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  STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL
Near Ebbw Vale, Wales - UK's Highest Festival
27th to 29th July 2012


John Oakley

john oakley

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This area of Wales is rapidly gaining an excellent reputation for decent venues, and a love of rock music. It must be something to do with the Welsh love of singing and melodies! The Steelhouse Festival is a small independent festival in its second year, set in the picturesque Welsh mountainside, with big ambitions.

steelhouse festival

Remember if you will how Bloodstock started, look at early Wacken bills with three bands and a tribute band, and you'll realise Steelhouse are staking a massive claim early on. The organisation is excellent (although it would have been nice to have running water, and let's hope next time no chavs vandalise the showers!), Hobgoblin is on tap and we've chosen a plum camping pitch! It's going to be a great weekend - oh yes.

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So, to the bands then. Friday night is tribute night and love them or hate them, tribute bands provide many with a chance to see their favourite band without the expense, long wait or inability to raise the dead. There are none better than Dressed To Kill at delivering a fitting homage to their mentors. They are arguably Britain's top tribute band, certainly of the rock and Metal genre.

Their professional stage show, stunts, costumes and pyro, yet tongues placed firmly in cheek (except Gene's which is just out waggling) sets the rock and roll festivities off to a flying start for the weekend.

steelhouse festival

So as we wake in the shadow of a coal mine, wrestle strawberry vodka flavoured hangovers and fortify our stomachs with lovely Welsh stew! (iechyd da!), the Saturday gets underway with local talent Prosperina, who have aspirations of Soundgarden, with a vocalist typical of the talent from the local scene.

Slam Cartel give a slight Nirvana feel to the afternoon. Their Planet Rock approved 'Wishing Eye' goes down well.

steelhouse festival

It's Gentlemens Pistols that set the standard professionally for the rest to follow with their 70s rock groove style and energy. 'I Wouldn't Let You' works the rapidly growing crowd to a frenzy. A thoroughly polished and awe inspring show! Rock n' roll indeed! With the Pistols you get the best riffs this side of Tony Iommi, and a band that ooze confidence. 'Midnight Crawler' nods to Sabbath in their 70s heydey, and the band delight in being great lovers of the rock guitar classic knee up manoeuvre.

The Dirty Youth prove too emo for our classic rock tastes, with a 'fuck you I won't tidy my bedroom' motif, and similarly we find Revoker to be exponents of the many bands who like to shout rather than sing their lyrics. Thankfully we find Gun in the back stage area, serenading us to a lovely acoustic cover of 'Better Days'. You can't buy that!

The Union are next up, and it's good to hear their intro 'Part Of The Union' in this mining area. They give us the highlights of their two albums culminating in current title track 'Siren's Song', with Luke Morely's signature riffage and classic rock poses and Pete Shoulder's already vintage crooning.

steelhouse festival

Gun enjoy themselves enormously, with a trip through their greatest hits back catalogue, with elders among us making reference to the Graham Bonnet stylings of the singer. 'Better Days' this time gets a full electric sound, as does a rendition of 'Steal Your Fire' (last time I heard that one Lauren Harris was doing it no justice!). Some of the crowd are finally awoken when 'Word Up', (with cod pieces out of shot) makes its inevitable entrance.

  The crowds have built up for a successful conclusion to the day's events as local rock royalty Feeder take the stage to headline. To these ears, the band from over t'other side of the Brecons were predictable in their indie-ness, but they went down an absolute storm with their local fan base. But I'm feeling a moment... Woooooo... so it's off to find the rest of that vodka and our CD player.

Sunday brings a bit of rain, and we fuel up with more Welsh breakfast loveliness. The organisers are attempting to fix those showers to no avail, but it's too late now, and the toilets are full to the brim in places too. Don't you just love festivals! Personally after getting the tent down, I'd quite like a porcelain poo, but we've got another day of RAWK to get through!

steelhouse festival


Hangfire are first to hit the stage. The buzz around this band has been gathering a storm on the net, and they've just come off a successful UK tour. 'For Crying Out Loud' and 'Bodies' are the most recognisable songs, probably due to their YouTube exposure. This is a band that have to go far.

It's very local lad Matt Blakout's second appearance behind the drum kit this weekend, after being the Fox for Dressed To Kill on Friday. Guitarist Lizzy Evans is rightfully described by the singer as a blind maestro. The ladies love the eye candy of the singer and his velvety voice... oh yes!

Young bucks Sons Of Icarus hit the stage to a decent welcome, and win many new fans with their energy and 70s denim. Henry's Funeral Shoe are as obscure as their name as there is only two brothers: a drummer and a singer/guitarist in the band. But from my vantage point (laying in the fleeting sun!) they fail to make an impact beyond their local fan base.

steelhouse festival

Bonafide, a great bunch of lads from Sweden, set many hearts a racing, treading a road pioneered by AC/DC and latterly Airborne. They displayed many a crowd pleasing technique to break the fourth wall with the audience, including a visit to the baying crowd from the singer, and the best drum solo I've seen - a few seconds of pounding followed by a drunken chat with us! For a relatively young band they already have memorable anthems in 'Fill Your Head With Rock' and the new single 'Doing The Pretty'.

  Million Dollar Reload struggled a little bit to keep up the crowd enthusiasm following Bonafide. However, they rescued the set with a trusty rendition of a classic from their homeland - Thin Lizzy's 'Cowboy Song'.

steelhouse festival

Saint Jude are critically acclaimed, and have done well to keep up this momentum despite no recent new material. Lynne Jackaman's Stevie Nicks stylings are loved by the audience, but I'm left wondering where this band progress from here? The seemed to be missing variation to their set. Later the singer will duet with The Answer, to provide a special added value on 'Nowhere Freeway'.

The Answer powered on to the stage, unhindered by the fact that their usual drummer was at home with his new born baby. They worked the crowd well, including another audience visitation, where singer Cormack Neeson got everyone to their knees at the alter of rock and roll! They slowed the pace with a new single, 'Rise', before returning to more rock n' roll singalongs, which was a great ending to the festival for us.

steelhouse festival

We had to leave before headliners Reef as real life and travel back for Monday morning threatened. I'm sure they placed their hands up everyone, (or something) though!

Steelhouse is a cracking little festival, and can't wait for next year! Thanks to all the organisers and bands for an awesome welcome in the Mountainside!

2.8.12


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