The second Tribute to... Legends Of Rock festival was highly anticipated after the success of the debut in 2012. This event comes from the same stable as Classic Rock Tours, who have gained a stellar reputation from the staging of Rhodes Rock each year.
Although without the guaranteed sunshine, this festival has the same aim of providing a unique experience on the circuit as it is a gathering of three days full of highly talented musicians and rock fans mingling together to enjoy the very best of classic rock and Metal. It's like a weekend house party with guests taking turns to provide the entertainment and generating an amazing atmosphere of camaraderie and fun.
The line-up is a mixture of original bands and tributes, the latter being mostly made up of professional musicians at the top of their game. There is a lot of snobbery around tribute bands, but this is not an under par facsimile of the real thing, but a display of quality musicianship and songwriting performed as well as any band anywhere. Over fourty sets were delivered over three days, each night ending with a jam session which carried on for most of the early hours of the morning.
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Vauxhall Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth was the venue, an ideal choice with its two large function rooms and accommodation in comfortable centrally heated mobile homes very close by – perfect for this type of festival, with not a muddy, washed away tent in sight.
For early arrivals there was a glam rock disco on the Thursday night, and the harder stuff kicked off properly from Friday lunchtime. We arrived in time to see Stargazer doing their highly acclaimed Deep Purple, Dio and Rainbow set. This band have picked up a large following and a reputation for being the best and most authentic around, so the early time slot was a bit puzzling - there was a view that they were on so early to encourage punters to arrive in time and it certainly seemed to work as there was an influx of arrivals to the park who had specifically timed their arrival to make sure they didn't miss out.
The band members have a unique chemistry and frontman Tamas Czemez has an incredible voice, capturing the essence of David Coverdale, Ian Gillan and Ronnie James Dio while keeping his own identity. We were treated to a range of classics over the ninety minutes including 'Burn' and 'Stormbringer', taking in 'Tarot Woman', 'Stargazer', 'Catch The Rainbow', 'Perfect Strangers' and putting in a brilliant 'Child In Time'. A great, great start to the weekend, setting the bar very high indeed.
Gus Mark, Prezence
Following this was Marcus Malone, the bluesman from Detroit who at first seemed bemused at the event and apologised for the lack of covers in his set – this was certainly nothing to apologise for as his original compositions were the kind of rocking blues that engaged the crowd and made him a lot of new friends. High energy numbers such as 'Christine' and 'Living The Blues' made converts of many first timers and his band were tight professional and brilliant, giving the set the edge that lifted the performance way above any standard blues rock set.
As Hi-On Maiden took over in the Regency Room, I left to check out Zeus in the V Lounge. This Kent based power trio are known for delivering the goods and their sheer enjoyment and energy was infectious – things that on paper shouldn't work, such as a mash up of AC/DC, Queen and Michael Jackson or a heavy rock version of Tom Jones's 'Delilah' were brilliantly delivered.
Like all good events, the schedule was packed and it was impossible to see every act, so some choices had to be made. Regrettably, I didn't get to see the Ben Poole Band, but I did manage to catch some of Voodoo Six. This gig came at the eve of their UK tour to be followed by a support slot for Iron Maiden and the band was tight and the energy high, with a solid set of songs – a band are well worth seeking out. This marked the first of three gigs with three different bands for guitarist Matt Pearce.
Marcus Malone Band
Walkway are a young band who have picked up a very healthy following through consistently gigging over the past five years, including a support slot for The Darkness, and their first set of the weekend delivered exactly the raw vibrant energy expected – a sound that was also captured on their debut album 'Top Shelf Content' released at the end of 2012.
The Saturday started with a lunchtime set from Four Fighters, which I only caught the very end of, but after hearing the bit wished I had done more.
Rammlied were the first revelation of the day, with their almost perfect renditions of Rammstein, complete with props, this was about as intense as it got for a Saturday lunchtime and was not for the faint hearted.
Never The Bride
After this, Towers of Stone made the Regency Rooms buzz. Carl Sentance was on absolutely top form and showed exactly why he has such an impressive pedigree playing with the likes of with Don Airey, Krokus and the Geezer Butler band. With the astoundingly great guitarist Howie G showcasing his skills, it was a treat to watch, and the set culminated in one of the best renditions of 'Heaven And Hell' I have heard.
Over in the V Lounge Marcus Malone completed his second set of the festival, rewarding those who had decided to give Think Floyd a miss. Marcus put in a relaxed and polished set winning even more new friends and doing a brisk trade in CDs after the set.
After seeing the beginning of the Fleetwood Bac set, which was Matt Pearce's second gig of the weekend, it was over to the V Lounge to see Prezence performing a Whitesnake set.
Tamas Czemez, Stargazer and Prezence
I first fell in love with rock music in the 70s and early 80s through Whitesnake and Rainbow, and to hear the songs recreated in this setting touched a special place in my heart, and judging by the reactions of the rammed to the rafters crowd many others felt the same way. From the opener, 'Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues', right through to the finale of 'Still Of The Night', the boys played an absolute blinder and basically won the V Lounge.
Prezence is the same line up as Stargazer and with the extraordinary talents of Gus Mark, Mark Parkin, Rob Hulford and Pablo Vieda providing a rock solid base for Tamas, and the band need to be celebrated for even making the poodle-hair AOR period of Whitesnake sound brilliant. Many audience members lost out as there simply wasn't room to fit everyone in who wanted to be there, and there wasn't a spare space anywhere in the entire room – the only time this happened over the event.
Never the Bride had the 11.40pm slot in the Regency Room which was well deserved. There were many audience members who had not seen this amazing act before, and were in for a treat. Nikki Lamborn has one of the best voices in rock and along with Been's fantastic keyboard playing the girls treated us to a tequila-fuelled set filled with their original classics and some well chosen covers.
They were ably backed by the much travelled Stuart Dixon, Yoyo Buys (fresh from his slot as Marcus Malone's bass player) and Richie Newman. Sky Hunter from Stonewire came on for an emotional duet on 'Take Another Piece Of My Heart'. With such gems as 'The Living Tree', 'Call It Love' and 'Welcome To My World' making an appearance in the set, this was another band that made many new friends.
After this, Livewire, the AC/DC tribute took over, and there was drama a few songs in as Ashgus was taken unwell on stage. The call went up for John Rodgers, seen earlier as part of The Thin Lizzy Experience and he stepped up to complete the set. This perfectly demonstrated the camaraderie and professionalism of the musicians at the event. As I made my way back to the van, the jam in the V lounge went on well into the morning and the talk the next day was all about the incredible performance of House of the Rising Sun with Nikki Lamborn and Howie G – and no-one appeared to have recorded it...
By Sunday morning the temperature had dropped to -6 and snow had started to fall. This co-incided with our patch of caravans running out of gas, so we had no central heating, hot water or cooking. It is important to stick to the festival survival rule of 5-2-1; every day have a minimum of five hours sleep, two meals and one shower, so there was no way that we could have gone over to the venue without showering and it was way too cold to extract ourselves from the layers of coats and duvets we were huddling under.
Fortunately the camp maintenance found enough 50ps for the meter (possibly) and we could get clean and warm again. Unfortunately this meant that we missed Walkway's second set of the weekend, but did get over in time to see Stone Free who impressed with a perfect spacey Sunday afternoon set which included gems such as 'In A Gadda Da Vida' combined with 'Sunshine Of Your Love', and a very apt rendition of Hendrix's 'Fire', given the freezing temperatures.
Stonewire performed a powerhouse of a set in the Regency Rooms to keep the energy levels high. Sky Hunter's vocals and stage presence gets better each time I have seen her, and the new guitarist Gaz Annable has taken their set to new heights. Catch the quartet supporting the Michael Schenker Band later this year on the Swedish leg of the tour.
It's probably impossible for Letz Zep to put in a bad set and tonight was no exception. They were followed by Doors Alive, who spookily gave the impression that they were channelling the spirit of Jim Morrison in the body of Willie Scott, such was the vibe of the performance. Completely ethereal and awesome, it gave the audience chills and some were even in tears.
And so it was that Legends of Rock 2013 drew to a close with a final jam lasting until nearly 6am, and at least one guitarist making snow angels in the grass on the way back to the vans. This event has firmly established itself on the festival circuit and the organisers Eddie, Elaine and Justin Yates and all the staff must be applauded for making a couple of thousand rock fans extremely happy, and showcasing some of the best talent around.