totally rocked the shit out of the main stage with a barrage of drumsticks into the crowd to end the set !!

Skinny Molly – with a raft of influences and a heritage of band members from bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, their set went down a storm with a blistering rendition of the classic Freebird to finish a rousing set with an incredible round of applause from those assembled……

Steel Panther – not a fan of the band to be honest, but for sheer showmanship and entertainment, they delivered in spades. In fact, I would suggest these guys have developed their own sub-genre of music – PORN METAL!! These guys delivered in spades, but definitely NOT for the prude or easily offended – a total standout performance with, at one point, around 40 ladies on stage, gyrating away to Glory Hole. One of the highlights of the weekend. Last year we had Devin Townsend, this year Steel Panther took the crown.

As the last but one band to hit the main stage on Saturday, they were followed by Mott The Hoople, who were somewhat of a major anticlimax after Panther’s adrenaline building set. Kudos to Ian Hunter who’s not long turned 79 FFS, still has a good head of hair, all his own limbs and that voice – a true legend. With a setlist containing all their best known numbers – Golden Age Of Rock ‘n Roll, Roll Away The Stone, All The Way From Memphis, those still hanging around (and still awake) had to wait until the very end for probably their best known song – All The Young Dudes. Like I say, a brilliant set from one of rock’s erstwhile veterans, but for entertainment, fun and total audience participation, Steel Panther had them beat…

Sunday was by far the better day………………

The Sunday set list kicked off with a young Prog band from Austria, Second Relation. Not only their first time at Ramblin’ Man, but their first time playing to a UK audience having NEVER played outside a German speaking crowd !! – No pressure then. A few technical issues dogged their performance, but other than that they delivered a great set, certainly look forward to seeing them if they return for a full tour of the UK.

The Blues stage – it’s a good job the stage was an open affair as the wealth of young talent would have blown the roof off – Laurence Jones, Kris Barras, Connor Selby, Jim Jones – awesome awesome awesome. All extremely well received by an appreciative, if melting, crowd. The UK surely has some standout blues men and hats off to Big Boy Bloater for standing in for Chas ‘n Dave who were unable to attend due to health issues, nice one man.

Sons Of Apollo – With an incredible back catalogue of talent behind it, these guys can totally kick the ball out of the stadium – Journey, Mr Big, Guns n Roses, Dream Theater, Billy Idol, Black Country Communion, the heritage shows and with a 45 minute set, they manage to cover most of their debut album, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY.

With a short UK tour following this appearance, be sure to check them out, SAO kick some serious ASS!! Just a shame they were on the EXACT same time as Von Hertzen Brothers, bad planning guys…………..

Fish – A curtailed set (65 mins instead of what should have been 90 minutes !!) due to the previous act’s late kick off and numerous technical issues. You don’t argue with a pissed off 6′ 4″ Scot on a mission to outdo the main stage because The Cult had a statement in their contract that no other bands should be playing while they are on stage !!!!!! Despite that, the Prog tent was packed to the hilt with a fair few gathered on the periphery for a set that was very heavily in favour of material from his time with Marillion including Sugar Mice, White Russian and Just For The Record, but it was during the encore where we had the immortal Slainte Mhath and Incommunicado that everyone lost their shit and went full on freak-out. Dancing in the aisles, naked ladies, headbanging dogs on pot – the who place erupted and brought an end to yet another day of “Prog In The Tent” at Ramblin’ Man 2018. Nice to see John Beck on keys……

The Cult – not overly familiar with these guys, other than the “hits”, but a nice way to finish the weekend, with no competition from the adjoining stages, the band had a very receptive and appreciative crowd, very professional and competent. With a chequered history and rotating door of members, splits and legal shenanigans, it was good to see them on stage doing what they do best. All their best known songs were covered, but I suppose it was inevitable they’d leave their best known song for the encore – “She Sells Sanctuary”. Definitely one for the fans…..

Summary

With so much music to dip into, it was difficult and frustrating to say the least, when you’re trying to compile a general overview of the event.

I have to admit I am somewhat disappointed that the Prog element of this festival has gone from two days to one day (last year) and now in the same stage as the RISING STARS, what 2019 will bring is anyone’s guess, maybe we’d be checking out some Prog on the local car park !!

Obviously, this is purely a personal overview of this event and I daresay there will be be those of you who attended who will disagree or beg to differ on what we have written here, but overall, with next years event already booked for 19th – 21st July, it would seem this festival is here to stay.

Weather was magnificent, unlike last year when the Sunday was very much a mud-bath after the deluge of rain we had the previous day. Needless to say, there was vast quantity of alcohol consumed, but with beer in excess of £5.30 a pint, very much a rich man’s game. Water was seen changing hands for £2.50 a bottle – c’mon guys, play the game !!

Kudos to The Cadillac Three, Blackberry Smoke, The Last Internationale (who turned out to be very much a bonus, not having seen or heard them before), the three piece kicked ass. Lead singer Delila Paz even came down in the crowd to coax people to join in – brilliant

Planet Rock were well in attendance and even had a signing test where you could queue up for a photo and autograph with your favourite band – and it was FREE.

With a nice laid back vibe, a wealth of talent on offer and more than enough to keep even the most fidgety and easily bored, entertained, Ramblin’ Man 2018 offered a platform for a wide range of age and musical tastes, but definitely an opportunity for rockers of a “certain age” who appreciate a rich diversity of music to let their hair down (or what’s left of it).

Long may it reign, (not rain lol)

For full photo gallery, please click here !!

Prepared by Louise Gould, uploaded by Steve Gould (aka The Progmeister)