Bank holiday weekends have their good and bad points. On the good side you get a long weekend to do whatever takes your fancy, hopefully in fantastic weather and with great musical accompaniment. On the bad side however, you get crowded roads and railway engineering works galore which makes getting anywhere a potential nightmare.
Hence the reason that I arrived a lot later than planned at Newark Showgound after having to take to the country roads to avoid a gridlocked A1, not fun. By the time I finally arrived the first two acts of the day had been and gone, still, at least the sun was shining and luckily our intrepid photographer Darren Griffiths had left Wales in the middle of the night to arrive in plenty of time to take in all the proceedings.
This was the second Stonedeaf festival and, following the success of last year and the subsequent positive reviews, the crowd had swelled somewhat this year. Having said that the arena never felt crowded and there was plenty of room for everyone to stretch out, catch some late summer sunshine and listen to some excellent rock.
Darren writes - This year’s winners in the Stonedeaf poll to open the event were Samarkind. The Dublin based quartet may have been slightly taken aback by how many people were gathered to watch them in the blazing sunshine and they took a song or two to break from the ‘rabbit in the headlight’ effect to get into their groove. Once they did though there was no stopping them.
Vocalist David Paul Byrne, with a voice that mixed various 70′s singers in his range, got into his stride with all the swagger of a young Robert Plant. Having not heard Samarkind before today I was not familiar with their music. While sometimes I felt it needed a bit more energy in their set to open a festival, the crowd gave them a great reception. ‘Skinny Rivers’ and ‘Fire and Blood’, which included a verse of Heaven and Hell , being the stand out songs.
If, as I thought, a little bit more energy to open the festival was needed, then the ragamuffins from Australia, Massive, delivered in spades. They are like the bastard children of Airbourne in their songs and even their attitude.
Brad Marr on vocals and guitar may be small in stature but huge in presence . Massive would probably agree that sometimes it was a little sloppy, but Rock n Roll isn’t supposed to be perfect, and Massive are the epitome of the words ‘Rock N Roll’. Paint it by numbers anthems one after another that instantly increase the energy of the crowd tenfold with more coming towards the front to find out who is causing this racket.
I saw Massive a few weeks back in a small dingy club in South Wales and left pretty early, unimpressed, they totally transformed my perception of them here and I enjoyed their set. They even got up a few random audience members to play inflatable guitars and dance badly on stage during ‘Dancefloor’, also including a great cover of ‘If You Want Blood’ by fellow aussies AC/DC. Massive are what you want at any rock festival, brash, raucous and loud and they enjoyed it just as much as the crowd.
Dave writes - After a quick recce around the festival site and taking mental notes of what food stands we would be frequenting later, we settled down for the arrival of The Amorettes. This was my first encounter with the band since the departure of the rhythm section which left front woman Gill on her own. She has since teamed up with the band Tequila Mockingbird who provide the backing for Gill whilst she provides vocals for them, a real rock collective in action!
Kicking things off with ‘Born To Break’ it quickly became apparent that the change in personnel has had little impact on the band. Gill’s vocal, not the strongest at times, was a bit lost in the mix and overall the sound was strangely quiet from my vantage point. They belted out the crowd favourites including ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’ and ‘You’ve Still Got Rock N Roll’ and got a good reaction.
However for me the band haven’t really moved on, even with the major line up change, in the last few years. They appear to be a perennial support band destined to pad out festival bills unless Gill and the new crew can up their game. They finished the set with, aptly, ‘Everything I learned (I Learned From Rock N Roll), perhaps a bit more revision is in order?
Perhaps they could have a chat with Diamond Head main man Brian Tatler, a man who has been rocking hard and heavy for about 100 years (possibly!). Here is a man who has been there, seen it, done it and sold the t-shirts. He also knows how to please a Newark crowd in the blazing sunshine.
The guys hit the stage and launched into ‘Borrowed Time’, old school rock at it’s very best, which got the fists pumping in the sun. The sound was still a bit on the quiet side but the mix was better with the vocals of Rasmus Bom Andersen cutting through. ‘Bones’ and ‘Lightening To The Nations’ followed keeping the old school vibe going which went down well with the ageing rockers in the crowd, and yes I do include myself in that description!
The band aren’t all about nostalgia though and released a cracking new album ‘Coffin Train’ earlier in the year. They played three tracks from this and all were greeted with the same enthusiasm as the more familiar back catalogue numbers.
However, for better or worse, it was the Metallica endorsed tracks which got the biggest response. ‘Helpless’ was as fast and frantic as ever whilst ‘Am I Evil’ tried it’s best to be brooding in the mid-afternoon sunshine. ‘Am I Evil’ also provided the soundtrack to a fly past by a World War Two Dakota which was very impressive.
Another man who has been treading the boards for many years is Geoff Tate, both as a solo artist and as frontman for the mighty Queensryche, a band I always felt I should like more than I do. Geoff has a very talented band to back him up and they are more than capable of recreating Queensryche’s more technical passages.
Kicking things off with ‘Empire’ the band showed they were more than up to the task. Tate sang his heart out but the sound was still a bit on the quiet side so it was hard to pick out at times, although the crowd down the front were loving every minute.
The Queensryche classics were all in place with ‘Walk In The Shadows’ and ‘Operation:Mindcrime’ up next. The biggest cheers were reserved for the final trio of tracks though with ‘Silent Lucidity’, ‘Jet City Woman’ and the rocking ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’ rounding off the set. Geoff and the guys may not have been my particular cup of tea (that was supplied later by Phil at Motley Brew) but they went down a storm in the afternoon sunshine , who am I to argue?
Next to grace the sun-kissed stage was someone who is no stranger, in anyone’s eyes, to a festival bill. Toby Jepson and his latest band, Wayward Sons, have been a constant on the touring circuit since their inception and have graced many a festival which showed as they masterfully controlled the crowd from the off. ‘Alive’ was an apt opener as it finally brought to life the PA system which ramped up significantly as the set continued which was good to hear (pun intended!).
Toby is a seasoned frontman with a great voice to match. The guys ploughed on with ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ before blasting into ‘Killing Time’ which is exactly what the band had to do as they managed to blow the onstage electrics! Power was quickly restored (more great work from the Stonedeaf team) and the band rocked on completely unaffected by the enforced hiatus. The highlights were numerous throughout the set with the likes of ‘Ghost’ and ‘Crush’ keeping the crowd dancing in the blistering sun.
There was also room in the set for tracks from the band’s forthcoming album ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ including the lead track ‘The Jokes On You’ which had been gaining radio play prior to the album release.
Guitarist Sam Wood excelled throughout, the guy certainly knows his way around a fret board and he played up a storm as the set climaxed with ‘Until The End’. This was a great set by a band who improve every time I see them. With the release of the new album hopefully it will take them to the next level and further up the next festival bill.
Another band more than capable of entertaining a festival crowd are Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons. What we needed at this point was some hard and fast rock to stop everyone from wilting in the heat and Phil and the guys were just what the doctor ordered. ‘Big Mouth’ got things off to a loud and proud start. Vocalist Neil Starr may not have the gruff vocals of Lemmy (who has..?) but he doesn’t try to emulate the great man. Instead he blasts out the vocals with passion and on the Motorhead tracks scattered throughout the set he does the tracks justice.
‘Step Into The Fire’ was followed by the first of the Motorhead tracks, namely ‘Rock Out’ which had the crowd bouncing along. The set was a crowd pleasing mix of the old and new with ‘Born To Raise Hell’ following ‘Freak Show’. Campbell’s guitar work with Motorhead was always first rate and here he was on fire complete with a wry smile on his face, he is not one to take himself too seriously!
A quick blast of ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S’ had the Stonedeaf massive in a frenzy, but it was the double of ‘Silver Machine’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’ that really took things to boiling point. ‘High Rule’ then brought, what was for me, the set of the day to an end. Rock out indeed!
It had been a couple of years since I last saw Inglorious live and due to many internal wranglings the band who took to the Stonedeaf stage bore very little resemblance to the one I was faced with back then. The frontman position though had not changed with Nathan James still larger than life and prowling the edge of the stage. The band master in Whitesnake-like classic rock with James living out his Coverdale fantasies, he even yelled ’Ere’s A song For Ya’ at one point.
However I remained unmoved by the set and try as they might I just couldn’t get into the tracks aired. James has a huge voice but it sounded a bit strained and forced at times as if he was trying a bit too hard. The band played well throughout, especially 20 year old guitar maestro Danny Dela Cruz who impressed on the Alanis Morissette cover ‘Uninvited’.
There were some high spots during the set including opener ‘Where Are You Now’ and ‘Ride To Nowhere’ but for me they were few although judging by the crowd’s reaction elsewhere I was in the minority so what do I know? I did question the band’s billing when they were announced and I’m still unconvinced they deserved their lofty spot.
That only left one man to bring things to a close and Glenn Hughes entered the stage with all the presence of the Seventies rock icon he is. Things started to unravel fairly quickly though with a few sound and mic issues that set the tone for the set. Glenn has a marmite vocal you either love or hate and I am of the latter persuasion, however Classic Purple is always good to hear even with the odd tortured vocal.
‘Stormbringer’ opened proceedings with the aforementioned technical glitches and was followed by ‘Might Just Take Your Life’. The band played well and recreated the classics with a certain panache however the extended passages accompanied by Glenn’s wailings soon got too much for me and by the time ‘Mistreated’ was in mid flow I decided it was time to hit the road. Reading the comments on social media in the following days it was apparent that Glenn split the crowd but that’s rock n roll for you!
Stonedeaf proved to be superb once again. You could argue that the line up wasn’t quite as strong as 2018 but the fact that the Stonedeaf team had once again amassed a top line up was a credit to all. The day wasn’t perfect however the rise in numbers was always going to test the set up and I am sure that next year Stonedeaf will be back bigger and better than ever.
But that is not going to happen as this was the second and last Stonedeaf! Due to naming issues Stonedeaf is to rise again in 2020 as the Stonedead festival but I would take a punt on it being another fantastic day of rock and metal with the PA turned up and the blistering sun turned down a notch!
Review by Dave Wilson
Photos (and review where cited) by Darren Griffiths
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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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