Ramblin' Man Fair - Sunday 26/7/15
Despite it being my **th birthday – it was a case of drat and double drat given the rain plus the anticipated problems with ‘Operation Stack’ as Wrinkly The Elder and I set off down the M20 on Sunday morning. Given Saturday’s good weather and the excellent WRC twitter coverage from both Mr. Rockrpix and Wrinkly The Silver – it looked like Sunday was going to be a hard act to follow. But hey-ho - we had already planned our itinerary for the day’s proceedings with our website countdown the week before and things were looking even better as we easily managed to park up in a side road close to the entrance. As the WRC crew consequently gathered together under the protection of the beer tent - life didn’t appear so bad after all - until Wrinkly realised that the two pints of Pimm’s in his round set him back £23.60. Ouch!
We knew that our paths would ultimately go in different directions during the afternoon with a choice of three stages: Classic Rock, Prog and Blues Magazine. However, everyone was in agreement that our first port of call would be the Classic Rock Stage to see Swedish rock band Blues Pills, featuring Zack Anderson (bass), André Kvarnström (drums), vocalist Elin Larsson and guitarist Dorian Sorriaux. Their 35 minute set kicked off with former single ‘High Class Woman’ – a former WRC Vid Of The Day – the power and range of Elin’s voice evident all throughout the set - the perfect foil for Dorian’s mix of Psychedelic, Blues and Hard Rock – transporting us back to the halcyon ‘70’s. Appropriately these guys have been on the Nuclear Blast label since 2013 and their set list included five more tracks: ‘Ain’t No Chance’, ‘No Hope Left For Me’, ‘Elements And Things’, ‘Little Sun’ and finished with another former single ‘Black Smoke’. The crowd had almost forgotten about the rain and wanted more. So many stages – so little time – but a very promising start to the day.
“We’re gonna need a bigger tent” was the cry as we approached the ‘Blues Magazine’ stage for Ian Siegal – ending up standing on the periphery half under cover – half in the rain. Given I was celebrating getting another year older - it was a bit worrying that I was reminded that I had actually seen Ian support the late Jack Bruce and Joe Bonamassa at the Royal Festival Hall four years ago! Again it was an acoustic set, with some similar tongue in cheek banter about - you guessed it - Joe B and Jack’s mucker ‘Slowhand’! Literally, the stand out track, given I was standing in the rain, was George Thorogood’s ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’. Memo taken to ensure that when we see Danny Bryant later in the tent that we arrive early!
The Prog stage and The Pineapple Thief beckoned – the intention being to catch the end of Knifeworld’s set. After a quick grub refuel our plans changed – Wrinkly and I ending up back at The Blues stage to see young guitarist Aaron Keylock who has been on the WRC radar for quite some time now. Suffice to say it was a case “We’re gonna need a bigger tent” part 2 – although we did manage to keep out of the rain this time as his trio launched their set early with his signature tune ‘Medicine Man’. Keylock cut his Blues teeth from the age of 12 in London at the Charlotte Blues Club (more on Gary Moore later) and the Blues Kitchen. If you love Blues fuelled influenced Rock then Aaron will take you all the way – his composition’s ‘Against The Grain’, ‘The Sun Is Gonna Shine’, ‘Lovin' and Lies’, ‘Just One Question’ and ‘Spin The Bottle’ impressing those that had not heard or had seen him play before. We left the tent finishing our fish and chips as Aaron paid tribute to the late Johnny Winter’s ‘Ain’t That A Kindness’ – knowing that we made the right call to catch Aaron and his band.
Of course the bonus of going to see a particular band at a festival or a gig is that you often come away praising another band you have seen for the first time. Turn back the clock 12 years and the WRC went to see Caravan at The Whitchurch Festival and ended up seeing The Pineapple Thief’s very first gig – and as they say the rest is history. Although seeing them at numerous gigs since then – this was only the second time at a Festival. Despite the non-stop rain - a warm welcome of “Bruce….!!” greeted TPT frontman Bruce Soord as he, John Sykes (bass), Steve Kitch (keyboards) and Dan Osborne (drums) entered the fray. The intro to ‘What Have We Sown?’ intertwined with the appropriately named ‘Wake Up The Dead’ blew the wet cobwebs off the crowd. In fact Bruce did slip on the wet stage at one stage but TPT again proved that they are a well-oiled Prog machine – the ‘sweet’ side of their bitter-sweet sound coming across in album title tracks ‘All The War’s’ and ‘Magnolia’ the bitter harder side apparent in ‘Simple As That’ and the anthemic ‘Reaching Out’. Obviously the setting lacked the intimacy of a ‘normal’ TPT gig – consequently no ‘Snowdrops’ and no ‘So We Row’ as Wrinkly pointed out disappointingly. However, the guys had only 45 minutes to deliver and boy did they deliver, the charismatic Soord and the head-phoned Sykes giving the TPT virgin’s a compilation of what they are all about. Higher up the order next time please!
Bit of irony that we refilled our glasses before we headed over to the Classic Rock Stage to see The Temperance Movement! And on the subject of virgins – I’ll hold up my hands and say this was the first time I had seen this British Blues Rock band formed in 2011 by Glasgow-born vocalist Phil Campbell and guitarists Luke Potashnick and Paul Sayer. Sussed straight away there were a number of ‘Temperance’ fans in the crowd – and you could see the appeal early doors not only because of the energy in the band but also because of the manic energy of Campbell plus his great gravelly voice. “I’ll have what he’s on!” was a less than temperant remark from the guys to the right of us! The acid test of the day was whether a band could entertain you and take your mind off the persistent rain – and TTM more than managed that. The set list included ‘3 Bullets’, ‘Midnight Black’, ‘Be Lucky’, highlight of the set ‘Ain’t No Telling’, slowed it down with ‘Smouldering’, Battle Lines, Only Friend (former Vid of The Day), although we missed the last two numbers ‘Pride’ and ‘Take It Back’ as we set off early to see Danny Bryant on the Blues Magazine Stage. TTM – definitely will catch these guys again.
Well the cunning plan worked - right of the stage, down the front and in the dry – an opportunity to take off my drenched jacket and proudly display my WRC t-shirt for the first time! We even managed to see Mr. Rockrpix in the photo pit – with not only John’s fantastic pics being tweeted in between stages but also the inferior pics of your truly and Wrinkly The Silver. And Sir Mick Jagger and I weren’t the only one’s celebrating our birthday. Step forward Blues Rock guitarist Danny Bryant – who kindly favourited and re-tweeted our WRC birthday wishes sent earlier that morning. Danny immediately endeared himself to the crowded tent by saying that he either had all of a sudden become very popular or it was the fact that that everyone wanted to get out of the rain! Well it was definitely a case of the former given Danny’s critically acclaimed album ‘Temperature Rising’ has been nominated in the British Blues Awards and it was one of those songs – ‘Guntown’ that stood out in an impressive set. By the way – another top track he included from ‘TM’ -‘Razor Sharp’ - is available as a free download here Complemented by Alex Phillips on bass, Danny had to be thankful that in his guitar solo induced forays to the front of the stage – that he was in the dry and in no danger of slipping off the stage! Personally – one of my top 3 sets of the day.
T’was time for another piece of Prog. As part of our research pre- Ramblin’ Man (don’t act so surprised) - Alcest - a French band founded and led by Neige (Stéphane Paut) – were sandwiched timewise in between Rival Sons and Joanne Shaw Taylor. On the basis that I had seen both RS and JST before and that I liked what I had heard when we featured Alcest as our Vid Of The Day – Alcest was my choice - although I suddenly became ‘Billy No Mates’ - even Wrinkly The Elder deserted me to sit on a wet hay bale. Alcest's recent releases have more often been described as shoegazing, mixing numerous rock and metal influences, including black metal and post-metal. In 2009 drummer Winterhalter from Les Discrets (and formerly Peste Noire) joined Alcest's studio line-up, after eight years with Neige as the sole full-time member. Although I enjoyed ‘Wings’ ‘Opale’ and ‘La Nuit Marche Avec Moi’ - a combination of Alcest – unlike Chris Froome - never really getting out of first gear plus the weather (did I mention it was still raining?) – saw me retreat a) to find WTE b) to grab a beer c) to charge my dying phone and d) have my picture taken with Steven Wilson – totally unplanned but a good shout for next year’s Ramblin’ Man please!
Where had the day gone? Just three ports of call to go now – spread evenly across each stage. We missed the start of Seasick Steve – ‘Thunderbird’, ‘Bring It On’ and ‘Roy’s Gang’ – but as we made our way to the Classic Rock stage during ‘I Don’t Know Why’ you could see that the American was in good form both guitar and banter wise. In fact we only had been there a few minutes when he plucked a beautiful English rose named Hannah out of the crowd for a one on one serenade of ‘Walkin’ Man’ with Steve himself. It was a bit like that Sky advert where the girl mouth’s “Bruce Willis” – substitute “Seasick Steve”. Classic. And what is about guys with dodgy beards being so cool? Shades of ZZ Top as drummer Dan Magnusson pounded out the opening of ‘Barracuda ’68’ after ‘Summertime Boy’ accompanied by the amazing dexterity of a guy with probably the most weird guitar endorsements in the history of Rock! As we made our way towards the Blues Mag Stage – Steve rounded off proceedings with ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’ and finally ‘Back In The Doghouse’ - reminding us of when get home later!
But the night was still young and it had stopped raining! Once again we managed to virtually get the same spot in the tent for Bernie Marsden as we did for Danny Bryant. Bernie was a first for me but given his career with Whitesnake and his love of the Blues – this set ticked all the right boxes for me and expectations were high. I was not wrong. A cover of Albert King’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ set the guitar bar followed by the Rockier ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ off his solo album ‘Look At Me Now’ made during his Whitesnake days. Taken from his latest album ‘Shine’ – ‘Kinda Wish She Would’ introduced some nice keys to complement Bernie’s energetic neat riff. Back to the covers with the Blues standard ‘ Key To The Highway’, which took things down a classic notch before Marsden’s own awesome composition ‘A Place In My Heart’ which his buddy Joe Bonamassa used on ‘Driving Towards The Daylight’ plus Joe also borrowed the ‘Beast’ – Bernie’s 59 Gibson Les Paul! Quality. Must admit I was never a big fan of Whitesnake (although am going to see them at Christmas) – although ‘Walking In The Shadow Of Blues’ fitted perfectly into Marsden’s set – with a big guitar solo to boot! And talking of Whitesnake - we then realized our slightly obstructed view was hiding Bernie’s bass player – Neil Murray no less. We’re not worthy! The evening was also full of anecdotes including Marsden’s Bobby Bland story as he duly acoustically covered Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ – audience participation on this one was effortless. Marsden was ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ by now but I couldn’t still put my finger on who the set reminded me of. This Mississippi Sheiks cover was inevitably followed by two Whitesnake classics ‘Fool For Your Loving’ – what an opening riff – and of course ‘Here I Go Again’. That was it until Marsden got the nod from ‘de management’ to do an encore. One final anecdote as Bernie proudly announced it was his 35th wedding anniversary – and dedicated it to his wife and the geezer who played at his wedding – Gary Moore! That was it – the missing link. Not since the passing of Gary have I seen someone switch from Rock to Blues and vice-versa so easily during a set. I’ll admit ‘Walking By Myself’ brought a tear to my eye and was the icing on the cake – in my opinion the best set of the day.
As Bad Company once said after coming on after Nazareth blew the bleeding roof of Olympia – “how do we follow that?” Well we were torn – Greg Allman on the Classic Rock stage (who had tragically lost his Mum before the gig) and Marillion on the Prog stage? To be perfectly honest we flitted between the two and I could hear Marillion’s iconic ‘Neverland’ when I was watching Allman. Drat! In the end we backed Greg – respect for him – given the maxim “ The show must go” I suppose. Although we missed part of his big band blues set - Greg’s band were funky and slick and to see them perform ‘Whipping Post’ is another one off my bucket list but no ‘Ramblin’ Man’? Anyway, The WRC troops wandered happily off into the night – muddy and not looking forward to the trip home. On the flipside – despite the rain – this was a well-organized festival with good facilities and more importantly great bands. Ramblin’ Man fills the niche that other festivals don’t. Here’s to next year but not on my birthday please!