This festival had my attention from the first announcement. A group of enthusiasts lamenting the demise of the old one day Monsters Of Rock festivals wanted to resurrect the format for those sick of the multi day, multi stage festivals.
I was sold on the premise of one day, one stage, it sounded like a welcome return for those old enough to get misty eyed over memories of Rainbow in 1980, AC/DC in ‘84 and Maiden in ‘88 to name but a few. Add to that a strong line up and an online forum which was very active and brimming with enthusiasm and it looked as though the organisers and the potential crowd were onto a winner.
A festival is nothing without a strong line up and the guys and girls at Stonedeaf HQ came up with a bill which had something to keep all old rockers very happy. For a first event they were able to pull in some big names including Skid Row as headliners and Graham Bonnet who was a great link back to the first MOR festival where he headlined with Rainbow.
The chosen site was ideal with camping two minutes walk from the arena, plenty of parking (on hard standing, no ploughed fields here!) and easy access from major routes. The organisation was first rate with cheery volunteers at every turn, As festivals go, first impressions don’t get much better.
Due to some heavy traffic on my way down from an overnight stop in Newcastle I arrived later than planned and only heard a bit of openers Fallen Mafia from the car park. What I did hear sounded good and photographer Darren Griffiths assured me that the band were also lively on stage. Judging by the noise of crowd’s reaction they went down well.
My first band of the day took us way back to the early 80’s when they were at their peak and enjoyed some high profile support slots. Chrome Molly played a crowd pleasing set with their brand of melodic metal going down well in the afternoon sun.
Frontman Steve Hawkins was obviously enjoying himself as the guys ran through songs both new and old with ‘Thanx For The Angst’ and ‘Shooting Me Down’ being the set highlights. It wasn’t all nostalgia though as the guys also played tracks from their last two albums ‘ Gunpowder Diplomacy’ and ‘Hoodoo Voodoo’ to bring things up to date.
After a slick stage change we were treated to the melodic rock of Hand Of Dimes. The welsh wonders, fronted by Nev Macdonald, hit the stage with ‘Looking At You’ and gave the crowd a set to remember. Nev’s vocal delivery was first rate bringing back memories of his former job fronting Skin.
They made the most of their allotted 30 minute slot with ‘Bad Reputation’ and ‘Jacobs Ladder’ being well received. The biggest cheer though was saved for the Skin favourite ‘House Of Love’ which had the crowd singing along. A great set from a quality band.
By this time the arena was filling up nicely, the organisers had hoped for a crowd of around 2,500 which looked about right, not bad for the first year. The anticipation was also growing as next up we had bonafide chart stars in the form of Massive Wagons. With their current album ‘Full Nelson’ riding high in the album charts the band took to the stage to a huge reception. I even saw grown men who should know better running to the stage, as Krusher, the compere for the day, introduced the band to the stage.
Opening with their tribute to Rick Parfitt, ‘Back To The Stack’, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Baz Mills is like an 8 year old high on Sunny D, bouncing around the stage like a human dynamo. He doesn’t have it all his own way though as the rest of the guys are hardly shrinking violets!
The bulk of the set was culled from the hit album including the excellent ‘Under No Illusion’ and ‘Ratio’ both of which had the crowd singing along. Things were brought to a close with ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’ which was a riot. This wasn’t a perfect set, at times the band’s enthusiasm meant the playing was a tad sloppy and Baz’s vocals were a bit high in the mix, but for sheer entertainment value I don’t think anyone felt short changed.
With the afternoon sun now blazing down the Graham Bonnet Band took to the stage, Graham with shades in place, to deliver one of the sets of the day. It may be 38 years since the first Monsters Of Rock but Bonnet can still cut it live and is enjoying a resurgence of popularity both solo and with MSG.
The band played highlights from all points of Bonnet’s long career and opened with ‘Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live’ from his stint in Alcatrazz. That was quickly followed by ‘All Night Long’ and the excellent ‘Night Games’. Vocally Graham was spot on with only the odd strained note whilst the band were very tight and reproduced each track perfectly. Other set highlights included ‘Desert Song’ and ‘Assault Attack’ both from Graham’s MSG days and ‘Long Island Tea’ from the new ‘Meanwhile, Back In The Garage…’ album.
The set was rounded off with another two Rainbow tracks, ‘Since You Been Gone’ which had everyone singing along, and a romp through ‘Lost In Hollywood’ brought the set to a close. This was a great set from one of the voices of rock. Hopefully Mr Bonnet turns out to be a good omen and some of the success that the Monsters fest went on to achieve after his first appearance also rubs off on Stonedeaf!
After a wander around the arena checking out the food stalls and noting the Dirty Mexican Fries for later (very tasty!) The stage erupted with a cacophony of sound as Anvil took to the stage with ‘March Of The Crabs’. The Canadian trio have been churning out their metal for 40 years and have hit the highs and lows in equal measure. I must admit I have never been a fan but I admire their drive to keep doing what they love and judging by the amount of Anvil tee-shirts in the crowd and the bodies down the front they had a lot of friends in the house.
Lips led from the front and regaled us with tales of his rock’n roll life and encounters with Lemmy much to the crowd’s amusement. ‘Winged Assassins’ and ‘Mortha’ rocked hard and heavy but it was the band anthem ‘Metal On Metal’ that raised the biggest cheer of the set. Anvil are rock survivors and the Stonedeaf massive certainly made them right at home.
From the old to the slightly newer in the form of Tamworth’s finest Wolfsbane. I hadn’t seen the guys live since the late 80’s and really wasn’t sure what to expect. However, as soon as they launched into ‘Steel’ it was apparent that the howling mad sh*theads were on top form. Blaze Bayley was in great voice and played the frontman role to a T. ‘Black Lagoon’ and ‘You Load Me Down’ kept things at boiling point whilst between tracks Blaze tried to convince everyone that they were the best looking band on the bill.
If things had simmering along to that point they were then pushed to boiling point with a frantic blast through ’Loco’ with some great guitar work from Jason Edwards. Newer songs ‘Blue Sky’ and ‘Smoke And Red Lights’ went down well but it was tracks like ‘I Like It Hot’ and ‘Money To Burn’ that really got the crowd moving. Things were brought to a close with a personal favourite ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Paint The Town Red’. Wolfsbane played as if their lives depended on it and went down a storm, I won’t be leaving it as long to catch the guys again.
One band who can always be relied on to provide the musical goods are the Quireboys. Taking to the stage with little fuss and to a big cheer the band kicked into ‘Too Much Of A Good Thing’. Spike was his usual genial self, swinging his mic stand and rasping out the lyrics. The guys stuck mostly to a greatest hits set which pleased the crowd with ‘Misled’ up next before the band dipped into their recent blues album with ‘Going Down’. The twin guitars of Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin came to the fore for ‘There She Goes Again’ and ‘Hey You’ had the masses singing along.
Spike then introduced ‘Hello’ from the ‘Homewreckers And Heartbreakers’ album which is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary and has just been reissued. The band rounded things off with a rocking ‘Tramps And Thieves’ and the ultimate party track ‘7 O’clock’ complete with a guest vocal appearance from Blaze Bayley. Another classic set from one of the best in the business.
With the sun now gone and the temperature heading down it was time to hit the Motley Brew tent once more for a mug of tea from Phil who had been very busy dunking bags all day. He struck gold with the Stonedeaf crowd and can now probably afford an exotic holiday on the proceeds raked in from top photographer Darren Griffiths alone!
Out of the darkness the stage exploded with light, sound and dry ice as headliners Skid Row burst onto stage. I had missed out on seeing Skid Row back in the day but had seen them a few years back at Download fronted by Johnny Solinger and I wasn’t that impressed, however I was keen to see them with new vocalist ZP Theart in place. I have always been a ZP fan through his Dragonforce and IAMI days and was interested in finding out how he fitted into Skid Row.
‘Slave To The Grind’ opened proceeding and ZP was hitting the Seb Bach high notes with ease. Skid Row have always been a class act and tonight’s set proved to be worthy of the headline slot. ‘Sweet Little Sister’ and ‘Piece Of Me’ rocked along replete with fantastic fretwork from Dave Sabo.
Again the guys played all the hits including ‘18 And Life’ which sparked another outing of the Stonedeaf choir, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘I Remember You’. Rachel Bolan stepped forward mid set to praise the Stonedeaf organisers and and the festival before taking on vocal duties during a blast though of the Ramones ‘Psycho Therapy’.
With ZP back at the mic the band brought the festival to a fitting climax with ‘Get The F*ck Out’ and the rock anthem ‘Youth Gone Wild’. The majority of the crowd had left their youth behind many years ago but showed they could still go wild!
With the last chords still ringing in our ears we headed for the exit reflecting on a great day. Stonedeaf had been a dream of a few enthusiasts who had the balls to put together a festival and a bill which proved to a resounding success. The organisation and set up were spot on and even Download organiser Andy Copping, who was in the crowd most of the day, must have been impressed. So hats off to all involved and here’s to Stonedeaf 2019.
Review by Dave Wilson
Photos by Darren Griffiths
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