Steelhouse 2021 Hot

Added by ant-rocks     August 11, 2021    
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There was a lot to celebrate this festival as live music made a comeback

Ebbw Vale, Gwent, Wales – 23 July 2021 – 25- July 2021

People were super excited as, for many including myself and many of the bands, this was their first outside festival for about two years.

Day 1

Things kicked off promptly with The Howling Tides with their bluesy Americana feel, and I couldn't help but be reminded of Jared James Nichols, Tyler Bryant and Black Stone Cherry. The drummer did not have a full set of teeth, God bless him, but he looked like he was having the time of his life and flashed his grin on the big screen, missing teeth and all.
Ex Furyon member Matt Mitchell and his new retro band The Coldhearts were up next. Fast Metal guitar solos and falsetto abounded, although I preferred his voice when used in its deeper register. I was reminded of Myles Kennedy and there were flashes of greatness in their performance. If it wasn't completely flawless the crowd did not appear to notice.
King Creature, a US inspired 'System of A Down' kinda band, added a Doom Metal touch, but they were melodic enough to keep the Classic Rock audience happy.
Raveneye started like a speeded up Pearl Jam and were a bit Seattle-y with the drummer being noticeably influenced by Dave Grohl. Overheard in the crowd; "The singer's definitely a Chris Cornell fan". Hendrix was also definitely in the mix and later the set had that rolling feel and Stratocaster tone in a homage to Jimi. Still later they became a bit more Southern Rock with stomping beats and bluesy solos.
For me, the day really got going with one of my favourites, The Quireboys. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of their first album 'A Bit of What You Fancy' and releasing a re-recording of it this year, Spike brought his "I've been drinking razor blades" vocals, instant good time personality and eye-catching stage moves designed to use all available space while the rest of the band play proficiently on. He got brownie points with the crowd by dedicating a song to Jeff LaBar of Cinderella and by giving his trade mark red carnation to a little girl riding on someone's shoulders, and then got a laugh by saying "Don't tell her it's from the pound shop" and innocently enquiring "I hope no one's been drinking?" Obviously he did not neglect to get the crowd involved in a singalong and asking them to scream. Paul and Guy are a great pairing on guitar and teamed up on stage, appearing to enjoy each other's playing without egos being involved. Keith Weir provided the Honky-Tonk staccato ivories essential to the Quireboys' sound. Finishing with '7 O'Clock', my only complaint was it was too short and they didn't play 'Mayfair'.
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons are, of course, local favourites being Welsh, and tonight was kinda different as they have a temporary singer, Andrew Hunt from another Welsh band Buffalo Summer helping them out. No need to worry, it was a triumph as he has a most excellent bluesy voice which added an extra dimension to the band, although perhaps it was less trade mark Lemmy sounding for Motörhead covers like 'Ace Of Spades' and 'Killed By Death'. The classic Hawkwind number 'Silver Machine' and 'These Old Boots' from Phil's solo album also made an appearance. The iconic nature of the classic songs and the local hero element made this a sure fire hit with the crowd.

Day 2

Revival Black, fronted by a smiling Scouser, were irrepressible and soon made the crowd forget that the festival started late today due to damaged caused to the stage area overnight by the high winds. To me they bring a sound and a vibe rather than individually great songs, but were definitely enjoyable.
Hands Off Gretel were surprisingly the only band fronted by females on the bill. However, they came with attitude, challenging lyrics and made an impact. Let's hope we see more females on stage next year.
Florence Black were like a heavier Black Stone Cherry crossed with a streak of Pantera Thrash.
Kris Barras Band also provided a rocky groove, again redolent of BSC in places. Again, I was thinking that these bands were more about the vibe than the songs, but the crowd were responsive and happy.
Toby Jepson (newly shorn with a short hair cut!) provided a change of pace with his solo Little Angels acoustic covers. It was meant to be a Wayward Sons electric set, but as one of the band, the drummer I think, had to self-isolate, he was not free to play until Day 3, so Toby filled in. When the international bands like Anthrax and Europe had to drop out due to Covid some of the light and shade disappeared from the bill, and so it was good to say "now for something completely different". It did go on a bit long for an acoustic set and the rain (which only appeared intermittently on day 2) did not help, but if I noticed it, it seems the crowd did not.
Out of all the bands of the weekend Those Damn Crows stole the hearts of the crowd. There's no doubt they are THE local heroes out of a short list and could do no wrong in the eyes of the audience. People even brought their own crow masks in the crowd. The singing of the crowd was the best of the weekend and they seemed to know every word. The band were happy and bouncy and lifted the mood. Job definitely done!
Therapy? brought a streak of nineties grungy realism, suitably begun with the Joy Division cover 'Isolation'. Tackling subjects such as mental health and referring to Covid and unsung heroes such as road crew, they brought a punkier feel a bit like The Clash crossed with nineties zeitgeist. They elicited quite a bit of devotion at the front from followers who have clearly been with them from the beginning.
In the final stark contrast of the day The Darkness took to the stage and refused to take no for an answer. Despite excellent musicianship, energetic stage moves and great songs, the crowd appeared to be tiring. However, Justin just turned the silly knob way up to eleven until the crowd gave in giggling and just went with it, forgetting that it had been a long day. Personally, I love The Darkness and always find Justin Hawkins fascinating. Perhaps his denim shorts and leather stripper cap were a step or even two steps too far, but shock value is always part of the attraction of this band. They take a drum kit malfunction in their stride and finished triumphant with the Kung Fu crane. Due to the wind damage the set overran. We stayed till the end and got stranded and did not get back to our hotel till 7am, getting virtually no sleep till we had to get up and do it again, but it was worth it!


Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Day 3

Empyre are dark and moody, but the weather is fine and sunny, almost unheard of at Steelhouse, especially when rain was forecast, so everyone was feeling good and many chill, sitting down to listen to the first band and got slowly into the groove three days in.
However, Collateral, being a Bon Jovi AOR band big on style, are not going to let people sit down and it's big melodies, big gestures, loud music and loud coats of many colours all the way. The most talked about incident of the day was that singer Angelo Tristan could not get his arms out of his fabulous hand-made frock coat, perhaps due to his body heat, with both arms stuck backwards it took stage hands literally minutes to extricate him, leaving guitarist Todd Winger to go down the poseur ramp and play riffs to the crowd while they waited. That disaster averted, the new line up with an added guitarist and keyboard player went down well with the crowd, and this was another set that was over for me far too soon.
Mason Hill followed, keeping up the energy and the crowd going. Departing with the Foo Fighters 'Best Of Me' they must have been happy with their reception.
Wayward Sons, due to play the day before, took the Black Spiders slot for their full electric set. Always a pleasure to see smiley Sam Wood on stage, who can simply lift your mood by one look.
Stone Broken completed the mid-section of this final day. With quality vocals these crowd pleasers with their road trip, US style anthems held their end up in fine style.
Bernie Marsden was another highlight of the weekend for me. Whitesnake, being one of my favourite bands I am too young to have seen the original band live and so I am seeing some of these original Whitesnake numbers live for the first time as they are not played by current or recent incarnations of the band. Neville Macdonald has a fine voice and despite changing some of the lyrics, eg "nasty reputation" became "strange reputation" (he told me later he just forgot the real words!) he definitely did the songs justice and had a great stage presence. Despite twisting his back and having to sit down, Bernie went down a storm to chants of "Bernie Bernie Bernie" several times and remarked "there sure is a lot of love on this mountain". Doing an extended bluesy solo to 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City', he definitely did not let it affect his performance. Finishing with the obligatory 'Here I Go Again', another song he co-wrote, the performance was a triumph.
The Wildhearts only took the energy higher. If you read that they did not fulfill their potential at Download, all that was forgotten today when everything just went to plan, leaving Ginger with a big smile on his face after only three numbers. Starting with 'Diagnosis' it was anthem after anthem, high jumps, heavy melodies, singalong choruses and generally happy times. Playing to the crowd, "We've got time for a few more, but do you have time for a few more, that's all that matters' was certainly a rhetorical question and their set was another highlight of the weekend.
Uriah Heep have never been a band I have followed, but I was amazed at how much I enjoyed their set. Proving that age is no barrier to a stellar Rock show they sounded like Judas Priest or Dio at times, as well as playing some of their more proggy material. They definitely had a hard core of fans at the front drinking in every note. Would I go to see them again, you betcha!

Ending with a fireworks display, there was a lot to celebrate this festival as live music made a comeback, seemingly with no Covid consequences (everyone had to take a lateral flow test each day before being allowed in). There was an extra friendly feel about the festival this year as everyone felt good about being able to even be at a festival again. The festival staff were also welcoming and ruled with a light touch, making this event truly a pleasure to attend. There may have been hiccups, but really nobody noticed, the weather held fine pretty much for the whole time and, had it rained the whole time, I don't think it could have dampened the mood. Looking forward to next year!

Dawn Osborne

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