The Über Rockin’ Guide To… Rockingham Print
Written by Mark Ashby   
Sunday, 01 October 2017 18:02

Despite only being in its third year, Rockingham has quickly established itself as one of the premier events for melodic rock bands, having more or less picked up where Firefest left off and adopting the same ethos – bring together a few bands who, by and large, had slipped of most radars but at the same time remain on many bucket lists, and combine them with a sprinkling of current favourites and a smattering of newer, younger talents. So far, they haven’t really missed the mark in terms of getting the bill just about right, hence the event’s growing popularity (especially since its move to its plush new home at the University of Nottingham last time around).


This year should be no exception, with three headline acts that are legends in their own right, and a strong undercard covering all the bases in terms of the melodic rock genre. In fact, the overall strength of the 2017 line-up makes it very difficult to leave any one out of Über Rockin’ guide… so, we’ve done something a bit different to the norm, and present to you our thoughts on each and every single one of the 18 artists taking to the stage over the weekend…


Airrace (Sunday 2.50pm)


Thirty years ago, the best little band ever to come out of Northern Ireland, Mama’s Boys, released their last studio album, the highly commercialized ‘Growing Up The Hard Way’. It was a moment which spelled the beginning of the end for the band. What’s this got to do with Airrace? Well, it was also the first time that I came across their name, as vocalist Keith Murrell had taken over microphone duties with the brothers, after John McManus was ordered to give up singing duties. In my opinion, looking back, while ‘Growing…’ was a good album, and the subsequent tour was one of their most successful, Murrell ruined the band and their sound. He was far better suited to Airrace’s cleaner, more harmonic sound. Of course, Murrell is no longer in the band, with only guitarist Laurie Mansworth left from the original line up, so this one will be approached with a blank page in the UR notebook.


Bailey (Sunday 1pm)


One of the most respected vocalists on both the UK and European melodic rock scenes, I first came across Nigel Bailey at one of the Hard Rock Hell shindigs in north Wales a couple of years back, and I must admit that he raised the hairs on the back of my neck. An outstanding voice, and a truly talented songwriter, as evinced by his contribution to the new All 41 album. It’s a ridiculously early start for this incredible band, but that’s the vagaries of festivals; but we recommend that you wolf that fry into you and get downstairs for a brunch-tastic feast of AOR gloriousness. DQ has never seen or heard this band before: I’m looking forward to enlightening her.

Blanc Faces (Friday 5.55pm)


I’m gonna admit that I don’t know that much about Robbie LaBlanc, except that he’s a pretty damn good singer with an excellent voice and a catalogue of pretty weird shit – which includes doing one of the voiceovers for the US equivalent of Garmin sat nav! He’ll probably be best known to the Rockingham crowd through the Find Me project, a one-off project by Issa/Murder Of My Sweet’s Daniel Flores. Looking back on it, via the glories of social media, that was actually a pretty decent album, and it would have been interesting to see it brought to life…

Brother Firetribe (Sunday 3.50pm)


I must admit, I saw Brother Firetribe at the last ever Firefest a few years back, and I wasn’t overly impressed: they were just a little too Scandi-pop for my liking. Which, seeing as they’re from over the border in Finland was a tad disappointing…I was expecting the Rocks or HIM but got A-Ha. Ah well, never mind: it’s four years later and they’ve produced a pretty decent album, ‘Sunbound’, in the interim… So, hopefully they won’t be total pish and I won’t need to go for one during their set!


Cruzh (Saturday 12.30pm)


You want some sleaze? You want some glammed up, dressed down rawk action? You want it combined with the smoothness of the latte you had with your breakfast combined with the kick in the skull of a dusty cowboy boot? You want in your face muthafuckin’ attitude exploding all over your face and in your jeans? Yeah? Well, make sure you’re down the front for these four young Swedes, who most definitely are kickin’ up dust and takin’ names… and they’ll do just that with thee and me when they kick off the Saturday session. Be there, or don’t bother showing up.


Dare (Sunday 5.10pm)


Having been thrust into the rock ‘n’ roll spotlight relatively early, when he was recruited, out of the blue, as the keyboard player for Thin Lizzy in the latter stages of their career, Darren Wharton has, over the years, matured into an incredibly thoughtful and respected musician and songwriter. Despite a somewhat intermittent career, due partially to Wharton’s periodic return to the Lizzy ranks and the separation from Vinny Burns, Dare became one of the most respected bands on the British melodic rock/AOR scene. Now, with Wharton having taken the brave step to completely turn his back on the band which made his name, and re-united with his old friend, the band are undergoing a deserved renaissance. Last year’s ‘Sacred Ground’ album was simply stunning, and they thoroughly deserve their late slot on the Sunday evening. Personally speaking, I reckon these guys will deliver one of the most atmospheric and memorable sets of the weekend.


Dave Bickler (Saturday 5pm)


Dave Bickler should need no introduction to Rockinghamers. After all, he is the voice of one the most iconic, and most abused and over-used, AOR anthems of all time, ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Originally a member of the criminally under-rated Jamestown Gang, he co-founded Survivor in 1978, fronting the band through their first four albums until being forced to quit the music business in 1983, after developing polyps on his vocal cords. He had a rocky (sic) relationship with the band, and particularly co-founder Frankie Sullivan, rejoining the band from 1983 – 2000 and again between 2013 and 2016, being fired on both occasions. In 2009, he posted a couple of songs on Twitter, intimating that a solo project was imminent: eight years later, it has still to materialize. Maybe Rockingham will provide the spark to re-ignite his career.



Fortune (Saturday 3.40pm)


To be honest, I was completely unfamiliar with LA’s Fortune before last year’s Rockingham, as their couple of minor hits and self-titled album completely by-passed me back in the early 80s: maybe I had better things to do than listen to a bunch of Styx/Toto wannabes? To be honest, as I said in my review, they didn’t do much to stir this particular hardened rock ‘n’ roller’s loins, with their straightforward classic AOR. But, they’re back for a second successive year, so they must be doing something right, right? Might be an excuse for me to go for that pish, though!

Great White (Sunday 6.35pm)


As with a lot of bands from their era, there are actually two different incarnations of Great White: one fronted by original vocalist Jack Russell and this one, featuring founder Mark Kendall and long-standing members Audie Desbrow and Michael Lardie. Needless to say, there have been many legal battles between the two camps over the years, but the two different versions seem to co-exist amicably at the moment. This line-up, completed by bassist Scott Snyder and former XYZ frontman Terry Ilous, released their second album, the possibly ironically titled ‘Full Circle’, earlier this year, so it will be interesting how deep they delve into their Russell-era back catalogue.

Harem Scarem (Saturday 6.20pm)


The Canadians surprised a lot of people earlier this year when, apparently from out of the blue, they released a new album, ‘United’ – their first in eight years, after the band had announced they had actually quit recording in 2009, with vocalist Harry Hess making the move into production in the intervening years. Maybe it was the Rockingham booking that spurred them back into life, but it’s good to see the band back in action and continuing to produce quality melodic rock… and, if the comments on the various forums are anything to go by, it will be interesting to see how many hang around for headliner Vince Neil’s set afterwards.


John Parr (Friday 7.10pm)


It’s a pity that Parr is best known for the theme tune to that inane teen movie that I won’t even mention here, ‘cos he’s a supremely talented songwriter with an incredible back catalogue of tunes to his credit. OK, we’ll also forgive him for his role in resurrecting a certain Marvin Lee Aday’s career when the fat man was on his arse and Parr handed him a hit single on a plate. But, that’s neither here nor there and is probably pretty ‘Naughty Naughty’ of us to mention that! Rockingham could be described as something of a homecoming for Parr, as he was born in Worksop. Hopefully he gets the sense of occasion and reciprocates accordingly… If he does, fuck it, I’ll even sing along to that hit!


Kix (Friday 8.45pm)


Now, this is one band I’m definitely looking forward to – and they better not disappoint, or they’ll be getting my size ten New Rocks where the sun don’t shine in the hotel afterwards! I vividly remember putting the needle in the groove of ‘Midnite Dynamite’ ‘way back in ’85: it grabbed me by both the balls and the ears – and they’ve been continuing to do so ever since, as that album and the four others they recorded in their heyday are repeated plays here at URHQ. Recent reports and videos posted online suggest that Steve Whiteman definitely still possesses a voice to make your ball hairs curl… if that’s the case, let’s Kix some ass and party into a great weekend.



Loverboy (Sunday 8.30pm)


There are very few bands who can boast a career lasting more than 30 with a stable line-up: one of them is Loverboy, with only the passing of bassist Scott Smith at the turn of the millennium interrupting what would surely be an historic timeline. Despite their longevity, the Canadians discography is comparatively sparse, with just nine studio albums – the most recent three years ago – bearing their name. But Mike Reno, Paul Dean also have a reputation for consistency, both on album and on stage, this long overdue return to a UK stage should definitely be one of the highlights of the weekend. It’ll certainly ensure that this year’s interation of Rockingham ends on a high and I’m sure we’ll be lovin’ every minute of it (sic)!

Maverick (Friday 5pm)


The Northern Ireland rockers will be wanting to get things off to a rowdy start, as they are the first band to take the stage on the Friday evening. But, then, they’re used to big challenges, as they’ve toured Europe opening for The Poodles and Treat (and presented the Über Rock Sunday Brunch!). Having undergone a couple of line-up changes over the past year, they’re currently recording their third album, ‘Cold Star Dancer’, which is due for release next March.


Moritz (Sunday 1.55pm)


Originally formed in the mid-Eighties, before taking the almost inevitable lengthy hiatus following the arrival of grunge and then re-uniting in 2009. Activity since then has been relatively sporadic, not helped by the departure of founding guitarist to concentrate on Cats In Space. Nevertheless, the Londoners have soldiered on, and earlier this year emerged back into the limelight again with a new album, the appropriately named ‘About Time Too’, which has helped introduce the band to a whole new generation of fans as well as reward the patience of those who have been faithful to their cause over the past three decades.

The Amorettes (Saturday 1.30pm)


Firm favourites here at URHQ, these three Glaswegian lassies draw on a long line of female bands, from The Runaways to Girlschool to L7, and always rip stages up no matter where they play: they’re fiery, they’re feisty, they’re fun and they know how to play no-nonsense balls-to-the-wall punked-up rawk ‘n’f’n’ roll… oh, and they could probably drink every fella in the room under the table to boot! They’ve just re-issued their debut album in limited numbers, as well as started recording a new one, and have been nominated in the ‘Rising Stars’ category for the inaugural Hard Rock Hell Awards.


Vega (Saturday 2.30pm)


Vega come to Rockingham off the back of a short headline tour which, by all accounts, kicked 50 shades of butt and helped to further establish them as one of the most exciting and energetic live bands on the UK circuit at the moment. Until the tour, 2017 had been a relatively quiet year for the boys – and one probably not helped by rumours of them splitting up – but it turns out they have been squirreled away, demoing songs for a new album: they’ve been gradually unveiling same both on the said tour and via social media, and the prospect of hearing some fresh new material at Rockingham in three weeks’ time makes the taste of anticipation even more sweet.



Vince Neil (Saturday 8.15pm)


To be honest, when I first heard that the former Motley Crüe frontman had been chosen to headline the Saturday night, I thought it was a risky choice. After all, the reports about the Crüe’s last tour, and Neil’s “vocals” in particular, had not been favourable; and then there were the reports from various festivals of him quitting the stage after just 45 minutes of a headline performance. But, you know what? Let’s give the bloke a break… When are you gonna see the lead singer of one of glam rock’s most iconic and successful bands play all their greatest hits (albeit with a bunch of hired hand musical mercenaries) in such an intimate environment? So what if his voice is fucked: it’s probably gonna be one of those “I was there” moments – or not! Either way, would it be too much to ask for a wee bit of ‘Tattoos And Tequila’, just for herself (she might show you the former but she definitely won’t share the latter with ya)?


So, there you have it. Hopefully there’s some food for thought in there for everyone attending Rockingham: for those who haven’t quite made up their minds yet, maybe, hopefully, we’ve spurred you on to snap up one of the very few remaining tickets. But, there’s only one question from DQ and myself – and that’s what time is our flight?


All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.