Yarmageddon 4 was my first festival of this year and it certainly set the standard. You know the drill for this one – 50 bands over three and half days, a mixture of original and tribute bands celebrating the very best of our culture with a crowd that give enjoyment and partying the priority they deserve.
Words: Liz Medhurst
There is also as much opportunity as you want to argue about the validity of tribute/covers and the place they hold in the current live music scene. Fill your boots with this, I’m not joining in – I come to this weekend to have a good time with the music and people that I love. High standards in performance and musicianship trump personnel, and the intellectualising can wait till we are back home and have a rainy Tuesday to fill.
So what unique delights were on offer this year?
The opening night got off to a flying start with a Hair Metal party with plenty of glitter, eye make-up and Spandex and that was just the males in the audience. On stage the night belonged to headliners Dr And The Medics.
If you have never seen this band before then please rectify this as soon as possible. Dr And The Medics are a band that just get it on every level. Playing a mix of 80s hits and their own material, from the opening intro the relentless set of glammed and Metalled up songs absolutely exploded with exuberance.
Dr And The Medics
Superheroes, a Cyberman with a feather duster, bat suits, a young hot band and fantastic showmanship from one of the best frontmen in the business made me dizzy with delight. The original tracks ‘Hair Grow’ and ‘Burn’ stood up with the classic tracks like ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘You Spin Me Round’.
Dr And The Medics wrote us a prescription for joy tonight. Really – go out of your way to catch them live.
Day two dawned – had we peaked already after last night? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous, this is Yarmageddon and it was another packed day. First award of the day went to the warm bright sunshine, the first of the year. It’s been a long hard winter and the sunshine was incredibly welcome and needed.
Forgoing the lunchtime bands in order to soak up as many of the rays as possible was a good choice, and then back in the venue for the formidable Alix Anthony who put in a brilliant Hendrix set.
I have always maintained that Hendrix’s music is perfectly suited to sunshine and this afternoon was no exception. This was more than a tribute, it was more like channelling The Jimi Hendrix Experience itself – Alix’s trio do more than just excellent playing, they get the whole vibe.
It was a good dose of prog next with the impressive Progfathers who produced a well-chosen mix which included Tull, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes and others. As you would expect we got plenty of long songs and interludes, but overall there was not too much wandering off into over-indulgence, thankfully.
There are many young guitarists on the scene being lauded at the moment, and nineteen year old Ali Clinton is my pick of who to keep an eye out for – the relaxed confidence with which he hammers out blistering sounds shows how the stage is his natural home.
A part of Uli Jon Roth’s band for the past three years, tonight Ali appeared with his own trio and the set of originals and covers blasted the V Lounge – really excellent stuff.
Back in the V Arena Mia Klose was beset by technical difficulties at the start, going through a few microphone replacements before the first song was through. This did not seem to faze her one bit and she stormed through the set with the energy of dozens of Duracell bunnies.
As far as Swedish acts go, she is nearer on the spectrum to Abba than Sabaton, but the band were hot and the sheer energy and force of her personality was impressive. The set was marred a bit by the poor vocal mix, but otherwise this was a solid set by a great performer.
By an act of sheer carelessness I managed to miss Blind Tiger, but I was back in the V Lounge for Spiral Dive, a fantastic back to basics proper Metal act whose music sounds simultaneously retro and modern and are a great live act.
After checking out the amazing Fleetwood Bac, who completely do justice to the classic tracks, it was time for my discovery of the day with Bad Touch. What a great band – they were the best turned out band of the day, each member having immaculate hair, and they sounded every bit as good as they looked.
Vibey, rocky, heavy, bluesy and full of melody, this is a band that I will be keeping an eye out for. They were about to set off on tour with The Answer for the rest of March – that’s a good pairing and worth seeing.
Following the subversive pantomime of Gallus Cooper, the night finished on a high note with the jam session led by Voodoo Six’s Matt Pearce, who put together a magical mix of utter brilliance with an eclectic mix of personnel from many of today’s bands.
Saturday dawned with another packed schedule. Take a pick of prog, Americana, thrash and classic rock with seven bands before sunset.
Checking in with the Editor back in London, I inadvertently let slip that I had brought my organic lavender buckwheat pillow with me, which led to a diatribe about how “shut the door and kill the lights” used to mean something completely different and I was letting down the spirit of rock n’ roll. Duly chastised, I promised that there would be Sambuca abuse and plenty of partying. Although I still maintain that just because it’s rock n’roll it can’t also be comfortable – there, I’ve said it.
As the evening got going some amazing costumes were in view, with many entering in to the fancy dress theme. And it’s not every day you get an invitation to squeeze Batman’s crotch…
Rainbow In Rock (a new band formed from members of Stargazer) are still the best band on the circuit playing Deep Purple and Rainbow classics and tonight was no exception. Classics like ‘Burn’ and ‘Child In Time’ and lesser heard songs such as ‘Stone Cold’ added up to a superlative set that was pitched and performed perfectly.
There was more 70s-influenced blues rock from The Mentulls, a young trio who have made quite a name for themselves on the live circuit and it’s easy to see why, with beautifully layered tracks, precision playing and a laid back edge. I had to deduct a point from them for one of those interminable drum solos, but I didn’t suffer too much as I took the opportunity to do a bit of shopping and rejoined the set after it had finished and the music had started again.
The blues-rock theme continued with Roadhouse, who produced an absolute stonker of a set that kept the party spirit high. With the guitar talents of Gary Boner and Danny Gwilym and the female vocal duo that produce sweetness with a dirty edge this is a band who have a unique take on the genre and never fail to impress.
A good blast of the heavy stuff followed with Saxonised and Rammlied and then we were treated to an unexpected appearance by StoneWire. The set was unexpected in that the band were a last minute replacement for Letz Zep who had to retire hurt, and as much as I love the Led Zep music, StoneWire are my preference by a country mile.
Sky Hunter and her band are undoubtedly going to be playing in much larger venues soon, so this was a great opportunity to catch them up close. With powerful hard-hitting songs and compelling stage presence StoneWire are ready to go up a league and they deserve every moment.
I checked out Towers Of Stone, made up of members of Persian Risk and fronted by Carl Sentance. Carl is the new Nazareth frontman and I can report that he is in excellent shape in voice and body and more than ready for this year’s live dates starting in April – a great choice.
Earlier, Hell Bent For Priest had done a fine job with the Judas Priest classics, but there was something even better in store as former Priest drummer Les Binks joined Paul Manzi, Cosmo and Andy Hodge as Raw Glory went straight into the lead for band of the festival.
Here is a band who have chosen the perfect name – it was raw (in vibe I mean, the performance was brilliantly executed) and it was glorious. Just as I was thinking that they had an early Bad Company vibe we were treated to a few of their tracks along with their own material.
The big treat was hearing the Priest track ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’, co-written by Les Binks, but the whole set was a triumph of authentic rock and Metal, Paul Manzi’s amazing soulful voice bringing some magic to proceedings.
Paul Manzi, Raw Glory
There was just time left to check in on tonight’s jam led by Steve Fletcher of Derby’s Metal Fatigue, showing that great and versatile musicians en masse can be found outside of the London scene. Great raucous fun to end the night on.
And so to the final day. Sunday contained the level of contentment you find after a truly great weekend, but there was still a lot more to come.
Forget about Sunday afternoon resting, the afternoon was kicked into touch by StOp sToP! – a band who have as much callous disregard for peace and quiet as they do for punctuation. The Spanish-based band gave us a frenzied and thrilling set of glam Metal which hit the spot perfectly.
Reckless Heart were astoundingly good. Heart are a band that don’t seem to be as lauded as they ought to be in this country, so this was a brilliant refresher of just how good their catalogue is. Vocalist Lisa Fury captures the power and beauty of Ann Wilson to perfection and the rest of the band are equally good. A mix of hard edged tracks and the melodic rock era satisfied on all counts and this was a real treat.
We were spoilt for choice again for the remainder of the bill with tributes to Quo, Foo Fighters and Santana, Yes and more. A real smorgasbord of the breadth of talent on offer and diversity of the music. Larry Miller as always played to a captive audience enthralled with the masterclass of the blues and guitar virtuosity.
The atmosphere was ramped right up again for the end, with Legends favourites Walkway packing out the V Lounge. They always deliver exactly what the crowd wants, and the tempo didn’t drop once. They gave it their all and gained new fans – with further support slots for Status Quo perhaps this is the year that they achieve their breakthrough.
As ever, the Doors Alive were mesmerising and authentic and then party animal Buster James super-charged proceedings to close the V Arena for the weekend.
The final jam of the weekend was led by Lawless guitarist Howie G and it was clear that there wasn’t much appetite to stop and wind things up and the music continued well into the morning.
And I can’t finish the review without a massive shout out to the great masters of ceremonies Krusher Joule and Andrew O’Neill who were hilariously entertaining throughout, Gary Rokjok Lewis who kept the momentum going between sets and the brilliant stage management of Paul Collyer and his team.
Yarmageddon 4 had been yet another major success for Classic Rock Tours, who are the market leaders in putting on a rock party. How many days till we do it all again?
Full Line Up:
Thursday 5th March
Jef Leppard, Toxic Twins, Dr And The Medics.
Friday 6th March
Guns V Roses, The Bryan Adams Experience, Bravado, Alix Anthony’s Hendrix Experience, Metal Fatigue, Progfathers, Ali Clinton, Mia Klose, Blind Tiger, Sack Sabbath, Spiral Dive, Fleetwood Bac, Bad Touch, Gallus Cooper.
Saturday 7th March
Darke Horse, Aynt Skynyrd, Too Petty, Mentallica, Stone Free, Mama, Hell Bent For Priest, Rainbow In Rock, The Mentulls, Who’s Next, Roadhouse, Rammlied, Saxonised, StoneWire, Towers of Stone, Raw Glory.
Sunday 8th March
The ZZ Tops, StOp sToP!, Reckless Heart, V8, Fragile with Claire Hamill, Soulweaver, Four Fighters, State of Quo, Viva Santana, Roxy Musique, Larry Miller, Walkway, Doors Alive, Buster James.