The countdown to this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair seemed to take an age to pass but as the day approached there were several warm up shows around the Maidstone area. After making the six and a half hour drive to the venue I had chosen to attend the Warwick Johnson gig at Maidstone Leisure Centre. On arrival I met up with the guys from Hogjaw for a quick chat and some photos—and what a great bunch of guys they are. They were very welcoming and looking forward to playing in the UK for the first time. After my brief time with them I headed off to get something to eat as it was still several hours until the venue opened.
//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI arrived back in plenty of time but the queue outside the venue hadn’t moved and it turned out that the gig was in jeopardy of being pulled at the last minute. The reason for this was that the PA system had got stuck in traffic and had only just arrived, some 15 minutes before the gig was due to start. As I waited backstage the crew rushed to keep the gig on and thankfully they managed it even if the two opening bands did have slightly shorter sets. I was also one of only a couple of people who witnessed the very intimate soundcheck that had Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson play a couple of songs to just my friend and myself. //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Up first were local lads, Leogun, who I had also watched soundcheck and they really impressed me with their blues rock sound. It was a shame they had had to cut their set short but the few songs they did play prompted me to purchase their Majic Potion E.P. and it’s as good as they were live so I guess I’ll have to head out and purchase their debut album next.
Next up were Arizona rockers Hogjaw who did away with the chance of a soundcheck but still hit the mark. Their blues infused rock was laced with guitar and with joint vocals they were great live. To give you an idea of their sound it’s like a modern day Lynyrd Skynyrd meets ZZ Top with a dual vocal treat. Both these acts had made a big impression on me and luckily I would get to see them both the following day.
As Ricky and Damon made their way onto the stage they were armed with just their acoustic guitars but if the soundcheck was anything to go by the rest of the now packed hall were in for a treat. The boys seemed in fine form and this showed as they joked with fans between songs. Ricky could be heard to say, “we haven’t got a set list so feel free to shout out anything you want,” but before the shout outs started he smiled and said “but we won’t play it.”
Their set threw up the usual Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders songs but also had a few more obscure tracks in the mix. It’s clear to see these guys just love performing and this rubbed off on the crowd who could be seen dancing all around the venue. As Ricky announced they had reached the curfew there was a chorus of boo’s from around the venue but as he then added something like: we don’t do curfews, we normally play for around three hours.
The guys played another half dozen songs after this and as the night came to an end Ricky pointed out that there is nothing worse than a hangover on the first day of the festival so best keep drinking and have your hangover on Monday. This was met with more cheers and laughter and then it was over. This was to set the tone for the rest of the weekend and I headed off back to the hotel to rest up for the following day.
//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsDay Two I chose an early start in order to beat the traffic and get into the venue before the crowds and this worked well. I parked near the front of the car park and entered shortly after with my pass in hand. The music didn’t kick off for over an hour so I had a chance to scout out the site. It was spread over quite a large area but as the hordes of fans entered it was soon obvious why it seemed so much bigger than the previous year. With the first band due on the rising stage at 12-45 people were rushing to get in but there seemed to be a hold up. //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
This turned out to be the bag check and the ticket exchange for a wristband. As Leogun kicked off the festival there were still a large number of people waiting to get in but at least they could hear the music from the queue and by the size of the line of people waiting to purchase the band’s E.P. I would suggest they liked Leogun as much as I did. The weekend went from strength to strength as the bands came thick and fast. Trying to see as many as possible proved difficult as this time a lot of sets clashed but it didn’t stop me trying to see a bit of everyone.
The free water top-ups around the site proved very popular as the heatwave scorched everyone in it’s way and I got through a large amount as I sizzled in the sun. With the three other stages in full flow I moved around the venue to soak up the atmosphere as well as the different array of music on offer. The rising stage had some great bands play on it during day one and the best of these were obviously the openers, Leogun. Other notable performances came from Naked Six, who are fronted by the son of rock legend Biff Byford who was there to catch his son Seb’s band live and Massive Wagons whose debut album dropped earlier this year and it’s one of the best new albums I’ve heard in a long time.
On the outlaw stage headliners Hayseed Dixie once more had the crowd eating from their hands but just like last year, the tent that this stage is housed in seemed too small. So much so that they moved the photo pit barrier closer to the stage so they could get more people in and there were still large numbers of people stood outside trying to get a glimpse of whoever was playing. The other notable acts on the blues/country stage were Hogjaw, who once again wowed the crowds with their awesome live set. I also enjoyed the little bit of Bob Wayne and The White Buffalo but only caught the odd song of each of their sets and Whiskey Myers also sounded good and thankfully I caught several songs of their set.
The prog stage surprised me last year with the abundance of talent of whom I’d never heard of and this was the same this time. I got to see some of every band on day one and of these Lifesigns and Uriah Heep stole the show and I made sure I stayed for more of their set than anyone else on the prog stage. I enjoyed Uriah Heep that much that I will probably go and check out their back catalogue. I also enjoyed the little bit of I O Earth, Frost and Purson whose frontwoman wowed me with her guitar work. It wasn’t all good though as I was left very disappointed by The Zombies who were one of the acts I had been looking forward to seeing.
With the main stage just a short walk through the backstage area I could easily swap between the prog area and main stage and this meant I saw everything on both stages over both days and the highlights of the main stage were Terrorvision, Europe and Thin Lizzy with their new superstar lineup. Terrorvision were late replacements for Sebastian Bach were a band many people had said they didn’t want to see but frontman Tony Wright pulled off one of the most energetic sets of the festival and I watched a large amount of their set.
Tony was in fine form and luckily those who had got their position set in the crowd decided to stay and I heard many saying they were surprised with Terrorvision’s set. With Sebastian Bach being very unpredictable the inclusion of Terrorvision seemed to be a good choice by those in charge.
Come back tomorrow for the rest of this coverage, which includes Europe, Dead Daisies, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Tax The Heat, and more.