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Thursday, 1 August 2013

The View From The Muddy Field: Steelhouse Festival (Day 1)

Steelhouse Festival, Hafan-Y-Mor Farm, Aberbeeg, Ebbw Vale

After years of travelling to gigs and festivals it was nice to have one on my doorstep, two days of classic rock in a field in Wales after a week of hot sunshine, so yes you guessed it on the first day (that I was there) it rained very heavily for most of the day, however due to the fact that everything was within walking distance it meant that there was time to retreat from the rain. Seeing as this festival is in its infancy there were a few teething problems, one was the incredibly rocky path leading to the top of the mountain where the festival was held, two was the sanitation there was just not enough toilets!! (Which can be a BIG problem) and three was the supply problems. However this was made up for by its intimacy, the general relaxed feel and a stellar line up of bands.
Steelhouse is a classic rock festival so the bands were not going to appeal to Dimmu Borgir fans (on the whole) however with the mighty Saxon and Michael Schenker heading we were in for a real treat. So at 12:30 we took a short walk to the arena and got down to business.

Day 1

Fireroad

First up were BOTB winners Fireroad who played a hard edged brand of Foo Fighter-like radio rock, they were solid enough but nothing special however there local fan base was out in force and were cheering the band who reciprocated with some on stage banter and some strong songs that warmed the crowd up nicely. 6/10

Dead Shed Jokers

DSJ can be classed as alternative rock if we're pigeon-holing, bringing in some classic metal with big heaps of QOTSA style fuzzed up garage rock to provide deafening aural assault the crowd lapped it up and the band were a more of left field choice that went down well converting a lot of the hardcore classic rockers in the crowd with their odd vocal lines and almost voodoo like rhythms that appealed to those who partook in some 'gardening' 7/10

Due to other pressing matters e.g. torrential downpours I missed most of Hand Of Dimes set but from what I heard former Skin frontman Neville MacDonald was belting out some high quality harmonica drenched blues rock with gusto, one to check out in drier conditions
As the heavens descended we ventured back in for one of the bands that I was really looking forward to seeing, the hotly tipped The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement

The five-piece came on to the stage with no fanfare and looking like a bunch of art students all bohemian clothes and odd headgear however when the clean Californian sound of Luke and Paul's guitars come in over the driving rhythm of Nick and Damon the band evoke memories of days past listening to The Black Crowes with whom TTM share a lot of similarities mostly in the scarred, scotch soaked vocals of frontman Phil who definitely moves like Jagger contorting his wiry frame into all sorts of mad shapes while the band rock out in their Gypsy-blues rock way. They definitely live up to the hype as their hour set is mesmerising to watch, the fire these men have is incredible every riff, every solo, every freak out is done with pure passion, it's like discovering a band on the brink of greatness, the first true standout moment. 9/10

However then we had:

Anvil

The Canadian also-rans first time on Welsh soil must have been quite a rush for Anvil however I doubt frontman/guitarist Lips knew where the hell he was! I've seen Anvil before and they didn't impress me then and they  still don't Lips' silly between song banter was only matched by his silly songs with their alliterative names and not mention the 'famous' dildo solo during Mothra which still seems to go on forever. Despite the furore their movie caused and the fact that they are revered by a lot of the metal and rock community for sticking with their chosen career through adversity, I can't always help but think there is a reason why some bands languish in obscurity, although maybe I'm just a snob...6/10

FM

So time for the AOR part of the evening breaking up the relentless metallic attack with some smoothly delivered prime radio rock. FM have had somewhat of a re-insurgence in the past few years mainly due to some strong albums and an appearance at Download where they filled in for Ratt and were rapturously received. The key to FM's popularity has always been Steve Overland's voice which is still as smooth as silk, yes the hair has gone but that voice remains. For those who enjoy AOR FM were manna from heaven filling the arena with their huge sing along hooks. There was waving, singing and lighters all while having the Welsh summer come down on our heads. If AOR is your bag then FM are the top of the heap, less cheesy than some of their compatriots (Looking at you Mr Jovi) and still releasing quality albums and playing slick, professional gigs. 8/10

Saxon

So now it was time for the main event, Biff and the boy's first show in Wales for a few years and they brought their European stage set up with them, after the intro of Procession it was all hands to battle stations as they plunged into the thrash-like riff of Sacrifice from their most recent album of the same name, heads banged, fists raised and horns pointed as this was followed by Power & The Glory and Heavy Metal Thunder. We had flames, we had smoke we had the band giving everything they had the twin guitar play of Scarratt and Quinn was smoking hot throughout as was the bass pulse of Nibbs Carter and the skin smashing of Nigel Glockler (who got his own solo complete with rising drums and his name in lights). We were told this concert was being filmed for a documentary and so with that the crowd picked And The Bands Played On  and the juggernaut tore on (like a certain princess) The Eagle Has Landed got the old school fans hot under the collar before Solid Ball Of Rock and Stand Up And Fight smashed out with Biff in full flight, his voice is still perfect and he is the ultimate frontman, witty, charming and a little bit nuts. The set then went into greatest hits territory with Dallas 1PM followed quickly by 747 Strangers In the Night during which the massive Eagle light rig was revealed and was followed by a thousand camera flashes, this was the first time the Eagle has appeared in the UK in approximately 20 years, and there it stayed resolutely at the back of the stage for set closer Wheels Of Steel. The crowd were wet, tired, hoarse and begging for more and after  a brief rest bite the band returned for a three song encore despite an 11pm curfew. First was the odd choice of Crusader which was followed by the two stone cold classics of fans anthem Denim And Leather and the turbo charged Princess Of The Night. With the final chord played the crowd erupted (the biggest of the day, perhaps the weekend) this was truly an all or nothing performance and Saxon showed once again why they remain one of best Heavy Metal bands the UK has ever produced. Top quality metal and a perfect way to round off the first day, maybe with a reception like that they will visit this side of the Seven bridge more often. 10/10  
  

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