Ramblin' Man Fair - Day 1

Saturday 25th July 2015

Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent

Day one of the High Voltage reincarnation after four long years now known as Ramblin’ Man Fair took the WRC to the Garden of England and Mote Park in the heart of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone to be exact. There is no doubt that High Voltage has been badly missed by us Wrinkly Rockers so there was a lot of fascination on how well this brand new event organised by The Rock Collective and TeamRock featuring Classic Rock, Progressive Rock and Country and Blues music would go.. Never missing a trick, the WRC (well AJ actually) had been in discussion with the organisers for some time and after some delicate negotiations the Club had been provided with 3 Press passes and some guest passes as well. So AJ, Wrinkly the Silver and photographer John Bull gobbled those up giving unlimited roaming capability. Very useful!! AJ was preoccupied with pre-birthday events so the Saturday posse consisted of Silver, Wrinkly the Biker and his mate Rob and of course John to take his usual superb photos.



After meeting up at lunchtime at the home for the night (Premier Inn in Maidstone - no glamping for us I am afraid!!) Silver, Biker and Rob arrived mid-afternoon by taxi to cover the Saturday events.. So unfortunately missed the first handful of bands on the Main and Prog stage (No Hot Ashes, Toseland and Unto Us) Sorry guys.. No offence !!!



The first band on the day I came across was Hemel Hempstead's own Touchstone on the Prog stage. Formed in 2003 by keyboardist Rob Cottingham and guitarist Adam Hodgson and including other more recent band members bassist Paul 'Moo' Moorghen, singer Kim Seviour and drummer Henry Rogers, Touchstone have been described as "A band who combine the prog sensibilities of Yes with the hard rocking aptitudes of Van Halen", based on the diversity of the band members' influences. I wouldn't argue with that. Having missed them at the 2010 High Voltage Festival (glory days!!) this was my first sighting and I was impressed. Vocalist Kim has not only come into her own as a frontperson, working the entire stage (in heels, no less), but possesses a voice that is simply stunning. Not only can she hit the high notes, she can hit them with power and in the very next line give them a delicate touch. She avoids Gothic Metal drama in favour of simple emotion. Touchstone is a band whose melodic sound has a lot of commercial potential. So I wait to see where they go from here.. I enjoyed the 10 minute title track of their 2009 album ‘Wintercoast’ and a stomping upbeat cover of the Tears for Fears 80's classic ‘Mad World’ with added keyboard solo, which was right up their street and went very well indeed.. Perfect festival tune…



Next was a quick hop to the Main Stage to catch up with UK rock band FM which again was another band first for me. FM have been described by Classic Rock magazine as the best melodic rock band ever to come out of the UK. Now, more than 30 years after their classic debut album ‘Indiscreet’, and eight albums later I have finally caught up with them.. Where the hell have I been?? Formed in 1984 by ex-Samson members bassist Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Pete Jupp and Wildlife vocalist Steve Overland, they had success until they split up in 1995, but reformed in 2007 thank God and returned with sixth album ‘Metropolis’ to critical acclaim. The latest (and ninth!) effort ‘Heroes and Villians’ was released in April this year. They played eight tracks in their set here including the classic ‘That Girl’ and ‘The Other Side of Midnight’ and my favourite ‘Digging Up the Dirt’ from the new album. It's incredibly classy, all-killer-no-filler, and at a time when similar acts from the ‘80s have lost their hunger and spark, FM are arguably in the best damn form of their career from what I can gather. I think I have some serious catching up to do and having missed their UK tour in May this year (damn!) will make a note to self to catch a full gig next time round.



Blue Oyster Cult has a handful of radio-favorite songs as well as a collection of tunes that diehard fans truly treasure and they sadly only had time for eight songs in their timeslot, opening with ‘The Red and the Black’ followed by ‘Burning for You’, which the RM audience know well and sing along. ‘Harvester of Eyes’ is a guitar song, celebrating the guitar and the stadium chorus. The song is the story of a grim reaper of sorts, which BOC presents in a sharp drum and bass line that seems (to me) to be a fanciful “get to meet me” kind of song. ‘ME262’ could be called heavy metal in that it is a song, roughly about an airplane!! ‘Buck's Boogie’ goes down well and everyone wants to see ‘Godzilla’ the song about the Japanese movie monster and it is here more quickly than I expect. Again, the riff-heavy song moves like the title character in a lumbering pace toward the center of town. It is a fun song, and another of the radio hits. What can be said of ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’, the band's biggest chart success from 1976 that hasn’t already been said in comedy shows? Dharma wrote the song while picturing an early death for himself and an emotional Eric Bloom said; “I’d like to dedicate this to the late Amy Winehouse". The crowd were waiting for it from the start! Built around Dharma's opening haunting repetitive guitar riff, this song is one super, super radio-friendly hit and one of my all time favs so to hear it live was musical heaven for me. And yes the cowbell could be heard loud and clear. I will admit it was the first appearance of the weekend of the Silver air guitar!! It also without doubt set the first standard for a sing-along moment of the festival. An incendiary ‘Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll’ followed and that was it.. They were gone. Off back to America...Bugger!!! They were a lot better than I expected and the biggest surprise of the whole festival for me. Should have had more stage time in my view as would surely have played an encore if the scheduling has allowed. BOC’s career now spans over four decades and sadly hasn’t released any new albums since the ‘Curse of the Hidden Mirror’, which came out in 2001, but in 2012, all BÖC albums were re-released in a massive collector’s edition box set that contained 16 CDs and one DVD. That's good enough for me and yet again I have some catching up to do!



By this time Biker and Rob had positioned themselves in the Prog Stage Grandstand to see their favourite proggers Pendragon and I popped over to see them perform ‘Break the Spell’ which was very good. I couldn't stay long as needed to get back for British heavy metal legends Saxon on the Main Stage.



Saxon were just Saxon basically - the perfect band for an English outdoor festival! Celebrating their 35th year and lucky enough to have three bona fide classic albums on which to focus. They were loud and proud as you would expect and did what it said on the tin!! That meant they were great as usual and had a good response from the crowd. All the classics such as ‘And The Bands Played On’, ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’, ‘Strong Arm of the Law’ and ‘Motorcycle Man’ were there. I think they should have dedicated ‘Wheels of Steel’ to all those in the county affected by Operation Stack!! Lead singer Biff Byford was in usual belligerent and fine form, 64 years young and sounding as good as ever. Other remaining founder member guitarist Paul Quinn keeps playing effortlessly and it's good to see drummer Nigel Glockler playing like a man half his age after his emergency brain surgery last December. Biff was enjoying himself so much that he ripped up the set list towards the end, ate most of it and let the crowd tell the band what to play. That meant that ‘Princess of the Night’ and ‘Denim and Leather’ got an airing.There can’t be many rock fans who don’t know a Saxon tune or two, and if you like the studio versions then you really need to see them performed live - it’s as simple as that. Saxon are a band comfortable with where they are now, and the Warriors of the Road World 35th anniversary tour they are undertaking at present is an enthusiastic celebration of their classic material. Long may they play on - and they will. They have a new album out in the Autumn called ‘Battering Ram’ - I am sure it will be the usual mixture of brutal and melodic. Can't wait personally...!!!



By this time hunger had set in so it was time to meet up again to take some ballast on board and explore the many quality food stalls at the Fair. After some deliberation we headed for the Pie Stall for a bit of chicken and ham pie, chips and gravy! Marvellous - we know how to live! Needed washing down, so it to had to be back to the VIP tent for some Trooper, a premium British beer, inspired and created by Iron Maiden vocalist and real ale fan Bruce Dickinson and hand crafted by UK family brewer Robinsons. Got its name from the Maiden song inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade. Very palatable and fine for Kent, the home of the hop!!



The only downside of this that it did cost me a chunk of the 13 song Dream Theater set on the Main Stage - but from what I heard and briefly saw they seemed to go down very well. They have 12 albums in their catalogue now, the last one the self-titled one of 2013. The next one is due for release in February 2016. They have a rotational set policy to keep their fans on their toes but the faithful seemed happy enough listening to songs like ‘Panic Attack’ from the 2005 album ‘Octavarium’. Having seen them at the last High Voltage in 2011 - I can't say I am a massive fan but there you go. Can't deny they are all top-notch musicians though and Dream Theater certainly prove that Prog metal is still alive and kicking in the 21st century. Another good thing is Dream Theater drummers always have a truly massive drum kit!!



Anyway after further refuelling with more Trooper beer from the VIP tent the dilemma was which headliner to see either Germany’s own classic rock heroes Scorpions on the Main Stage or Camel on the Prog one. For me the Scorpions won hands down and Rob felt he couldn't let Camel down. Biker decided to start with the Scorpions and take it from there!! Ended up staying watching the whole set as I knew he would.



The Scorpions hit the stage for their only UK show in 2015 and first on these shores for 7 years to celebrate their 50th anniversary after the only delay of the day (20 mins) and bombarded the audience with a style of heavy metal all their own. As smoke poured onto the stage, lead singer Klaus Maine appeared and the chaos began. Pipes were lit, more alcohol was consumed and the Scorpions were set to rock the crowd. Like a hurricane I suppose! There’s no arguing that the Scorpions can put on a performance. They perform totally in your face, nothing subtle about it Rock. As darkness fell, their big screens looked fantastic behind them, with a Union Jack backdrop on ‘Make It Real’. Complete with a show stealing elevated drum solo by James Kottak, the band was sure to give the fans their money’s worth. Concerts are for entertainment. Maybe Kings of Leon need to catch a Scorpions show and take some notes. Although the music still sounds great, the band members are more interested in making the audience get on their feet than hitting every note. Guitarist Rudolf Schenker didn’t stop moving throughout the entire 90 minute performance. His passion and obvious love of what he does translated into the audience as fans stood on their chairs when Schenker took center stage and wailed on lead guitar. The German rockers delighted the huge crowd with a mix of hits old (including ‘Speedy’s Coming’, ‘Steam Rock Fever’ and a fantastic ‘The Zoo’) and new - with three tracks from the excellent new album ‘Return To Forever’, released earlier this year. However, it was 1990’s mega-hit ‘Wind Of Change’ that proved to be among the evening’s highlights. A song synonymous with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the band even replicated the structure visually, via the huge video screens that covered most of the stage. Led by Klaus Meine, there was some heavy metal whistling of Premiership-standards. The set ended with a blazing finale of ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ after a brilliant ‘Still Loving You’. It’s quite simply fantastic to see a great set from a band that’s been in the business for 50 years and still hitting it up strong, quite simply the perfect end to a classic night. That brought day one of Ramblin’ Man Fair to a close. If that is the last time I see them - well The Scorpions I salute you!



Sunshine had baked the field on Day One, and as weary, bleary festival-goers joined the many queues to find their way back to accommodation - myself and Biker tried to meet up with Rob for the near 30 minute walk back to town. No chance of a taxi unlike on the inward journey from the hotel where we shared a taxi with Midlands rockers Dave and Julie (thanks guys!). Poor Rob had to drive back to Coventry to attend a wedding the following day but Silver and Biker decided that as the Maidstone pubs stayed open to midnight they should hunt down more beer in the town centre. During the walkabout they were encouraged to watch live music in a club called The Rafters. Never shy of an after show party following their exploits with Magnum in Islington after their 02 Academy show in November 2012, we ended up watching 2 bands the first of which i have no idea what they were called and the second was a basement all female rock trio called The Kut from London. They have a EP out called ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ which is worth listening to and I will monitor their progress. As the clock ticked round till 1.30am and more and more youngsters came in the intrepid duo decided to wing back to the Premier Hotel to avoid any embarrassment for some much needed rest ahead of RM day 2.



Big shout-outs to the people we met on Saturday especially Wendy and her mates from Bury (thanks for the pic of me!), James from Canterbury and his Dream Theater mates who I met on the train to Maidstone East and last but not least Nigel and the gang from the only touring UK tribute to the Scorpions, namely the Scopyons who had played The Rafters the night before Silver and Biker had been in there and who I met at the Main Stage. What a great bunch.. Guys the WRC would love to come and see you in Bilston or Bolton one night to give you some coverage and of course if you ever need a sixth member please let me know..



Setlists



Touchstone



1. Wintercoast

2. Corridors

3. Dignity

4. Mad World (Tears for Fears cover)



FM



1. Digging Up the Dirt

2. I Belong to the Night

3. Wildside

4. Closer to Heaven

5. Tough It Out

6. That Girl

7. Other Side of Midnight

8. Bad Luck



Blue Oyster Cult



1. The Red & the Black

2. Burnin' for You

3. Harvester of Eyes

4. ME 262

5. Buck's Boogie

6. Godzilla

7. (Don't Fear) The Reaper

8. Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll



Saxon



1. Motorcycle Man

2. Sacrifice

3. Power and the Glory

4. Strong Arm of the Law

5. Heavy Metal Thunder

6. And the Bands Played On

7. 747 (Strangers in the Night)

8. Princess of the Night

9. Wheels of Steel

10. Denim and Leather



Dream Theater



1. Afterlife

2. Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper

3. Burning My Soul

4. The Spirit Carries On

5. As I Am

6. Panic Attack

7. Bridges in the Sky

8. Behind the Veil



Scorpions



1. Going Out with a Bang

2. Make It Real

3. The Zoo

4. Coast to Coast

5. Top of the Bill/Steamrock Fever/Speedy's Coming/Catch Your Train

6. We Built This House

7. Delicate Dance

8. Always Somewhere/Eye of the Storm/Send Me an Angel

9. Wind of Change

10. Rock 'n' Roll Band

11. Dynamite

12. In the Line of Fire

13. Kottak Attack

14. Crazy World

15. Blackout

16. Big City Nights



Encore



17. Still Loving You

18. Rock You Like a Hurricane





Wrinkly the Silver