Following on from last year’s debut, Stonedeaf Festival returned to Nottinghamshire’s Newark Showground for a second year building on the successes of 2018 to deliver what is quickly becoming established as one of the best UK rock festivals.
Consistent with 2018, we were blessed with fine weather as first band Samarkind took to the stage. The Dublin based hard rock band’s debut has been out for two years now and is very much influenced by the classic rock bands of the 70s. Much of the album featured in their set, opener ‘Black Rain’ and ‘Thru That Door’ both mix Southern rock and early Aerosmith influences and sound superb. ‘Blue Mountain’ is another highlight which seems to lend itself more to the British blues rock in the vein of Free. You couldn’t have asked for a better band to start the day.
Next up were rising Antipodeans Massive. ‘Generation Riot’ kicked off their set with a punkish ferocity meanwhile ‘Blood Money Blues’ showed more melody with big choruses. Two albums in and these festivals are a sure fire way to build their fanbase; their cover of ‘If You Want Blood, You Got It’ goes down a storm with the crowd and if that wasn’t enough, they certainly got the party atmosphere going by inviting fans and crew up on stage for next song ‘Dancefloor’; a pulsating bass led anthem that rocks with a serious amount of groove. An impressive high energy set and undoubtedly Massive left the stage with considerably more fans than when they started.
This was the first opportunity I’ve had to catch the new look Amorettes. Still up front on guitar and vocals is Gill Montgomery who is now joined by Tequila Mockingbyrd’s rhythm section along with additional guitarist Laurie Buchanan. ‘Born To Break’ is a tight little rocker to open with, albeit a little repetitive on the vocal front. More tasty riffs follow with ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’. The move to a four piece helps in rounding off some of the rougher edges and this is none more evident than on final song ‘Everything I Learned (I Learned From Rock and Roll)’. They played tight and lively set, but if they’re going to maintain my interest, they’re going to need to develop lyrically – there’s only so many songs you can listen to about playing rock and roll. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
Maybe its because Diamond Head are at the heavier end of the spectrum on a bill that is predominantly hard rock, but it was still somewhat perplexing to see them billed below the likes of Wayward Sons & Inglorious. This was of course of no consequence as the band played a killer set leading off with ‘Bones’ from their 2016 self titled album.
Three tracks from their latest album, The Coffin Train, were peppered throughout the set and sat very comfortably amongst the classics of ‘Lightning To The Nations’ and ‘In The Heat Of The Night’. ‘Belly Of The Beast’ is an absolute monster of a track which impressed particularly. Despite some sound issues, the set was tight and energetic and raced along until the climax of ‘Am I Evil?’ which sounded glorious.
As the last chords of ‘Am I Evil?’ concluded their set a low rumble turned to a deafening roar as a WW2 Dakota flew over the stage in perfect synchronicity to the end of the set. It then lapped the arena at low level before moving on. An unexpected surprise which made for one of the highlights of the festival and made Diamond Head’s set even more memorable.
After Diamond Head was Geoff Tate, and while less dynamic visually, the music was spot on, and Geoff’s voice was in superb form. Having toured his Operation:Mindcrime show last year Geoff was back in the UK playing a Greatest Hits tour. This proved to be a good choice for the festival as it turned out to be a set that exclusively cherry picked the finest moments from the Queensrÿche catalogue from 1984’s Warning through to 1990’s Empire.
After ‘Walk In The Shadows’ there was a mini Mindcrime set with ‘Operation Mindcrime’, ‘Breaking The Silence’ and The Mission’ which went down a storm. However, it was the final three songs that were truly outstanding; ‘Silent Lucidity’ to which Geoff surmises that some of those in attendance were likely to have been conceived to, a sing a long ‘Jet City Woman’ and an absolutely belting ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’.
Wayward Sons were next up and with their radio friendly rock they were always going to go down well at Stonedeaf. They kicked off with ‘Alive’ and followed it swiftly with what is still one of their best songs; ‘Don’t Wanna Go’. The sound gremlins returned when all the power is killed at the end of ‘Killing Time’. Jepson jokes that it’s because they’re too heavy, but we didn’t have to wait long until power was restored and the band were rocking again.
Had things gone to plan, their second album The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be would have already hit the shelves (and servers), but now has a release date for October. So the tracks played from it; ‘Any Other Way’, ‘The Jokes On You’ and ‘Little White Lies’ all gave a taster of what to expect. Suffice to say that those that enjoyed the first album are likley to love the new one. ‘The Jokes On You’ is particularly strong, and reminded me a little of Mott The Hoople.
Their set was energetic and the fun they were having on stage easily transferred to the audience who gave them the reception deserved. they finished off with a barnstorming ‘Until The End’.
Phil Campbell has continued the work ethic instilled in him during his Motorhead years. Not only has he developed the Bastard Sons into a lean mean rocking machine that have gone from strength to strength, but he also has a new solo album, Old Lions Still Roar, featuring some high profile guests ready to hit the shelves on 25th October.
The Stonedeaf crowd were treated to a set that took in a mixture of songs off The Age Of Absurdity and Motörhead classics. Early highlights were ‘Get On Your Knees’ and a fast, short and furious ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S’. Campbell himself looked effortlessly cool and relaxed and his gold flying V looked as fantastic as it sounded. With his cut off denim jacket and flailing long hair frontman Neil Starr conjured up images of Gillan. As the set progressed they seemed to get into it more and more as the crowd were clearly loving it. A cover of ‘Silver Machine’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’ were the icing on the cake before finishing with a firm PCATBS favourite ‘High Rule’.
PCATBS kick off their UK tour at the end of October.
The final two bands of the day both proved to be contentious choices and for much the same reason; the singers’ personalities. My first introduction to Nathan James was when he was singing for Uli Jon Roth, and then later in an early incarnation of Inglorious. There was no doubt then that Nathan was in possession of a fantastic voice. They put on a good, enjoyable show and I left thinking that there was certainly potential there. Three years on and album number three, Ride To Nowhere, has had time to settle having been released earlier in the year. There is, however, a significant change in that James has replaced the entire band and is now flanked by guitarists Dan Stevens & the young Danny Dela Cruz. They’re all excellent musicians and as a band they’re tight and play well together. As day turned to night, they also had the most impressive stage lighting of the day.
Their set was very well received by the crowd, so clearly they are doing something right. The standout tracks are the closing numbers ‘Holy Water’ and ‘Until I Die’, both of which have received plentiful airplay from Planet Rock. Ultimately, I found that there was very little else that was memorable from the set and I was left feeling underwhelmed and still of the mind that there’s the potential for Inglorious to be great.
Sound issues continued with Glenn Hughes which led to a half hour delay before he started his headline slot, and even then there were moments when the power went down of the guitar sound cut out. Undeterred, the band played on, and those willing to endure his honest, yet somewhat tiring, diatribes of gratitude to the fans were treated to a masterclass of classic rock. From opener ‘Stormbringer’ through to the closing ‘Smoke On The Water’ Glenn’s voice was in exceptional form. Soren Anderson is a superb accompaniment on guitar nailing the Blackmore and Bolin parts. It’s also good to see Ash Sheehan on drums.
Extending songs has long been the deep purple way when playing live, so it should be no surprise at the length of some of the songs tonight. Indeed, anybody going to see one of Glenn’s shows on his ‘Purple’ tour would expect this. However for a festival it may have been judicious to have slipped in a couple of extra songs at the expense of keeping some songs a bit shorter. Drawing out nine songs (excluding the drum solo) for a headline set proved too much for some who simply lost interest. It would certainly have been nice to hear ‘Lady Double Dealer’, ‘Comin’ Home’ or ‘You Fool No One’.
While Hughes was only in Purple for three studio albums, it was at one of their most creative periods and ultimately he has a surfeit of quality material from which to choose. From the Tommy Bolin funk of ‘Getting Tighter’, the soulful ‘You Keep On Moving’ to the out and out explosive rock of ‘Burn’ Hughes and his band proved to be a fantastic choice to end Stonedeaf Festival.
The appeal of the one day one stage festival is refreshing.There is no traipsing between stages and there’s no problem of having to compete with deafening discos or fairground rides while you’re trying to listen to the bands. The arena is flat, as is the camping which also, along with the parking, is adjacent to the arena. The central location also means that it is readily accessible for people travelling from around the country. Stonedeaf has everything going for it, and next year promises to be even better still, although due to the US festival of the same name, to save confusion it will be re-branded as Stonedead. See you at the bar in 2020.