After a six-hour journey from the North on Friday, it’s safe to say I was more than ready to let my hair down, listen to some good music, and enjoy a hyped weekend at this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone.
Upon my arrival, a huge proportion of the weekend’s ‘Ramblers’ had also arrived ready to get into the rock ‘n’ roll spirit, some sticking to the camping ground, blasting the weekend’s playlist, and others attending the official warm-up gig over at Maidstone Leisure Centre, featuring Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson.
As usual, my lack of forward planning had caught up with me, but thanks to a well-made suggestion on the Ramblin’ Man Fair Fan Group, I was pointed in the direction of the unofficial Ramblin’ Man Fair warm-up party at Earl’s on Earl Street.
This was a cozy pub in the heart of Maidstone, crammed with festival-goers who were treated with a multitude of covers by local band, Barbed, and was a brilliant way to kick-start the weekend.
As a whole, this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair has to be one of my favourite festival experiences, and holds so many positive features you just won’t find with conventional festivals across England. For one, the size is perfect, it’s simple to get stage-to-stage, queuing is minimal for all amenities, it’s a short distance to the town centre and all camping grounds, and most importantly, you don’t need to chain yourself to the rail in order to remain at the front of the crowd prior to a good act!
The line-up is diverse enough to peak all interests – this included a Rising Talent Stage, Classic Rock (Planet Rock) Stage, Prog Stage, Country Stage and Blues Stage, all of which were of a great size to suit the acts they showcased.
Local band Leogun were the first band to The Rising Stage, and the first slot for the day. Perfectly situated at the entrance, Leogun struck gold with their late addition to the line-up, and grabbed the attention of quite a few as they entered the park. Unfortunately, due to admission issues (which were soon ironed out later into the day), there were a few complaints in regards to access, with a few people nearly missing the first acts of the day.
After winning Planet Rock’s Best New Band 2016, who better to open the main stage than the rising stars, Inglorious. Even with only a debut album under their belt, the crowd drawn in was incredible, with people running across the park to secure a spot at the front hours ahead of their set.
Inglorious put across their powerful and uncut sound incredibly, with a high-energy performance you’d associate with a band that have been doing this for years. Holy Water was mind-blowing, with beautifully balanced soulful stylings and a flamboyant stage presence from Nathan, alongside resonant bluesy riffs, which established precisely why they’re Planet Rock’s best new band.
The set included the bands expressive rendition of Rainbow’s I Surrender, which came straight from the heart of the bands influences, and was a welcome change from the usual covers performed by upcoming acts.
As the crowd waited patiently for The Dead Daisies to appear, the speakers were lit up with Wax Audio’s Led Zeppelin vs. Black Sabbath mashup, Whole Lotta Sabbath.
Doug Aldrich played along with the renowned Sabbath riff from War Pigs as the group made their way onto the stage with a laid-back demeanor (fitting to a group that have been performing in front of thousands of fans for decades).
Corabi introduced a few guaranteed crowd-pleasers from their new album, ‘Make Some Noise’, set for release on Friday 5th August, which included the tongue-in-cheek title track, Make Some Noise, which couldn’t be more suited to a live audience if it tried.
This was followed with cover track Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival (also found on the new album). The heavier reinvention of this track was well received by the crowd, and after hearing it, you could easily have a new favourite over the original.
Mendoza was a natural showman throughout the entire set, encouraging the crowd to get involved and throwing out plectrums any chance he got, with a cool, collected presence like a true rock star.
Doug’s performance was out-of-this-world, and his mischievous back-and-forths with the rest of the band on stage made it clear he’s already secured a place in the heart of The Dead Daisies, taking the sound and on-stage display to a whole new level.
After an extensive UK tour supporting main stage’s Ginger Wildheart, Massive Wagons were up next, securing a spot on The Rising Stage. It’s safe to say the guys seriously brought the heavy to Saturday’s line up (as well as an entire following by the looks of it!). The Rising Stage was teeming with merch-clad fans, who worked towards making the entire set even louder.
The band mainly focused on fast-paced rock ‘n’ roll tracks from the new album, released in April. The set combined bludgeoning riffs, hardcore head banging and harsh, riotous vocals, which was a nice change of pace from other acts on The Rising Stage.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Colour of Noise, but I’ve never had the opportunity to catch one of their tour dates before. I felt the performance started out a bit flat, the rhythmic riffs were fantastic, but I just wasn’t being hooked by the vocals.
This was soon pulled back, when they kicked in with Rock Bottom, and the band as a whole appeared to come out of their shell more. I can only assume this was down to familiarity with the material on a performance level.
Either way, the chosen songs were memorable and catchy, with an Alter Bridge meets classic hard rock vibe.
Supersuckers played over on the Country stage, with a set which kicked off straight away, with three back-to-back tracks in classic no-holds-barred fashion. The show started out pretty mellow, with little stage presence. Nearly every song was ended on their signature “cha-cha-cha” chant, which the crowd seemed to love, signaling the optimum time to go wild.
The set ended with a crowd favourite, Born With A Tail, uniting the crowd as everyone raised their middle finger in salute to the Supersuckers.
For a three-piece band, which includes an acoustic lead, the intensity of The White Buffalo was a mind-blowing experience, made even more gripping by the matured and coarse vocals, which the band have become known for.
The Whistler had to be the most triumphant moment of the entire set, as the song slowly built up to the ultimate turning point, displaying the bellowing vocals with pure ferocity, as Jake screamed “well, I came to get it on!”
Each song was portrayed with true emotion, reflecting in Jake’s vocal stamina and facial expressionism. This built such a great deal of depth to the already colourful lyrics in each song, and made it one of the most captivating and memorable performances I saw all weekend, and through the smirks and cheeky smiles shared by singer/songwriter Jake Smith and his band members, it was as if they were thinking the same thing.
On the Prog stage, psychedelic rock band Purson were putting in a great set. As is sadly the way at festivals, I didn’t get to watch their whole set but did watch as much as I could before heading over to main stage for Terrorvision. They’re a band I’d certainly like to see more of as the part of the set I saw was great.
Headlining the Outlaw Country stage was Hayseed Dixie who have to be one of the most fun bands on the bill. With their bluegrass covers of rock and heavy metal songs they’re a great party band and are a perfect choice to end the day when people have enjoyed a few beers. If you’ve never seen them play live then you’re missing out. Great fun.
Terrorvision are a band I’ve seen a few times lately, and they’re a great live band, with Tony Wright being extremely active – he never stops moving, and runs, jumps, high kicks and burns off more calories in their set than most people do in a gym session. Kicking off with “Alice what’s the matter” it’s a fairly strong set although the omission of “Tequila” was surprising as its a song that most people would have known even if they aren’t Terrorvision fans.
Next up was one of the hardest working musicians around – Ginger. When not touring with the Wildhearts, or Hey Hello! or doing solo shows, he’s busy recording new albums. He’s clearly a popular choice and has a large crowd to watch his main stage performance. It’s a good performance and one that goes down well with the Wildhearts songs seeming to go down particularly well.
After a strong bill all day, Europe signalled the start of a superb end to the day with Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake due on after Europe. The last few Europe albums have been really strong, with much more of a blues-rock feel than their 80’s more pop-rock oriented sound, so I was pleased to hear them include songs such as “War of Kings” in the set. Europe are a band that really know what’s expected from a festival set though and make sure the set includes plenty of their best known songs including “Rock the Night,” “Superstitious,” “Cherokee” and of course the song that ends their set…”The Final Countdown.” In Joey Tempest they have one of the best frontmen around and he always does a great job of getting the crowd involved and having fun. A great set.
Next up were Thin Lizzy. These days they play as Black Star Riders, but tonight they’re back to being Thin Lizzy and playing the old material rather than stuff from the Black Star Riders albums. Critics will argue that with only Scott Gorham remaining from the band then this isn’t really Thin Lizzy but most people here don’t care and are just happy to see them perform. Ricky Warwick is a great singer and really can do the Thin Lizzy material justice, and when you’ve got such a strong catalogue of songs to choose from then this was going to be a great set, and after kicking off with “Jailbreak” we got a load more classics including “Rosalie”, “Killer on the loose”, “Dancing in the moonlight”, “Waiting for an alibi” and “The boys are back in town”. A great set that went down well with the fans leaving them ready for Whitesnake to bring the night to a close.
Finally, the time had approached for one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, as Whitesnake took to the stage. Unknown to me, the set fell in line with a ‘Greatest Hits’ tour, and provided track-after-track of chart classics.
Coverdale’s voice was in terrific form, incorporating even more nostalgic atmosphere and bringing me as close to Donington 1990 as I could get! I was extremely pleased to hear Crying In The Rain make it on to the setlist, which was played meticulously, with Coverdale’s distinctive vocals remaining flawless throughout.
The current line-up is as impressive and talented as you can get, with each member showcasing their skills through technical solos and introducing their own styling into intervals within the set.
My only quarrel with this was I felt it all went on too long, and I heard the same feedback from other members of the crowd. Reb Beach threw down a face-melting piece, which lasted for nearly ten minutes, and reached a point where I felt we were in a brief intermission and I should go and grab a drink and a hotdog.
Don’t get me wrong, the individual performances were out of this world, and it was great fun to watch each artist exhibit their skills, which included a brutal bass solo from Michael Devin, taking a funk metal direction similar to Primus, Tommy Aldridge drumming out a strenuous solo, which included a Bonhamesque ‘hands-on’ drum solo, and Joel Hoeskstra switching between styles on his electric guitar and a supported acoustic, during which you could have heard a pin drop within the crowd.
I’m sure the time was planned out in order to give Coverdale enough time to catch his breath and prepare for the next song, but it did begin to reach a point where you could predict he was going to walk off and leave the rest to the other band members.
Slide It In
Love Ain’t No Stranger
The Deeper the Love
Fool for Your Loving
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
Slow an’ Easy
Crying in the Rain
Is This Love
Give Me All Your Love
Here I Go Again
— ENCORE —
Still of the Night