Ramblin' Man Fair Day 3
Sunday 21st July 2019
Mote Park, Maidstone
So Day three is much the same format as day two - four stages and a smorgasbord of musicality throughout the day although today the Outlaw/Country stage becomes the Blues stage and the Prog stage becomes the Grooverider stage. Gotta love the range of music on display this weekend. Again, it’s a day of moving between the stages, torn between which act to watch and which to miss. And there are some tough choices to make. So whilst Friday started with a back in black theme, we finish with a full colour display from blue to gold to orange – the complete spectrum. And with the hot yellow sun shining down on us today it’s going to be a bright day in every sense.
Opening up on the Rising stage are local Kent band Salvation Jayne, a young four piece – Dan (bass), Holly (Guitar), Chess (vocals) and Tor (drums) - bringing a young Punk Pop vibe to our day. Holly’s tele has a heavy fuzz element giving opening track 'Cortez' a heavy vibe. Chess' vocals have tinges of Alanis Morrissete, a singer she admires, and is very pleasing on the ear. Their short set is a great way to start the day and perfectly showcases the young fresh talent on display on this excellent little stage.
Dropping over to the Grooverider stage, located in a hot, dark, sweaty circus tent, we get the first of many Stoner come Sludgy Rock ensembles. Blind River Rock the already full tent with some heavy Stoner riffs, although they would probably classify themselves more as Classic Rock. Frontman Harry Armstrong screams out the vocals with more balls than Newton’s Cradle and the Les Paul/Orange Amp combination shakes the earth to the core. Music you really do feel. I love it.
Back at the Rising stage we see what are probably the find of the weekend. Piston are a British five piece Rock n’ Roll engine made up of four members from the Midlands greased with a vocal roar from the South. Rob Angelico (vocals) is one of those dark, broody, long haired good looking fellows that makes us mere mortals self deprecate to excess, especially when he flaunts his considerable singing talents. Guitarist Jack Edwards sports a beautiful Gretsch White Falcon (apparently inspired by Bill Duffy) through a modern Kemper modelling amp whilst fellow six stringer Luke Allatt takes the more traditional Fender/Vox approach. With Stuart Egan on bass and Brad Newlands on drums the line up is complete. Fun and Fire in equal measures, this is a fist pumping, chest beating forty minutes of Rock joy. They get a lot of love from the crowd who chant along and cheer with gusto. Their own tracks – 'Rainmaker', 'One More Day' and 'Leave If You Dare' are awesome but it is their closing cover of CCR’s 'Proud Mary', rocked up to feck, that has me beaming and screaming along with them. What a great band. Keep an eye on this lot.
And now to the other end of the spectrum. Over on the larger Blues stage we find the diminutive Bluestress Chantel McGregor. Normally I wouldn’t choose to see an artist at a festival who I have seen many times before but I know that Chantel always produces the goods. With only a bassist and drummer to accompany her, the little Northern lass is positively lost in the cavernous Blues stage looking all meek and mild in her red Summer frock and little girl curls. Until she unleashes her white Music Man, with some screaming Rock Blues, with opening track 'Take The Power' and turns into a right rocking demon. Now the stage is filled to bursting with Hendrix inspired power Blues and her powerful and beautiful singing. And boy is it loud. This is an outdoor stage but the sound echo’s back off of the North Downs hilltops. Her forty minute set blisters the ears as she rips it up in front of a very appreciative crowd. Great stuff.
Back in the Grooverider tent, things are really hotting up. Pennsylvanian Hard/Funk rockers Crobot are raising the mercury and raising hell. Although ordinarily a two piece - Brandon Yeagley on lead vocals and Chris Bishop on telecaster and Orange amps – they tour as a four piece. Their brand of Rock suits the stage name perfectly with Yeagley, resplendent in a sparkly reflective waistcoat, high kicking his way around the small stage whilst Bishop quietly gets on with the business of breaking your face with his chugging riffs. The heat is unbearable, the sound is unbeatable. Time for a cooling beer and back to the cooler (in every sense) Rising stage to see the end of the set by The 109’s. Not all of the bands on the Rising stage are young upstart whippersnappers. There’s room for all ages here you know.
Suitably refreshed, it’s off to the Main stage for a little Planet Rock sponsored action. Inglorious - or Nathan James and his new line up - perform a class act three years on from opening the same Main stage. It may be a different line up, and a slightly different sound, but it’s still all about Nathan James and his incredible voice. Although take nothing away from the other five members – great musicians all. The short set includes a number of radio friendly classics that has the crowd singing along with James, although never able to match his presence, including tracks like 'Taking The Blame', 'Holy Water', and the final 'Until I Die'. The latter being restarted when microphone trouble caused a minor crisis before the placated James finally provided the closing number to the standard that the crowd had come to expect.
The Main stage became a place to hang out for a while as we are treated to an interesting set from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood playing some good old Californian Blues Rock in a beach bum style. The ex-Black Crowes frontman, with his old battered Strat, plays a short set of Brotherhood's tracks like 'The Chauffer’s Daughter' although sadly none of the classic Black Crowes numbers. All whilst being watched over by a large plastic owl on his amp. Every Rock star should have one. Of course, this standard of music on the main stage surely can’t last. And it doesn’t. It gets even better.
Airbourne are a band that have divided opinion being seen as a "poor man’s" AC/DC. But what the hell is wrong with that? I have seen them many times before and have some Airbourne themed stories to tell my grandchildren that would make them wail. But I have no grandchildren so those stories remain untold. For now. Taking the stage to the soundtrack of the Terminator movies, the crowd are about to get John Connored by brothers Joel and Ryan O’Keefe. It’s classic Aussie Gibson Explorers through Marshall stack Rock. Opening with the ever popular and appropriate 'Ready To Rock' the boys launch into their familiar high octane high energy Rock set. The crowd has reached its maximum capacity and is getting down with every scream. It’s a familiar set with familiar antics - but none the worse for being familiar. Good Rock doesn’t get stale. Fun remains fun. Joel takes to the audience for a tour of the crowd, on the shoulders of a security guard, during the rocking 'Girl’s In Black' whilst many members of the other main acts are watching from the wings. That says so much about the popularity of a band when other big names take the time to watch and enjoy the gig. During 'Heartbreaker' we get a mosh pit going – which at Ramblin’ Man is a rare sight indeed. And 'It’s All For Rock ‘n’ Roll' is dedicated to the one and only Lemmy. So Joel wheels out a mobile "Lemmy’s Bar" on stage and pours out Jack and Coke’s which he hands out to the audience. Then rocks on with aplomb. There are some tech problems with his guitar but no fuss here.... Drummer Ryan decides that drumming needs something different. So introduces an air raid siren to the mix. Which he gleefully winds up to a frenzy before Joel kicks in from the top of the Marshall stacks into 'Live It Up'. He then proceeds to throw beers to the crowd – "Lets be like the English cricket team and catch these" he shouts to everyone’s joy. They close with their anthemic 'Runnin’ Wild', with a few bars of 'Let There Be Rock' thrown in for good measure, to leave the howling crowd wanting more.
Before the finale on the main stage. I dropped in to catch the last act on the Grooverider stage - Orange Goblin. If any one band personified what the Grooverider stage is all about it’s this lot. Fronted by the behemoth that is Ben Ward, you don’t so much watch their set as survive it. It’s hot and heavy - brutal is too nice a word for it. Ward bullies, cajoles and endears the fans in equal measure to make sure they have a damn good time at the expense of any unnecessary niceties. This is uncompromising Stoner Rock, doing what they do brilliantly, with a single digit shown to the rest of the world. This is the sort of band that makes live music live, best seen in hot sweaty underground venues. Guitarist Joe Hoare (JJH) may be diminutive in comparison to the beanstalk topping frontman, but his huge guitar sound is absolutely killer. Gibson SG through a Marshall in case you were wondering. And he is a seriously good player to boot. Ward tends to steal the limelight – and rightfully so as he is a full force of nature not easily ignored – but JJH would stand up on his own as a focus for any band. The set is excellent and also puts the band up as contenders for act of the weekend. I have seen them before and will make sure I see them again.
So back to the main stage for the headline act, Foreigner. Now I would like to be able to give you a full review of their set but their management decided that all ‘media types’ should be corralled away from the stage and not be allowed access for the first six songs. So I can only assume that they didn’t want the band to be reviewed which is a shame as their set went down very well apparently. The set was a collection of some of their Classic Rock hits and was notable in that there were many members of the band, both past and present, who took to the stage together to relive the forty years of songs that they have in their repertoire. A number of the members have had health issues recently, including founding guitarist Mick Jones, so It was good to see them up on stage and producing the goods for their adoring fans.
So once again, we wend our way homewards from another successful Ramblin’ Man festival (sorry, fair…). It has been another triumph for the organisers. The organisation, sound, security etc has all been excellent. Such nice people to be with and the whole event has a lovely, happy, laid back feel to it. The big festivals seem to be getting bigger and more unwieldy but Ramblin’ Man manages to keep everything on a calmer level whilst still retaining the big festival atmosphere. There is beer and food aplenty, all the stages are within easy reach of each other, and the choice and quality of music is everything you could ask for. Many of the bands will be touring in the coming months and some of the bands showcasing on the Rising stage are going to be the bands you will be going to see headlining your local venue in the near future. So do yourself a favour next year. Come down to a park in Maidstone and see for yourself what all the fuss is about. Bring some colour into your life.
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Dirty White Boy
Feels Like the First Time
Keyboard and Drum Solo
Juke Box Hero
I Want to Know What Love Is
Mother (pictures courtesy of Rockrpix)