Steelhouse Festival - Aberbeeg, Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm - 24th July 2016 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz Tidey & Rob Watkins   
Saturday, 30 July 2016 03:00

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"Hey, it's okay, not all days can be beautiful days..."

 

With the glorious sun of Steelhouse Saturday, that helped burn great memories into minds and white sunglasses ghosts onto faces, giving way to that inevitable precipitation, all I could think - and I'm sure I wasn't the only one - was that at least it was just hair-messed-up rain and not the fuck-me-I've-lost-a-boot mud-causing typhoon of 2015. No, the water that fell from the heavens onto the mountain on which the Steelhouse Festival continues to thrill and gather pace was more of a lubricant to the Sunday's rockin' wares than a day-ruiner of biblical proportions.

 

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Writing of biblical, Last Great Dreamers arrived on the slippery when wet Steelhouse stage dressed like Rock 'n' Roll Gods from at least four decades ago, and tore into a killer new track, 'Oblivion Kids', from their upcoming third album like there was no tomorrow. Yes, this band of mothballed miscreants may have waited two decades between albums number one and two, but they are wasting no time as they prepare to release their newest collection of retro-fuelled power pop honeytraps.

 

Newer songs like 'White Light, Black Heart' and 'Dope School' nestled into the set seamlessly alongside favourites like 'Ashtray Eyes' and 'Number One Wonderboy', with new bass player, Steve Fielding, and newish drummer, Denley "Vibe" Slade, doing a similarly trouble-free job alongside Silver Heartbreakers, Marc Valentine and Slyder. Looking wholly comfortable on a much bigger stage than they are surely accustomed to visiting, and with Valentine playing out every one of his rock star fantasies as he fell to his knees on the stage's walkway, Last Great Dreamers opened the day in some style, in both the music and fashion sense.

 

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The formation of Hand Of Dimes some four years ago reunited Nev Macdonald with his former Kooga bandmate, Neil Garland, and, while their time apart is of a similar length to the number of years that the second Last Great Dreamers album sat on the shelf, their brand of straightforward bluesy rock couldn't have been further away from the previous band, turning the glitterball apocalypse into what certainly felt more like a rainy Sunday afternoon.

 

Macdonald is one of the finest vocalists that Wales has produced, of that there is little doubt, and he certainly looks more comfortable in these shoes than the generic posturing of his Skin days, but this was meat-and-two-veg rock whose appearance in a Sunday lunchtime slot appeared to not be a coincidence. Harmonica tore through the mist on several occasions, caressing the auditory canals of the less adventurous music fans who like to keep things simple.

 

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Toseland, a Banksy reimagining of a rock band, returned to the festival after a one-year break; the longevity of the project now giving it more than a little legitimacy. Yes, if this was to be the musical vanity project of former World Superbikes Champion, James Toseland, then it certainly sounds more like a band proper these days - the frontman eschewing the need to get the housewife vote by discarding a slew of formulaic power ballads and replacing them with bona fide hard hitters that at least attempt to rock out with their cogs out.

 

I'd still have to suck down the exhaust fumes from one of those Superbikes to truly fall for this band, and the man himself still looks like he's dressed to walk through the dry ice on a celebrity edition of Stars In Their Eyes, but they're certainly getting better at this rock and roll malarkey.

 

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Inking a deal with Frontiers Music Srl these days is akin to playing a stage at the Download festival - everyone is doing it, with the contract details raising eyebrows when circulated via the darkweb of music writers. One band, however, that seems destined to use the platform of a Frontiers deal to actually make giant strides in the industry rather than garner a legion of virtual pats on the back is RavenEye.

 

I'd seen the band live previously so knew what to expect, but even with that knowledge in the memory bank I was blown away by the seemingly effortless electricity that this three-piece (complete with new drummer who amped things up considerably with his first live performance with the band) threw out like lightning bolts to the senses.

 

Oli Brown's star has shone brightly already in the Blues field, but in an actual field full of hard rock fans he made hundreds of new friends as he toyed with his electric blue guitar, sang like a man possessed, climbed atop bass drums and crowd barriers, and smiled the shit-eating grin of someone who was getting a percentage of the bar takings. In a rock world littered with identikit "classic rock" bands, an outfit like RavenEye stands out the proverbial mile. Based on this pulse-quickening performance alone, that forthcoming debut album, 'NOVA', could explode.

 

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With the crowd swelling considerably for the appearance of The Dead Daisies, at least four-fifths of a modern day supergroup if ever there was one, it was somewhat bizarre to watch the band roll out a host of cover tunes in an attempt to win over an audience that was pretty much won over as soon as the band's backdrop was hoisted up to the lighting rig.

 

Yes, four cover versions - opener 'Midnight Moses', Free's 'All Right Now', Creedence's 'Fortunate Son', and The Beatles' 'Helter Skelter' (the Mötley Crüe connotations not lost on those of us who consider John Corabi the best singer that band ever had) in an eleven song set seemed more than a little excessive, especially when the band now has three full albums to call upon when looking to plan a show. There was a drum solo too and, as great a drummer as Brian Tichy is, what kind of perversity is on offer when someone tries to force someone to visit a festival toilet?!

 

As wasteful as the Daisies were with their limited time on the stage, they still had enough lightning-in-a-bottle moments to thrill even the harshest critic. Marco Mendoza remains one of the most entertaining performers of the modern age, Doug Aldrich, like Frampton, came alive via a talkbox, the newest member of this collective looking like he'd always been a member, and Corabi sang like he always has, awesomely - I could listen to this guy sing a takeaway menu; perhaps we could have that next time in place of the drum solo?

 

The title track of upcoming album, 'Make Some Noise', wrestled for audio supremacy with the likes of 'Lock 'n' Load' and 'Evil' (wait, another cover tune!), 'Long Way To Go' and 'Mainline' cementing the promise of the new record.

 

The Dead Daisies love a cover song, we know this ('Fortunate Son' actually appears on 'Make Some Noise' alongside a Who cover), but just two-thirds of their Steelhouse set actually being the band's own songs resulted in simply too many raised eyebrows and an anticipated excellent performance turning into just a very good one.

 

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The excitement at witnessing a Ginger Wildheart show atop a mountain just a mile or so from my house was tempered somewhat by the constant talk of who was actually going to sing for Hey! Hello! The ill-timed departure of Hollis, with the sounds of the band's second album just greeting the ears of Pledgers, resulted in an incomplete search for a new singer, followed by the announcement that Ginger himself was to step up to the mic. A new name, though, kept cropping up in South Wales circles - that of Cat Southall, known to us as the former singer of Sal; the oft-mysterious cyclical motion of life putting her on the same stage again as her former bandmate, Last Great Dreamer, Den.

 

Unfurling the rock once again after modern dalliances with quirky pop, Cat was, officially, to front Hey! Hello! for the series of shows that the band had already committed to prior to Hollis's abandonment. Dancing around like the Love Zombies frontwoman, yet with the pipes of first H!H! singer, Victoria Liedtke, Cat certainly made a case for taking the position on a permanent basis; though her between-song-patter would certainly need a Stage Banter 101 refresher - the Siadwell/Errol the Hamster regional dialect a little too much even for a mountaintop in the Valleys.

 

The songs, whoever sings 'em, remain glorious, and the set consisted of the brightest lights in the Hey! Hello! canon - winners, all of 'em. From opener, 'Swimwear', to closer, 'The Thrill Of It All', via the boisterous 'Lock For Rock (And Other Sporting Clichés)' and 'Feral Days', the infectious 'Black Valentine' and 'Burn The Rule Book (Fuck It)', and the newer duo of 'Kids' and 'Glass Of Champagne', the set hurtled by; The Rev making the role of band focal point his own with a frenetic performance.

 

Whatever happens next for Hey! Hello! is a debate for another time - I have spent this week on a high from seeing one of the coolest Steelhouse performances yet.

 

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I'm sure people don't always believe me when I tell them that I once saw Terrorvision supporting the Ramones... but see them I did and, then like every other time we have crossed paths in the live environment, the band has never disappointed.

 

What some would describe as a Greatest Hits set was just a spectacular set full of songs that sound like hit singles - it's that simple. The joyous tunes dragged the late afternoon sun out of the dark clouds and the Steelhouse Festival had found its Band of the Weekend winner in perhaps one of its more unlikely slots.

 

Tony Wright, a blur of air-drumming and smiles for miles, orchestrated a mass movement on a mountaintop; everyone dancing like nobody was watching, singing along like nobody was listening, and throwing shapes like that Paul Calf lookalike out of Dirty Thrills. The songs hit like sucrose explosions - poppier than space dust and with more hooks than a Cenobite gang bang.

 

'Alice, What's The Matter', 'Middleman', 'American TV', 'Josephine', 'Discotheque Wreck' - pick a favourite from that shiny bunch. The tune that did it for me was 'My House', though even that was usurped by the closing trio de force: 'Perseverance' (complete with the unloading of whale and dolphin water pistols), 'Tequila', and 'Oblivion'. Sonic sweetmeats, for sure - the taste of them mirroring the sweet taste of victory as Terrorvision turned in one of the greatest performances that this festival had ever seen. Fantastic.

 

So convinced was I that I had seen the true headline act of Steelhouse Sunday I handed the reviewing baton over to Rob Watkins for the day's last band: a man who, despite encountering heartache at every bump in the road while at the crossroads of relationships, still believes in a thing called love..... (Gaz Tidey)

 

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After a weekend in which we'd all laughed, partied like it was 1999, and grooved on down to some awesome rock and roll bands, alas, all good things had to come to an end. Unfortunate, but I suppose there could be no better band to close the event down than The Darkness.

 

Quite possibly not the force they were 11/13 years ago on the music scene, it goes without saying that as a live performer, The Darkness still give it some, with all their hard rock glamour and pomp - always have and always will as long as they breathe - and in Justin Hawkins they have one of the only true and original stage performers left on the music scene, sadly.

 

Love 'em or hate 'em, you simply gotta admire this group and its members for believing and continuing to fly the Darkness flag high, from the opening bars of 'Black Shuck' through some of the modern era Darkness compositions like 'Concrete' and 'Barbarian', through to chanty singalongs such as 'One Way Ticket', 'Growing On Me' and such super infectious tunes as 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman', and 'Givin' Up'.

 

Add the essential set-closing 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' and 'Love On The Rocks With No Ice' off the 'Permission To Land' debut which, for me, kinda reinvigorated Heavy Rock music out of its rut at the time of its release, and you get another slice of Steelhouse headlining perfection. (Rob Watkins)

 

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Photography by http://www.russellprothero.co.uk/