As the summer festival season draws to a close we’ve seen the usual extremes of weather as some saw fans basking in heatwaves and others saw torrential rain and band cancellations, so it is nice to see that the gods have been kind to Stonedeaf Festival blessing it with nice balance of sunshine and light cloud. The one day event held at the Newark Showground has been organised from scratch by a group of music lovers lamenting the simplicity of the of single stage, one day show that made the Monsters of Rock so successful.
With little prior industry experience, the Stonedeaf team have managed to pull off something exceptional. From the moment of arriving on site, there is a distinctively relaxing and friendly vibe. The team of volunteers are happy and helpful and we are checked in, parked, wristbanded up and in the arena within 10 minutes of arrival. This allows for a brief survey of the food and drink options and a browse around the other stalls of merch before the first band hit the stage.
For those that chose to camp, there was the opportunity to catch Theia playing the pre-show party on the Friday. However, the majority of the punters were coming for the day, and the arena started to fill up as the day progressed.
Newcastle’s Fallen Mafia beat off a number of contenders to get the job of opening the festival. The female fronted quintet hit the stage at the early hour of 11.30. They present a good band image and turn in an energetic performance. Frontwoman Hannah has a bold tattoo of Carpe Diem on her left arm, and it seems that the band have taken this motto to heed, making the most of the opportunity given to them as they power their way through a half hour set of originals lifted from last year’s Asylum EP and their latest release, Fallen.
There’s a mix of influences at play from Classic US hard rock of Motley Crue and Skid Row to more modern euro metal, and songs like ‘How The Story Ends’ are well received and they left the stage with a larger crowd than when they started which should confirm to them that they’re moving in the right direction.
Next up are Leicester based hard rockers Chrome Molly whose current incarnation still sees them still fronted by Steve Hawkins and also features original bassist Nic Wastell. They are completed by Andy Barrot (guitars), Greg Ellis on drums and newest member guitarist John Footit, and choose to open with ‘CMA’ – I never did know what it stood for, but it’s a belting riff. Like many bands that emerged from the NWOBHM scene, their influences were the likes of Lizzy, Priest and UFO and on their latest offering, Hoodoo Voodoo, this is still apparent and there’s a particular Schenker vibe to ‘Pillars Of Creation’.
‘Thanks For The Angst’ and the Holder/Lea penned ‘Take It Or Leave It’ are set highlights and it appears that there’s plenty of fans of the band in the crowd who seem to be enjoying it as much as the band relish playing.
The demographic of the festival is clearly aimed at those who were out gigging in the late eighties and early nineties, so one band that most would have seen at the time would have been the excellent, hard gigging, Skin. Skin’s frontman Nev MacDonald has been heading up Hand Of Dimes for the past couple of years which also features his ex-Kooga bandmate Neil Garland on keyboards and it’s a treat to see them added to the bill. Making today even more special is the addition of ex Little Angels / B.L.O.W guitarist Bruce Dickinson and their soulful melodic rock packs a serious punch.
From the soulful ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to the powerful blues groove of ‘Guilty’ their 50 minute set is a delight which oozes class, and throwing in the Skin classic ‘House Of Love’ is the icing on the cake.
Massive Wagons are currently on an upward curve carving out a name for themselves. Their new album Full Nelson has just topped the rock album charts and currently sits at #12 in the album charts, and numerous festival appearances sees them winning over new fans at every turn. They take to the stage to the backing of Slade’s ‘Rock N Roll Preacher’ with frontman Baz Mills singing the ‘Hallelujah’ part, and with his down to earth demeanor mixed with his exuberant OTT stage presence it’s easy to compare him to our beloved Nod. In fact once they’re playing in front of you it’s nigh on impossible not to warm to them.
The Rick Parfitt tribute ‘Back To The Stack’ opens their set proper, and it’s an absolute belter. Indeed, much of the new album is given an airing; and rightly so. ‘Billy Balloon Head’, ‘Under No Illusion’ and ‘Ratio’ all go down really well and have the crowd singing along. Mills is like a whirling dervish throughout the set and a foray into the crowd makes it all the more memorable for those down the front. The energy is infectious, and when they finish with the bombastic ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’ you can guarantee that they will have won over a lot of new fans today and their set will be one of the most talked about.
A superb set and a highlight of the day. It’s refreshing to see younger bands holding their own on a bill dominated by bands in the latter stages of their careers. Their deal with Earache and the success of Full Nelson should help propel the band further, and if you’ve not yet got on the Wagon, hurry up before it goes past your stop!
There’s no denying the legendary status of Graham Bonnet, a veteran from the first Monsters Of Rock festival in 1980, he has been enjoying a recent revival touring and recording both with his own band and also as part of the Michael Schenker Fest. His 2016 album, The Book marked a return to form, and his latest ‘Meanwhile, Back In The Garage’ released last month continues the trend. Live, however, we have witnessed a mixed bag of shows, so coming at the end of a run of UK dates there was an element of trepidation as to whether we’d be seeing him at his best. On the contrary it’s a delight to report that he put in a sterling performance and was in excellent voice from start to finish.
He opens with Alcatraz’s ‘Too Young to Die, Too Drunk to Live’ which runs into ‘All Night Long’ which sees the crowd singing along. New guitarist Joey Tafolla is a revelation who does nothing to hide his Blackmore influences. The set is a cherry picked mix of Rainbow, Alcatrazz, Impelliteri, Schenker and Bonnet originals; each an individual gem showcasing what an incredible career Bonnet has had. ‘Desert Song’ proves to be a particular favourite. The finale of ‘Lost In Hollywood’ sees a lot of the crowd immersed within the song which is a tour de force, with an exceptional solo from Tafolla, and one of the highlights of the day.
Canadian metal survivors Anvil are always a sure bet at putting some fun into a festival, and today is no exception. Now in their 40th year, Anvil are more veterans from Monsters Of Rock. Certainly teh heaviest band of the day, and not to everyone’s tastes, the do however put on a hugely entertaining and enjoyable show. ‘March Of The Crabs’, ‘666’ and ‘Winged Assassins’ are all present and correct. Lips jokes that bassists are to Anvil what drummers are to Spinal Tap before introducing Chris Robertson; a bassist who matches Lips for facial expressions throughout and fortunately doesn’t explode.
Guitar solos are played with teeth and we get the dildo solo on ‘Mothra’. Lips takes a moment out to recount a story where he lost 24 hours while on a tour with Motorhead through drinking Vodka and snorting amphetamines with Lemmy. There’s only one way to close the set and that’s the Anvil anthem ‘Metal On Metal’, which proves to be what a lot of those down the front craved. Long may Anvil continue to be Anvil.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Tamworth’s finest, Wolfsbane. During their first decade they wrote so many brilliant songs, and were a tremendous live act. It doesn’t take long to confirm that this is still the case as they kick off with opener ‘Steel’, which sees Blaze Bayley unceremoniously dispense with his mic stand and prowl the stage.
The effusive Bayley convinces us that they may not be the most succesful band playing, but they are the most beautiful. Who are we to disagree as he whips up the crowd with the likes of ‘Black Lagoon’ ‘Loco’.
Blaze introduces us to ‘Money To Burn’ by means of explaining that when they were younger they had aspirations to be fabulously wealthy, good looking rock stars (one of those came true) and then continues to say that he wants to give us all free money. It’s a fantatsic song which sees the ever youthful Jeff Hateley leaping around.
The songs keep coming all fast and furious; ‘All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson’s Place’, ‘Man Hunt’ and monumental ‘Paint the Town Red’ to close what, for me, was the best set of the day.
I didn’t get any of the money Blaze promised, but they did leave me feeling richer for having watched them one more time. Wolfsbane are a joy and their set has whet the appetite for a full blown headline tour in December. Be there or be poor.
From a rarity of a Wolfsbane appearance to a band that never seem too far from a stage, perennial tourers, The Quireboys will bring their brand of good time bar room swagger to Stonedeaf. As Krusher introduces them he notes that it has already gone past 7 O’Clock, but if truth be told, the party started eight hours ago. Having watched the band many times in clubs, it’s great to see them on a bigger stage (although the set up still means Keith Weir is squeezed in to the side and out of the stage lights). It give Spike plenty of room to twirl his mic stand around without fear of taking anyone’s eye out or smashing a light fitting.
Celebrating a 10 anniversary re-release of the seminal Homewreckers & Heartbreakers album, the set picks a few from that including the fabulous ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’ and mixes with their standard classics. ‘Hey You’, ‘There She Goes Again’ and ‘Tramps And Thieves’ all deliver and have the guaranteed sing a long from the crowd. Last year’s White Trash Blues album is represented solely by the cover of ‘Going Down’ which sounds superb with the twin guitars of Guerin & Griffin to the fore.
‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ slows things down for a while and Spike declares that he’s not yet had a drink today. We don’t believe him, or more pertinently, we don’t want to believe him as that bar room swagger has always been key the Quireboy’s charm. They round off their set with a rip roaring ‘7 O’Clock’ which sees Blaze Bayley back on stage to join in the fun. The Quireboys rarely leave a crowd disappointed and tonight he only downside is that the set could have been a little longer.
In managing to secure Skid Row as festival headliners, Stonedeaf have managed to keep to the Monster Of Rock brief (Skid Row appeared twice in the early 90s) with a big exactly the right size for the level at which the festival is pitched for its first year. It also proves to be a very savvy choice as Skid Row are once more, a band on the up, regaining stature following the appointment of ZP Theart to the frontman role.
The New Jersey veterans take to the stage ripping into an aggressive ‘Slave To The Grind’ and it quickly becomes apparent why ZP Theart is such a good fit; his vocal range is similar to Sebastian Bach and so suits the classic early Skid Row sound, but also his stage presence, appearance and attitude suit the band perfectly. Having been with Skid Row for 2 years he is yet to record an album with the band so it’s not surprising then that most of the material tonight comes from those first two Skid Row albums.
The current line up is made up of original members Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo & Scotti Hill (guitars) & Rachel Bolan (bass). Rob Hammersmith fills the drum position and they play like a band reborn as they run through a set peppered with classics; ‘Sweet Little Sister’, ’18 & Life’ & the Ramones ‘Psycho Therapy’ which is sang by Bolan. The night has started to get pretty chilly at this point so dropping back to the sound desk with a hot brew allows us to survey the arena which is an impressive sight. The low key guitar intro to ‘Monkey Business’ and the anticipation as the song builds is magnificent. It also allows a moment to appreciate that those in charge of the sound and lighting have done a superb job.
The encore included ‘We Are The Damned’ and the timeless ‘Youth Gone Wild’ to close what has been in every respect a superb festival. The news is that the Stonedeaf merch sold out quickly, ticket numbers were achieved and it’s first year proved to be a financial success. Good news indeed and one that indicates that this festival could run and run.
Follow the link below to grab your early bird tickets for 2019 while they’re available at a ridiculously good value.