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Steelhouse Festival 2019 Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 14, 2019    
 
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Steelhouse Festival 2019 - Haft-Y-Dafal Farm, Ebbw Vale (UK) - 26-28 July 2019

Steelhouse Festival, located atop a mountain deep in the heart of South Wales, is now in its 9th year. It has grown every year, gaining a fantastic reputation for its family friendly atmosphere and the quality of bands and performers that it hosts. Equally as famous is the trek up the windy, potholed, rocky, dirt farm track. Anyone in the know will be mightily aware of the horror stories about this lane, and it strikes fear even into the hearts of attendees with 4x4's. In previous years, the weather has also been the talk of the town, with the festival being hit by barrages of that notorious Welsh rain and heavy winds. This year, however, was going to be a very different story.

I set out on the Friday afternoon as I wanted to experience the whole Festival and as I live a few miles away from the location and have never actually been in attendance for the whole weekend, I was looking forward to the event. After a one stop train ride to where I was going to meet the taxi, who, on calling was not going to take me up the "treacherous road as I need to keep my livelihood", I waited for the Shuttle bus. Fortunately, a couple of friends turned up to meet another festival goer and graciously offered to give me a lift also. We made our way cautiously up the rocky road, being thrown around in all directions, down potholes and over decent sized rocks, around hairpin bends, reading the generous signs notifying the travellers of their progression. We got to the top all in one piece and were met with friendly and helpful festival staff to direct us to our correct locations. I must add that through the whole weekend, the security and festival staff were always warm and accommodating.

As I set up my camp, the talk of the town was mainly about the weather. This year was a first in probably four years, so I was told, as there was not a rain drop to be seen. In fact, it was a beautiful day, with hardly any clouds in the sky and a huge sun emanating its hot rays upon the site, with only a welcoming breeze to cool us down. The organisers had also opened up the campsite for Vans and Campers to be able to go up to the site on the Wednesday before, which was a real help to the traffic flow on the Friday, and only causing minor congestion for when the gates opened at 2pm.

Friday

Tonight's set of artists had been entitled 'Four Nations' as the bands performing were from the four quarters of the UK. Northern Irish Blues Rock band Blackwater Conspiracy had just started to arrive on the stage to kick off the Festival. Frontman Phil Conalene has also worked with Myke Gray recently with his new band, also featuring local boy Matt Blakout (drums). The band performed a solid set of pure Rock and Roll featuring tracks from their debut album 'Shootin' The Breeze' and a marvellous cover of The Black Crowes' 'Jealous Again'. It seemed to me that they were experiencing issues with their sound or some sort of technical problems. However, there already was a sizable crowd that had formed, and from the applause it was evident they really gave us early attendees a treat.

Next up for the Scottish contingent, Edinburgh based Rising Souls hit the stage. Vocalist Dave Archibald had his arm in a sling, however this did not affect his performance. He still managed to belt out those notes and had a damn good go at rocking the crowd, even though at times he did show his back a little too much. He has one hell of a voice, full of power and very smooth, and gains his influences from Frankie Miller. Rising Souls gave a rocking groove ridden Blues set despite slight audio issues throughout their performance. Nonetheless, they are definitely ones to keep an eye out for.

There was a buzz starting to rise in the changeover, the excitement was reaching a high as the next band to hit the stage was local boys, Those Damn Crows, who already are legendary in the area. If you live in South Wales, you would have heard of these and more than likely are a follower. The amount of TDC tees being sported along with other paraphernalia amongst the crowds out-did any other being worn. The two large TV screens were showing an interview with Shane, who had walked onto the stage and watched himself to the amusement of the onlookers. The chanting from the crowd turned into an almighty cheer when the guys bounded on. You could tell they were loving the attention, and the fact that they were playing on home turf. Performing three tracks from their forthcoming album, confidently opening with one of their newest songs 'Who Did It' and moving onto tracks from their debut album 'Murder And The Motive', they were ruling the crowd who were singing, bouncing and rocking out reverently. The atmosphere was electric, and the hills were certainly alive with the sound of music. It was only when Shane took to the keyboard disguised as a piano for an acoustic version of 'Blink Of An Eye' did it lull slightly in respect to the music. Ending with their anthem 'Rock 'N' Roll Ain't Dead', the applause was deafening, and the guys got the respect that they deserve. Many of the crowd were commenting on how they should have been the chosen headliners.

The headliners tonight, who also had a good share of their fans, were rising English band Massive Wagons, hailing from Lancaster. Last time I personally saw them was at the Communion Of Rock Festival where they also shared the stage with TDC. They are no strangers to the scene, and already have a ten-year career under their belt. They have performed at Wembley Arena, toured the UK and supported The Dead Daises, Lynyrd Skynrd and The Wildhearts. It is no surprise to see them doing so well as their charismatic frontman Baz Mills led the band through balls out, anthemic Rock 'n' Roll that is not designed for the faint-hearted. The set mainly featured tracks from their 2018 'Full Nelson' album, they band put on a tight and professional performance including Pyro cannons and costume changes. The show would have been excellent if, due to lighting issues, we could fully see the frontman when he was on the very front of the stage and the ego ramp had been lit. Let me just state that this was no matter, as everyone there loved their set. Thinking that was the end of the night, Baz asked the previous bands to come back onto the stage for their cover version of Slade's 'Cum On Feel The Noize' and everyone went wild. It was a marvellous sight and fantastic ending to the evening.

As I joined the fellow campers along the short walk back to the campsites, comments on how much they had enjoyed the day rang through the air, and musings about the following days line-up were being discussed. It was looking like it was going to be a great one.

Saturday

Waking up at 8.30am to the smell of bacon and coffee wafting in through the vent of my tents, I awoke and dressed, stomach growling. Opening the door, I was presented with another beautiful day. After delighting in a munch of said bacon sandwich and hot coffee, I grabbed my gear and walked to the small area by the gates and caught up with another festival goer. We managed to pass the time until the gates opened at midday and were enjoying the moment of being at the festival, commenting on how well organised it was, with security at each campsite entrance, the cleanliness of the site and the lovely staff. By the time we had stood up to take our place, the queue was already backed up to near where the camping was located. Joining the queue, it soon was heaving and noticeably a lot more people in attendance. It was so nice to see a mix of all ages, from the very young to the more mature. The Festival really is set up for families and everyone was looking out for each other. It really was like being part of one big family whose connection is the love of Rock. Today was a line-up of eight bands and some were big stars, other not so but still, their promising rising reputations were definitely worth talking about.

Midland based four-piece Liberty Lies had the opening slot. With having won "Best New Wave Band" and supporting Inglorious on their forthcoming tour, they are certainly starting to make waves of their own. Lingering cobwebs and brain fog from the previous day were certainly cleared with the band's thundering performance.

People were now starting to take their chairs, of which there were a few, and their manoeuvring to a suitable standing spot, the sky was still blue with the sun radiating over the arena for Ryder's Creed's turn to show their talents. Lead singer Ryan Anthony had the image of a younger Ricky Warwick, with the flicked hair, sunglasses, blue denim cut-off waist coat and boy, his voice was on top form. He and guitarists Lee Spencer and Myles Cooper were all energetically using the whole of the stage and platforms, putting their youthful exuberance to full use and smashing it! They put on a great set with some evidential ZZ top influences in their music and even covering Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile'. Ryan also expertly interacted with the crowd, to which he divided into half and got the two sides to individually scream, competing to outdo each other, which they wilfully obeyed.

It was time for a quick sit down and coffee break before Hollowstar burst onto the stage. Frontman, bassist and vocalist Joe Bonson has a gritty raw Blues vocal style. It just so happens that one of his main influences are Thunder, and for him to be sharing the same stage as those guys who were headlining later, this must have been such a buzz for him. With Slash and Black Stone Cherry also being included in their influences, you could certainly hear them being reimagined through the band's fresh tunes, with hard hitting riffs, melodic guitar work and Joe's Classic Rock vocals melding all together, you can definitely see why they are listed as one of Planet Rock's "Ones To Watch". On a more serious note, Joe took a moment to give a speech regarding bringing mental health issues to the forefront, as this is an important matter to him personally. I can firmly say, there were a few wobbly-looking teary faces when this was happening. Joe's brother Jack joins him on drums, along with the dual lead guitarists Phil Haines and Tom Collett. The Steelhouse crowd were more than happy to join in, singing in harmony to 'Bye Bye Baby Goodbye' and 'All I Gotta Say'. With their last note ringing in our ears, things really started to heat up and not just in weather terms. The band's performances were getting more and more energetic with each one trying to outdo the previous, and this was fantastic viewing and infectious to the crowd.

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Canadian-bred from B.C, Rock 'n' Roll cowboys The Wild are a vivacious three-piece who really know how to get down and party. From the outset they were leaping and bouncing all over the place, nothing was safe; drum kits, monitors, you name it, they were jumping from it. Their quirkiness isn't refined to their stage antics, their stage names also show their wildness, lead guitarist and vocalist Dylan Villain, drummer Reese Lightning, bassist Boozuz and the excellently moustached guitarist The Kid, just adds that extra je ne sais quois. And I loved their carefree, gritty attitude. It was fun, it was raw, and it rocked. Their Rockabilly sound, mixed with Country/Blues Rock, and with a Punk attitude, really made a great impression on me, and from what I observed, many others.

Mid-afternoon soon came and at 4.30pm American rockers Crobot were announced. Sparkly frontman Brandon Yeagley, adorned in a blue, white and black sequined waistcoat, and to me having an air of comedian Russell Brand, made a positive impression from the time he and the band emerged from backstage to the intro music of 'Ghostbusters'. Their Groove Rock set, with influences from the likes of Led Zeppelin, QOTSA and Deep Purple to name a few, certainly was a delight for the ears. Unfortunately, and more than likely due to the time slot, there were not too many ears to delight which was a shame as the frontman certainly gave a fantastic performance. Joined by guitarist Chris Bishop, drummer Dan Ryan and bassist James Lascu, their performances of tracks from their album 'Something Supernatural', 'Drown' from their new album 'Motherbrain' and a cover of Toto's 'Africa' all went down a treat.

First emerging in 1987 and after being on a long hiatus, stalwart veteran Scottish rockers Gun were now ready to rock. Their reformation in 2008, the band certainly hit the live scene with a bang. With the only original founding member of guitarist Giuliano Gizzi in the line-up, joined by fellow axe man Tommy C Gentry, vocalist Dante Gizzi, drummer Paul McManus and bassist Andy Carr, they certainly looked happy to be up there. Their set was a good overview of their hits, and of course included their renowned classics 'Word Up!' and 'Inside Out', to end with Beastie Boys cover 'You Gotta Fight for Your Right (To Party!)'

Now it was time for Phil Campbell and his troupe to strut their stuff. No, not that one from Motörhead, but the one from The Temperance Movement. Glaswegian lead singer Phil was belting out from his heart with the accompanying, and surprising for me to see, full-on Mick Jagger moves. I guess it shouldn't be that much of a shock, as The Rolling Stones, The Faces and Neil Young are classed as their influences. Good ol' early Classic Blues Rock riffs emanated from guitarists Luke Potashnick and Paul Sayer, and driven beats powered by bassist Nick Fyffe and the Australian-born drummer Damon Wilson. They even managed to throw in a cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Custard Pie' for good measure.

The darkness of night had started to take grip on the day. Now it was the time for the mighty Thunder to show us all why they are masters of the arena. 2019 marks their thirtieth anniversary of the band, and this their only outdoor UK appearance and the veterans gave us a historic reminiscence of their classics. Drum extraordinaire Harry James was tucked away behind the kit, belting out those classic beats, and frontman Danny Bowes with his resplendent voice still hit those notes with perfection. Guitarists Luke Morley and Ben Matthews and bassist Chris Childs were all on top form. Being introduced by AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck', the band hit the stage and from the outset rocked our socks off with the likes of 'Backstreet Symphony' and 'Love Walked In', with encores of 'Gimme Some Lovin'' and 'Dirty Love', all to which the crowd were singing their hearts out and arms raised in honour.

Once the stage had emptied, the throngs of people were either heading to the campsite, home or to the DJ tent which was now in full swing and the tent already crammed to the max. It was a hard choice which way for me to go, however tiredness had firmly taken its grip and off to the tent I headed.

Sunday.

Sunday morning came all too soon, and after having a nightmare of little to no sleep due to a punctured airbed, I dragged myself out to find coffee. It was also at this point I decided to pack down my gear and drop it off at home as to lessen the hecticness of today's activity. Getting down the mountain in the car was just as hard as getting up there, but it was managed, and after chucking the tent and rucksack into the living room, downing a cuppa and a quick shower, it was time to journey back up. Unfortunately, due to a rather overcautious 4x4 Land Rover driver, which had already received a good shouting at by a fellow frustrated driver, I missed the first half of Wille And The Bandits set. From the last half, their Folk-Blues Rock vibe was a nice easy start to the day. The Cornwall-based trio have received compliments from their peers such as Joe Bonamassa, Bob Harris and more. To create their unique sounds, they perform with a list of impressive instruments, including the use of the lap steel and from the early gathering of the crowd's reaction, I could see they went down well.

Next up, all-girl four-piece The Amorettes have recently gone through a line-up change. Founding member vocalist and lead guitarist Gill Montgomery has now teamed up with Laurie Buchanan (Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics) and Tequila Mockingbyrds' drummer Josie O'Toole and bassist Jacinta Jaye. The ladies gave a decent fourty minute set reminiscent of Suzie Quatro and retro seventies Classic Rock which received a good amount of appreciation from the attendees.

With the weather changing its mind from one minute to the next, from boiling hot to a very cool breeze and cloudy sky, Bristolians Tax The Heat were on form to keep us warm. Their eclectic Jazzy Funk Rock sound and smart shirt and jeans outfits were enough to keep us visually and mentally focused. It's hard to really sum up in words the genre of this band, however being signed to Nuclear Blast, they have certainly made their mark and are ones to keep an eye out if you are looking for something a little bit out of the ordinary. It seems after their performance, they will have a few new followers.

Another band hailing from Canada, more precisely Toronto, is Rock trio Danko Jones. Although I have seen and heard the name in the media, I hadn't really checked them out, so this was an interesting one for me personally. Self-titled after the lead vocalist and guitarist Mr Danko Jones, who is also known for his spoken word shows on the radio, is joined by bassist John 'JC' Calabrese and drummer Rich Knox. I didn't know what to expect, but what I and the crowd received was a high-octane performance, full of Punk attitude and blazing Blues Rock. Full of humour from the frontman, he even taunted the photographers, raising three of his fingers and questioning, "Three, what is three? Where are you going, I haven't even got warmed up yet" and poked his tongue out. There was a bit of that during the set, which led to some fantastically comedic moments. The band have a great onstage confidence, and I guess that's what happens when you have toured with some of the greats including Ozzy Osbourne, The Rolling Stones, Volbeat and Motörhead. They even dedicated a song to Phil Campbell. However, this was the Phil Campbell of Motörhead fame, who was actually in attendance on this day, hovering around the front of house, to which a few lucky fans did manage to get a photo with him.

The mighty Uriah Heep came on to a huge cheer and applause. New members, bassist Dave Rimmer and drummer Russell Gilbrook, certainly blended in with founding guitarist Mick Box, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, and vocalist Bernie Shaw who has been with the band since the eighties. They were precise, enthusiastic and put on an absolute blinder of a show, performing new tracks from their latest album 'Living The Dream' amongst classics such as 'Rainbow Demon' and leaving us with 'Easy Livin''. You could hear the mutterings of fans stating how fantastic the guys were, and even to the point that they should have been the headliners for the night.

Another thirty-year celebration was about to happen in the form of Living Colour. It has been thirty years since the release of 'Vivid'. Frontman Corey Glover, adorned in a striking red suit and dyed purple hair, did outwardly question at how he and the band were going to "follow" the Heep's performance. With their mix of Jazz, Soul and Rock, it did seem an odd choice to have them in this slot, however, they had a good amount of followers in the crowd who were more than happy to party along with the guys and show them love and appreciation. I must admit, this was another first for me so it was enjoyable to hear their own material, with the inclusion of Junior Murvin's 'Police And Thieves' and then, a true surprise. Mr Bernie Marsden, ex Whitesnake, bounded on for a jam of Cream's 'Sunshine Of Your Love'. Following this was another cover, which came in the form of Talking Heads' 'Memories Can't Wait'. The only track that I really knew, and a firm fan favourite, 'Cult Of Personality' which must be their best known track, was received with cheers and accompanied crowd singing. At one point, Corey even jumped off the stage during this and went wandering through the crowd, only to disappear amongst the throng and to reappear back on stage. Finishing with their unique cover of The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go', they ended their set on a high.

A short break came when Max and Mikey were introduced. They have been part of the team since 2011 and have been a major part of the Steelhouse crew. The crowd were cheering and showing their appreciation, before they received a surprise from the Phantom Flan-flinger, who approached them from behind and got them both right in the faces before sneaking off into obscurity. With cheers of laughter, from both the people on and off stage, the headliners for the final night of the festival were about to perform. The crowd was buzzing, tightly packed and ready to rock.

Thin Lizzy, headed now by Ricky Warwick who for me will always be synonymous with The Almighty , exploded onto the stage, with fellow legends drummer Scott Travis (Judas Priest), original member Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper) on guitars , long standing keyboardist Darren Wharton and, surprisingly, bassist Troy Sanders of Mastodon fame. Ok, so the obvious statement to make is that Ricky is no Lynott, and that would be a true statement to make in many ways, however, he certainly holds his own and commands his position, looking as good as ever and certainly can belt out those hits. As a band, Thin Lizzy were celebrating their fourtieth anniversary of the 'Black Rose' album. Hammering us from the outset with the hi-intensity 'Jailbreak' and 'Are You Ready', we were treated to 'Black Rose' being performed in its entirety. Ending with firm favourites 'The Boys Are Back In Town' and 'Whiskey In The Jar', to which the whole crowd were singing back, the boys certainly put on a fantastically energetic and special set to leave us with as their last note rung out, ending the festival and ensuring we were all leaving on a high.

As we thousands in attendance slowly made their way to their cars, the dark sky was lit with a Firework display worthy of November 5th. Steelhouse, you certainly rock, and I, along with many others say thank you. It was a fantastic experience and I'm sure next year, when they celebrate their decade, it will be a festival not to miss.

Sonia Waterfield

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