Winterstorm Day 2 starts in a cold but beautifully sunny afternoon on the Ayrshire coast. The early risers troop into the hall in time to catch today’s opener, Lyin Rampant.
Winterstorm Festival Day 2
Troon Town Hall – 24 November 2023
Words: Ian Sutherland
Photography: Scott Anderson
Some Scottish NWOBHM heritage is a fine way to start a Friday and Stewartie Adams and his boys were ready to deliver the goods. With a beautifully bottom-heavy sound, their old-school Metal/Hair Metal crossover is just the thing to get hungover heads bobbing.
It’s an understated kind of Metal situation. The place isn’t going to go wild at 12.30 in the afternoon, but Lyin Rampant’s riff-heavy melodic Metal is just the tonic. An excellent aperitif.
A change in tone is up next with the blues rock stylings of Jim Kirkpatrick. A different beast in solo mode than when plying the smooth rock that is FM’s speciality, he has to live up to the ‘Britain’s Bonamassa’ quotes from some quarters.
He’s far too self-deprecating to get involved in that conversation but what he can do is dominate the stage with consummate playing, a real feel for the blues but an appetite to add that extra crunch, which makes it so compelling to rock fans.
Dead Man Walking, the title track of his latest album, is a real blues rock stomp. But in my head, I can hear where FM might take the song, so maybe it’s not as far apart as you might think.
By the end of his set, he and his terrific band have got a growing audience warmed up nicely. Jim Kirkpatrick is good for the soul on a Friday afternoon.
The Sessions stage opened up for the day with Electric Gypsy’s funky Brazilian rock and roll. They’re on tour with Paul Di’Anno, so it’s a nice way to broaden the geography and the influences on display here.
Over on the main stage, their touring companion had the main hall buzzing at the thought of a set of Maiden classics.
Di’Anno’s well-publicised health problems haven’t dimmed people’s love for his legacy, and after a difficult night in Edinburgh his commitment to still getting out on stage as promised is welcomed by all.
Confined to a wheelchair, needing help even then and with vocals affected by the exhaustion brought on by an infection he’s dealing with these are not ideal circumstances.
However, with a high-quality band, a set of songs everyone knows all the words to and an irrepressible fuck you sense of humour, this remains a celebration of the man’s work.
Phantom Of The Opera shows what this is all about. Di’Anno’s honesty and humour make people want to go with him, and a spirited version by the band takes the whole room along together. Who can resist that song and those memories?
Sanctuary finishes a set that was far from perfect but really tugged at the heartstrings.
Tygers Of Pan Tang
The NWOBHM fest continues on the main stage with the Tygers Of Pan Tang. Newcastle’s favourite big cats are a great festival draw, and a full room gives them an enthusiastic welcome.
Only guitarist Robb Weir remains from those formative years, and a band determined not to be a nostalgia act focus on tunes much more recent.
Vocalist Jack Meille has all the moves and notes to make the songs work. The riffage remains the same, old song or new. Short staccato bursts of guitar is where it’s at for these guys. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As an early evening act, these guys are perfect festival fodder, some satisfying repast readying you for the night to come. Rock hard and reliable through the decades.
Back on the Sessions stage, there was more Brazilian fun with Prog Metallers Noturnall.
They’re definitely more Metal than Prog, but their focused musicianship is impressive, and Thiago Bianchi’s high-pitched screams add another dimension.
Prog is on another level back on the main stage. Dutchies Focus have been at the centre of all things mad and progressive for five decades. Whether playing catchy, quirky tunes like House Of The King or conceptual Prog pieces like Eruption, Thijs Van Leer and his less veteran band mates are totally in control.
With a truncated festival set, it’s not long before it’s time for the signature hooks of Sylvia and, of course, the total insanity that is Hocus Pocus. An all too brief sojourn down the progressive rock highway.
There’s maybe no bigger contrast to that than Jim Kirkpatrick’s return to the stage with the smooth, melodic rock stylings of FM.
Running straight into the cultured groove of Synchronised, the trademarks are all there. Steve Overland’s smooth vocal melodies, a pulsing, driving rhythm and a chorus full of harmonies.
These guys are old favourites in Troon, so the Winterstorm faithful, out in force, are quick to get behind them. As the show goes on, the formula doesn’t change. They’ve spent a long time honing their skills to be very, very good at what they do, and their audience just eats it up.
Any chance to sing along is grabbed with gusto, and the whole event just becomes a love-in, a private FM party took over Winterstorm and no one minded a bit.
A total contrast on the Sessions stage and one of those little Scottish nuggets the organisers like to throw in are The Penetrations. A pub band from the ’70s/’80s have reformed to be a real blast from the past here.
The original band name was Buster Hymen And The Penetrations, which was shortened for obvious reasons. Their hard-driving blues rock covers are a nice wee addition to the weekend.
Uli Jon Roth
Uli Jon Roth on the main stage means the German guitar god theme continues for another night. A complete contrast in style to Mr Schenker, his take on his instrument is rooted in the sixties. But his path has taken him on many twists and turns over the years.
A tight festival set leaves less room for deep cuts. There was Uli’s late brother Zeno’s Don’t Tell The Wind, but this was a set chock full of ’70s Scorpions classics.
All Night Long, We’ll Burn The Sky, a version of In Trance that brings the house down, they’re all here.
Vocalist and bass player Niklas Turman does a great job on the Klaus Meine parts, and Roth is at his effervescent best, throwing effortless flourishes over everything.
There’s the big wild guitar ending to Fly To The Rainbow, which Roth jokingly admits was a bit excessive. The Sails Of Charon was a groovy delight, and Dark Lady finished the set in fine style. UFO last night, Scorpions tonight, what a weekend!
Uli overran a bit, so that meant I only caught half of Bastette’s Session stage set. The Lancashire quartet have a nice line in hard-hitting modern rock tunes with plenty of melodic twists and turns.
Singer Caroline Kenyon is an alluring yet pleasantly down-to-earth frontwoman. I can see her growing in confidence and with tunes like Talk About It and newbie Karma they have the music to back up the swagger.
A Friday of veteran rockers ends on a more youthful note with Bastette closing the Sessions stage and the madmen from the same county of Lancashire Massive Wagons closing the main stage.
The guys have worked hard on the road over the years, and it shows in the number of MW shirts and hoodies in the room. A band that are growing.
After a long day watching bands, much of the crowd are a bit tired, but frontman Baz Mills has no time for that and gives the room a kick up the ass. The last scraps of energy are dragged up from people’s boots and Troon is a rock and roll party again.
Each song seems to be more energetic than the last, and it seems the Massive Wagons party will never end, which is just the way everyone likes it.
A frenetic end to a varied and hugely enjoyable day two.
Winterstorm Festival 2023 was held over the weekend of 23-26 November 2023. MetalTalk’s Ian Sutherland reports from Troon.
All Winterstorm Festival 2023 coverage can be found at metaltalk.net/tag/winterstorm-2023.
2024 Tickets will be available from the Winterstorm Festival Website.