Hard Rock Hell 13 Day 1
Thursday 7th November 2019
13 years on and Hard Rock Hell is underway again at a new venue but with a familiar routine. So is it unlucky 13 or a bakers dozen of delight? Well tonight's opening night has been a huge disappointment as the usually slick HRH organisation have dropped the ball in a number of ways. HRH are veterans of organising large music festivals at premier holiday camps. The basics needed are large stages with good sound, plenty of bars well stocked and staffed, decent accommodation and sufficient eateries and ancillaries like WiFi etc. And probably in that order of priority. All were present in last year's North Wales venue although getting there was always an ordeal.
Getting to Great Yarmouth is infinitely easier to get to and the facilities and accommodation is as good as ever. The bars are plentiful, well stocked and amply staffed. Sadly, the stages and sound have hugely failed. The format is for two stages with stage 1 being the home for the headline acts and stage 2 for the up and coming acts. As per usual everything is on stage 1 for the opening night and immediately the problems are evident. The stage 1 is too small, badly organised and with poor sound. The stage is set at floor level due to the very low ceiling and a seated only VIP section has been put centre stage in front of all. The results are chaos. And due to the restrictions of the venue, it's difficult to see how this can be improved. With more punters and bigger acts on day 2, it will be interesting to see what happens.
So to the bands. After the brief but excellent opening ceremony performed by the absorbing Area 51 troupe, openers Liberty Lies are a last minute replacement. The Black Country band are in the style of Biffy Clyro and QOTSA with a slightly Prog tinge to a Classic Rock sound. Like all the bands, they struggled to work the room with it's peculiar set up but were full of enthusiasm and joy which transmitted to the already full auditorium. Showcasing tracks from their forthcoming album 'It's The Hope That Kills You', the 5 piece were a great way to start the day.
Next up are Killcode, the New York based 5 piece, who describe their sound as Southern infused Rock/Metal. Frontman and founding member Tom Morrissey shows more of a Rap Metal vibe, with his smart short hair and shades, than a Southern Rock Metal band. But it's a cool vibe. Their song 'Cool Kids' sums up their performance. Lots of audience interaction - "I say Kill, you say code" - and plenty of grooving from the corralled crowd. They close with a cover of Twisted Sisters 'You Can't Stop Rock And Roll', a nice touch as Dee Snider was due to headline the stage tonight but unfortunately had to cancel due to ill health.
Next up are Tequila Mockingbyrd, a much changed line up consisting of members of TM and The Amorrettes. This time the female quartet included a male bassist, but Jacinta Jaye and Josie O'Toole have been consistent members of both bands. The brand of drink themed Rock music remains although they are talking about reinventing themselves. A shame if they lose their excellent Rock and Roll vibe. Their new single sounds something like an Irish sea shanty. But the short set was still full of the feel-good Rock tracks like 'Somebody Put Something In My Drink' and closing favorite 'I Smell Rock And Roll'. Great stuff.
Act of the night were Cloven Hoof. The veteran NWOBHM 5 piece hailing from the Midlands sound exactly like what they are. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are both bands that spring to mind. Marshall amps and Gibson LTD guitars, strong wailing vocals, black leather and pentagrams. It's classic yet still fresh. Frontman George Call struts a la Dickinson/Halford in front of hugely powerful sound. It's just a shame that the arena didn't showcase either the sound or the show in it's best light. But a great set well received. Electric Mary are an Australian 5 piece with influences from Deep Purple to John Lennon. Their short set was as eclectic and entertaining.
Headline act are Reef, last minute stand ins after the late cancellation by Dee Snider. The bearded rockers were complemented with Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, notably clean shaven. The funky rockers had a more Stoner Rock feel to their set. Now into their 26th year, the funky band famous for their 1997 hit 'Place Your Hands', have evolved into a more rounded rocking act with frontman Gary Stringer and bassist Jack Bessant being the consistent factor throughout. 2018 saw them release their first new album since 2000 but the various projects in between have paid dividends. Regular festival appearances have honed their live skills since which are evident tonight. The set gets a warm reception from the appreciated audience with tracks including 'Precious Metal', 'Revalation', 'Place Your Hands' and 'Summer's In Bloom' before closing 'Yet Old'. A final encore of a cover of The Faces 'Stay With Me' closes an excellent set.
So day 1 ends with a musical flourish but a raft of vitriol on social media by some seriously upset regular punters. It's a shame because the unusually poor organisation has completely overshadowed the great acts. Let's see if the HRH team listen and act. Hopefully day 2 will see some changes.