Hard Rock Hell XI – Pwllheli, Hafan y Môr Holiday Camp – 9 November 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Thursday, 16 November 2017 04:40

Just because the weather turns a little colder, it doesn’t mean that the so-called “festival season” (like practically every other “season” you might care to mention) is over – it just moves from muddy fields in the arse end of oblivion to holiday camps in, well, the arse end of oblivion! You know the score: set the sat nav for the middle of nowhere and then hang a right…


Dee Snider 2


As the Hard Rock Hell franchise plants its feet very firmly in its second decade of operation, it is extremely clear that its popularity has not in any waned – in fact, if anything it continues to grow, which brings in itself problems. With this year’s attendance figures breaking all previous records, the main arena, as the weekend progressed, suffered severe problems with over-crowding… but, we’ll address that issue in due course (and you know Über Rock ain’t gonna pull any punches or shy away from stimulating a debate on such matters).


Over recent years, what was very much regarded as the pre-festival “warm-up” night has evolved into an event in its own right – and this year, the opening evening presented us with the strongest billing yet: well, we did have Dee Snider headlining, which in itself was a sign that Thursday’s billing was just as important as that for either of the following two days, with six quality bands ensuring that those of us who had made the long and arduous trip through the heart of Snowdonia to crook of Wales’ elbow-like Llŷn Peninsula are rewarded for our efforts with an evening of quality rock ‘n’ roll entertainment…


Opening Ceremony 5


First, we have the small matter of the traditional opening ceremony, with its usual diet of scantily-clad all-female dancers, acrobats, grinders and fire artists, who obviously fulfilled their job of turning on the male element of the crowd and getting them into the mood for the rest of the evening…


Midlands rockers Ryders Creed are tasked with being the first of the 45 bands to keep us entertained over the next three days, and they do a very good job of doing so. They play sleazy, raunchy rock ‘n’ roll with a bluesy twist of the sort that seems to be the prevalent fashion these days, and do so extremely competently: it’s nothing new, or anything fancy, but it hits the early target. Frontman Ryan Hulme comes across as a cross between Chris Robinson and Cromac Neeson and, despite admitting to having been together for only six or seven months the band show no sign of inexperience but an assured confidence which surely will serve them well as they move forward.


Riding on the back of the release of their second album, ‘Rite’, just a few short weeks ago, Idlewar deliver a big, stomping, bluesy noise that sounds like it has been dragged from the swamp by the rather impressive beards sported by guitarists James Blake and Rick Graham. One of an increasing number of bands who seem to be eschewing a bass player in favour of heavily downtuned six strings, complemented by heavy ass percussion – as provided herewith by the hugely talented Peter Pagonis – the Californians deliver driving rhythms complemented by an emphasis on the power of the riff to enrapture: maybe a bit too heavy for some of the early party-comers but nevertheless hugely impressive.


Killcode 9


And then we come to Killcode – and where the fuck did these dudes come from? If you want to pedantic, the answer’s New York, that febrile breeding ground for the sub-genre that has become known as “street metal”. And they summarize everything that that description is all about, with their avid mixture of big thumping grooves undercut with a sleazy undercurrent and a gothic punk attitude. Delivering a dark danceability with a noir twinge, it’s sort of like The Ramones jamming with The Doors, with the bais from The Cult and Junkyard bringing the beers to the party. Tom Morrissey encapsulates the sewer-rat dankness of the approach, but also exudes and energy and charisma which marks him out as a frontman of note, and the result is that he has a large proportion of the early crowd eating out of his hand.


Black Aces deliver high energy rock ‘n’ roll very much in the vein of fellow countrymen AC/DC and Airbourne: but, they’re not quite in the league of, certainly, the formerly and even the latter - yet. Their sound is characterised by tight rhythms, big bolshie riffs and an attitude to match, especially from frontman Tyler Kinder. It’s great crowd-pleasing stuff, and the organisers obviously had a judgement call to make as where to position them on the bill – especially as they would have fitted very nicely onto the second stage at any time over the next two days – but, they probably just about got it right as the Bendigo boys definitely brought the party spirit to the first night.


Wayward Sons 2


One band with whom DQ and myself had been looking forward to re-acquainting ourselves, after their highly impressive performance at the Steelhouse festival over the summer and their subsequently stunning debut album, were Wayward Sons.


This “young” band, of course, have plenty of experience, and it shows. It’s great to see Toby Jepson with a guitar – and, it’s not any old guitar, but a Flying fuckin’ V - strapped around his neck and having fun playing rock music again. The band are tight and professional, but also enjoying themselves in the process, which is especially evident in the interaction between bassist Nic Wastell and guitarist Sam Wood, the latter of whom is, as I’ve remarked before, a true talent. They deliver great, sturdy songs – nine of which are from the hopefully prophetically-entitled debut ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’ – with plenty of catchy melodies which show off Toby’s huge songwriting credentials. He also shows his consummate ability to work a crowd, and they react accordingly, re-assuring the frontman that he most definitely has a place deep in the hearts and souls of the UK’s rock ‘n’ rollers.


Dee Snider 9


There understandably had been much discussion about whether or not Dee Snider would be able, or even willing, to fulfil his headlining engagement. After all, his mother had been involved in a serious traffic accident barely a week earlier, and I can imagine few, if any, people would have begrudged the legendary frontman from deciding to stay by her bedside rather than travel to the other side of the Atlantic for a series of (in the grand scheme of life) relatively unimportant live gigs. Fortunately, and especially for Dee himself, the prognosis improved as the week progressed and he felt confident enough to leave his mum in the care of the medical professionals and fulfil his engagements elsewhere…


Having been an understandably proud recipient of the inaugural ‘HRH Legend’ gong at the first HRH Awards the previous evening, Snider is understandably, and very obviously, in ebullient form. After all, as he had declared just 24 hours earlier, the stage is where he belongs – and, boy, does he prove it… Appropriately he’s regaled in red as he’s in fiery form, running straight to the front of the stage and declaring ‘We Are the Ones’, spitting the words with venom and belief.


Dee Snider 10


Despite the circumstances back at home, which he references when he repeats that “I’ve had a shitty week”, he knows his job and he does it supremely well. This is a master entertainer and showman who exudes charisma and passion from every pore of his fibre, sweating blood and fire through same. His young backing band are tight, and great musicians in their own right, their youth seeming to drive their frontman on by injecting him with renewed vigour for his craft: yes, he may be 40 years into his storied career, but this kid most definitely is back.


So, the strongest ever line-up for the first evening of HRH XI was brought to a suitably rowdy and rockin’ conclusion, leaving us with a warm glow in our hearts as we set off into the cold late-night air to find the winding roads back to our desolate caravan park to prepare for the next dose of mayhem being unleashed just a few short hours later… little did we know just how much of a twist (literally) proceedings would take…


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/ Über Rock. You can see our full gallery of photographs HERE.


HRH XI takes place from 8 – 11 November 2018. Acts confirmed so far include Saxon, The Dead Daisies, Girlschool, Femme Fatale, Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Thunderstick, Ryders Creed, The Rising Souls, The Dukes Of Bordello and Renegade Twelve.  Tickets are on sale now.


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