Ramblin' Man Fair Day 2
Saturday 20th July 2019
Mote Park, Maidstone
Day 2 at Ramblin' Man sees a different kind of day. We now have 4 stages of music to enjoy and today is a day full of glorious sunshine. Yes! The four stages are The Rising Stage where up and coming acts get their chance to shine. The Prog In The Park stage which showcases the more thoughtful side of the genre. The Outlaw Country Stage where apparently Country music has not been outlawed. And the main Planet Rock Stage. All are sufficiently close to each other to allow a perambulation between each via the assorted retail, food and fine ale establishments. So that is what I will do. It's a day to soak up the sun, the ale and the wide range of music.
But before I do, I get the 'luxury' of being 'allowed' into the VIP suite to watch a short acoustic set by the fabulous Bad Touch. The five piece are no stranger to festivals, or Ramblin' Man, having been working the circuits for years. Today's short set strips away their electric sound to show their Blues Rock in a more laid back style although with no less excitement. Vocalist Stevie Westwood doesn't seem to get phased by anything so opening day to a major festival is just another day for him and the band. They are writing more songs at the moment so expect a new album in the Spring next year. If it's as good as their last album - 'Shake A Leg' - it will be worth a listen.
So the rest of the day is a whirl of sounds and styles that satisfies all four corners of my music needs. There are so many to mention that I can only mention the highlights. Deep breath, here goes... Raveneye open the Main stage with some awesome chugging Rock. Whilst only a three piece band, they make some big sounds with Oli Brown on lead and vocals, bassist Aaron Spiers and drummer Adam Breeze. Highlight was their track 'You're A Lie' which sees the chugging Rock sound carried solely by Spiers and Breeze. Big dirty sound. Meanwhile, over on the Outlaw stage Willie and the Bandits are putting down some funky grooves. Think early ZZ Top.
Outlaw Orchestra open the Rising stage with a whole heap of fun. With a double bass, guitar and banjo, the four piece dosie-doh the crowd who thoroughly enjoyed them. Nice dirty guitar work helped too, so the toe tapping got noisier as the large crowd got larger. I do like the Rising stage. Many of the acts on the Main stage this year were on the Rising stage not so long ago. Like Wayward Sons for instance. Toby Jepson's current troupe take to the Main stage with a black dress/white instrument combo. Toby opts for a white Flying V rather than his usual hollowbody. Because he wants to Rock. Good choice Mr J. As 'Black As Sin' is an apt choice of song and a great Rock track too. Wayward Sons are another band that will headline this stage hopefully so their short set was over far too quickly for me.
Back at the Rising stage we see another band that are going places - and all of them good. Collateral - previously known as the Angelo Tristan Band - are fronted by charismatic singer Angelo Tristan. Well I never. Looking like the love child of Steve Tyler and Jack Sparrow, Tristan and his band of rock and rollers look like they would fit comfortably into the main stage. As it is, the four piece showed their talent by making their way to the Rising stage by winning a 40 band competition. Guitarist Todd Winger plays a Jackson guitar through Orange amps giving the band an almost Metal sound although they are clearly rockers. Ones to watch.
OTIS, hailing from the same Kentucky town as Black Stone Cherry, give us some awesome Southern Rock groove on the Outlaw stage but I am drawn away all too quickly to watch Ugly Kid Joe on the Main stage. The California band have been around since the 80's and have that genre defying sound that is Rock, Hard Rock, Funk Metal and Heavy Metal. Or are they Skater Punk? They certainly dress that way. Except the drummer that is! I know it's hot but stick man Zac Morris chooses to wear nothing but a pair of short tight luminous green shorts. I think the ladies enjoyed it. Frontman Whitfield Crane is a legend and does a legendry job of interacting with the crowd, getting arms waving and voices singing. For the obligatory 'Cats In The Cradle' he focused on a young lad sitting on his dad's shoulders in the crowd and dedicated the song to him and all dad's with kids who Rock. The crowd roared every syllable - even the security team were singing - and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Jimmy Barnes is another legend - especially if you are an Aussie. They might almost call him an institution as he also fronts Cold Chisel, one of the best selling Australian acts of all times. He has a huge back line with guitars, bass, keys plus backing singers, but it is his distinctive powerful raspy voice that takes centre of the Main stage. It's a big Rock sound with Les Pauls and Tele's through Marshalls providing that authentic Australian Rock sound. Jimmy struts around in his tight black jeans sounding like an angry Working Man but when he isn't roaring down the microphone, his voice can still sound gentle when the occasional ballad requires it.
Beer time, so as I saunter towards one of the many fine beer tents in search of refreshment, I pop into the Prog Stage - it's a large tent. Inside, Pain of Salvation are playing. It's very intense. In a tent. I make my way out again. Where do you go for a little light relief? Well to the Rising stage of course. Dust Bowl Jokies, a Swedish five piece are just launching into their cover of 'Jumping Jack Flash' with vocalist Alexx's voice sounding the spit of early Geddy Lee. These fellas like to Rock. As do Ryder's Creed who follow them. The five piece from the Midlands are the real deal and have been making a bit of a name for themselves on the Rock circuit. And picking up the odd award on the way. Over on the Outlaw stage Jesse Dayton plays some great Hillbilly music with fun banter and a good deal of Irreverence. He does a fun cover of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' too.
Back to the Main stage sees the excellent Temperance Movement. Regulars on Planet Rock's airwaves, the band have a considerable catalogue of tracks that sees the crowd really grooving. You just can't help but sway. Or is that the beer? Frontman Phil Campbell comes across as a stereotypical angry Glaswegian but belies that when he invites a little girl on stage to play maracas during 'Only Friend'. It was a very sweet moment.
Back on the Outlaw stage was one of the best sets of the day - courtesy of The Allman Betts Band. Led by Devon Allman, son of founding Allman Brothers Band keyboardist and singer, Gregg Allman, and Duane Betts, son of founding Allman Brothers Band guitarist and singer, Dickey Betts, the band play the sort of Country Rock that gave the festival (sorry, fair...) its name. And they are all truly chips off the old block. Mmmm, chips..... The line up is awash with talent with three guitarists, two percussionists, keys and bass. With assorted guitars played through Fender amps, the distinctive Southern slide sound was divine. As well as covering some well known family classics, and some of their own new material, they covered 'Purple Rain' and brought on Black Stone Cherry's Ben Wells for one helluva Southern Blues rock jam. I could have stayed and watched them all day. Quite mesmerising.
Back on the Main stage, Cheap Trick show that they are growing older disgracefully. The Dream Police were living their dream, dressed in their trademark two tone Dream Police outfits. The set had all the punters favourites - 'Surrender', 'I Want You To Want Me' and 'Goodnight Now', as well as a couple of covers - including Velvet Undergound's 'I'm Waiting For The Man'. Their set squeezed in a lot of numbers but not as many as the closing set on the Outlaw stage. Kenny Wayne Shepherd's set lasted just over two hours from opening track 'Woman Like You', a cover of Buffalo Springfields' 'Mr. Soul' through a seriously rocking setlist that included his version of 'Voodoo Child'. Nice.
The headline act and closing the Main stage are Black Stone Cherry. What a great live band. It is noticeable that BSC have a considerable following of younger rockers as well as those of more experienced years. The Kentucky quartet have been around since the early naughties but still feel to me like a fresh new band. And what a back catalogue. Every track is a diamond, played with all the power and passion that frontman Chris Robertson and the band can muster. This is rock played from the heart. The crowd love it. The band live it. It's electric. A fine production too. Ben Wells prances around like a maniac as does bassist Lawhon whilst Robertson owns the centre stage, and the entire park. Some of the stand outs in a flawless set include the almost reggae like version of 'In My Blood' and the 'Purple Haze' section in 'Cheaper To Drink Alone'. But it's difficult to single out anything in a set that had everyone singing at the top of their voices throughout. The closing track, by way of the encore, sees Chris get everyone in the audience to hold hands and raise them in the name of piece as they sign off with 'Peace Is Free'. Great ending to a great set.
Well done Ramblin' Man, what a great day. How can tomorrow top that? Well lets wait and see.
Black Stone Cherry Setlist:
Me and Mary Jane
In My Blood / Island
Like I Roll
My Last Breath
Cheaper to Drink Alone /Purple Haze
Blame It On The Boom Boom
White Trash Millionaire
Peace Is Free
Mother (pictures courtesy of Rockrpix)