Ramblin’ Man Fair – Maidstone, Mote Park – 28/30 July 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Luke Appleton   
Saturday, 05 August 2017 04:00

Now in its third year, Ramblin’ Man Fair returned with one of the most unique festival line ups of 2017, featuring bands such as Saxon, Extreme, ZZ Top, Dokken, Glenn Hughes, Y&T and many more!

 

Ramblin Man header 

Mote Park is a brilliantly huge location that enables all the punters to have plenty of camping space, to be close to public transport, as the park is just a five minute drive from Maidstone town centre, and it’s a very short walk from campsite to the arena whether you are in standard camping, glamping or in a camper van.

 

Ramblin’ Man extended the festival this year by adding Friday night to get the weekend started. Friday night’s bands played on the main Planet Rock Stage, which I thought was a great idea to get everyone warmed up for the amazing weekend they were about to experience. With such a great atmosphere building throughout the night in the run up to the first bands which were Graham Bonnet, Last In Line and Y&T, you could already feel the passion and love for music in the air. 

 

Headlining the Friday night were the legendary Saxon. I thought this was a fantastic way to finish the first night off! Every time I have seen Saxon, they have always been on form and have had a talent of capturing the crowd. After Saxon played their first few tunes, frontman Biff Byford announces to the crowd that their set is a very special one, as they would perform ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ live album in its entirety. This was going to be a tour exclusive for them this year. Their setlist including classics such as ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’, ‘Wheels of Steel’ and also some tracks off their more recent albums such as, ‘Sacrifice’, ‘Battering Ram’ and ‘Battalions Of Steel’. With their very impressive stage setup including, pyro, stage risers and a monstrous light show, Saxon definitely lived up to their legendary status and felt like one of the highlights of the weekend!

 

Saxon - Ramblin Man 

After a night of hanging out in the glamping area with some fans and punters, doing only a little bit of drinking ;-), we come to Saturday morning. I had a lot of bands I wanted to check out on this day: my schedule was pretty much full in fact!

 

One band I was very interested in seeing was The Kyle Gas Band. For those of you who don't know, Kyle Gas is one half of Tenacious D with his acoustic brother in arms Jack Black. Having been a fan of Tenacious D for quite some time now, I felt compelled to see what The Kyle Gas Band could deliver on the Grooverider Stage… and boy was that a good decision! Backed up by some top notch music, Kyle Gas was front and centre with his acoustic guitar, voice and windpipes. Kyle trading vocals with the guitarist Mike Bray was a joy to see, as this let Kyle roam around the stage, capturing the audience with his amazing charisma and infectious smile! Also, Mike Bray has a superb voice with a very dirty gravel behind it, which gave the music a lot of raw power! Just when you thought the humour, Windpipe solos and funky stage outfits weren't crazy enough, all of sudden the guitarist Bray and drummer Tim Spier swapped roles. Spier, who I had noticed was doing a lot of the vocal harmonies in previous songs, took himself to the front of the stage to sing a big medley of Michael Jackson covers and somehow merging them into the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’… madness yes, but pure genius!

 

Another band I was extremely excited to see was Steve Harris’s British Lion. Being a bass player in a metal band, it’s almost impossible not to look up to Steve Harris. His energy on stage, talent as a bass player and song writer is overwhelming. He is a natural in the music business and the proof is, Iron Maiden. When Steve first joined British Lion, I expected the band to gain most Maiden fans, which in a lot of ways I believe they did, however, I also expect by the style of music that British Lion are, with their progressive side to the band, I can see them picking up a variety of audiences. A much more different sound to what Iron Maiden go for and I think that’s exactly what Steve Harris wanted. British Lion stormed the stage enforcing a lot of energy and emotion throughout the set, with very diverse vocals, thundering bass lines and melodic guitars.

 

Glenn Hughes - Ramblin Man 

You could say the word ‘legend’ gets used way to often these days, however when you have fronted some of the most iconic rock bands on the planet, such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, working with Tony Iommi and David Coverdale and then followed by more recent bands such as Black Country Communion, I believe Glenn Hughes has earned the legendary status. Glenn Hughes attacked the Planet Rock Stage at Ramblin’ Man Fair on Saturday evening with a short but ferocious set, including a mixture of songs from his early catalogue and work with other bands. Songs such as ‘Soul Mover’ and ‘Heavy’ from his solo career, ‘Black Country’ by Black Country Communion and ‘Burn by Deep Purple. Glenn mesmerised the audience with his unbelievable vocal performance on this day. It is easy to understand how and why he has fronted all of these amazing bands in the past.

 

Later that night we came to the mighty Black Star Riders! Black Star Riders feature members of Thin Lizzy, The Almighty, Lynch Mob and many more. They tore the Planet Rock Stage up with an impressive stage show of lights, pyro and stage risers and quality music from their past two albums and brand new album ‘Heavy Fire’. Also, Black Star Riders kept the tie to Thin Lizzy by throwing in ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’. A pleasure to watch them on stage. Very entertaining and really got the crowd going!

 

BSR - Ramblin Man

 

Saturday night’s headliners were the funk-tabular Extreme! Having never seen this band before, I was more than keen to get as close as possible, as I have been a big fan of their albums ‘Pornograffiti’ and “III Sides To Every Story’. Also, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt has been rated very highly in the past, and I was very intrigued to see what he could deliver live… and it was even better than I expected! Extreme were by far one of the most energetic bands of the weekend, with each member delivering monstrous amounts of energy, charisma and quality performances. You could not keep track of where the singer Gary Cherone was going to run to next, which shows that he is an excellent front man and wants to make the crowd feel like they have his attention. Nuno also announced on stage that this was the band’s first time ever headlining a festival in their 30 year career! Their setlist contained classics such as ‘Get The Funk Out’, ‘Rest In Peace’, ‘Decadence Dance’ and an absolutely beautiful acoustic performance of ‘More Than Words’, which had the crowd singing along throughout the song. To close the show, they performed an excellent cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, which I thought was a beautifully positive way to end the show, which left everybody in such a great mood. Extreme became one of my favourite live bands of all time because of this performance, so keep your diary open, as they have a UK tour announced for December 2017!

 

Extreme - Ramblin Man

 

After Extreme, it was back to the tents. As I didn’t know until the last minute that I was available to go to Ramblin’ Man, all of the regular camping was sold out. Therefore, I was placed in the glamping area. Now this was definitely a blessing! The glamping area contained, tents with power, a private bar, showers with hot water, toilets on your door step, a place to get breakfast, tea and coffee and the arena was just a five minute walk from the site. For the extra money I can definitely say it was worth it and recommend it to anyone!

 

Sunday morning arrives and it is time to check out the Rising Stage. This is the smallest stage of the festival, but definitely nothing to turn your nose up at. I was there specifically to see Knock Out Kaine, a band I have crossed paths with many times, as they are signed to Rocksector Records and have played my family’s SOS Festival in Manchester. A cracking bunch of lads and an even better band! Knock Out Kaine are a great up beat rock band that can be easily compared to Motley Crüe and grunge rock music. Clashing with the band Snakecharmer who were playing the main stage at the same time, I thought Knock Out Kaine stood their ground and attracted a very good crowd for The Rising Stage, with a large rush to their merchandise after the show. I trust this shall not be the last time we see Knock Out Kaine at Ramblin’ Man!

 

Another band I wanted to check out early on Sunday were Stone Broken, who were playing the Planet Rock stage. Many people have recommended me to check this band out and to find out that they played The Rising Stage the year before and are now playing the main stage this year, I knew I was in for a treat! Stone Broken deserved that main stage slot! I believe it was the best reaction any band got so early on in the day. It was great to see some youth of the festival going for it on stage and to have a very good core following at the front few rows. They are a very modern rock sounding band, with crazily catchy chorus’s and grooving riffs. I’m sure they gained a lot more followers and will continue to grow. A band to keep your eye on!

 

During a certain part of the day on Saturday and Sunday, there featured a Civil War re-enactment. This was very entertaining, but could also catch you off guard sometimes, as they were firing these huge cannons off and if you didn’t expect it, it would really make you jump into the clouds… I’m speaking from experience here, ha ha! This was a nice little feature to the festival, as it gave the people something a little different to do/watch during the day.

 

Ramblin Man crowd 

A bit later on in the day I drew my attention to the Prog stage, which was effectively the same as the previous day’s Grooverider stage, however they changed the name of the stage for the Sunday. Which made sense actually, as there were a lot more progressive acts on the Sunday, including the Devin Townsend Project. I have only ever seen Devin once before, at Bloodstock Open Air one year, and unfortunately he was having a lot of very bad technical problems on stage, which led to his set being cut very short. So, I was more than willing to see him on a good day and this most certainly was a good day for him! Another band who has hooked me in and I’m sure I’ll be buying a copy of their latest album ‘Transcendence’ after writing this review!

 

Next for me, UFO hit the Planet Rock Stage! Always great watching these guys play, with their fantastic songs and knack for creating a wonderful atmosphere to any show! Some classics they played were ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and the anthemic ‘Doctor Doctor’. UFO are definitely a long standing and consistent rock band!

 

I could go on for hours trying to explain how good my experience was at Ramblin’ Man Fair was, but the only way how you will know is to get a ticket for next year! This was one of my favourite festivals I have ever attended. A great atmosphere, smashing lineup, brilliant selection of foods and drink and quick/easy access to stages and camping areas. A festival I certainly hope I can make next year! I would like to thank Ramblin’ Man Fair for having me as their guest at the festival and I wish them all the best for next year’s weekend! Also, a big thank you to Mark and Carolyn Ashby from Über Rock for allowing me to cover the weekend for them! Last but not least, thank you to all of you for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at this fantastic festival!

 

PHOTO CREDIT:  All photos courtesy of www.facebook.com/ramblinmanfair/.

 

Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018 will take place on Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July.  ‘Super Early Bird’ tickets have already sold out. 

 

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