Even if you have never been to Steelhouse Festival, you may have heard tell of the road up the top of the mountain that is home to the highest festival in the UK. I can assure you, all these stories are true. But there is something familiar and welcoming about that road as your bones get shaken apart, fillings fall out, and you try and keep the car from bouncing too near the edge. Once you reach the top, you’re welcomed by friendly, helpful staff who remain consistent in their friendliness and helpfulness for the entire weekend.
Winning the coveted opening slot, Fragile Things bounded onto the stage, grabbed Steelhouse by the horns, and made everyone take notice. This is a band that is full of energy, every member performs like their life depends on it. I have only ever seen them at small venues, but here, they look like they have been performing at festivals and arenas for years.
Vocalist Ritchie Hevanz (formally of Heaven’s Basement) had the crowd singing along to their latest single “Disappear” and bouncing for “The Big Reveal” as Phil Campbell watched from the sidelines. What started out as a small crowd at the beginning of the set had increased quite dramatically by the time they left the stage with beaming smiles on their faces.
A late addition to the bill after wowing the Steelhouse organisers over with their performance at Downloads Boardie Takeover, Departed already had a number of fans in the crowd with plenty having seen them before. Those in the crowd who hadn’t heard of them, were won over by the time they were half way through the set.
Frontman Mark Pascall may have all the swagger, but he backs it up with a voice that is powerful and pitch perfect for the entire set. Guitarist Ben Brookland oozes boyish charm and has a huge grin on his face for practically the entire set; his relaxed manner belies the sheer brilliance of his guitar playing. This is a band who need to be playing to large audiences everywhere and definitely made a case for a higher slot next festival season.
As day turned to evening, it was time for the elder statesman of Rock Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons. The Sons took the stage first, shortly followed by the man himself who received a welcome truly fitting of his status; both as a rock legend, but also as a local lad. They managed to pack plenty of songs into their short set, but also maintained great interaction with the crowd while keeping the music flowing.
Phil Campbell raised another cheer as he bought our his Welsh dragon guitar for “Freak Show”, whilst during “Get On Your Knees”, vocalist Neil Star urged the crowd to face each other and stick up their middle fingers and shouting “ get on your knees”. “Silver Machine” was played as a tribute to the members of Motorhead who are no longer with us.
Poor Tyla Campbell felt the full force of the middle finger as Star encouraged the crowd to shout “F*ck you Tyla” before he belted out most famous bass intro known to the world of rock, “The Ace of Spades”. It didn’t take long for the crowd to be jumping, headbanging, and moshing to one of the most iconic tracks of a generation.
It was a slight step down in energy for tonight’s headliners. Returning to Steelhouse for the second year running, Stone Broken took to the stage to a cheer that could probably be heard for miles. If anybody doubted their meteoric rise to headline status, that doubt would quickly be washed away by the crowd’s reaction.
I’m not sure there’s much to say about this band that hasn’t been written a hundred times before, their exceptionally quick rise through the ranks has been well documented, and yes, they are very much like Nickleback, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Catchy, radio-friendly rock is always a crowd pleaser, with choruses that can be sung along to and ballads that will make a crowd sway in unison. Their stage performance is tight and measured, but can seem a little contrived at times.
For better or for worse, drum solos seem to be a prerequisite for a headline band these days and Robyn Haycock delivered one that whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. There was a moment of raw emotion as vocalist/guitarist Rich Moss made a moving dedication to Mike James before the opening notes of “Wait For You”. There’s no doubt that this band are on the fast track to stardom and this performance cements that fact. Stone Broken are shortly off on tour to America and one thing is for certain, America is going to love them.
Still grinning, the crowd ventured back to their tents, or in the case of the hardened festival goers, to the bar for some late night partying.
Review by Michelle Flynn
Photos by Linda Flynn
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
Power Plays w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)
COLLATERAL Mr Big Shot (Roulette Media Records)
BABY HUSBAND Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (indie)
OF ALLIES Off The Map (indie)
EXPLORING BIRDSONG The River (indie)
MARISA AND THE MOTHS – Slave (indie)
CATTLE AND CANE I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like I Do)
KING VOODOO Creep (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Big Blue World (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 REDLINE Gods & Monsters (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 WILDWOOD KIN (Silvertone/Sony)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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