Steelhouse Classic Rock Festival, a summer festival on top of a Welsh Mountain. The weekend’s weather once again was a challenge but did not dampen the spirit of music that brings us together every year after the long drive up the winding road. The camaraderie grows every year united in conquering whatever the wind throws at us – this year, the long hot spell broke with the wind, rain thunder and lightning. The music reigned supreme, once again bands came and played to the rock fans that just want to hear more live music.
With Ian Danter opening the festival as he announced the first band, the weather had eased a little for the start. The Fragile Things opened the Festival that we have been counting down the days for. Now it is Friday night, campers have arrived and the Friday night treat begins. Back, in January the new Planet Rock ‘Ones To Watch’ page the spotlight shone on Bristol-based Fragile Things. The vocalist has style and the band delivered a set that won them many new fans. Everyone loved joining in on their latest single Disappear, building the atmosphere of what promises to be an amazing weekend of music, fun and strengthening of friendships. The break between bands allowed everyone to catch up with Steelhouse friends. And a saunter around the field to look at the merch and the stalls, and the new Planet Rock signing tent. For me, it was a chance before DEPARTED to visit Motley Brew for a welcome cup of tea. They may be called DEPARTED but thankfully they turned up!! Tuned and ready to go they played an eight-song set that started to ignite the atmosphere building that festival fever amidst riffs and licks drum rolls and vocals which combine in a mix that makes live music pure magic. They did not disappoint and definitely another band to keep your ear out for when they play at a venue near you. Next up from Pontypridd Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons. This popular local hero and former member of Motörhead really got the crowd going with a set that was full of crowd-pleasing favourites. From Ace of Spades to Silver Machine and everyone loves to Rock Out on a Friday night. We were in a party mood as Stone Broken the first of the weekend headliners stepped onto the Steelhouse stage. Stone Broken, with a strong following, were delighted to be back up the mountain following last year’s storming set. The organizers broke their own rules (no band two years running) and invited them back for the second year by public demand. They did not disappoint with their mix of songs from their current album, Ain’t Always Easy pulling of their headline billing with songs that got the crowd jumping and dancing for musical joy. Their songs have a similarity and would have loved to have heard a new track or two the set list sounded the same as the last few times I have heard them play. That said they delighted the festival and everyone left Friday happy and dry.
Saturday, promised to be a day and night of cracking music and that weft and weave that flows through the weekend friendship, laughs and rain. The mountain rocked to The Bad Flowers, they fired the Starting Gun of a day that would bring an array of sounds and style. The trio took to the festival stage and delivered a storming set. The played Hurricane and Lions Blood amongst other songs we want them to play and included Thunder Child and their signature City Lights. Into the mix, a new song from a promised new album, Can’t Find A Soul. This was a treat for the festival. They provided a sensational platform for the rest of super Saturday. Catch them on tour they will not disappoint. The rain started and Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics took to the stage. This collective of musical talent played a sharp set. We also saw the only the second woman musician of the weekend, Robyn on Drums for Stone Broken was the first. Two Heaven Basement numbers in the set delighted everyone from the basement to the top floor. Fire In The Fields of Mayhem seemed prophetic, as the set was cut short due to thunder & lightning. The music that they had the chance to play was eclectic, festival fun and will look out to see a full set in the future. The stage backdrop changed with a Marshall stack and striking black and white face with steely blue eyes, heralding Myke Gray and his band. Gray, ex SKIN guitarist and band member with 2017 festival favourite Nev MacDonald. A great guitarist, and a new band for Bluesdoodles. Myke Gray delivered guitar dominant rock very impressive and of a high standard combining with the vocal talents of Phil Conalane. The signature Flying V was sounding superb, with lead breaks that were fast and furious but never out of sync with the rest of the band. BUT it would take a brave person to sing House of Love up the mountain. A song that firmly belongs to Nev and it didn’t work for many of the stalwarts.
Last year they may have been Steelhouse Exiles today they bought Grace as they delivered the signature blues-rock sound that defines King King. They had arrived up the mountain on their second attempt and they Stopped The Rain. Introduced by Darren Reddick with bass guitar in hand and Ian Danter with his drum sticks. They joked they were ready to stand in if required. Lindsay offered his bass to Darren but he declined. The barrier filled with fans the reception was loud and warm as the first notes were played. The set was delivered with power and energy as they played the music that connects with their phalanx of followers. The set included Long History of Love and the catchy Planet Rock favourite Rush Hour. They closed with the funky beats of All My Life a top-notch set that got the crowds dancing. The band bought a different tempo and style to the festival leading into the closing three acts that again would bring together the diversity of rock with the influences that makes rock a living, evolving and ever changing popular genre of music. Next to fill the stage with a mix of dance, power funky rock and high-voltage invigorating energy were Dan Reed Network. They delivered what for many including myself was the set of the weekend. It zinged with an electrifying intensity. This is a band that flows with the music as they use every inch of space using the runway to its full effect as there music bounced and shimmered off the puddles. Opening with Cruise Together, this was no sedate river cruise. This was mountain cruising full of musical twists and turns. The sound was funky, rocky and invigorating. We had had a rainbow earlier in the afternoon, now we had a Reed’s special number Rainbow Child. Champion, Tiger in a Dress and Ritual ensured that everyone was holding on to every note played and the wonderful moves of Dan himself. The Network are superb and this is a band that just wow’s the audience as they deliver music celebrating being together. With the sky darkening and the crowds weeping, Myles Kennedy and Co. stepped on to the stage making many people extremely happy before a note was played or a word sung. Myles, tonight bought a stripped back and personal show up the mountain to play to the festival. It was a set of beautifully crafted songs. Opening with Devil on the Wall, from his solo Year of the Tiger album, joining many tracks to be delivered to the crowd on top of a mountain. Into the mix was Standing in The Sun a Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators cover, Alter Bridge’s Addicted To Pain and The Trooper from Iron Maiden. The Trooper a fitting cover when playing on the Trooper Stage at Steehouse in the rain. We were all troopers, dedicated followers of live music tonight. Did this toned down set work?… yes and no. Myles fans loved the fact he was playing to them and he connected to the crowded standing in a field. Yet, this time on a Saturday night we wanted energy the opportunity to party. But hats off to Myles Kennedy for climbing the mountain and delivering some special music that filtered out across the tops and down into the valleys.
Closing Saturday night was Glenn Hughes playing a set of 1970’s Deep Purple numbers. Opening with Stormbringer, such and apt number for 2018 Steelhouse, along with Smoke on The Water later in the set. What a voice, Glenn sung every note with bell like clarity. He can still sing and Deep Purple songs filled the arena bringing back many happy memories. Deep Purple fans were delighted. For some, the solos were too long, too indulgent for a festival set and they definitely wanted more of the music and less of Glenn talking between numbers. The set energized the crowds on a dark night, with the encore seeing Myles Kennedy returning to the stage for Highway Star and bringing the night to a close with the number forever associated with Glenn Hughes, Burn.
Sunday, the weather affected and the schedule was shot to pieces. Did this dampen spirits no? We are hardy festival goers. Yes, the day started later than expected and the disappointment of not one but two no shows did leave festival goers slightly miffed. Everyone understood The Quireboys predicament stuck in Europe unable to get home because of the weather we knew all too well about the power of weather. The Dead Daisies, already in the UK, unfortunately, had to cancel, they said on social media they were disappointed and will make it up to people. We will wait and see what that will be, valuable lesson for all future bands helicopters and the mountain do not go together. All terrain vehicles are the way to go. The late sound check due to the weather, entertained the crowds and gave a flavor of what to expect as the day unfurled. Everyone’s spirit rose when four young and up and coming bands played on Sunday afternoon. We were in for a rock and rolling treat with The Dust Coda, Those Damn Crows, Mason Hill & Massive Wagons.
First up, The Dust Coda, this four piece played a set that filled our hearts with rock on a very wet Sunday. This was just the kick start the festival needed today. Next up local band Those Damn Crows. This high energy charismatic band is just what the music doctor would order for any patient that needed adrenalin fueled rock. They used the whole stage connecting with the audience as the heavier rock beat pounded across the field. One again Those Damn Crows showed us what a great bunch of musicians they are and will always be a crowd pleaser. The energy was building as Mason Hill took over the baton. Tis five-piece from Glasgow raised the music thermometer by a few degrees. This excellent set carried on building the momentum the Crows had established. Full of potential with high energy they are a very good band and definitely looking forward to seeing them when they open for Dan Reed Network later this year. We heard a brand new song Hold On, full of the trade-mark charismatic rock that defines Mason Hill. Next, up a band, I was excited to catch up with at last. Massive Wagons. What an entertaining band full of rock fuelled energy that rolled off the stage and into everyone’s dancing shoes. The set was an intoxicating mix of hard, heavy, Rock n Roll this is a festival rocking out as the wagons rolled through their set. The longer sets were used well by these young bands and they show that rock is not dead; go out listen to the young bands there are some gems to be discovered on your doorstep at local venues.
With only two bands left, we were in for a treat with two longer sets from The Wildhearts & Black Star Riders. First up The Wildhearts, a colourful set of edgy ‘punkish’ rock with matching graffiti style artwork on the guitars. Furiously energetic at times, this is a band very much in the eighties post-punk sound all about the lyrics rather that guitar breaks. A refreshing change to the more straightforward rock which preceded them. Ginger got the crowds going, creating a great atmosphere of lovers of rock having fun rejuvenated by the music. All too soon it was the last band of the festival, Black Star Riders. They rewarded the loyal fans still at the front with a barnstorming performance. With songs from Heavy Fire, they were firing on all five cylinders. Everyone singing along and floating in a musical sea of Thin Lizzy sounds and textures. Yes, the boys were Back in Town entertaining Steelhouse on Sunday night.
Despite, the two bands no show on Sunday spirits were high and excitement was a bubbling energetic cauldron of wonderful memories. You know there will be a warm welcome, and music to fill the soul thanks to Planet Rock and the sterling efforts of Max Read, Mikey Evans and the Steelhouse staff who make the weekend roll smoothly whatever the weather throws at the mountain! Steelhouse, once again entertained with high caliber rock, our bodies may be broken and our brains frazzled but the countdown begins until will are back on the mountain once again in 2019 weekend of 26th, 27th & 28th July. See you there.
Stone Broken (Rich Moss – Vocals / Guitar, Chris Davis – Guitar / Vocals, Kieron Conroy – Bass, Robyn Haycock – Drums / Vocals)
Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons ( Phil Cambell, his three sons – Todd – Guitar, Dane – Drums, Tyla -Bass and Neil Starr – Vocals)
DEPARTED (Mark Pascall – Vocals, Ben Brookland – Lead Guitarist, Howie Spring – Bass, Matt Chalk – Drum)
Fragile Things (Richie Hevanz -Vocals), Mark Hanlon – Guitar, Steve Lathwell -Bass, Hugo Bowman -Drums
Glenn Hughes performs classic Deep Purple (Glenn Hughes Lead Vocals, Bass – Soren Anderson – Guitar), Jesper Bo Hansen – Keyboards, Fernando Escobedo – Drums)
Myles Kennedy and Co. (Myles Kennedy – Vocals, Tim Tournier – Bass, Zee Uddin Drums)
Dan Reed Network (Dan Reed – Vocals, Brion James – Bass, Melvin Brannon II – Guitar, Dan Pred – drums, Rob Daiker – Keys)
King King (Alan Nimmo – Vocals & Guitar, Lindsay Coulson Bass, Jonny Dyke Keys, Wayne Proctor – Drums)
Myke Gray (Myke Gray – Guitarist, Phil Conalane – Vocals, Adam Wardle – Guitar, Wayne Banks – Bass, Matthew Blakout – Drums)
Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics (Aaron Buchanan – Vocals, Laurie Buchanan – Guitar, Tom McCarthy – Guitar, Mart Trail – Bass, Paul White – Drums)
The Bad Flowers (Tom Leighton Vocals & Guitars, Dale Tonks – Bass & Vocals, Karl Selickis – Drums)
Black Star Riders (Ricky Warwick – Vocals/Guitar, Scott Gorham – Guitars, Damon Johnson – Guitars, Robert Crane – Bass, Chad Szeliga – Drums)
The Wildhearts (Ginger Wildheart Vocals & Guitar, CJ – Guitar, Ritch Battersby – Drums, Danny McCormack – Bass)
Massive Wagons (Baz Mills, Adam Thistlethwaite, Stevie Holl, Adam ‘Bowz’ Bouskill, Alex Thistlethwaite)
Mason Hill (Scott Taylor – Lead Vocals, James Bird – Lead Guitar, Marc Montgomery – Guitar, Matthew Ward – Bass Guitar, Craig McFetridge – Drums)
Those Damn Crows (Shane Greenhall, Ian “Shiner” Thomas, Lloyd Wood, Ronnie Huxford, David Winchurch)
The Dust Coda (John Drake, Adam Mackie, Scott Miller, Tony Ho)