Hard Rock Hell 12 Day 1
Thursday 8th November
Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales
18:00 - 18:40 Eden's Curse
19:00 - 19:40 Myke Gray
20:00 - 20:55 Rock Goddess
21:15 - 22:15 Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons
22:35 - 00:15 Michael Schenker Fest
Hard Rock Hell is 12 years old this year and a lot has changed in those dirty dozen years. Starting in the relatively tropical climes of Minehead, the three day festival of Rock has moved locations a couple of times and evolved into a smooth running familiar feeling format that the faithful masses flock to every year. It shows how popular this festival is with its faithful fans that 2019 has more or less sold out before 2018 has begun. One huge factor might be that the current location in Pwllheli really is the arse end of nowhere to get to and, as usual, we are being subjected to the worst that Mother Nature (no relation) has set aside for North West Wales in November. Next year is the far more accessible paradise resort that is Great Yarmouth. We look forward to not travelling ten hours to get there.
So to HRH 12. We fight our way through the wet and cold from our accommodation at this Haven holiday park to the main arenas where all the action happens. The great thing about festivals in holiday camps is that you get warm, dry comfortable accommodation with some kick ass purpose made venues with great sound and plenty of bars. Day 1 is a relatively low key day with only one of the two stages open and just half a dozen acts. But it is no throw away day - we get some top Rock with some stellar names. As usual, we are treated to the 'opening ceremony' which this year was a notably unimpressive. Previous years have seen some lavish productions whilst this year we had our ever lovely fire juggling girls, dressed as a raft of Harley Quinn's cavorted to the strains of Marilyn Manson's 'Mobscene'. Short but sweet.
Opening act are the Glasgow based Eden's Curse, a multinational quintet with sounds reminiscent of bands like Europe and Journey. The keyboards really shone through as the guitar was struggling with technical issues which soon resolved to bring some more Metal vibes. Guitarist Thorsten Koehne plays a guitar that is the bastard love child of a flying V and an SG which proved to be the vital ingredient. Their short set was watched by a small but growing crowd and was appreciated as a fine start to the weekend.
Following on, and now playing to a full house are Myke Gray. For those unfamiliar, the namesake guitarist was an integral part of nineties rockers Skin. His current incarnation is a vehicle for the Joe Satriani lookalike to play like a Joe Satriani soundalike. For this festival however, the instrumentalist has had the inspired idea of recruiting Kim Jennett, from Voodoo Blood, for vocals. What a powerful little powerhouse she is. With only a week or so to learn a back catalogue of Skin tracks, she - and the band - really kicked it in. Classics like 'Take Me Down To The River', 'Look But Don't Touch' and 'Shine Your Light' were belted out with the force of a West Wales weather forecast. Great band, great set, easily the find of the day.
Seasoned rockers Rock Goddess took to the stage to give the now packed auditorium a tour of classic NWOBHM style Metal. Whilst only a three piece they pump out some loud and lairy Rock through the ubiquitous Marshall stacks. Great sound. Finishing with Girlschool's 'Heavy Metal Rock 'n' Roll', the level of testosterone increased manyfold.
The penultimate, and for me, the most eagerly anticipated band is Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. Mr. C., once of Motorhead for over 30 years, has put together a band including his three sons, Tyla, Dane and Todd who play some kick bottom Rock and Roll. Whilst having their own distinct sound, they are made from the same straight up Heavy Rock and Roll material of the aforementioned Motorhead. With an hour long set, the playlist was a well balanced mix of their own material and Motorhead classic covers. When we saw them a few years ago they had limited material of their own but following the release of their album 'The Age Of Absurdity', they have some really strong material. 'Freak Show' and 'Get On Your Knees' being good examples. But it was covers of classics like 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S', 'Ace Of Spades' and 'Silver Machine' (dedicated by Phil to all past Motorhead heroes sadly no longer with us) that got the crowd properly pumped up. Finishing with a cover of 'Bomber', the boys show that they have evolved into a class act that deserves to be headliners at any festival.
Headliners and closing out day one is Michael Schenker and his Fest - a celebration of all the incarnations of bands that the German axeman has graced. The stage saw luminaries such as Graham Bonnett, Gary Borden, Robin McCauley and Dougie White taking turns on vocals, bringing their own flavour. It was indeed a fest for the Schenker die hard singing along to everything from the Scorpions to his latest 'Take Me To The Church'. Not a bad way to end a wet and wild day. Back through the starry Welsh evening, assisted by the local branch of the RNLI, we reflected on what had been a great opening day. Roll on tomorrow. Bring on the Paracetamol.
Michael Schenker Fest setlist:
Holiday (Scorpions song)
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Vigilante Man (Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock song)
Take Me to the Church (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Captain Nemo (Michael Schenker Group song)
Night Moods (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Assault Attack (Michael Schenker Group song)
Coast to Coast (Scorpions song)
Messin' Around (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Armed and Ready (Michael Schenker Group song)
Into the Arena (Michael Schenker Group song)
Bad Boys (McAuley-Schenker Group song)
Heart and Soul (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Warrior (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Shoot Shoot (UFO song)
Natural Thing (UFO song)
Only You Can Rock Me (UFO song)
Rock Bottom (UFO song)
Lights Out (UFO song)