Hard Rock Hell 8 – Day One, Thursday Review

It’s that time of year again. The clocks have gone back, Hallowe’en and Bonfire night have been and gone, there’s bugger all on TV (apart from wannabes singing pop songs badly!) and Christmas is still a way off. What else is there to do, but pack some clean pants and a suitcase full of booze, and head to the north Welsh coast for three days of debauchery and Rock ‘n’Roll! It’s Hard Rock Hell 8!

Several thousand revelers did just that last weekend for the eighth annual Hard Rock Hell 8 festival at its regular home of Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, near Pwlhelli.

As ringleader Jonni Davis stated during his official opening address, holding a rock festival in amongst the chalets and water flumes of a closed-for-the-winter holiday park, is not as daft an idea as it first sounds.

A reasonable distance away from civilization, the assembled masses are free to drink, party and rock out until silly-o’clock, without upsetting the neighbours (if anything, accompanied by the neighbours!), and all sheltered from the unpredictable weather.

If that wasn’t enough reason to make the trek, this years line up surely was, with the likes of Y&T, DIAMOND HEAD, BLUE OYSTER CULT and QUEENSRYCHE representing the old guard (including KROKUS playing their first UK show in years), BLUES PILLS, BUFFALO SUMMER and SANTA CRUZ representing the up-and-coming, and a few yet-to-be-discovered gems thrown in for good measure. This is the winning recipe the HRH franchise has struck upon. The one that brings people back year after year.

That was all to look forward to. At Hard Rock Hell 8, Thursday night is party night. A chance to catch up with old friends, and make new ones over a beer or twelve! Tonight was one stage (the smaller of the two), fancy dress, booze, and some damned fine music to get the party started.

And so it began, with a solid NWOBHM-tinged performance from MIDNIGHT MESSIAH.

THE EARLS OF MARS followed. Two bands in, and the HRH philosophy is already apparent. Something old, something new, and something that causes you to stare open-mouthed, wondering “What the f*ck is going on?”

Newcastle’s HELLION RISING brought a sense of normality back to proceedings, with their brand of groove-laden hard rock. Big riffs, solid solos and strong vocals.

After an impressive stage show from the NYMPHERNO girls, with their fire brands, angle grinders and fire-breathing routine, and Jonni Davis’ official welcome speech, FERAL SUN battled through a couple of technical difficulties (probably caused by the huge amounts of paraffin that had been spat everywhere!) to deliver a set of really strong material, based around some very strong guitar work and Mick Burns’ powerful vocals.

There’s an expectant buzz in the packed arena, as HRH regulars, MASSIVE WAGONS sound check. The faithful were not disappointed, as the band struck up and delivered possibly the best performance I’ve seen them give to date. The set was biased towards the current album, including the superb machine gun vocals of ‘Truth’, the anthemic ‘Fight The System’. An excellent cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ went down a treat, as did the set ender, Status Quo’s ‘Down Down’.

Leaving the stage to rapturous whoops and cheers, many I spoke to thought the Wagons should have headlined. I could see their point. I’ve seen bands struggle to hold a crowd after Baz and the boys have slayed!

Rather than compete purely on song strength, LIZZY BORDEN had theatricality on his side. As well as cherry-picking some of the best material from a 30 year career, accompanied by a selection of clever masks, costume changes and a fair lick of gore (my blood-splattered trousers will never be the same again!), a couple of well-chosen covers, namely, ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’, and ‘Born To Be Wild’, really kept the well-lubricated crowd onside.

Hard Rock Hell doesn’t do early finishes, and so, as if to prove the point, rounding off the night’s live music, taking to the stage at after 1am, were the promisingly-named GODSIZED.

Man, did they deliver on the promise of their moniker! God-sized chugs, heavenly solos, and songs that could get a reaction from the dead. A fitting end to a great first day of Hard Rock Hell 8, perfectly setting the standard for the rest to follow.

Time to grab a few hours shut-eye before the main event…

Read day 2 Hard Rock Hell 8 review here.

Read day 3 Hard Rock Hell 8 review here.

Review and Pictures: Rob Nankivell

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