Review: Steelhouse Festival 2019 – Saturday

Steelhouse Festival – Day 2 – Saturday

The first full day of music drew an excited crowd, full of anticipation, from the packed campsites and car parks, that were ready to rock in the much wished for sunshine.

Tasked with blowing away the hangovers were Liberty Lies, from the Black Country, a task they more than achieved thanks to the superb voice of singer Shaun Richards. I found myself more than once making a wince of satisfaction as the sheer raw power blasted out across the Welsh hills. The band have a history of supporting some pretty major acts and it showed in the stagecraft and underlying quality of their performance. Definitely a band that I will seek out in the future!

Ryders Creed, Steelhouse Festival

Following them on stage were Ryder’s Creed. I had seen and thoroughly enjoyed these guys on a much smaller stage (basically the back of a lorry) at Ramblin’ Man and loved their energy; but here, on a much bigger stage, they raised the bar considerably! I can always tell how much I enjoyed a band by how many photos I took during their set and my memory card was almost full when we left the pit! With Lee Spencer, Myles Cooper and Richard Clark running around the stage as if they had a backstage rider that included the mythical blue smarties, and singer Ryan Anthony commanding the centre, they truly looked a band capable of, and ready for, a big step up. Their set was full of anthemic, classy rock. Ryan’s game with the crowd of splitting them down the middle to compete and then back together as one was a fun yet symbolic bit of audience participation that went down a storm.

Last year one of the sensations of Steelhouse was Dan Reed Network, and Hollowstar were given the chance to shine on the subsequent DRN tour. We rated them highly when we saw them, so I was intrigued to see how they were developing since that gig.

Joe Bonson has a real strength in his rapport with the crowd. He is humble and genuine, telling us how 17 years ago he finally gave in to parental demands to go to a concert where he saw Thunder (this evening’s headliners) and that light bulb moment showed him what he wanted to do with his life. There is also black humour as “Over Rated” is dedicated caustically to an unimpressed reviewer. I have intense admiration for anyone that can take the risk of bringing down the mood once they have worked so hard to raise it, and Joe takes that chance. He is passionate about invisible illnesses, talking about how he now has 3000 therapists and introducing “Good Man Gone” with an intensely personal and sad story that is too much for one of our party who has to take a little time out. As he finishes the story the only drops of moisture of the weekend fall gently down from the sky and even the most hardened rocker looks heavenward. It could be maudlin but as soon as the song is over they power on with the music and in “All I Gotta Say” show a glimpse of a VERY big future.

From two bands that I had seen before, which I knew I enjoyed, to two that were new to me, both of which really impressed.

Firstly, The Wild! I don’t think I have ever got as many air shots from a band in all the time I have been shooting gigs! The Canadians bought the party, and “Dylan Villain”, “The Kid”, “Boozus” and “Reese Lightning” made me smile more than any other band throughout the weekend. High energy, intricate facial hair, pure rock and roll and a bluesy backnote made for both a spectacle and a delicious sound, and got the reaction from the Steelhouse faithful that it deserved.

Crobot, Steelhouse Festival

Then, Crobot. Now, weirdly I hadn’t taken the time to watch Crobot at Ramblin’ man almost entirely because of the name! Not having seen them or really heard them before I had an image in my head that was dispelled as soon as Brandon Yeagley appeared clad in sparkly jacket and leggings. A joy to photograph, the man is the stereotypical rock frontman personified. Microphones are flung away, somehow returning to his outstretched hand without him appearing to even glance in their direction. Hair flies as he covers every inch of the stage and runway. Behind him the remaining band members, Chris Bishop, Dan Ryan and Eddie Collins lay down wave after wave of crushingly heavy, yet funky, sound as a platform for his powerful and wide ranging vocals. During their ridiculously fun set we got “Ghostbusters”, constant musical references to “Africa” by Toto, the bizarre sight of Yeagley cocking his leg over the front row of the crowd during “Alpha Dawg” and him leaping on the guitarist’s shoulders during the last song. The rest of my party had taken a quick break during Crobot’s set which was definitely their loss as I recounted what they had missed!

As the evening chill started to settle it fell to Gun to keep the temperature up. Now Gun are a band that frustrate me immensely. Musically they are a tight and well-drilled unit. Dante Gizzi has a voice with power underpinned by a deeper soul, stage presence, and a twinkle in his eye. They have a great time on stage and their set goes down well with the crowd, but…..a band that have been around this long and have this much talent, should somehow have made a bigger mark on the music scene. Two covers in the set get the best reaction. Their version of “Word Up” has the place jumping and ending with The Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right” has them going out with a bang. It is a slow song though that really stands out for me, “Taking on the World”, and I find myself having a great time, but also thinking that in another parallel universe, Gun somehow made the headliner status that at times they have hinted at.

Penultimate act of the evening and it is a party with The Temperance Movement. This is my second time of seeing them in a week and they if anything they go down even better in the golden hour light on The Mountain than they did in a Kent park. As far as I can see everyone is dancing and having a wonderful time as Phil Campbell and his compatriots deliver a set of funky, jazzy, soulful rock music. My stand out song of the set was “A Deeper Cut” which sends shivers down my spine. “Caught in the Middle” is the song that really resonates with the crowd and their set is over far too quickly.

Thunder, Steelhouse Festival

Headliners on this second night are Thunder. I will be honest and say that for me, this was not one of their stand out performances. They were, as always, musically pretty much perfect. Danny Bowes voice has lost nothing over the years, remaining as clear as a bell. Luke Morley still riffs with the best of them. The songs are classic after classic; sing-along affairs such as “Love Walked In”, “I Love You More Than Rock and Roll”, “Gimme Some Lovin” and “Dirty Love”. Somehow though the rapport with the crowd, which is a key aspect of one of their gigs, didn’t quite seem there. Maybe it was the lighting issues that still weren’t quite sorted. Maybe a crowd that had enjoyed a little too much of the delicious beers on offer from Tudor Brewery or maybe just that whilst good, they weren’t great tonight. We found ourselves watching from further back and applauding rather than rocking. Enjoyable but not memorable.

Day 2 drew to an end and on reflection it was the younger bands that truly stood out rather than the more experienced bands at the top of the bill.

Review and Pics – Rob Wilkins

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