Let me set the scene for these ramblings straight away by saying that this is not a review. These are my inate ramblings of how I saw the High Voltage festival, who I saw at the two day festival, spoke to and just general observations.
I love London but travelling to, in and around it is always a real challenge. We stayed in Layton which I thought was close enough but easy enough to get out of as well. After taking the bus in and taking a nice half mile stroll beside a canal we got to Victoria Park with many people milling around but strangely no sound apart from the feathered bird type and certainly no one throwing devil horns in honour of Ronnie. We seemed to walk miles to get to a fence which turned out not to be the festival but we were directed behind the whole monstrous construction.
Walking into the field I find a stage right in front of me with about 300 people stood in anticipation in front of it. I really thought that was it but was relieved to discover it was the 2nd Metal Hammer stage. Walking past this I spotted the prog stage and walked over to join the gathering throng waiting for some band or other to start up. Spotting a fellow Welshman, Phil Wilding, I made a beeline for a catch up. Nice chat with Phil and big intro chords going, Phil informed me it was Big Elf which was possibly a fitting start to the first band I saw as the whole event was dedicated to our fallen brother Ronnie Dio. I watched two songs, one under the blazing heat and the other from under a big tree before spotting the lovely beer tent. Off I went, of course, to pay £4 for a warm can of cider.
Over to the main stage and into the VIP area where I wondered if I wouldn't need to pay £4 for a warm can and I was right. I paid £4 for a coldish can. Waited around for Gary Moore to start as I had unfortunately missed the first two bands due to getting to the bleedin' park. Now Gary Moore could have been the best band on this bill by doing one simple thing. I've been a fan for many many years and the band 'Gary Moore' was one of the first bands I ever saw. This show was billed as his 'Rock' show so I was expecting 'Nuclear Attack', 'Hiroshima', 'End Of The World'...but no. All he had to do was play the complete 'Corridors Of Power' album...but no. Shame. I enjoyed it but it could have been fantastic. Anyone remember those huge Marshall cabs he had at Donington one year?
Foreigner up next and to me this was the highlight of the festival. Never seen Foreigner before and they were fantastic. Being the closest I'll ever get to seeing Dokken, Jeff Pilson on the bass was great....I remember Kelly Hanson from Hurricane. They were a great band. Well they were THE band of the weekend for me. Pretty bloody brilliant.
Heaven And Hell came on to a lacklustre crowd I thought, Jorn did a really great job of doing Ronnie Dio, you could close your eyes and it was Ronnie singing. It all got a bit cloudy when two songs later Glenn Hughes came out. Now we all understand the circumstances behind them playing this festival but I personally felt they should have just got on with it with Jorn and if Wendy Dio wanted to say a few words then that's fitting. As it was she came on and made the speech, being so far from the microphone her words were lost as no one could hear what she was saying. The speakers made no sound unfortunately. I loved the stuff they played but it just wasn't doing it for me. Phil Anselmo jumped onstage at the end and it put a smile on my face to see Tony Iommi obviously finding him a funny character and smiling at him like you do for a child that's just done something humorous. I was told by a very reliable source that Ozzy was there and he was going to get up but, as suspected, it didn't happen - shame. Would have been a highlight.
I only managed to see one song by ZZ Top but that was a good song. I had a good look at Frank Beard's kit but by this time I was a bit trolleyed so went off to buy some more beer. While doing this I was talking to Roy of Shy and he was accosted by Phil Mogg of UFO who was wanting to get out into the crowd to watch the band but security wouldn't let him OUT of the VIP area because he had no pass. Roy was trying to tell them who he was but they wouldn't have it. He watched them from the side of the stage after that. I felt sorry for Phil but his troublesome weekend had only just started........
The Sunday was a nicer atmosphere. As it was Sunday we could drive the car in and park up on the road, making our escape much easier. The VIP area was more relaxed and I spoke to many a lovely drunken person including Dave Ling who gave me some fascinating insight into the whole festival while wearing a pair of Leppard approved Union Jack shorts. Apparently Andy Parker was incredibly impressed with them. Nice guy Dave, always time for a little chat. Bumped into some other Welshies in the form of John Richards who signed the Tailz to Sanctuary, and his cousin who was extremely drunk and was incredibly funny in the process. John had some fantastic tales of Bruce Dickinson and if you see him you should ask him to tell you his Bruce story.
Now time for The Quireboys. Spike and the boys are simply great great great. Spike just manages to deliver even though he's just got off a plane from Switzerland and come straight to the festival with no sleep for the last three nights. They rattled off their greatest tunes and got Guy Bailey out for a tune at the end which was really great. I'm sure Russell Brand was stood on the side of the stage talking to Guy but t'was unconfirmed. Spike gave himself a chuckle by bigging up UFO and getting everyone to chant UFO at the end of his set.
I managed to have a chat with Phil Martini after the set and he confirmed they were all really tired but really pleased with how everything went. UFO up next and they had a terrible sound right from the start. I was introduced to Andy Parker earlier but only realised who he was after they came on. My missus kept banging on about Vinnie Moore as he was a lovely guy but he had a terrible gig. The guitar completely cut out for the start of 'Rock Bottom'. They attempted to start playing this song about six or seven times with the same thing happening, no guitar. Sounded like a dodgy lead to me and this continued throughout the rest of the set with much embarrassment to Vinnie. Phil kept everyone entertained with his stories and cockney humour. They never really started to happen at this gig and, unbelievably, this was the first time I had seen UFO.
I managed to spend some time with Spike and Luke Morley in the High Voltage bar, both were having a great laugh but unfortunately I didn't have that much to drink on the Sunday. Spike was great company as always....
I rambled around the backstage area trying to find someone interesting but failing miserably. Tess managed to speak to everyone once again but me, I couldn't even find a member of Bachman Turner Overdrive. This was because they were on the stage! I actually thought they were pretty good. More southern boogie than their hit suggests. Grabbed some food and stayed on the grass for Joe Bonamassa as they seemed that kind of band. He wasn't as blues as I thought, in fact he had some rockin' tunes.
I wanted to watch the whole of the Down N' Outz as I'm feeling a kind of kinship with the whole Quireboys/Joe Elliot/Mott The Hoople circle of things. They were great, band and Joe were really cooking, breathing life into those classic tunes and having a blast doing it. If you haven't heard the tunes they recorded for the Classic Rock giveaway then you should check it out. Ian Hunter came on for the last two, 'Once Bitten Twice Shy' and another song (can't remember). All brought to an ubrupt end when the PA was turned off and someone thanked the Down N' Outz for their show. All very embarrassing for Joe and Ian but Joe turned his anger into thanks on leaving the stage and left the crowd clapping rather than confused. I think they overran but this just wasn't the way to do it. I think Joe threw a few punches at some ELP crew on his way backstage and rightly so.
Didn't watch ELP but had a good look at Carl Palmer's Paiste drum kit which was incredibly impressive. Watched a bit of Down on the way out and the crowd were jumping. Back to Wales, home and cold cans!
Next week Sonisphere!