Haggis Farm Polo Club, Cambridgeshire
Back in 2004 the first Rockingbeerfest three day festival took place under the blackened skies and torrential rain, quite contrastingly here we are today celebrating the 10th anniversary in 31degree bright sunshine.
Under the leadership of Dave Roberts (festival director) and his family and team the festival has grown to what it is today, the best classic/prog rock festival by far in the UK.
Although it has grown it still manages to retain the same comfortable friendly atmosphere and high quality of bands that keeps people coming back year after year. Camping here is great, as unlike a lot of festivals where you have to park separately and then trundle your kit to the field, here you camp next to your car which is far more civilized and also means you can lock all your valuables away and keep your beer cool!.
A well stocked real ale and cider bar keeps the thirst at bay and there is also a decent array of food stalls, although there does seem to be less food and clothing stalls this year.
The three stages are under cover in marquees, a lesson learnt from the early days, there is also the addition this year of a large undercover seating area which over the weekend proves very popular providing a very social place to site and chill and have a chat.
The lineup this year has some great acts lines up over all the stages, so many in fact that at times it’s half a set of each.
Thursday 1 August
Thursday night main stage is Tribute band night and this always pulls in a great crowd. This year is no different as we have as four great band entertain the crowd, the standout ones for me being Are You Experienced - giving us the best of Jimi Hendrix – and Jim Cregan (Cregan & Co) giving a set of Rod Stewart hits that could better the man himself.
Thursday Stage 2 leaned more towards the younger rock bands and TBH was the best stage of the day for me with blistering sets from The First, We are Fiction and Tu Amore. I only managed to catch a few numbers but I was very impressed by all that I saw and heard.
It never fails to amaze me the amount of excellent young talent out there that just needs the chance to be heard. I will definitely be listening out for all the bands on this stage tonight and whoever chose the bands for tonight did a damn good job.
The Acoustic stage at a rock festival is sometimes hard to fill but over the weekend some of the best acts were to be seen, tonight I only managed a few, Fred’s House and Rich Somers who both played great sets.
So we had all got over our adrenalin filled first day, we retired our tents to the usual chorus of late night revelers and end of night chatters.
Friday 2 August
Friday bought the first full day of music and it all kicked off at 11am, too early for all but the hardened revellers. Stage 2 today was given a very prog emphasis and while I caught a few of them I spent most of my time round the other stages and rest of the festival.
Stage 1 bought some outstanding bands today starting with Loveless Luck a young band with a great classic rock sound and a stage attitude to match, a great crowd pleaser.
In a similar style to these was Walkway a young band from the south east and with a style and sound that is influenced by the classic rock bands of the 80′s. Again it great to see bands like this who given the chance will carry on the classic rock flame for years to come.
Eddie and the Hotrods, led by Barrie Masters, again entertained a near capacity crowd. These guys have played here on numerous occasions and described as one of the original punk rock bands give it their all on stage.
Next up we have Swedish rockers Bonafide who after giving one of the outstanding sets at last year’s event are yet again here to tear the place down with their energy filled hard rock.
They have toured with the likes of Deep Purple and Quo and also had their anthem song ‘Fill yer head with Rock’ named as one of 2011′s best songs. Plenty of songs for the crowd to head bang and dance away to and also the usual run round the marquee by Guitarist/vocalist Pontus Snibb gives us one of the highlights of the weekend.
The Quireboys need no introduction, they are the epitome of a rock and roll band, flamboyant in both image and antics onstage they never fail to entertain. They ran through their familiar hits tand also the new tracks off latest album ‘Beautiful Curse’.
Spike’s antics onstage and the usually drink have thrilled us over the years and yet again it does tonight. Definitely in my top 3 for the festival this year.
Highlights today from the acoustic stage are in the form on Adrian Nation who’s committed guitar work and purposeful vocals always make him a great listed. With many of his self penned songs intertwined with a few covers, Vincent Black Lightning 1952 by Richard Thompson being a favorite of the mine and the crowd.
Saturday 3 August
Saturday was going to be a busy day with many of my favourites. Stage 2 started off with a great set from Cherry Lee Mewis. This lass hailing from North Wales is taking the blues scene by storm with her great self penned material and also really good reworks of the classic blues tracks. Definitely a great way to start the day and also set the scene for stage 2 for the day.
Next up is one of the bands of the weekend and definitely a band that is finally getting the break they deserve. The Temperance Movement have not stopped touring this year and have already announced another series of dates for the rest of the year.
They give one of the best sets of the weekend to a very enthusiastic crowd, admittedly a lot of them clad in TTM t-shirts but also a lot of others that seemed suitably impressed. Indeed the merch was hit well after their set.
TTM were followed by Pearl Handled Revolver who last year gave an excellent set on the acoustic stage. This year a main stage slot shows how well they went down, ironically their sound is in a similar vein to TTM: deep blues rock. They do however have a different vibe and the addition of a keyboard gives a more soulful sound. Another great set by them and the day is just getting better.
The rest of the day was taken up with great sets from Pat McManus, Deborah Bonham, Hazel O’Connor on stage 1 and a great set by festival favourite Del Bromham’s Blues Devils on stage 2 to name a few.
On the Acoustic stage we had Thy Last Drop, telling tales of 19th century death, debauchery and the drop. The ‘drop’ being the drop through the hangman’s door, sombre and macabre you might think and certainly when they describe their style as victorian murderpunk/ vagabond folk. These guys gave a great lively and entertaining set that grabbed a great crowd from the other stages.
To finish the day was the hardest choice of bands over the weekend, main stage was Caravan, always a great set and indeed they were as good as ever. Stage 2 was Buster James, a great blues rock sound and always pulls a great crowd.
The final act on the acoustic stage was The Steve Rodgers Band and definitely the best of the entire weekend. Obviously he doesn’t want comparisons to his father Paul Rodgers but there is no getting away from it he has inherited his looks and amazing voice.
Performing all his own music Steve gave an excellent set and was certainly the best way to finish the night off. Staying round after to sign copies of his album and meeting his many new fans.
Sunday 4 August
Sunday, and now the troops are showing signs of tiring but we all rise to the task once more and what a way to start with the rock and power of Attica Rage, ten minutes before they were due on there was ten of us but as time approached the crowd appeared.
A great set and still touring their latest album 88mph these guys kick the cobwebs out and get us all going, they are also working on their plan of getting one copy of ‘Long Ride Home’ around the world in 80 days. Although Johnny (vocals) did mention that it hadn’t made it out of the UK yet so hopes aren’t high for it happening!
With great sets from Hekz and Ben Poole to follow there was plenty on offer. Persian Risk led by vocalist Carl Sentance are a no holds barred classic rock band and whilst it was the first time I had seen they I know the guitarist Howie G from many other bands as he lives local to me. A great sound and set by these guys.
One of the best sets of the day goes to Praying Mantis who have been on the scene since 1974 years peddling their classic rock and NWOBHM for all to hear. John Cuijpers (vocalist) who only recently joined the band got very patriotic and waves the union flag during their set. They are due to release a new single and officially announce the new vocalist and drummer in the upcoming months.
Stage 2 today is as always very blues driven which is always a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon, notable bands here for me were Blackwebb and The Fat Penguins earlier in the day and ever excellent Dave Edwards 3 piece suite. Dave who has rubbed shoulders with some of the most iconic blues players around and always gives a great set at the festival.
The acoustic stage had some great acts on again today and early on managed to pull in some decent crowds. Notable bands for me today were Soulweaver, who normally grace the main stages and Ain’t Misbehavin with their jazz/folk contemporary style of delivery giving a nice chilled set.
For most people the highlight of the weekend are the final 2 bands on the main stage, Magnum followed by The Animals and indeed neither disappointed.
With outstanding sets from both bands to finish the night on stage 1. The last thing to do was for Dave Roberts to offers his usually thanks and appreciation for all the crowd, bands, staff and volunteers who made it all happen and will also work together to make it all happen again next year.
This festival shows what can be done when a team of enthusiastic people put their efforts together year after year to create such a wonderful event. Will I be their next year? Most definitely and I will be spreading the work to get as many others along. Already it has been officially announced that the Cambridge Rock Festival will be back! 7-8-9-10 August 2014.
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley
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