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Stonedeaf Festival 2018 - Showground, Newark (UK) - 25 August 2018

When my mate first told me about this in 2017, my first reaction was, "Sod off, you're winding me up", but he assured me he wasn't and there were going to be some top names on the bill. I doubted this because it was being held in Newark, which isn't known as a Rock stronghold. I did a bit of investigating and, at that time, only found one name associated with it and that was Graham Bonnet. It obviously proved it was a genuine thing, but to be fair, nowadays Bonnet is not such a big name and assuming that was the headliner I kind of forgot about it. Come forward to April or May this year, and I get a call asking if I wanted to cover it. After doing four Rock/Metal festivals already this summer, and still trying to sort out photographs from the last one two weeks previous at Bloodstock, I wasn't really bothered. However, I had a look at the revised bill and other names had been added – Skid Row, The Quireboys, Wolfsbane, Anvil, Massive Wagons, Hand Of Dimes, Chrome Molly and Fallen Mafia (plus DJ Hellhound and Krusher as compère). I had only ever seen a couple of these acts, The Quireboys back in around 1992 at Rock City and also Bonnet when he fronted Rainbow at the inaugural Monsters Of Rock Festival at Donington. What the Hell, I concluded, it was only a few miles up the road and – this was a big plus bearing in mind all the other stuff I had covered recently – it was all in one day (there were apparently a couple of bands on the night before, but that was only for the people who were already there on the camp site); there is a reason for that – an ulterior motive.

First thing then, I checked the weather; it was set to be cloudy. I can deal with that on its own no problem, if there's no rain, or it could mean that second thing, i.e. rain, so totally disregard that and go equipped for a monsoon. Having arrived, I knew it obviously wasn't going to be as big as the other festivals I had already done. There was only one stage (which meant no running about) that was neither too wide or too high, it was almost photo friendly which a lot of shows are not these days.

The very first band at the very first Stonedeaf Festival was a group by the name of Fallen Mafia, who are a female fronted act so things got off to a good start. From what I understand, they were the winners of one of those "Battle Of The Bands" things and they were reasonably good. If that sounds like I wasn't that impressed, you have to realise that I have seen many, many bands over the years – including female fronted Nightwish, Delain, In This Moment, Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation – all of whom set a fairly high standard. All of these bands have a certain something that makes them stand out from other groups which could possibly be termed (and I really hate to use this description in this review) the X-factor, and to be fair, Fallen Mafia didn't quite have that, but give them time and who knows. The initial problem though was that the vocals were fairly low in the mix at the start, and the thing that set in my head was that vocalist Hannah Elizabeth Neil was better in the higher ranges than the lower where she can sound a bit "blokey". Still, in their thirty minutes, they seemed to please the crowd which at that time wasn't the biggest – the perils of being on first. Oh, and she told us all to check out "starfish porn", which I haven't done yet.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Fallen Mafia Live

People were coming in all the time though, so we had a slightly bigger crowd for Leicester's Chrome Molly. While watching, I suddenly thought that this could be one of those bands that I cannot remember if I have seen them before or not. I had a suspicion that they were probably on at a past festival somewhere that I cannot recall. Formed in 1982, they weren't young any more, but they were still on their game and vocalist Steve Hawkins' voice, apart from breaking just a couple of times, was strong and clear. 'Tried And Trusted' and 'Take It Or Leave It' were included in the set, plus a song written for them by Suede – 'Shooting Me Down'. They received a really good response from the crowd and were obviously happy themselves as they came down to the pit to meet the crowd when they finished; nice that, innit?


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Chrome Molly Live

CMA, Pillars Of Creation (Albion), Shooting Me Down, Take It Or Leave It, Thanks For The Angst, Now That Those Days Have Gone, Cut Loose, Corporation Fear.

Hand Of Dimes includes two ex-members of Skin, namely front-man Nev MacDonald and keyboard player Neil Garland; they have played both Monsters Of Rock and Download, most likely in the years that I didn't attend. Again, Skin does ring a bell, but maybe I am thinking about the singer from Skunk Anansie. They were well received as a lot of the crowd clapped and sang along early on to songs that included 'Bad Reputation', 'Jacob's Ladder', 'Guilty', 'Can't Get No Satisfaction' and 'House Of Love'. There was a change to the usual line-up as MacDonald explained that their guitarist, Colin Edwards, was recovering from surgery and was replaced today by ex-Little Angels man Bruce John Dickenson. After a bit of digging around, I found that I had actually seen them before; well, not them, but Skin during the Gibson Night Of 100 Guitars at Wembley in 1994, of which, of course, I remember nothing about these days, but I think I will remember Hand Of Dimes after this performance.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Hand Of Dimes Live

Looking At You, Moonlight Mile, Bad Reputation, Jacob's Ladder, Guilty, Pinstriped Arrogance, House Of Love (Skin cover), Sail On.

Massive Wagons have only been together since 2009, in stark contrast to a lot of the bands here tonight, and they seem to have appeared at most, if not all, of the Rock festivals held in this country. This includes Download and Stonefree in June last year, which isn't bad going, and I attended both of those Festivals but just didn't catch them. They were here to play another one in Newark where I would definitely get to see what they were all about. I thought "this might be interesting" when they were introduced by Darth Vader and two Stormtroopers (they must have been teleported as I saw no sign of a space vehicle). The first note I made when they came on stage was that singer Baz Mills was manic; he was all over the place and did so much headbanging it was a wonder his head stayed on his neck. With his bright red trousers, bowler hat and (what could only be described as) a Hawaiian shirt (but probably won't be as it was covered with sun shade wearing skulls), he never seemed to stop for breath. The songs reminded me a little of Alestorm, who I only saw two weeks ago, in the fact that they were quite humorous in both context and presentation. They are another of those bands that are there to put a smile on your face, although their first song, 'Back To The Stack', was actually in tribute to Status Quo's Rick Parfitt. I think, however, that as the set went on, Mills started to tire a bit as his voice started to give a little, but nobody seemed to mind.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Massive Wagons Live

Back To The Stack, Billy Baloon Head, Nails, Sunshine Smile, Under No Illusion, Ratio, Last On The List, China Plates, Tokyo, Fee Fi Fo Fum.

Bearing in mind that he was the vocalist for the headline band at the first Monsters Of Rock back in 1980, and he does have a bit of a history in the Rock encyclopaedia, I was surprised that Graham Bonnet was as far down the running order as he was. I had heard rumours that his voice wasn't what it used to be and somebody told me just before he came on that it takes him around four songs before his voice warms up. However, from where I was stood, he sounded good right from the start. The thing I liked about his set was that because he has been in various bands, such as Alcatrazz, Michael Schenker Group, Impellitteri and Rainbow, we got to hear music from all of these bands, which was great. This also meant that I knew almost all of the stuff he played, as did the crowd who were happy to sing along. The band were good; I was unaware that the bass player, Beth-Ami Heavenstone, was female, while the guitarist, Kurt James, was able to pull off most of the guitar parts of some pretty heavy weight players, although to be fair, he couldn't hit the Blackmore solos. I did feel that Bonnet started to slightly struggle towards the end of the set, but don't forget, the guy is seventy years old now so to do what he had done tonight was pretty impressive. I would take a guess that the now healthy sized crowd thought that too.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Graham Bonnet Live

Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live (Alcatrazz), All Night Long (Rainbow), Night Games, Jet To Jet (Alcatrazz), Rock You To The Ground (Michael Schenker), Stand In Line (Impellitteri), Goodnight And Goodbye (Impellitteri), Desert Song (Michael Schenker), Into The Night, Long Island Tea, Assault Attack (Michael Schenker), Since You've Been Gone (Rainbow), Lost In Hollywood (Rainbow).

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Anvil are sort of more famous for the movie that was made about them a few years ago than their actual music (believe it or not, that's over ten years ago now) and I can understand that. They are not the most technical of musicians, and to be fair I think they know this. I had read that since the movie they have never stopped working so it definitely worked for them. I think their philosophy now is "ride the wave while it is still rolling", and why not? While their music is not really my type of thing, they were a lot of fun to watch. Bassist Chris Robertson had a different facial expression every time he moved his head and Steve "Lips" Kudlow, when not pulling faces and telling brilliant stories about times he spent with people like Lemmy Kilmister, just had a great beaming smile that showed he was obviously delighted to be there. Drummer Rob Reiner (not the Spinal Tap film producer) seemed to be the most serious person on stage during their fifty-five minute set during which the crowd learned how to shout "badass" in time.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Anvil Live

March Of The Crabs, 666, Badass Rock 'n' Roll, Winged Assassins, Free As The Wind, This Is Thirteen, Mothra, Metal On Metal.

Wolfsbane were completely alien to me. I knew absolutely nothing about them apart from the name and, as I was finding through the day with the previous bands, they were very good. I didn't even know that Blaze Bayley used to be with them before joining Iron Maiden, and that he was back with them and here today. The first thing he did when they came on was throw the mic stand into the photo pit, which was a bit strange, but he obviously has a dislike of mic stands. To be fair, he didn't need one, he was all over the stage, and he hardly stopped for a second and constantly put his hand to his ear to encourage the crowd to shout louder. His voice was strong and clear, and the music really good. It made me realise that I was going to have a lot of catching up to do.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Wolfsbane Live

Steel, Black Lagoon, You Load Me Down, Loco, Blue Sky, Money To Burn, I Like It Hot, Temple Of Rock, Smoke And Red Light, All Hell's Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson's Place, Man Hunt, Paint The Town Red.

As mystified as I was that Bonnet was so far down the bill, so I thought it was that The Quireboys were so high up. The last time I saw them was sometime in 1992 at Rock City, and whether it was because we were at the back of the room and it was packed out, I came away without any particular opinion about them. I do remember thinking that I didn't rate them as high as everybody else seemed to. Come forward twenty-six years for this date on their White Trash Blues European tour and, being at the front where I could see what Spike does, I have to admit to being a bit more impressed than I was last time. How he didn't hit himself or anybody else on stage with him with the mic stand I will never know. I was getting a little fed up of seeing all these older than me rockers still being able to do it without any apparent damage to their health; if that was me, I would need oxygen and an ambulance. However, all joking aside, they were good and I enjoyed them as did everyone else. In addition, Blaze Bayley also returned to the stage to share vocals with Spike for '7 O'Clock'.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Quireboys Live

Too Much Of A Good Thing, Misled, Going Down (The Alabama State Troupers cover), There She Goes Again, Mona Lisa Smiled, This Is Rock 'N' Roll, Hey You, Tramps And Thieves, 7 O'Clock.

It would probably be fair to say that Skid Row were a big band when they were complete with Sebastian Bach. As anybody who reads my stuff will know, my thoughts are that once a member of a successful band has left, it is no longer that band – possibly the worst person to lose from a band is the singer/front-man because voices are naturally characteristic and can define a band's sound. Bach wasn't the only one to leave at that time as drummer Rob Affuso also departed, so we have now is 3/5ths of the original group. Of course, they are also on their third vocalist now, that being ex-DragonForce man ZP Theart, and I have to say, having as far as I can remember never seen Skid Row with Bach, this guy, along with the rest of the band, were bloody good. I also noticed that both ends of the photo pit were crammed with people, which told me that a lot of those that were there in an official capacity really wanted to see them. I can understand that to be honest, and though I was a little puzzled initially as to why they were the headliners, I could sort of see the answer as the set unfolded. I admit, I didn't know a lot of the material, but it was all good to the ears and the eyes because the lighting guys really went to town during their time on stage.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Skid Row Live

Slave To The Grind, Sweet Little Sister, Piece Of Me, Livin' On A Chain Gang, Big Guns, 18 And Life, Makin' A Mess, Rattlesnake Shake, Psycho Therapy (Ramones), Quicksand Jesus, Monkey Business,
Encore: I Remember You, We Are The Damned, Get The Fuck Out, Youth Gone Wild.


Stonedeaf Festival 2018 Skid Row Live 2

That was the first ever Stonedeaf Festival and I am glad I was there. Apart from seeing some really good bands that I normally wouldn't have gone to see, it was a reminder of how good one day festivals used to be. This was the ulterior motive I mentioned at the beginning; the whole idea of this was thought up by old Donington Monsters Of Rock veterans who also missed the halcyon days back in the eighties. All the people who set it up were volunteers and, apart from a few things – like the burger and the fish and chip stand running out of food at around the same time (due to the fact that, as I understand it, more people turned up on the day than they expected) and the urinals not having any hand-washing facilities – they did a good job. The weather helped and although it looked like it would rain on numerous occasions, thankfully it never did; however, I did get drenched when Theart decided to anoint us with two bottles of water that I didn't see coming. The things that really impressed me was the friendliness of those volunteers (and how they were pleased to help you) and the stage lighting set-up which was excellent for a first-time event. Like all things new, they will improve as they go on, and go on they intend to do as I understand that tickets are already on sale for next year. I wonder who they will get for the line-up for next year? I have a couple of suggestions if they want to get in touch!

Review and photos Andy Brailsford

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