The annual pilgrimage climbing the mountain in the valleys of South Wales seems to have come around far quicker this year than any other, and the reliable Welsh weather played a major part in some issues regarding camping and parking. Though, like true Troopers, there wasn’t a lot of moaning from the fans, and that trek was soon forgotten.
The Friday night is always considered a party night and warm up which is free to the weekend ticket holders and usually you get a smaller number of punters that stay in the dry of the beer tent if weather is bad.
Tonight, however, there were a couple of legends appearing so things would be different. Trucker Diablo opened the proceedings – a firm festival favourite who have played a couple of times before and always go down well. Tonight was no different, with their big meaty sound enticing people from the beer tent earlier than expected.
By the time Hand Of Dimes had finished their first number, the beer tent was sparsely populated, HOD have appeared up the mountain more times than any other artist/band and rightly so, with two of the members steeped in Welsh rock folklore from Kooga days, they blasted through an hour set highlighting their immense debut album.
There is a huge amount of affection for HOD and none more so than Nev MacDonald, whose voice is getting better and better as the years pass.
However I don’t think anybody expected how good it would be when Bernie Marsden joined the band for four Whitesnake songs, ‘Fool For Your Loving’, ‘Ready and Willing’, ‘Walking In The Shadow of The Blues’ and ‘Here I Go Again’ These four songs were played the way they should be played in the vein they were recorded all those years ago, the place was jumping an areal credit to Nev. If anyone can sing those songs better than Coverdale right now, Nev is your man.
Due to persistent rain through the night the arena was now more like Download than ever before, 4- 6 inches of mud, but no matter what the crowd were smiling and looking forward to the day ahead. With the sun shining for now, the omens looked good.
Florence Black have never been my cup of tea but this a far different proposition to the one a couple of years previously: confident and tighter but more importantly, better songs and the nice touch by frontman/guitarist Tristan to blast out the Welsh national anthem on the guitar while they were having a sound issue was a stroke of genius.
Tequila Mockingbird have gone through a few line up changes over the past 4 months or so, it shows on stage at times with no real band dynamics. I am sure that will change once new members have bedded in.
Stone Broken can do no wrong at the moment, like King Midas everything they touch is turning to gold. Steelhouse can be a tough nut to crack if you don’t bring your A game but from the start – with that infectious opening riff of ‘Stay All Night’ and Rich Moss belting out ‘make some noise’ – they had the crowd eating out of their hands.
They involve the crowd in every song and the crowd responds, everything a festival appearance should be, Stone Broken delivered. Talking to a few people after their set , the concensus was this was a massive success for the band and a return higher up on the bill is definitely on the cards.
After the previous night’s electric success, Bernie Marsden played an acoustic set on the main stage. The songs were played and sung beautifully but the stripped back approach to the Whitesnake back catalogue maybe lacked the heft needed.
I have been an avid follower and championed Inglorious from their debut gig 18 months ago and still get shivers down my spine when Nathan James hits the higher register. At their debut gig they looked and felt like a band, and everytime I have seen them they’ve grown in confidence.
Nathan’s choice of stage gear – a black and white silk kimono – became a crowd talking point and may have even detracted from the music. Nevertheless, the newer songs ‘Read All About It’ and the monstrous ‘I Dont Want Your Loving’ sit comfortably in a set that contains all original material and a set they can be very proud of.
I took the chance for some light refreshment during the Monster Truck set but never has an opening line been more appropriate this weekend: “I dont care about the weather, the band’s here to play ” from ‘Why Are You Not Rocking’ as the heavens opened on us again. The crowd soaked up Monster Truck especially the likes of ‘Old Train’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’.
Along with countless others I thought that with Ronnie James Dio’s passing we had lost a whole back catalogue of great songhs played live. Thankfully Last In Line are keeping the legacy alive with two members of the original band and intersperesed with original material from an equally impressive debut album.
Alongside their own songs ‘Starmaker’ and ‘Devil In Me’ we were treated to the truly majestic, ‘Dont Talk To Strangers’, ‘Straight Through The Heart’, ‘Rainbow In The Dark’, ‘We Rock’ and the timeless ‘Holy Diver’. The latter was quite an experience: blasted out on top of a mountain in the pouring rain.
Despite the rain, frontman Andrew Freeman shone brightly as one of the better frontmen of the weekend and with the band pedigree just over an hour didn’t seem long enough.
By the time ragga/rock stalwarts Skindred came on stage the crowd had all but forgotten about the sideways driving rain and getting stuck in the mud. I found myself warming to the likeable local star. Yes, he rained down profanities, but in a way that was non-offensive and quiet endearing and amusing.
The energy he gives out is palpable, returned in kindby the crowd response and via the “Newport Helicopter” (search on YouTube!).
Review and photos by Darren Griffiths
Sunday (30 July)
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