Ow. That’s probably the thoughts of many punters this morning, but this is a festival so one bravely soldiers on and has their hangover on away by whoever’s on first. Luckily for everyone in attendance, that turned out to be Wildside Riot (8), back for a second year running and opening up with forty-five minutes of sleaze and glam metal on the Jagermeister Stage to a very respectable sized audience considering the midday time start. That’s What Sunday Mornings Are For? More like what Friday afternoons are for! Trash Queen and Come Along for the Ride sound great and ex-Wrathchild UK frontman Rocky Shades has the energy of a man half his age. They close with the eponymous Wildside Riot and leave to applause and cheers from all corners of the floor. By contrast, Alunah (4) walk out to less than fifty people. Yes, they’re the first band to clash with the lineup on the Main Stage (for today billed as Hard Rock Heaven), but they don’t help themselves either as they drone through half a dozen songs with little charisma and flair. Maybe that’s just the way they are on stage, but the audience size was even smaller by the time the strains of Belial’s Fjord died away. It’s an opportunity missed to make new fans not wanting to hear what else is on offer.
They should take a leaf from the book of Kyrbgrinder (9), who are playing in the middle of Tygers of Pan Tang and yet are absolutely stunning. A late replacement for the originally billed Voodoo Six, they bring in the punters who are milling around and by the time they finish there are several new converts about. It’s rare nowadays to find a drummer who sings lead vocals but Johannes James is a fantastic frontman for someone who can’t really do much else than get up from his seat. Banter involving his bass drum (“It really doesn’t like me, I’m clearly the wrong colour…should have been red”) and his former relationships are greatly received, although dedicating song Kill Them All to every one of his ex-wives is maybe a little bit extreme regardless of how good the song actually is. This is a band who deserve to be a lot bigger than they are; watch out for them in the near future. Stubb (7) keep the momentum going as the afternoon turns to evening, Under A Spell going down particularly well, with Skarlett Riot (7) following suit and taking advantage of their set being in between acts on the Main Stage to play hard and heavy and draw in the crowds. Druganaut (5) falter slightly as their own brand of doom/stoner rock fails to properly ignite, but Sister (7) do a sterling job for a band clashing with some oik called Phil Campbell. Not caring about how many people the play to they give everything they can to the cause, with elements of Wednesday 13, Murderdolls and Misftis coming to mind as they power through their short 35 minute set.
For the first time this year, Hard Rock Hell has introduce an ‘unplugged’ stage for stripped down, acoustic sets by some of the bands playing this year’s event. Mia Klose (8) goes one better though and plays a third of her set LITERALLY unplugged when she suffers a complete power failure halfway through. But the fact that she not only carries on as if nothing has happened (she doesn’t even break the note she was singing) but continues to use the microphone despite the obvious non-volume is incredibly professional. The power returns during her cover of Skid Rows I Remember You which has already had half the crowd singing along to it and by then it doesn’t really matter. A big triumph from the petit Swede.
The Main Stage, Hard Rock Heaven, opens with this year’s winners of the Highway to Hell competition, Screaming Eagles (7), who naturally give everything they’ve got and playing with gusto, songs like Devil in the Dust and Down the River being very well received (and there’s cowbell. You can’t go wrong with cowbell.) Tygers of Pan Tang (8) have been around the block a few times and know their trade very well, so it’s no surprise that they come on and up the tempo further. A number of people present are familiar with their works and so there are a good amount of people singing back as hard as they can, particularly during their combined salvo of Hey Suzie!/Suzie Smiled. Vocalist Jacopo Meille bears a striking resemblance to a certain Robert Plant as well, both in looks and vocals. Logan (7) keep things bright and sparky up top with a solid set that includes Hallowed Ground, Raise Hell and Light It Up before Crucified Barbara (8) continue the Swedish representation at the festival this year, turn off all stage lights apart from red and convert Hard Rock Heaven to the Hell it needs to be. Opening with The Crucifier and smashing through another eleven songs in the space of an hour, the quartet are on top form and their cover of Killed By Death is greatly received. Enuff Z’Nuff (8) are also well versed in the art of the cover, giving us a small medley of tunes including tracks by Journey, Bryan Adams, The Proclaimers and, er, Miley Cyrus. Donnie Vie has once again left but Johnny Monaco is filling his shoes very well indeed; he might look like the frontman of Weezer but he’s got a very good set of pipes and is at total ease with the set that is rooted heavily on 1991’s Strength and 1993’s Animals with Human Intelligence. However, if you want covers tonight then look no further than Phil Campbell (9) who plays nothing else. Opening with Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave, Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever and Motorhead’s Iron Fist, this set gives the man a chance to play a few songs he wouldn’t usually get to do in his day job with Lemmy and Mikkey Dee. Of course there’s plenty of Motorhead involved but he also gives us Led Zeppelin (Communication Breakdown, ironically taking three attempts to get going), the Rolling Stones (Jumpin’ Jack Flash) and Tina Turner (Nutbush City Limits), and yet despite this the version of Ace of Spades that is rolled out receives the biggest cheer of the festival so far. A triumph for all to see.
The anticipation for tonight’s headlining double bill is extremely high – the old boys and the new kids, bumping shoulders and trying to outdo each other. In the end, they’re both as brilliant as each other. Black Star Riders (9) come up with a superb idea of playing one new song, one Thin Lizzy song in an alternating fashion, which means that alongside All Hell Breaks Loose and Before the War, we get Bad Reputation and Jailbreak. A great way to ensure the new material is heard and the fans stay and it shows; the venue is jam-packed, you could barely fit a thin mouse inside and the ‘Riders really don’t disappoint. They might not be calling for jumping or mosh pits but they don’t need to; everybody knows who they used to be and everyone respects who they are now and it makes for a killer combination. Of course, they end with a barrage of Lizzy favourites: Cowboy Song and The Boys Are Back In Town to end the main set, Whiskey in the Jar and Rosalie as an encore, the latter of which sees Phil Campbell come out alongside the boys to round off a superbly satisfying hour and a half.
And then, to finish off the evening, Skindred (9) bounce onstage and take no prisoners. Opening with Ninja from upcoming album Kill the Power, Benji Webbe leads the Hard Rock Hell crowd on a merry dance through Bruises, Doom Riff, Selector and Cut Dem, with even a small segment dedicated to Thrift Shop by Macklemore, much to the amusement of all present. There’s no question that Webbe is one of the UK’s finest frontman; quick witted and larger-than-life with extravagant costumes and a prescence matched by few others, he walks on as an army soldier and lays down the military law: have fun or get out. The big question asked by a lot of people was how a band who are relatively contemporary would go down at a festival more used to an older average age. All you had to do was bear witness to how many people took part in the Newport Helicopter during Warning to find out that the previous generation do rather like their reggae/punk/rap/funk/metal fusions. And with that, the band depart to get ready to come back on tour in January and lay waste to venues once more. Day Two is done and dusted.
Black Star Riders setlist (‘*’ denotes Thin Lizzy song)
All Hell Breaks Loose
Are You Ready*
Before the War
Kingdom of the Lost
Kissin’ the Ground
Valley of the Stones
Bound for Glory
The Boys Are Back In Town*
Whiskey in the Jar*
Rosalie (Bob Seger cover; with Phil Campbell)
State of Emergency
Cut Dem (with new remixed intro)
Kill The Power
Trouble (with ‘Sad But True’ snippet)
Breath (The Prodigy cover)