LEGENDS OF ROCK: YARMAGEDDON PART 3
Vauxhall Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth
6th-9th March 2014
It was that time of year again. A must on the festival calendar, Legends Of Rock, one of the offerings from Classic Rock Tours, is firmly established as four days of partying, excellent musicianship and utter enjoyment.
As is now traditional, there were fifty bands in four days, all playing full sets. This meant wall to wall music from the Glam Rock party on the Thursday night, then the main days where the music starts before midday and goes all the way through until nearly sunrise, resulting in a complete impossibility to see everyone. This is a nice problem to have and much better than the alternative I think.
You just have to work out your own way to last the distance so you can party as much as possible. I have a yoga mat and I'm not afraid to use it...
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Legends Of Rock is a mixture of originals, covers and tributes. It's unusual to cover the latter two here at MetalTalk Towers, but this fits in nicely with the ongoing debate happening in these pages about if all of the classic songs have been written, and how Rock and Metal are going to be carried on to future generations once the originals start leaving us.
This weekend, looking at the range of tribute bands and the audience reactions, it is clear that the music is in no danger of dying out. The songs have a life of their own outside of the original performers, yet the artist's performances were appreciated in their own right – absolutely right as the standard of the musicians here is top class. Plenty of people were inspired to check out the back catalogues of the various bands after hearing their work and that is a Good Thing.
Yes, tributes and covers are not going to realistically play a part in the creation of rock history but they are part of the evolution of the art form. You don't need to analyse things closely however, just enjoy it – which is pretty much a given here. As Eddie Yates, organiser and all round legend himself, put it: "I love it, it's so much fun, I am a punter once the event starts".
So, from Blues Rock to Power Trios to full-on Metal to Melodic Rock and nightly jam sessions of the highest quality, Yarmageddon really does have something for everyone, all under one roof. And with the standard festival caveat that I can't possibly mention everyone, these are some of the highlights for me...
Friday 7th March
Tarot card of the day: Justice
The balance of equal and opposites. Karma. Alchemy. Aligned to the Egyptian goddess Maat, and Raguel, the archangel of harmony.
First up was Stargazer's Whitesnake set, on at 11.45am, or, in festival world, breakfast time. But it was worth it as these guys are so talented and what's not to love about a heavy dose of Whitesnake before lunch? The standard was duly set with highlights being the likes of Judgement Day and Blindman presented in epic form.
After this it was the first appearance of the event for Howie G, who may have hit the event record for how many different sets he could appear in – I counted seven in all. This one was with his own Howie G Revue, where the V Lounge received a masterclass in Les Paul performance, while Mama went through the Genesis catalogue next door, heralding the first of many shuttles between rooms to catch clashing sets. Fortunately the rooms are next door to each other with no sound bleed so it was a do-able challenge.
Later that afternoon Pat McManus completely tore up the V Lounge and those who hadn't seen the band before quickly became firm fans. There is something very special about the set of the Irish rocker, the astounding musicianship that kicks a serious groove. Pat introduced us to guitarist Ali Clinton, who was celebrating his eighteenth birthday, and treated us to some blistering twin guitar loveliness to end the set on.
Later that evening another blues rock power trio, Virgil and The Accelerators, generated a massive buzz and had the crowd on their feet. Virgil McMahon won the title of Best Guitarist in the 2013 European Blues Awards, which is a hell of a title to live up to in a park full of prodigious talent. Virgil, like Ali Clinton, made his professional stage debut when he was a young teen, a real affirmation of how the music is getting passed down through the generations. The band are about to release their second album, 'Army Of Three', which is well worth checking out.
The triple whammy of Towers Of Stone, Walkway and Doors Alive kept the standard at a super-high level. In the case of the latter, they were breathtakingly mesmerising, with perfect renditions of The Doors psychedelic trippiness, which seemed a fitting place to call it a night after the pre-dawn start.
Saturday 8th March
Tarot card of the day: The High Priestess
Intuition, hidden depths. Guards the mystery that lies beyond the veil of the subconscious. The card for poets and writers.
Breakfast today was brought to us by Gallus Cooper. This Alice Cooper tribute is remarkable for the attention to detail, and all of the props were here – nurses, babies, ghouls and of course the UK tour snake. The gallows had to be left behind this time, due to height restrictions on the stage. There was plenty of room on the floor for the ten foot Frankenstein however, who weaved through the audience, prompting cries of "Down in front!"...
This was an inspired first band on, as Saturday is designated Fancy Dress, and the theatrics and costumes continued off stage through the day with the most eclectic array of costumes including superheroes, Banana Splits, fairies, gorillas, more inflatable guitars than you can shake a stick at and a rock and roll party that takes some beating.
Alix Anthony made his debut with Classic Rock Tours at this event. A seasoned pro with a magic touch, Alix has played and toured with some amazing names in the rock and funk world, and brought his own blend and style to the proceedings with amazing renditions from Hendrix through to funk.
Alix and his band pitched the set list perfectly as the dance floor filled up with many dozens of people abandoning themselves to the groove. It's a delight to experience this sort of stage presence and talent, and I wasn't alone in thinking this. Famed mascot Eddie the Head popped in to get a piece of the action after he had finished doing his thing for Hi-On Maiden next door in the Regency Room. Now we know what he likes when he is off-duty...
"But life's not a wheel, with chains made of steel, so bless me..."
Stargazer followed this, playing their Deep Purple and Rainbow set. This is a band who don't bother with recreating the look and mannerisms of the originals – a futile task here considering the changes to the line up of both bands – and instead take a selection from the breadth of the material available and simply play it brilliantly, with a touch of magic.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where the magic happens - it's located somewhere within the combination of the harmony lines between guitar and keyboards, the pristine vocals, the driving rhythm section, and of course the subject matter. Add to this the energy of the crowd and a band that play from the heart and soul with a clear love of what they do and you have a perfect encapsulation of the essence of this event.
So for me, the intensity and the wow factor of the day had peaked with Alix Anthony and Stargazer, but there was still so much more to enjoy.
Fleetwood Bac always put in a great set, with guitar and drums being provided by current and former Voodoo Six members Matt Pearce and Dave Cavill. After this, Lawless played their debut album 'Rock Savage' in its entirety, demonstrating an impressive merge of Metal and melody.
With The Buster James Band continuing the party atmosphere with their nitro-injected rock and roll, followed by Sack Sabbath, who are still the only Sabbath tribute that I can listen to, all that remained was Jimi Anderson's Late Night Jam. In a complete stamina fail, I managed to stay awake for the start time and then crashed. Oh well, enough is as good as a feast, more yoga tomorrow...
Sunday 9th March
Tarot Card of the Day – Seven of Fire
Standing up for what you believe in. Accept that you can't please everyone.
Well I firmly believe in happiness and in rock and roll, so Zeus it was, raising the happiness quotient of everyone in the room, packing four hours worth of songs into 90 minutes with the most creative, heavy and fun mash ups.
This led into a good afternoon bout of Prog as Fragile with Claire Hamill went through the Yes catalogue, before Think Floyd took us through a celebration of Pink Floyd's material. I missed the Rush tribute, Bravado, but I am reliably informed that I was a muppet for doing so as they were brilliant.
Virgil And The Accelerators
Another thing that I firmly believe in is that there is enough success to go round for everyone. Nowhere was this epitomised more than the house band Mega Jam, where 23 members of five bands shared the limelight and played swap the band to great effect, including a mash up of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin led by Persian Risk vocalist Carl Sentance – which they just about got away with.
One of the highlights of the jam was a group of amazing musicians at an event containing many tribute bands, playing a song from an act that that some would regard as a fake band, about a song that isn't quite original but a tribute... is it a brilliant piece of self awareness, or irony, oh I don't know what the fuck it is all I know is that I loved it.
So, featuring Tamás Czemez (vocals) and Gus Mark (lead guitar) from Stargazer, Howie G (acoustic guitar), Mario Ramjhun and Greg Gallagher from Stonefree on bass and drums and Steve Briggs from Stonewire making a special appearance as the devil, here is Tenacious D's 'Tribute':
A band that have stood their ground and developed their own identity is Splintered Soul. Coming towards the end of a weekend filled with great music, the five piece were a revelation with their distinctive brand of Cinematic Metal which was edgy, exciting and immaculately delivered. The songs were complex yet accessible and lead vocalist Erica Mengold has an incredible voice that soars over the Prog-influenced heavy backing.
Also taking a major role in Splintered Soul's unique identity is violinist Sally Jo. Yes, the words "violin" and "Metal" don't always go together, but in this case the blend with the awesomely talented band is a combination that absolutely works to great effect. This is a band that have a real chance of being a major success, and their debut album 'Lore' is eagerly awaited.
So in the end, the verdict on Yarmageddon is that although there is always room for improvement, it is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a complete no-brainer to attend this event for the fantastic partying, great people, new bands to discover and an immersion in all that is good about rock and Metal. You can't put a price on that.
Next events from Classic Rock Tours:
Rhodes Rock Espana – June 4 to 11 2014, Benalm´dena, Spain
Legends of Rock: The Originals – 16-19 October 2014, Vauxhall Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth
Legends of Rock: Yarmageddon Part 4 – 5-8 March 2015, Vauxhall Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth