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A Tribute To Legends Of Rock 2017
20th March 2017

sara hardingphilip welfordliz medhurst
Words and Pictures: Sara Harding, Philip Welford, Liz Medhurst

legends of rock

This year's Legends of Rock sold out ages ago, as this 'by the fans for the fans' experience gets bigger and better every year. Thousands returned for the event, that promised us over fifty bands in four days with no sleep at Vauxhall Park, Great Yarmouth. Legendary creators of this festival, Eddie and Elaine Yates, fondly known as Mr and Mrs Bastard, ably assisted by their son Jus, did not disappoint.

As we checked into our luxury static caravans, we were all so happy to be back at this four star resort as this site has everything – a swimming pool and slide, adventure playground, a sports bar, a carvery, fast food joints and two huge venues which alternate the bands, making it every grown-ups dream playground.

The whole shebang kicked off on Thursday with the lycra-splitting sounds of Tragedy, a Metal band who celebrate the 70s sounds of the Bee Gees. Boogying to Metal is a new one for us but it worked, although some of the older rockers who were supping on their real ale (which the venue underestimated the popularity of as it ran out after a couple of days) had face Tourette's as if to say "WTF!"

Their frantic falsettos and high harmonies had most of us singing along and Tragedy proved to be a great psychedelic starter for Dr And The Medics. As frontman Clive Jackson takes to the stage he becomes the MC, not the GP, for the evening's events and he does a great job. His witty prescription of banter and music was just what we needed to get us into the weekend vibe and their anthemic 'Spirit In The Sky' gave us the nostalgia we all needed early into the wee hours.

legends of rock

Friday morning has us all up early and an astonishing amount of us met up at the pool for a swim, while others enjoyed a full plate of full-on café-style slide, to set us up for the Friday ahead. Our MCs are Andrew O'Neill and Marc Burrows, who did an astoundingly brilliant job over the weekend, and crack (off) the joking early. These funny guys keep the flow going and their x-rated banter is definitely top shelf as they introduce the first set of covers bands – Mentallica, State Of Quo, Sack Sabbath and Think Floyd who make us all feel like we are really there.

Then it's onto the originals and it's Northern Irish quartet the Screaming Eagles, one of our highlight bands of 2016, who have us up on the dancefloor and hand clapping along to their wall of sound rock. Everyone's favourite Legend regular, little Joan, is up doing her infamous ant stamp dance. The bass rumble is so big, our beers are shaking. This band serves us with old songs from the first album like 'Take My Time' as well as the new stuff and it sounds good.

Singer Chris Fry makes us laugh by announcing: "Did anyone think we were an Eagles tribute band?" These Northern Irish dudes serve us deep south sounds and all too soon their bluesy rock blast comes to an end - and for this evening the Screaming Eagles soar above Great Yarmouth again.

Up next is Blues guitar virtuoso Ali Clinton. At only 21-years-old, this dude has the chops of BB King and Joe Bonamassa, his heady mix of blues rock and killer solos are technically brilliant and it's no wonder he is doing well.

Up next is a big treat for all the Bowie fans here as Aladdinsane give us a great tribute to the late, great Thin White Duke followed by Who's Next and The Bryan Adams Experience. Then it's time for the act we've all been waiting for, Aurora Dawn & the Screamin' Skulls.

legends of rock

Fresh from her stint in the Alabama 3 (a band whose legendary trip to Legends Of Rock is still the most talked about ever), singer Aurora is back and we can't wait to see what she comes up with. Andy Fuller from Metalworks is on keyboard duty as part of this stellar line-up and with a bottle of Lambrini in hand, Dawn struts on stage with more attitude than Grace Jones and immediately we are entranced as this petite powerhouse purrs perfectly into a set of jazz, gospel, blues, reggae, trance rock with a pinch of Heavy Metal.

Her energy is boundless and although this is a brand new band with songs we've never heard before we can't help but get up and dance. By the time she covers 'Proud Mary' we are all in Tina Turner mode and as I channel my inner Tina by pounding the dancefloor and flinging out my arms, I hit a small lady in the face (sorry whoever you are) and send her flying...

The band finish up with Killing Joke anthem 'Pandemonium' and as the song ends we know we have witnessed something special. Aurora is the Eartha Kitt of this generation and her vocal voodoo has us all spellbound – she truly was the star of this weekend and we'll be talking about that set for ages to come.

Up next is Dark Horse who give us a really good dose of punk energy to lead us into the midnight hours. Their nods to Green Day and Clutch are sublime as this trio juggernaut their way through a blistering punk rock set and prove that punk music is alive and well received at Leg-ends of Rock. Gallus Cooper entertain with their snakes, freaks and all set and the whole night continues well into the morning with The Goodges jam and even The Bastards in their PJs now are rocking along.

legends of rock

Saturday morning and we're excited as it's fancy dress day and this crowd sure know how to dress to impress. You can expect anything and everything here - Mini Me, a Marshall amp stack, gorillas in cages, Lemmy, Jesus, The Simpsons, Freddie Mercury and of course the legendary Bastards of Bastardshire whose whore meets hobbit look has us cracking up.

It's just past breakfast o'clock and it's already time to rock with Massive Waggons. Showing no respect to the early hour, the quintet set off steamrollering their way through a gritty set that was just the ticket. Well into their stride after a recent run of gigs, their beard game was as on point as their music. Ferocious twin guitars over the top of an industrial strength engine room made sure that the bar was set incredibly high for the day ahead.

With his scream at the end of 'Ratio', to being carried around the room at great pace on the shoulders of a burly crew member, frontman Baz Mills did not let up once and the band proved why they are currently one of the hottest UK acts around.

Massive Wagons are about to release the single 'Back To The Stack' in tribute to Rick Parfitt, to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust – a great song for a great cause.

legends of rock

After this there's a lovely slice of covers courtesy of Guns V Roses, Motorkill, Bravado and our faves Metal Fatigue and the pure class that is Rainbow In Rock. We have always maintained that there is no better band on the circuit today covering the Purple/Rainbow catalogue and they proved that again here. Battling sound gremlins at the beginning of the set when the vocals couldn't be heard for the first half of 'Kill The King' (which is a catastrophe when the vocalist is the wonderful Tamas Csemez), this did not throw them off their stride one bit and we were socked right between the eyes with pretty much perfect renditions of the classics.

The set has been mixed up a bit too, and it was a delight to hear lesser played tracks 'Still I'm Sad' and 'Lady Of The Lake' which were delivered with the same power and magic we have come to expect. It's essential that these songs are only played by a band that is up to the task – Rainbow In Rock is the only name you need.

Back to originals and Cairo Son serve us a prodigal mix of grunge rock with the de-tuned sounds of Alice In Chains. Meatier than the Bastard's vegetarian option, these dudes give us great grunge and big props to the sound dudes as this was a real sonic experience.

Back to a few more killer cover sets from Thin Lizzy experience, Rammlied, led by the amazing Martin (mine's a ciderrrr) Smart, Rock Bottom, Viva Santana and then it's time for another Legends favourite.

Sustained by a lovely curry (that's what is brilliant about this place – we all pop around to each other's caravans for some scran whether it's a bacon butty, a cheese party or Church of Chicken, there's always some lovely food on offer) we squeeze back into the packed V lounge for Kent's finest export, StoneWire and they are hotter than the curry we've just had.

Frontlady Sky Hunter has us up and running onto the dancefloor as soon as she walks on stage and as 'Walk The Line' kicks in we are stomping and powerfisting along with this Blues babe. Not since Johnny Cash, has anyone walked the line so convincingly.

Her request for golden tequila is soon answered – with not just a shot but a frikkin' half pint – which impresses our favourite bitch as this is one drink even Sky can't down in one. As the band play out their hits, all of the fancy dressers begin to arrive and it's hard for Sky not to laugh as a six-foot dinosaur rocks out in front of her. StoneWire are on point and we cannot wait for their London gig in July at Our Black Heart.

legends of rock

Nirvana UK take us back to the early 90s and the anthems of Kurt and co, then Fleetwood Bac who simply get better and better serve us a slice of Mac with no cheese that is simply sublime. Then it's time for another killer mega jam courtesy of the Stone Free gang and while others enjoy the adventure playground till 6.00am, including grazed knees, we are tucked up in bed dreaming of giant dinosaurs.

Sunday and after a much-needed plate of slide, we line our stomachs with one of the best cover bands we've ever witnessed, Black Country Community whose take on Messrs Hughes, Bonamassa, Sherinian and Bonham is just epic. Singer Owen Davidson has the best pipes of the festival and this band were the absolute stars of Sunday serving us the soul from the coal country. Please Bastards, can we have more?

Some more covers keep the cobwebs away courtesy of Four Fighters and the incredible Too Petty who are so close to the bone they keep us wanting more.

It was now time for a double whammy of two of the best original bands, proving that the ticket price is worth it many times over. Pearl Handled Revolver hit the stage at the exact time of the Full Moon and the energy and magic of their glorious psychedelia mixed with heavy blues was off the scale. With incredible grooves Lee, Simon, Andy and Chris weaved a spell that pretty much took us to the Moon – a lesson in how to get high without the aid of artificial substances.

We all needed a moment to recover after 'Honeycomb' which mesmerized band and audience alike. This is a band that goes from strength to strength and deserve stellar success – what a performance. It can be summed up by Lee himself, returning to the mike after the epic interlude to 'If The Devil Cast His Net' – "Electrifying!"

From here the festival lived up to its name with true bona-fide legends, the mighty Stray. Del Bromham and co have racked up fifty years and yet they appear to have more energy than when they started. Proof that rock'n'roll keeps you young.

Their career-spanning set was gratifyingly hard and the floor was packed with everyone rocking out. Every song was a highlight whether singing along to 'I Believe It', bouncing around to 'Only What You Make It' or marvelling at Del's guitar antics, we were treated to classics 'Jericho' and 'One Night In Texas' and the more recent cuts from 'Valhalla' including 'Harry Farr' and 'Move A Mountain' proved there has been no dip in quality over the decades. I think it's impossible for Stray to be anything less than utterly brilliant and long may they continue.

legends of rock

With happiness and satisfaction levels at full, there was still more to come.

The Alter Eagles are not only talented but everyone in the venue described their set as "emotional", "hilarious", "talented" and we cannot wait to see them return again next year as they were another highlight of this epic weekend.

Sacrilege return for a second year to give us more of their NWOBHM, introduced by the effervescent Andrew O'Neill. Their orchestral intro has us shivering in anticipation and once again these dudes don't disappoint. There's no power posing or air grabbing here, just full on British Metal, screaming falsettos juxtaposed by deep vocals and guitar solos that bounce off the V lounge walls.

This hard working, hard rocking monstrosity of a band have been hitting the circuit and knocking out stone cold hard original rock that they need to be on your must-see list. Beware - Lucifer is alive and well.

Another surprise cover band are the Sex Pistols Experience who give us the attitude of the punk era. This is man rock at its best and the guys were loving it, pogoing with pints in hand, as they delivered a set fuelled with testosterone. 'Pretty Vacant' kicks off the setlist and they blister though a Pistols set with the swagger and stance of this much-missed band. Anarchy is alive and well at Legends.

Then it's time for the ladies to shove the men out of the way for The Doors Alive who mesmerise us with their classic set and the big guns of Bon Giovi, who in their tight leather pants, have every female frolicking in front of the stage. Holy Saint Bon Jovi, they were good – and did I mention they had tight trousers on?

After a bluesly brilliant set from Ben Poole it's time for the final emotional jam this time fronted by Jimi Anderson and there's not a dry eye in the house as The Bastards join him and his team of talented jammers for the ultimate tribute song, 'With A Little Help From My Friends'.

And so it ends...

On Monday morning, a legion of mostly broken yet euphoric rockers head back to reality, wishing we could all do it again. And we can in Cyprus in October. Thank you to The Bastards for the best weekend we've ever had - you really are the Leg-ends of Rock. See you next year!

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