Following the demise of the Ramblin’ Man festival, 2023 sees the arrival of a new rock and blues festival at Mote Park in Maidstone, albeit using the same venue and taking on a very similar format as Ramblin’ Man. In fact, it could be considered as Ramblin’ Man under another name, and the diehard fans and veterans of the aforesaid festival have clearly seen it in the same light. However, this is very much not the case, and Maid of Stone is clearly a different festival in its own right.
Maid Of Stone – Saturday
For a start, it is considerably smaller than Ramblin’ Man, with the space being about a third of that taken up by the RMF site. This worked as both a positive and a negative. For the festival goers, the campsite was right up against the site, so access was very easy and quick.
Getting from one stage to the next (there were three stages) took no time at all. The food vendors were aligned through the centre of the park, so no matter what stage you were at, access to the vendors was quick and simple. Unfortunately, the downside of this closeness did mean that, at times, there was a considerable sound bleed across the stages, with a band on one stage drowning out that on another.
Certainly, this is a lesson to be learned for future years (which hopefully there will be). Positioning the main two stages opposite each other, with the Phoenix stage higher up the hill, was always going to create issues, and realistically the positioning of the vendors between the stages was never going to alleviate or act as a barrier to sound.
So that is the gripes out of the way. The most important factor about this festival was the return of quality rock, blues and Metal back to Mote Park. The line-up over the two days was eclectic, which in itself was exactly what the festival needed to provide, thus ensuring there was something for everyone.
In this, they did not disappoint, and if one act was not necessarily to your taste, there were always plenty of others.
The only other gripe about Saturday is related to the weather, but let’s not go there. It’s not as though the organisers could do anything about that. It’s a typical English Summer, so you just dress for the weather. If you got wet, which, let’s be honest, we pretty much all did, it just added to the memories of the festival. Well, now we’re all dry again, we can laugh about it now.
So, to the music.
With a variety of bands on show and three stages to choose from, it meant a lot of running around to see as many bands as I could. The morning kicked off on the Phoenix Stage with Trident Waters, an up-and-coming London-based Blues power trio who have recently released their second album. Clearly, they were not there to make up the numbers and intended to shake life into the early risers, and probably a few still dozing at the nearby campsite, sleeping off the previous night’s excesses. This is a band with a seriously dirty groove to their sound.
Kicking off with Devils Stomp, the band made clear with their take-no-prisoners approach that their intention was to provide a series of punchy riff-laden blues rock. It wasn’t long before the punters began to flood in to see what was up, and it became clear pretty quickly that they were staying.
With a 45-minute opening slot, they were able to showcase their particular take on blues rock, and they were the perfect band to kickstart festivities. This isn’t a band that play lazy blues. Theirs is a sheer injection of hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll. With tunes such as Who’s In Love, Control The Animal and Good Time Roller, they were making converts fast. Who couldn’t tap a foot or nod an aching head to this level of catchy hook-laden rock?
From the Phoenix stage it was a short trip downhill to the main, Jeff Beck Stage and openers Collateral. These were a band that many were waiting for and the perfect kick start to the day’s events at the main stage with their ’80s style soft rock radio-friendly swagger.
From the moment they hit the stage, they had the audience eating out of their hands with a delicious set pulled predominantly from their self-titled album. This is a band that wouldn’t go amiss on Sunset Strip, and their sound provides the perfect kickstart to the day on the main stage.
If you were growing up on the glam, big-hair rockers of the ’80s, then Collateral are quite simply the new ‘must-see’ band, and they were clearly going to set that ball rolling with a vengeance. That was once they’d got through a seeming multitude of technical problems.
Despite the frustration of standing around waiting for the technicians to finally remove the sound gremlins, they didn’t let it show, and when the first riffs kicked in, and Singer Angelo Tristan hit the stage like a 21st-century Freddie Mercury, well, clothes-wise anyway, in grey silver jeans and a yellow jacket, there was no looking back as they tore into Mr. Big Shot and Midnight Queen.
With Angelo working the stage at a frenetic pace, guitarist Louis Malagodi, and bassist Jack Bentley-Smith covering the rest of the stage with vigour, this was a fast, heads down, good-time rock and roll show.
This is a band who aren’t scared to wear their colours on their sleeves, and many songs have a heavy nod to US radio-friendly rock, particularly with the Bon Jovi-esque In It For Love and Lullaby, although the latter is far from that.
Finishing with favourite Merry Go Round, they provided the ultimate kickstart to the day, leaving the fans wanting more. Collateral provided a perfect blast of glam and glitz that was a perfect antidote to the assembling grey skies that were beginning to threaten.
Following Collateral came the wonderful Kira Mac. This is a band and performer who have come a long way in a seemingly short period of time, although they have been grafting away quietly for many years. With their first album firmly ensconced under their belts, they are ready to take on the world.
Following Collateral’s glitzy glam set, Kira strode onto the stage, fired up with the band around her, all guns blazing. This is an up-and-coming band with more than their fair share of Northern Grit and energy.
Kira said as the first spots of rain fell, “well, we’re Northern, and we brought the weather.” Well, maybe so, but Dead Man Walking, followed up by the title of their album Chaos Is Calling, was enough to blow any thoughts away of the weather ruining everyone’s afternoon.
This was a well-calculated set and not only enabled the band to showcase a large part of their existing album but also try out in a live environment three tracks from their second album, which will be released later in the year.
These songs have changed the dynamic of the set and, on first hearing, make it very clear that this band are developing rapidly as songwriters and musicians. Their sound remains that of a heavy blues rock band, yet they stand out in the way they deliver their songs since they aren’t scared to let other influences show through.
They are a young band who are happy to write the music that they want, in the direction they want, and if that brings out their influences at times, then so what. They are not the first band to do that.
That said, the new numbers Play The Game, current single Scorned and Climbing, a song about fighting your way back out of bad places, certainly fit well into the set. These are songs that are just as hard-driving and inventive but also show that they are starting to step outside of their comfort zone and are developing as an act.
For a band that are to take the next step forward, then on this performance, they are very clearly well on the way. Excuse the pun, but they are already well on the way to ‘climbing’ that ladder.
Maid Of Stone Festival 2023 was held over the weekend of 21-23 July 2023. MetalTalk’s Adrian Stonley, Paul Monkhouse and Robert Sutton were reporting from Mote Park.
All Photography: Robert Sutton
Early Bird tickets are available for next year’s festival held over 19-21 July 2024. Tickets are available from here.
All MetalTalk Maid Of Stone 2023 coverage is at https://www.metaltalk.net/tag/maid-of-stone-festival-2023