Day 2 sees Hard Rock Hell open up all facilities and a chance for us to check out the new site and give a proper comparison to Prestatyn. This place is well maintained and spotlessly clean and the eateries are a huge improvement on the microwaved junk at Pontins, but the main negative is the loss of the third stage.
We all missed it and although there was an acoustic stage set up in Starbucks, it just wasn't big enough to cater for the calibre of bands that played in there. For most of the bands it was OK, as you could see their full set, but it was the only Mike Tramp show of the weekend, and I know a lot of people were disappointed not to be able to get in and see him.
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When moving a festival to a new site it's always going to bring with it challenges and I have no doubt that Hard Rock Hell will listen to all the feedback and that this will be addressed for the next outing. After all, that's what drives the success of their festivals as they actually bother to listen to the people who matter – the people who buy the tickets! Not the bands, not the press, not some bloke in a cowboy hat, but the fans. And remember they don't have the luxury of building another stage, as they have to work with a fixed infrastructure. They could definitely do with installing a temporary mobile phone booster on site though.
After a wander round and couple of Starbucks to shake off the Thursday hangover, I was ready to see some bands. So back to Stage 2 to catch Bristol's latest offering, Blackwolf. As we walked in there were flags still being erected and hardly anyone about, and I was worried that these guys would end up playing to only a handful of people, which is to be expected when you're first on. Undeterred they got up and blasted away last night's antics and what a show they put on. Ten minutes in and a second glance around the room proved that they guys could draw a crowd, and deservedly so.
Blackwolf fit this bill perfectly with a musical style that blends the classics with a more contemporary sound, and fronted by Scott Sharp who has an amazing vocal range with a hint of Eddie Vedder flair thrown in. Keep an eye on these guys and if they play near you, go and check them out, I doubt they'll disappoint.
Blackwolf: Courtesy of David Farrell planetmosh.com
With over seventy bands playing and a packed interview schedule, it was always going to be hard for the MetalTalk team of four to cover everything. That task got even harder when two of them got wiped out last minute by illness and the third bogged down in real life stuff until Friday afternoon, so sadly we couldn't cover everything we'd like to have and so pretty much the rest of Friday afternoon was spent in the media area. I did manage to catch a little bit of Massive Wagons, who opened Stage 1, and seemed to go down extremely well. The name at least made sure they got people's attention over the weekend, even if they didn't see their set.
And finally Daryl came to rescue me, so it's at this point, that I hand over review duties to him for the remainder of the weekend.
Stage One can be likened to Dudley's legendary JB's; a three tiered affair that gives most people a really clear view of the stage. The sound is a little less transparent with the mix being spot on at one place and wayward at another and the resounding feedback from fans and media alike is that the soundmen just weren't doing their job. And this is where I saw my first band of the weekend. While I wasn't familiar with Dan Baird, having not been a fan of The Georgia Satellites, the songs came across well. They had feeling and a good vibe that pleased the fans singing along to the occasional mouthed lines.
I waited by the bar for Blackfoot. By the second song I was being convinced by an accomplished if not particularly moving performance. The singer and guitarist came across well, but the rest of the band appeared to be a competent group of musicians. The absence of founding member Rickey Medlocke was the final proof of this band being a mere facsimile of the one I'd hoped to see.
Molly Hatchet inspired some movement in the crowd as if they'd starting swing a stone axe, ripping up a groove of unfettered rock. The set was altogether convincing and authentic, true to the era that gave birth to the Hatchet (complete with drum solo). Playing their Lynyrd Skynrd 'Free Bird' cover went down well and was a genuine crowd pleaser. I enjoyed a great gig and the people around me appeared to agree.
Sebastian Bach was due on as Molly Hatchet left the stage and add to that some technical issues with an acoustic guitar, the delay became large enough to warrant several apologies. When the band finally hit the stage, Sebastian proved he knows how to rock. Swinging a mic round as he shook his head, millimetres from mortally wounding himself or another band member, he caught the mic and burst into song. Rock is nothing without risk and Sebastian was embracing the feeling and using its energy to push himself ever harder into a commanding performance.
Bashing out fan favourites kept the audience in haze of youth filled reminiscence bringing back forgotten urges to go wild and get down to some monkey business. This was not his most accomplished vocal performance and he tried his best to make up for it tearing round like a tornado. He had some success and while most people appeared pleased, I had still hoped for more.
Due to the delays and technical issues of the day, Grave Digger were left to play until curfew, which amounted to only a few songs in their now half hour set. The look on Chris Boltendahl's face was heartbreaking when he offered the audience to choose the final song. The band deserved better and hopefully will be back and promoted to a better slot next year as compensation to them and their fans.
Topping the bill over on the second stage was Attica Rage with their '88MPH' album launch. Scattering their set with a few well chosen covers was a touch of genius that kept the crowd engaged as they rolled out the new tracks. When the action was finished Attica Rage had managed to please. For a teaser of what the new album has to offer, check out their brand new video for 'Killer Carousel'.
For the fans the night was not over and beer jackets were donned to brave the cold outside and parties dispersed into the variety of chalets and caravans on site. I can testify that my caravan and the chalets were warm, spacious, and plenty comfortable for a decent night sleep. Not that I got much but hey, that's rock n roll and I like it. Actually, it's Hard Rock Hell and I love it.