UNLEASHED IN THE EAST OF ENGLAND
Legends Of Rock. Great Yarmouth. 5th to 8th March 2020,
The storms may have died down over Britain but Legends of Rock, aka Yarmageddon number nine threatened to upend all the caravans in the park.
Words: Sara Harding and Liz Medhurst
Photos: Sally Newhouse
We had majestic Metal with Les Binks’ Priesthood, sheer class with The Kris Barras Band, a prog Metal overload with HeKz, some dirrrrty southern rock courtesy of These Wicked Rivers, snake hipped bigged lipped Aerosmith Rocks and some ball-busting blues with Matt Pearce and the Mutiny.
A quick recap of this unique festival. This is the ninth Yarmageddon it has a packed schedule over two venues, and a free and easy vibe with a unique mix of tributes and originals. Run by Eddie and Elaine Yates, the couple affectionately known as The Bastards, alongside son, Jus.
Legends champions some of the brightest and best of the British Breakout bands. The style runs the whole spectrum of rock, blues, Metal, prog and there really is something for everyone here, with over fifty, (yes, count ‘em) bands and a pleasing ratio of mostly good to great, with mercifully few shockers.
Often when you try to be all things to everyone you end up disappointing, but not here . It is a magic formula, with a bit of stardust on top of all that talent. The crowd are just as much part of the entertainment, with the infamous fancy dress nights.
We can’t keep away and have been to every single one so far. Go for the endurance of all 50 bands or dip in and out as you like with the swimming pool, amusement arcade, caravan parties or (ahem) at the bar.
The Thursday glam night kicked off with more glitter than Cher at a comeback gig. Everyone smells really nice due to all the scented soap from the excess hand washing – no-one is down with the sickness here. Radio Caroline ledge Barry James and Super MC Marc Burrows welcomed us and we were treated to a lycra-splitting set from renowned covers troupe Shot Through the Heart, tonight featuring Sister of Mercy’s Ben Christo.
We were thoroughly warmed up (maybe by wearing all that spandex) by the time Aladdinsane took over the main stage and the in-house face painter had done a roaring trade in the trademark flash. David Bowie never had black hair or a David Hasselhoff hairstyle, but tonight he does.
Looking around at the audience gave a possible reason why – the fabled Legends wig box had clearly been emptied so he was too late. No matter – the band were amazing, and we were treated to an impressive authentic 80s sound and fine performances on the 70s classics too.
The night was rounded off by Slade UK, setting out their stall with a thundering ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ which they proceeded to do with a high octane run through of hits and deeper cutz, leaving us crazee for more.
Friday morning, who needs an alarm clock when we shaken awake with Metal? The ‘Turn it up to eleven’ Metal Fatigue Pyjama party was now in progress giving precisely no-one a gentle start to the day with their bombastic jam – we popped on our PJs and got rocked for breakfast.
Up next were the Howie G band who are soon to tour with Biff Byford of Saxon. These guys have some serious blues chops, with bassist Mark T Parkin rocking the biggest bass we’ve ever seen. This originals band has a set list of anthems to be and guitarist/singer Howie delivered them with gusto.
From the big riff of ‘Haunted Heart’ to the gentler ‘Walking in the Shadows’ this was an accomplished set which showcased impressive vocals along with the majestic guitar playing.
Then it was time for the Thin Lizzy Experience to take to the stage in the arena, who delivered us a classy trip through the Lizzy’s back catalogue and were spot on with the massive twin guitar assaults and the relentless rhythm of these glorious classic songs. The front of stage area filled up quickly.
Back to the cosiness of the V Lounge for local band Walkway, led by brothers Chris & James Ready, who performed their set flawlessly before a return to the stage from the boys from Thin Lizzy Experience. Thankfully they have no shortage of energy as there was only time for a quick shave and a haircut before they were back in the lounge as Kaviani.
A great set from this original band, with the seriously catchy ‘Button Up My Shirt’, and proving they know what to do with a beat with ‘Money, Honey’.
The Judas Priest story is nowhere near over and continues to have many twists and turns. This afternoon provided a true highlight of the weekend with Les Binks’ Priesthood. Les is not a tribute, he’s the real thing. Coming at us right out of the blocks with ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, the band thrilled with a potent blast of energy every bit as exhilarating as the first time round. Les is of course reuniting with KK Downing and will be back on the road soon which is going to be outstanding too -doubly blessed.
With one of the biggest drum kits we’ve ever seen, normally the drum solo is when many head to the bar, but Binks’ prowess on the drums, kept us rooted to the spot. As well as Les, the talent on this stage is immense, with vocals deftly handled by Matt Young, Gus Mark and Simon Pinto on guitars, and Paul Smith on bass, all well known for being top performers in a variety of bands and having a special chemistry here.
The thirteen song setlist included ‘Ripper’, ‘Exciter’, ‘Beyond The Realms of Death’, ‘Dissident Aggressor’, ‘Starbreaker’ – the quality kept coming and Legends of Metal was unleashed here in the east of England.
The lookalikes and soundalikes continued with Foo Forgers, Dep Leppard, and Steemy Dan rocking us with their tribute acts.
Jimi Anderson is another well-known face at Legends here showcasing his superb original material with plenty from latest album ‘I Belong’. The big sound and Jimi’s lush vocals filled the lounge and this belting AOR went down a storm.
One of the biggest breakout artists of the past year, is Kris Barras Band, signed to Mascot Records. The dude with the best beard in the biz is just back from his sold out tour supporting Beth Hart and he was more than ready to cut loose with electric power This assault on the senses was delicious.
This was an incredibly strong set with no let up from the powerhouse of blues-rock. With six tracks from the new and third album ‘Light It Up’, five from the previous two and a well-chosen reworked cover of ‘Fire’, the quartet showed exactly why they are one of the hottest tickets around.
From the fluid ‘What You Get’ to the call and response of ‘Devil’s Done Alright’, the commanding ‘Not Fading’ right through to the final sing-along of ‘Hail Mary’, Kris completely owned that stage and proved that he does indeed have rock and roll runnin’ through his veins.
A race back to the lounge to catch Skam UK, the Northampton powerhouse trio who were a huge hit last year and they blasted us with a ballsy, big set with loads of stoner fuzz. This trio are seriously ones to watch out for.
Another band welcomed back this year are Blind River. A five piece group of hairy, beardy and bare-chested dudes that deliver power rock to the max. Singer Harry is such a charismatic frontman and one of anthems of the week has to be the very catchy ‘Can’t Sleep Sober’ – something none of us did this weekend.
Last year the venue sold out of all alcohol (as well as cleaning the band out of merch)! Blind River tested out some of their new tracks on us, before starting to record their second album the very next day – 100% approval here.
As the beers were flowing, we rushed back to the V lounge to check out the band who have been hailed as the second coming of rock, Vambo. This band have retro rock in their DNA as singer Jack Stiles is the son of Mud legend Ray Stiles. And they delivered big style with a dynamic set that totally delivered – big sounds, big hair big beards. Huge numbers such as ‘Dancing with the Devil’ showed the Purple-esque and vintage influence while retaining their own authentic sound.
As midnight approaches, we are treated to The Floyd Effect that was literally far out and a mega jam courtesy of The Goodge’s Late Night Jam which kept us rockin’ till 4am!
We were up early to catch The Underdogs, an acoustic trio with delicious harmonies giving us belters from Steely Dan, ELO, Doobie Brothers, Eric Clapton not in a stripped down unplugged arrangement, but keeping close to the original recreating the intricate arrangements. It may have been a slightly gentler start than yesterday but there was still plenty of dancing and a bit of yodelling to boot.
And what a way to wake up properly with prog Metallers, HeKz – one of the stand-out bands of the weekend and a breath of fresh air. They are as funny as they are talented with frontman Matt Young’s observations; “There are no wrong notes in prog, just new parts”.
This band turned up the prog dial and promised us fifteen minute epic anthems which they sure delivered. ‘Line in the Sand’ had some of the audience in tears . That is testament to how good this band is and they gained a legion of new fans as well as a standing ovation.
These Wicked Rivers had us asking are we in the Deep South or Great Yarmouth? The Derby four piece served us a delicious slice of southern, Clutch-esque sleazy rock courtesy of the gravelly John Hartwell. So good we bought the album and the T-shirt. A huge highlight for Saturday afternoon.
The tribute bands kept a-rolling with Sack Sabbath, Fleetwood Bac, Cult Fiction, Viva Santana and Rammlied – we told you there was something for everyone.
Pints consumed it was time to check out Trident Waters, a whiskey drenched mix of Led Zep and Hawkwind. These are the trailblazers of Classic Rock and deserve their status as one of Britain’s breaking bands.
Blues rock powerhouse, Ben Poole was up next with his super setlist of riffage – he delivers catchy originals that have the whole crowd off their feet and playing along.
Spotting approximately 2000 Iron Maiden t-shirts heading to the V arena, it was fairly obvious who was on next – Hi-On Maiden, the only band that the mighty Maiden endorses. With a last-minute vocal replacement due to illness, HeKz frontman Matt Young takes to the stage and does Bruce brilliantly. With an incredible backline of drums, the Steve Harris Metal bass and their very own Eddie, this is a monster of a set.
Black Country Community take to the stage, with vocalist Owen giving us a lesson on how vocals should be delivered. The quartet delivered the soul, funk and downright in your face rock with astonishing precision and heart.
Staighten Out blew us away with early Stranglers classics and the laugh out loud named Mr Spankey and the Hipthrusters, Legends of AOR, Mad Haven and Live Wire closed out another amazing Saturday.
Heads a bit sore after too many lady petrols, Buster James soon blew us away with his Blues medley, paving the way for a glorious hour of Matt Pearce and the Mutiny.
Matt is a veteran of too many bands to name. A consummate professional who lights up every stage he plays on, experiencing him being himself and playing his own material is an absolute treat.
Fusing influences such as Prince and the Black Crowes, the songs from album ‘Gotta Get Home’ are polished yet with an edge in this live setting. Anyone who saw his incredible solo set at Cambridge Rock Festival last summer knows how impressively he commands a stage and with his top-class band the set really flew, managing to be rocking and laid back at the same time.
He deserves all the accolades and coverage achieved this year and we want much more of this sort of thing.
A late addition to the set were the mind blowing Momento who had us moshing to Faith No More. What hangover? State of Quo served us some great double denim 3 chord man rock, that had us all dusting off our air guitars.
Back to originals now with guitarist Adam Mackie and singer John Drake’s Dust Coda. They delivered a rootsy, soulful set that gave us a chance to catch our breath and simply enjoy.
It’s mainly a retro sing-along anthem day today, with Alter Eagles, The Whitesnake Experience, Who’s Next, Creedence Clearwater Review, Rainbow in Rock, Book of Genesis, ELO Encounter – take your pick.
There are still originals to be seen though – since forming in 2008, brothers Andrew and Jamie Pipe from the award-winning band The Mentulls have really carved a niche for themselves and a huge international fan base with emotive, bluesy classic rock with a good dose of prog.
Going Down? The highlight tribute band of the weekend had to be Aerosmith Rocks, fronted by Canadian Danny Deane who flew in especially for this epic set. His Tyler-tastic showmanship was the real deal. He had the snake hips and the big lip moves, the swagger and of course the vocals. This band were also the standout of last year’s Cyprus Rocks.
What a way to keep us all rockin’ into the late hours of Sunday night. And to literally finish us off were the stunning Forever Moore, The Bohemians and of course Jimi “I wanna see your hands at the back” Anderson’s all-star jam with a very special guest performance from Stray’s Del Bromham.
With every other festival on the rock scene being cancelled and toilet roll being stockpiled, we were concerned that our favourite first festie of the year would be postponed. But thank Saint Bon Jovi – COVID-19, pneumonia, colds and even Sara’s cancer didn’t stop thousands of rock bands and fans hitting this east coast resort.
This is festival that puts the Great into Gt Yarmouth – see you down the front for next year’s tenth anniversary extravaganza.