Steelhouse is celebrating its fifth anniversary and I am proud to say I was there at the inaugral event on a cold and rainy windswept mountain … not a lot has changed weatherwise since then.
In fairness to the Steelhouse organisers and crews who work tirelessly to get this festival together, they have done a magnificent job in those five years and anyone that attends can usually agree that it is one of the warmest and friendliest festivals going and for the price, you can’t go wrong.
My first taste of the Festival on Saturday was local welsh band Florence Black, an assured and confident young three-piece playing a set that was far beyond their years, keep an eye out around the country for these guys as they are quickly getting a reputation as a great live act.
One of the bands I was looking forward to this year were Massive Wagons and on a friend’s advice, I wasn’t going to be disappointed. Main shouter and fire cracker Barry Mills struts the stage throughout the set, a mass of hair a la Captain Caveman and a voice so big you wonder where it comes from in such a small frame.
Wagons are everything that you want in a festival band; tight and cohesive and their mix of ballsy classic, riff heavy rock went down a storm, with for myself ‘Fight The System’ and ‘Red Dress’ being the stand out tracks.
Trucker Diablo can only be described as a returning behemoth after gracing the stages two years ago and a fans’ favourite which the organisers duly noted and brought them back this year to finish off the carnage.
Frontman Tom Harte gives us a powerful performance reminiscent in parts of Black Stone Cherry, and I mean that as a compliment. If you get the chance, catch them at Hard Rock Hell in November.
I caught The Treatment at Planet Rockstock last December and was quite impressed, since that time they have had a line up change of lead vocalist in Mitchell Emms. Hitting the stage with ‘Let It Begin’ and ‘The Devil’ the band showed no signs of nerves and quickly got into their stride. They’re visually an exciting and energetic band to watch and a photographers dream, especially bass player Swoggle. Emms’ voice reminded me of a younger Seb Bach in his heyday. The Treatment showed us that rock and roll isn’t dead Mr Simmons, it is alive and well on the mountain and the future is bright.
Photo: Simon Dunkerley
Nazareth played a set filled with classic songs, and I didnt realise how many they had until they reeled them off, opening with ‘Silver Dollar’. Local boy Carl Sentance (Persian Risk) thoroughly lapped up the reception that the mainly partisan crowd offered him. Nazareth proved they definitely have a future and a renewed vigour with Carl as the frontman.
Simon Dunkerley writes: From the start it’s obvious that in Carl Sentance Nazareth have not only a worthy replacement but also someone that can take the band forward. While his pipes do not have the harsh rasp of Dan McCafferty he does have a great classic rock sounding voice and over the set shows he is more that capable in not only tone and range but also in passion of performing the songs.
Photo: Simon Dunkerley
By the time they hit ‘Razamanaz’ the whole crowd are won over and again we are all in fine voice. In a set that includes all the classic tracks ‘This Flight Tonight’, ‘Hair Of The Dog’ and a rousing version of ‘Love Hurts’ original bass player Pete Agnew and his son on drums stoke the band’s rhythmic powerhouse whilst long standing guitarist Jimmy Murrison is also on form Definitely one of my performances of the weekend and indeed it shows everyone that Nazareth are here to continue and are on top form.
Darren Griffiths continues: Y&T have been gracing the UK with their annual tours for the last 8 years or so and today’s appearance features the album Black Tiger played in its entirety. ‘Hurricane’ proceeded to kick things off followed by a new classic, and personal favourite, ‘I’m Coming Home’
When people talk of guitar heroes and legends, the usual Halen/Rhoads/Vai triumvirate sometimes gets mentioned. Dave Meniketti deserves to join them: after 41 years he shows no sign of slowing down.
This line up has been in existence for five years and damn do they have fun up there, even Brad Lang (bass) kicking over his Marshall stack during one of his many elaborate stage movements has drummer Mike Vanderhule roaring with laughter whilst not missing a beat.
The all too familiar intro of the classic ‘Forever’ signalling the end of the energetic hour and twenty minute set came far too quickly for many who are accustomed to the 2 and a half hour set that is normally witnessed on their own tours. I for one thought Y&T would have been worthy headliners and can hardly wait until November when they are on these shores again.
No-one can deny UFO‘s place among rock’s heirarchy and even if the last few years and albums have seemed somewhat lacklustre and tame there will always be a place for them at festivals like Steelhouse.
Phil Mogg has been steering this ship a long time and for his age he is a in remarkable form, decked out all in black including tie, shirt, waistcoat and jeans the man looks a million dollars and I am pleased to say his voice is still intact. UFO are the consummate professionals and deliver a set packed with the familiar, and newer material off ‘Conspiracy Of Stars’.
‘Lights Out’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Love To Love’, were some of the early hitters and in fairness they were delivered faultlessly but the set lacked pace and energy, while Phil tried his best with his between-song banter, even learning a few words in Welsh.
All in all, a fantastic first day topped off with great weather. For me the day belonged to Y&T but surprise of the day definitely has to go to Massive Wagons.
Review and photos by Darren Griffiths, except where stated
Additional reporting and photos: Simon Dunkerley
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Power Plays w/c 13 May (Mon-Fri)
WARM RAIN Here Comes The Rain Again (Rain Recordings)
DARWIN Cosmic Rays (indie)
MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love & Beyond (Frontiers)
MARQUIS DRIVE Shine On (indie)
YOUR LIFE & MINE Remind To Remember (indie)
EMERALD SUN What becomes Of You (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 13 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 JIM PETERIK WORLD STAGE Winds Of Change (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 WHITESNAKE Flesh & Blood (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 BUFORD POPE The Waiting Game (Unchained Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
NEVER THE BRIDE Surprise (2005)
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