Stonedead Festival based at Newark Showground has impressed again as one of the best ‘one day classic rock’ outdoor festivals in the UK
I attended my first StoneDead in 2019 and was instantly welcomed by the friendliest festival staff I have ever met. It did not take me long to realise that they were part of a massive rock family of volunteers that put every effort into making the festival a success. They do this by being helpful, friendly and fun. No mean security, lowering your spirits by taking your alcohol or searching for undesirable objects. They trust the crowd, see them as their family and see the good in people. The campsite is clean, has everything you need and is close to the arena.
After the volunteers, the next praise has to go to the hard-working organisers. They could turn this into a massive event with a 10,000+ crowd but they choose to keep the event small so it feels intimate and everyone can get to know each other. The atmosphere is relaxed, people are in a party mood and the food and drink stalls are better than your average rock festival.
There’s something wonderful about the crowd. Like-minded classic rock fans of all ages, many reminiscing about the old Monsters Of Rock festivals, discussions on the latest NWOCR bands and general good vibes being generated all around.
The inclusion of a Monsters Of Rock museum which included old posters, programmes and pictures, brought back a lot of memories and was a really nice addition. A place where fans can have conversations with other fans sums up this entire festival’s ethos. Bring in your camping chair, open your beer and talk to the stranger next to you who is now no longer a stranger.
As we drove nearer to Newark we started to notice inflatable giraffes tied to people’s vehicles. The Stonedead 2021 giraffe was born from some banter on the Stondead Group that escalated into a mass of folk purchasing inflatable giraffes for the event. And our campsite was full of them attached to people’s tents as we checked in with minimal fuss and pitched our tents on lovely green flat grass. After a couple of drinks, we headed into the arena for the Friday pre-party.
The Friday night pre-party makes for a good time for those wanting to make a weekend of it.
The Hot Damn are a refreshingly colourful ensemble that some may recognise from their former bands Tequila Mockingbird and The Amorettes. A wholesome lighthearted fun opening act, with the added bonus of some specially invited dancers joining them on stage along with the Stonedead mascot ‘Geoff’ for their latest single Dance Around and my personal favourite, Enjoy The Ride which stood out as a set highlight.
Stop Stop band are one of the most hard-working touring bands who brought their epitome of rock n roll to the Friday night party. Dressed to thrill with their fancy clothes and painted faces. Venturing out into the crowd, you could feel the good time vibes and they are exactly what brings StoneDead to life. With singer Jacob A. M. who has a little bit of Paul Stanley about him chants of ‘Stop’ from the crowd and showed that the party has indeed started.
The third band Cats In Space brought epic 1970’s style pomp to the festival. Their prog sensibilities were very enjoyable and added a real variety to the preshow party.
Wayward Sons were worthy headliners. Great memorable hooks and thoughtful lyrics examining why people vote the way they do and the subsequent impact on society. Toby Jepson was in great form and Sam Wood had a big smile on his face throughout the whole set. Until The End was a worthy rocking finale and sent the crowd back to their tents very happy.
Before we get on to the main day, special mention has to go to the food stalls. Reasonably priced, decent portions, and really good quality food that actually tastes nice. Options include The Curry Box (possible increase in sales after Massive Wagons), Grill House, Coffee, Ice Cream, Donuts, Plant-based meals, Dirty Dogs, Nachos, Pie and Mash and my personal favourite Firehouse Pizza who did a great Mushroom Pizza, fantastic washed down with the Motorhead Roadcrew.
The Sunny Saturday brought about good bands and great memories.
London based five-piece Dead Man’s Whiskey brought a lively rock ‘n’ roll start to the day. They have a very strong sound, the vocalist standing in his shorts and the battle jacket has a great set of lungs on him and this is twined with their sleazy music with melodic guitar solos. One of the highlights of the set is the second song Breakout that has a slight Skid Row feel and the band makes good use of call and response throughout the set.
Absolva, bring the metal edge and are the providers of the metal power riffs. Brothers Chris and Luke Appleton also feature later in the day as Blaze Bayley’s backing band. Life On The Edge has a nice Priest/Accept sound with its mean riffs. As the set progresses we get into a strong Iron Maiden influenced twin-guitar sound. This is further endorsed by Chris’s “Scream for me Stonedead”. Chris Appleton is a great frontman who looks like he is having a lot of fun and his shredding on Never A Good Day To Die is sublime. The sparks and confetti cannons add to the show and the smoke conclusion is a fitting spectacle from this very tight and well-rehearsed band.
Myke Gray is famous for being the guitarist in Jagged Edge and Skin and today we get a new look band of talented musicians that work through a set that features heavily from the first Skin album. The band look stylish all dressed in black apart from Myke Gray who is wearing a snazzy black and white stage outfit. Highlights of the set are Raised On Radio. Look But Don’t Touch roused a great back n fourth crowd participation and their classic Tower Of Strength delivered an epic sing-a-long from the crowd. Myke looked overwhelmed at the crowd’s response and the only upstaging of their performance came from a flyover by a spitfire that circled the arena three times during their set.
Blaze Bayley gives a powerful performance for StoneDead’s summer exclusive Iron Maiden set. The X-Factor and Virtual XI albums are sometimes overlooked and are spoken about poorly but listening to the songs played live, I personally think these two albums contain better songs than the previous No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark albums. Blaze is in top form supported by the Appleton brothers and highlights include Lord Of The Flies, Sign Of The Cross and audience favourite The Clansman.
Kris Barras has become a rising star with his no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll blues and today’s set leans towards a more classic rock style. It features melodic danceable songs that are performed with a credible emotion. On his cover of Going Down, he makes his choppy guitar sound like a weapon. Set closer, Hail Mary is a highlight and demonstrated he had the full support from the crowd.
In between sets compere Krusher tells stories of his days with Ozzy and other tales between the bands which adds to the amusement of some and the horror to others.
Massive Wagons have become a staple of UK rock festivals. Partly due to their good honest rock sound, all riffs and power chords, and partly due to frontman Baz Mills‘ infectious fun personality. Just like the scorching hot sun, the band come out with all guns blazing this afternoon. Pressure, Banging In Your Stereo and Nails all add to a lively upbeat beginning that then leads onto crowd favourites Ratio and The Curry Song. They get the crowd jumping and singing with their ‘go crazy’ call and response. The inclusion of inflatable bouncy balls adds to the crowd party. They include Changes, their recent RSD release which goes down well and finishes with Back To The Stack, the perfect party set from one of the bands of the moment.
Gun has developed its own style over the last three consistent Dante Gizzi fronted albums. From them, only She Knows gets an airing today. The rest of the set is from their 1990’s heyday, including all five singles from their debut album Taking On The World. Don’t Say It’s Over is a highlight early on in their set, as is their cover of Word Up which gets the audience singing along. The classic songs are endless with Money, Welcome To The Real World, Steal Your Fire and Shame On You all making appearances before a belting, rocking Better Days, one of the finest songs of the weekend.
Bradford’s Terrorvision gets the crowd bouncing along nicely. Their alternative take on the genre, memorable hooks, and fun word-play lyrics fits into the day nicely after the more simple pop-rock arrangements of Gun. The set features heavily from How To Make Friends And Influence People, other highlights of their set include My House, Friends & Family and Josephine. Terrorvision is colourful both in image and music and got the audience rocking with the tracks Perseverance and Go Jerry.
After the energy of Terrorvision, part of the audience felt like a sit down to Uriah Heep and what a band to sit down and marvel at. Gypsy featured early in a set that included a superb extended Look At Yourself, Lady in Black and July Morning. The audience was in fine form to sing along when needed and this well-experienced band brought just the right balance of prog and hard rock to make a memorable and worthy festival headliner as they closed their set with the lovable sing-a-long Easy Livin.
I have to say we enjoyed every band of the weekend but the real star was the festival itself. A proper old fashioned rock festival run by rockers for rockers. It was like going back in time. It has a super friendly, respectful, mature audience who look out for each other and want everybody to have a good time. If you want to attend a hassle free festival where you have the option to rock or relax then StoneDead is the festival I would recommend.
Tickets are currently available for StoneDead 2022 from the link here: https://www.stonedeadfestival.co.uk/
For more photos of the weekend here:
Stonedead Festival in review – words Brain Slakk, Photos by Alex English