|Hard Rock Hell X – Hafan y Môr – 12 November 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen|
|Thursday, 24 November 2016 03:30|
As the third and final day of this year’s tenth anniversary HRH dawned, it was obvious that it had been raining overnight, and, indeed, there was still a mizzle in the air. But, obviously that would do nothing the dampen the enthusiasm or the spirits of your Uber Rock crew and the couple of thousand other fans who crossed the bridge which divides Camp HRH in half and climbed the hill to the site’s twin arenas for another day of hard rockin’ action…
First port of call as the day turns into early afternoon is the second stage, where Crowsaw are delivering thick meaty bass-driven rhythms topped off with superbly blended three-part vocal harmonies. It’s a tight and confident performance – hell, Rob Lomax even offers advice on how to deal with a panic attack during ‘Breathe’ – which showcases their heavier new direction while retaining the basic elements of their bluesier roots.
Check out our interview with Crowsaw HERE.
Red Spektor change the mood slightly with their thick stoner groove, which is densely immersed in a 70s-style psychedelic vibe. References to Hendrix, especially in some of John Scane’s licks, are mixed into Daz Bowen’s heavy Sabbath-esque backbeats, which in turn blend with Rob Farrell’s big, stomping bass riffs, with the overall combination serving to effectively blow away the last residue of any remaining Saturday afternoon hangovers.
Over on the main stage, Cherry Grind are playing their first ever show outside their native Australia – and they do seem a bit nervous, especially in some of Sam Patsouris’ between song raps, as they deliver a set of blues-rock very much in the vein of Free. The audience level is a fair bit lower than for the same slot yesterday, but the Adelaide crew garner an enthusiastic response, especially from those on the barrier, with fists pumping and heads nodding. They may have worn their nerves on their sleeves, but musically it’s a confident delivery and one which bodes well for the future of this young band as they seek to break into new territories.
Back at the second stage, one band I had been looking forward to seeing again after their tremendous performance at Steelhouse this past summer was Hand Of Dimes: even more so after having had a quick play through of their excellent new album, ‘Raise’, just before departing for HRH. The band are obviously heavily promoting the album, which gets a good airing: the tracks sound heavier live, without losing any of their melody, and it’s a well-crafted and rounded set from a thoroughly professional band who demonstrate their years of experience. They also produce one of the true highlights of the weekend, in the form of Neville MacDonald’s absolutely spinetingling A major scream, which is still echoing in my aural cavities all these days later.
The last of the Northern Irish acts to invade this year’s HRH are Cross Eyed Mary: not as their name might suggest, a Jethro Tull tribute act but an unusually formulated five-piece steeped in the sleaze-grind tradition of a nascent G’nR mixed with the dark thematics of The Velvet Underground. Their triple-guitar dual-vocal application to songs like ‘Scrimpt’ and ‘Rhapsody In Zoo’ produces loads of winding melodies built on contrasting harmonies and variable time signatures. They prove, however, that they are an acquired taste, as they play to one of the smallest crowds of the day on the second stage…
…but, then, the self-described “bawbags from Belfast” are up against the counter attraction of the legendary Bernie Marsden. Reunited with his old friend Neil Murray (who himself can’t wipe the grin off his face all set) on bass, he delivers a blistering set rammed with classic Whitesnake tunes, a smattering of his own material and a handful of well thought out covers. He could have played all afternoon, and he probably would have if he had been allowed to: as it is, he runs 15 over his allotted time – not that a single person in the room would have minded…
…with the possible exception of Aussie party animals Massive, whose enthusiasm to get onto the stage is clearly visible, in that they almost forego the obligatory line check in order to rip straight into their set.
When they do, they do so with both a ferocious intensity and intent to start the biggest party of the weekend so far, with their firebrand r’n’f’n’r. When not tied to his mic, frontman Brad Marr doesn’t stop whirling like a dervish on speed or headbanging till his next threatens to snap. Their collective enthusiasm is as infectious as their grooves and riffs. This definitely is a band who deserve to live up to their name – but already are doing so in terms of their dedication and work ethic, both on and off stage.
Check out our interview with Brad from Massive HERE. Massive are currently undertaking a co-headline tour with Bad Touch, which continues until 30 November. They then support The Treatment on a short run of dates from 15-18 December.
Having, in the spirit of the dedicated (or should that be workaholic) performer that he is, stepped into the breach follow Glenn Hughes’ dramatic cancellation of his planned European tour, Ginger Wildheart makes his first appearance of the evening with one of his myriad projects, Hey! Hello!. As the combo’s raw punk energy ensures that the HRH part machine keeps on moving and grooving into the early evening, it is obvious that Ginger is enjoying being in the supporting role and “one of the band” rather than the focus of attention. This latter role falls on Cat, who has grown massively in confidence since stepping into the vocal breach at short notice at the beginning of the summer, and, particularly, The Rev, who, along with his bass-slinging amigo Toshi, doesn’t stop dancing, jumping or climbing on monitors for the entire set. ‘Don’t Stop Lovin’ The Music’ they proclaim, and, of course, we never will, especially when there are such electrifying rock ‘n’ rolling sets to keep us doing just that…
Things take a decidedly heavy turn with the much-anticipated arrival of Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons – a highly appropriate monicker for the Welsh guitarist’s latest project as it features his three sons: Todd on second guitar, Tyla on bass and Dane on drums. As the quintet, completed by Neil Starr on vocals, move from the punky raucousness of ‘Big Mouth’ to ‘Deaf Forever’ through covers such as ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Sweet Leaf’, it is obvious that Campbell is a generous father, taking on more of a rhythm role and letting Todd take the lead, only stepping to the fore when the needs of the song dictates.
Their rowdy version of ‘Born To Raise Hell’ summarizes both the attitude of the band whose song is being re-invented and that of this band trying to keep that rebellious spirit alive. The problem is that everything sounds monotone, and is played at more or less the same pace throughout the length of the set. Having said that, ‘Ace Of Spades’ is hard to fuck up and Tyla Campbell comes close to emulating the Lemmeister’s sound, while closer ‘Silver Machine’ is a suitably pungent and dirty tribute to absent friends.
After Living Colour confuse, dumbfound and energise, in equal measure, with their jazzed-up funked-out brand of hip hop metal, Ginger Wildheart pulls his double shift (as does Toshi) and delivers yet another hot and sweaty set in a venue now equally so, as anticipation grows for the long-awaited return to these shores of this evening’s headliners…
With Bobby Blotzer seemingly having settled the legal issues around the ownership of the band’s name, questions as to which incarnation of Ratt we would be seeing had been well and truly answered, with the drummer having recruited guitarists Mitch Perry (Talas, Steeler) and Stacey Blades (LA Guns) and ex-Y&T bassist Brad Lang (looking extremely fit and healthy after his recently highly publicized issues).
With a line-up of this experience, it’s no surprise that the 75-minute performance is musically precise and each song is nailed to perfection, and the band rattle through the Ratt back catalogue with masterful ease – although, from a personal perspective, there was perhaps a bit too much prevaricating in terms of extended intros and solo workout, which is something of a ‘Shame Shame Shame’!
There is a fitting tribute to Robbin Crosby, when fans are invited to light up their ‘phones during ‘Closer To My Heart’, before Blotzer briefly quits his kit to take to the mic and thank the fans for their continued support. The end result is, no matter your view on the behind-the-scenes musical politics, a solid performance by a fucking good hard rock band – but one, given the combination of talents, deserves to do more than live off the past glories of one member… It’s just a well there’s a new album on the way then, isn’t it?
Check out our interview with Bobby Blotzer HERE.
Molly Hatchet may have seemed a somewhat incongruous choice to finish the weekend action, on the main stage at least, and there definitely is a whiff of tiredness in the air as, a slightly prolonged changeover combined with the knock on effect of earlier delays, the Florida rednecks take to the stage more than 45 minutes behind schedule. Despite the needless display of post-Trump US patriotism, and Phil McCormack’s mis-placed assertion that “we love England”, the southern rebels are on fire and committed to burn the venue down. McCormick’s consistent calls to “give me a hell yeah” are met with hoarse but loud voices, as the sextet rip through a set of Hatchet classics in a thoroughly professional demonstration of suvern boogie played with passion and commitment to bring the curtain down on another tiring but extremely rewarding instalment of Hard Rock Hell. I’ll raise a whiskey to the next one…
PHOTO CREDIT: All photographs © The Dark Queen.
Check out our full gallery of photographs of Day One of HRHX HERE.
For full details on these, and other HRH events coming in 2017, visit http://www.hardrockhell.com/.