Ramblin’ Man Fair – Sunday, 24th July 2016

By the second day, it had been made apparent that the unheard of was about to occur – an outdoor British festival that had managed to avoid the rain! It’s incredible how much of a difference good weather can actually make to a festival, not only in regards to the spirits of the crowd, but to the enthusiasm of the acts as well, as each performer from across the pond paid some form of compliment to our great ‘British’ weather (if only they knew the truth!)

There’s only so much of a brave face you can put on if you’re uncomfortable, too hot or freezing your arse off, and still expected to bounce around the stage like you’re having an absolute whale of a time, so the weather definitely helped each performer bring their A-game.

First up was two-piece alternative rock act, The Graveltones, notably taking up the least stage space of any other main act over the entire weekend, but this certainly didn’t make them the quietest. Stripping Rock ‘n’ Roll right down to the bones with only one guitar and a drum kit, it takes real skill to incorporate all the right tone and balance with such limitations, but these boys did it with ease.

Their sound was arguably more suited to the Blues stage, but with Jimmy’s unique gravelly voice and Mikey’s heavy bass rhythm, there’s no chance it could’ve contained their volume and boisterous performance.

After nearly 50 years on the road, The Kentucky Headhunters finally announced their first ever UK tour, and Ramblin’ Man was lucky enough to be a part of it. It wasn’t all down to luck however, as Richard Young explained on-stage how his son (John Young of Black Stone Cherry) was responsible for persuading him to face his fear of flying, and join the bill alongside him.

These guys couldn’t have looked more like the real deal if they tried (especially with Fred Young on drums, sporting the most impressive sideburns I’ve ever seen!), but after all, these were pioneers of Southern Rock ‘n’ Roll, and even inspired acts like The Cadillac Three.

A few tracks from their new album proved the fire was still burning bright in these veterans of the South, and was also demonstrated eloquently in their bluesy numbers like Have You Ever Loved A Woman?

The set ended on a cover of Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles, acting as the perfect sign off to their first experience of the UK. The band truly seemed to leave the stage with a great sense of accomplishment after finally coming out to see their fans across the pond, and played an absolute blinder for a band that people have been waiting for decades to see them in the flesh.

Next up were Irish rockers The Answer, who stormed to the stage with early tracks, in line with their recently remastered release of debut album ‘Rise’ in celebration of their ten-year anniversary. The Answer are yet another act who pay homage to the bluesy roots of rock ‘n’ roll, but their dynamic stage act and hard rock approach was definitely at home on the Classic Rock stage.

Their set included two brand new tracks to be included on their new album, set for release later this year. The first was Thief of the Light, a mellow, sombre toned track with lasting and progressive harmonies, and the title-track Solas (a Gaelic word translated as ‘light’), acting as a fierce and euphonic follow-up to the previous song, and giving us a glimpse of the direction the new album is likely to take.

The Cadillac Three couldn’t be further removed from our culture if they tried, with songs dedicated to moonshine, pick-up trucks and the South in general it’s crazy to think so many Brits can relate to it, but there’s just something about that gritty southern rock we can’t get enough of, and the huge crowd on Sunday totally proved this.

It was cool to see The Graveltones watching from the sidelines, taking a true interest in the other talent the stage had to offer, and how they generate their individual sound. I really enjoyed witnessing how much of a difference a steel lap guitar can make to a performance, and how three members can take away the conventional line-up to create something new, yet classic.

Their set included Drunk Like You, the single off the new album, Bury Me In My Boots, set for release on Friday 5th August.

As the stage was set up with enough amps to stock a warehouse, the next act could only be Airbourne. The turnout was incredible, most likely due to their memorable festival performances in the past.

Ramblin’ Man Fair was only their fifth show back since recording their new album, Breakin’ Outta Hell, set for release this September, and you could tell they were happy to be back on the road, giving it their absolute all. Even though their music speaks for itself, Airbourne have always been visual performers, taking their sound to a completely different level.

The band entered into Girl in Black, and as usual, Joel went off to rile up the crowd, and cause a commotion. As he began to climb the rigging, a member of the Airbourne team ran out to ‘tell him off’, since being banned from climbing at any festival.

After finally coming down, he raced across the stage crying out “fuck the man!”, climbing on a roadie’s shoulders and powering through the audience while shredding it up on the guitar. It was all obviously staged, demonstrated by the incessant and theatrical finger and fist shaking as Joel ‘broke the rules’, but while it was slightly cheesy, it was hilarious and a great performance to watch.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to see Devin Townsend play a number of different shows but missed out on the last run of ‘Casualties of Cool’ shows. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw him announce a Casualties of Cool show and it’s in my home county! I had an interview that ended when Devin and Chè Aimee Dorval were due to take the stage, so having done my best sprint in New Rocks across the festival site I only missed a couple of minutes. An absolute highlight for me was this set, I was amazed how well Casualties translated live and how the Blues Tent was very deservedly packed out. Chè’s vocals live are so powerful and were beautifully complemented by Devin. On speaking to Devin before the set, I was very pleased to hear that more is yet to come from Casualties of Cool.

Hard rockers Thunder are a band who’ve managed to get where they are today through relatively clean rock ‘n’ roll, which says a lot when you think of the demands set by rockers. Thunder are yet another guaranteed crowd pleaser in a live interface, down to the encouragement thrown out by lead vocalist, Danny Bowes.

I felt he tried a little too hard this time round, requesting the crowd clap their hands during every single song, but I suppose in a festival setting you’re working with a lot of fresh faces, and it’s hard to drum up a good level of energy if you’re an act people aren’t overly familiar with already.

By the time Love Walked In rolled around, there was no need to ask for anything from the crowd, who already had their hands in the air, and were ready to tear up their vocal chords trying to match Danny’s harmonic range.

Warren Haynes’ set started with quite a shallow turn out unfortunately, but it’s hard not to expect it when competing against main stage headliners Black Stone Cherry on one side, and Prog headliners Procol Harum on the other. This being said, it didn’t dampen the band’s spirits in the slightest, who delivered what can only be described as a diverse jam of southern rock and rhythm and blues.

It didn’t take long before the tent was filled with intrigued ears, and even those curious to see what was being spun by a group with such vast and intricate sounds, which included a violin, banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, mandolin and drums.

Every instrument was well-balanced, and Warren’s vocals acted as a sultry addition to the incredible jams that were being laid down, from bass-led funk, to eerie slide riffs, and some of the best drumming I’d seen all weekend. Everything was played with such precision and passion; it was simply astounding to watch.

The set consisted mainly of covers, including a smooth, crisp blues version of All Along The Watchtower, and Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On, in dedication to all the Ramblers of the night. There were quite a few unidentified audio malfunctions, which nearly burst my bloody eardrums and had the sound engineers flapping, but the band played on unfazed.

The most unforgettable moment had to be the band’s rendition of The Allman Brothers legendary instrumental performance, Jessica, played absolutely flawlessly.

Just as the lights went low and everyone began to exit the tent, Warren returned to the stage for a special surprise, as he brought out the legendary Bernie Marsden, joining him on Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House, which Warren co-wrote alongside Dennis Robbins and Bobby Boyd.

Bringing this fantastic festival to a close on the mainstage and adding to the very Southern feel we have had on this stage are Kentucky heavyweights Black Stone Cherry. This is the first festival that they have had the honour of headlining and bringing to a close. Delivering a blistering 18 track set they prove just how much they deserve this honour; a perfect festival set list with a good mix of new and old and some covers thrown in for good measure. They had me and the whole crowd captivated throughout with a show of pure rock and musicianship. It’s hard to pick a highlight as the whole set was a treat.  I really like how well the new and old material go together; it shows how Black Stone Cherry have evolved but very much stayed true to their sound. Top tracks for me have to be Blame It On The Boom Boom and Lonely Train.  A perfect set to close a great festival, I look forward to seeing how Ramblin’ Man continues to grow next year!

Words in black – Jamie

Words in orange – Kris

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About Jamie Reader-Johnson

Regular gig-goer, with a passion for Rock, Blues, Country and Metal.