Gig review: STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017 (Part Two)

British Lion - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

Mud and music – what more can a hardened rock fan ask for?  Sunshine? Well it was in short supply again today.  Cars had been marooned in the muddy field but it wasn’t going to deter the faithful…

The Texas Flood displayed a confident and ballsy set and showed at least that there is life in rock yet. Guitarist / vocalist Tom Sawyer (really?) and bassist Ben Govier interact well with the crowd in between songs which were probably a bit too protracted for their short set.

Broken Witt Rebels with their southern tinged rock are also considered to have a bright future.  But whilst frontman Danny Core  has a voice of pure gold for this genre and the personality to match the rest of the band need to catch up both in terms of stagecraft and the music.

Jared James Nichols - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

By way of contrast  Jared James Nichols was exciting, energetic and fresh, even with a couple of covers and with a new album on the way he’s definitely a newcomer to watch out for.

A welcome return to the music scene from Toby Jepson with his new band  Wayward Sons (taken from a Little Angels song ) and it didn’t feel like this was their fourth gig.  A typical classic rock band not following trends or fashion, just relying on good songs with massive hooks, something Jepson always had the ability to do.

Wayward Sons - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

Steelhouse took a punt placing Wayward Sons so high on the bill, they had an inkling and  whilst the Steelhouse faithful are always open to giving new bands a chance…it paid off massively.

‘Don’t Wanna Go’, ‘Until The End’ and ‘Alive’  will draw comparisons with LA but Wayward Sons have a much more mature sound with a lot more grit, plus a storming cover of ‘Young Gods’.

With King King eleventh hour pull out due to illness, the organisers didn’t have a lot of time to get in a replacement but with Bernie Marden still on site and Hand Of Dimes able to do it again, it was a bit of a no brainer to repeat Friday night especially for those who hadnt seen it.

Hands Of Dimes - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

So once again HOD came onstage to a heroes welcome , this will be Nev MacDonald’s sixth appearance at the festival and we get a couple of Dimes songs in ‘Pinstriped Arrogance’ and ‘Looking At You’ before the guests walk on, Bernie follwed by Ian Danter and Darren Redick from Planet Rock to blast out Free’s ‘Wishing Well’, which was excellent considering the lack of rehearsal.

It was the early-era Whitesnake songs that everyone revelled in though and, amid cries of “Bernie”, they ploughed into those four classic songs again.  Nev injects the blues soaked passion that Coverdale used to deliver before he discovered the USA.  I doubt there is a possibility of this being taken out on to the road but it was that good  and something that should be discussed seriously.

British Lion - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

Steve Harris and British Lion brought a large Maiden following here and they were rewarded with a somewhat watered down version of the real thing. The faithful fans loved it whilst others sought refuge in the beer tent.

If any band on the bill this weekend were on the cusp of “stardom”, it would be Rival Sons.  When they were announced for this weekend they were still on the Black Sabbath tour and playing to thousands in huge arenas every night. Taking on that tour looks to have hindered the promotion of their latest album Hollow Bones as they haven’t really been able to tour it on their own.

Rival Sons - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

You either love Rival Sons or you don’t there is no inbetween and they are not everyone’s cup of tea, one thing you cant deny is Jay Buchanans enigmatic display as a frontman, sometimes looking lost in his own turmoil.

The intro music to the ‘Good The Bad And The Ugly’  is a taste of what is to come and opening up with Hollow Bones Pt 1 instead of the usual ‘Electric Man’ Buchanan owns the stage in his folded down wellies.

Whilst I wouldn’t listen to the band in the car or on the iPod there’s no doubt that they take on a different dimension live.  Rival Sons will soon be headlining this event.

Saxon - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017

What can be said about Saxon that hasn’t been said countless times before?  These stallions of the highway are still going strong, constanly touring and gaining younger fans and still releasing material that is both compelling and competitive.

Their second headline appearance at Steelhouse and again bringing the Eagle stage set with them exclusively. By the time they came on the rain was much like the opening song ‘Battering Ram’ but it didn’t stop Biff from telling the crowd he was going to join them in the rain for the set, which he duly did front and centre, kneeling down on a towel to headbang  during ‘Sacrifice’.

All the old favourites were bestowed upon us tonight, ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’, ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Princes’s, ‘Dallas 1pm’ , ’20,000 ft’ , ‘And The Band Played On’, ‘Wheels’,  ‘Crusader’…this was a classic set with a stage show to complement it.

Many thought that we would have had a shorter set due to the curfew but thankfully it went over the alloted time and everyone who braved the weather all weekend were rewarded with a worthy closing act from one of Britains’ best loved Metal bands.

With this being the seventh festival, and having been to all but the second one, I have seen the event grow year on year.  And every year the organisers  deliver a cracking line up and  this year was no exception with more tickets sold than previously.  The festival is not only a credit to the organisers Max and Mikey but the many volunteers who give their services.

The advantage of just one stage, with 7 to 8 bands each day, is that there are no clashes which can spoil your enjoyment.  With multi stages you either decide on what band you intend to see or dip in and out, but that never really does justice and can be frustrating.

Review and photos by Darren Griffiths

Friday, Saturday (28-29 July)

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12:00-13:00 FOZZY Boombox (Mascot)
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