Sunday kicked off with more hot sunny weather (quite unusual for Ramblin Man – I think this was the first year where it’s been nice weather the whole weekend).
The first band I caught today was The Last Internationale, opening the main stage. They’re a band I didn’t know much about other than that they’re quite political with their lyrics. When singer Delila Paz came on stage and started singing I was instantly impressed – she’s got one hell of an impressive voice. They’re a very good band and one that I’ll definitely be listening to more of – an excellent start to the day.
On the Blues stage, Kris Barras is playing to a large crowd as he plays a set including several songs from his current album. He’s a very busy performer with his own tours, support slots with Beth Hart earlier this year, and support slots with Joanne Shaw Taylor later in the year, not to mention fronting Supersonic Blues Machine on their European tour. I’ve seen him 4 times already this year in venues ranging in size from a hundred people to nearer a thousand, and however many are watching today and he’s just as at home on a large stage as he is on a small one. He’s got a great manner and chats with the crowd in a relaxed way between songs. It’s a great set and it’s just a shame that with the revised stage times that clashes mean I only got to see part of it.
Tyler Bryant and the shakedown played the Blues stage last year and are back this year, but on the main stage, and it’s clear to see why they’ve been promoted – they’re one hell of a good live band. They’re full of energy and play really good rock music. This is a band that’s certain to grow and grow over the next few years.
Sons of Apollo came next. They’re one of many “super groups” around, but this is one band that really does deserve that title. To start with you’ve got the members…Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) – drums and vocals, Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater) – keyboards, Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) – bass, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses) – guitar and vocals, Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force) – vocals. That’s an impressive lineup of talent, but as we’ve seen in so-called super-groups before, a collection of great musicians doesn’t necessarily mean a great band. In this case though they work well together as a band, and have written great songs. Hard rock with a certain amount of Prog in it, this is really good stuff and with these talented musicians playing it and really working well together as a band it’s a superb set. Today at Ramblin Man really does seem to be going from one great band to another.
Due to clashing with Sons of Apollo I only saw part of Laurence Jones’s set. The fact the Blues stage was running so late and he clashed with Sons of Apollo definitely affected the size of the crowd he played to but he’s professional enough not to let it affect his performance and he put in a set that went down well with the assembled fans.
Back on the main stage, Blackberry smoke were next up. With a new album (Find a light) out a couple of months ago I’d expected it to feature heavily in their set today but instead they focussed on delivering a “best of” type set – which while it might be slightly disappointing for fans, does give them the best possible chance of winning new fans from the festival crowd. With the hot sunny conditions, this band from Atlanta, Georgia must have felt at home as they delivered a great set. The new song (Run away from it all) sounded fantastic – as to be fair did the rest of their set.
Big Boy Bloater kicked off his set and quickly ran into trouble as a guitar string broke. A big band would have just swapped guitars or had a tech restring it for them, but when you’re only there with one guitar (Big Boy Bloater was a last minute replacement for Chas and Dave, and was already on site before it was arranged), then you don’t have those luxuries, so he had to replace the string himself. Normally you’d expect him to end the song then change the string before carrying on, but no, they continued the song with just bass and drums with the crowd chanting “Hey” on the beat while he changed the string. Not many artists could get away with that for 5 minutes but such is his power as a frontman that he managed it with ease. It’s a great set, and ended with the fantastic “It came out of the swamp”, still my favourite song of his despite his new album (Pills) being superb.
Halestorm were one of the bands I’d been looking forward to ahead of the weekend as I’d missed their last couple of tours. They kicked off with a brand new song, “Black vultures” from their upcoming album “Vicious” before starting a set full of songs the fans love such as “Love bite (and so do I)”, “Mz Hyde”, “Freak like me”, and ending with “I miss the misery”. We get a drum solo too – a part of the show that bores me with many bands but Arjay Hale is such a good and entertaining drummer his solos never fail to be enjoyable. Lzzy Hale is always a great performer and today is no different. Her voice sounds to have a slightly harder edge than I’ve hear before, but I’m not sure if that’s a natural change in her sound or if it’s just illness/tiredness from touring. Either way she still sounds great and their set was a definite highlight of the day.
Over on the Blues stage, Gov’t Mule were putting in a great performance. With Gov’t Mule, it doesn’t matter how many times you see them, no two performances are the same as their shows are very much live jams, so the same song can sound very different on different nights depending how they go with the solos. It’s a fantastic set.
The Cult took to the stage to close the festival and from the start it was obvious they were out to impress as the riff for “Wild flower” kicked in. They’d drawn a big crowd – the biggest of the weekend, and it wasn’t just paying fans there to watch. I spotted members of Me and that man, Sons of Apollo, Halestorm and Von Hertzen Brothers all watching and clearly loving it. The Cult are a band many fans have been listening to since the late 80s and tonight’s set drew heavily on the “Electric” and “Love” albums (arguably their finest albums and the peak of their career), and they kept delivering songs that people remembered and loved. I saw so many people singing along or dancing that it was clear that The Cult were the band of the weekend. Ian Astbury was in great form as was Billy Duffy and the rest of the band and they really put in a performance that is hard to beat. A fantastic end to a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
This year’s Ramblin’ Man seemed to suffer from the date change from it’s usual late-July date to June as the schools hadn’t broken up which makes it harder for parents to attend, but the glorious weather definitely got people in the right mood (and kept the bars and ice-cream vans busy). While some had complained about the lineup ahead of the festival, I have to say this was probably the most enjoyable year for me – it’s not just the big bands that appeal as many of the bands I really enjoyed were smaller acts such as “Me and that man”. I came away having not seen a single poor performance and having seen quite a few bands I want to buy CDs from, and you can’t really ask for more than that from any festival. I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival.