Sunburn and Rust combine for Steelhouse Glory
How does Sunburn and Rust combine for Steelhouse Festival Glory? The glory part is easy two days of phenomenal live music on top of a mountain in Wales. The sunburn and rust that is the vagaries of a Welsh summer, Saturday was scorching hot, whilst on Sunday the misty drizzle dampened the ground but not the spirit of rocking fun.
Saturday 23rd July 2016 – Hot and Sunny Rocking
Opening a festival is a daunting experience. Bigfoot, a young rock band from Wigan, stepped on the stage and left a lasting impression. This is a band with the potential to go places, full of confidence and good songs they were a hit, still remembered as the festival drew to a close on Sunday. Saturday was warming up throughout the day, with each successive band raising the bar ever higher as the temperature, excitement and fun grew. Next up was Dirty Thrills, they definitely thrilled the crowds with rocked up individuality with a thread of blues as bright as the skies overhead. Full of energy on stage they interact with each other and the crowds, the high jinx’s though never deflects from the deep groove-laden music. A great set they will keep building their reputation as rocked-up contemporary excitement from Dirty Thrills.
Centre stage of any festival is the music from the stage, but to get a true festival vibe it is the added extra. After the steep climb up the mountain on a dusty track you are greeted with a vista that spreads across the horizon it is beautiful. The stage dominates the area. In addition there is a wide selection of foods and drinks alcoholic and some delicious coffee. Then there was the lovely jewelry made from guitar strings, leather goods, bandanas (the doodle, Othello, in bluesdoodles is delighted with his new red bandana that is his little bit of The Dead Daisies) and the festival and bands merchandise.
The next two bands show different sides of rock, Vega, with a charismatic lead singer who knew how to flaunt the power of the runway stage they got everyone’s attention with the dramatic entrance, and cartoon backdrop. Once their attention was gained the audience warmed to them this is rock that will always, please. Young dudes that are getting deserved attention are Tax The Heat, and in the heat of the afternoon if they were tax collectors they would have pulled in the money. They do not need to be tax collectors the heat is in the rock they deliver from the strong rhythm section through to Alex Veale up front this is a stylish band with depth and delicious slide guitar from JP. The heat will continue to rise for this young band.
In between the sets the breaks are long enough to catch up with friends, make new acquaintances and deepen the relationship between Steelhouse and festival attendees. This year as the festival develops the campsite area has a new addition, Glamping tents, which proved popular as they were sold out weeks before the festival dates.
The shadows lengthened and the sun cooled as the last four bands of a wonderful opening day got ready to strut their stuff. First of the international bands from Finland, Von Hertzen Brothers, with a spectacular backdrop telling a story of two Ravens in chains against the red background. New Day Rising their current album cover is certainly a powerful image and the music hit the mark with a prog-rock twist and keys that provided a textured background sound. Mikko the vocalist has wonderful phrasing singing gently then with vigour and at times with a roughened edge. They added another layer of rock strata building the Saturday into a perfect festival memory. Following on Blues Pills kept the Scandinavian feel with Swedish/American/French inspired rock and the first woman, Elin Larsson up front burning up the stage with her stunning vocals at Steelhouse. The quartet mix up the flow with a definite sixties feeling as the lead guitar curls around the music redolent of early Fleetwood Mac, Hendrix, Aretha Franklin creating a sound that is their own Blues Pills mesmerizes with an addictive psychedelic rock.
To follow this we had The Answer, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the release of their debut album, Rise. Cormac’s distinctive vocals got the set underway as unusually for a festival they played the album in full. The set was full of emotional command reminding you of how good the album was and still is. In this day and age of streaming and random play the set re-asserted the inherent power and flow of hearing the whole album as the artist planned it. There is context story and drama. The audience participation was enthusiastic on Preachin’ Blues this was quality festival entertainment. Now the final live band of the opening day.
The only threat of bad weather today was always going to be from the stage where a storm of Thunder was being counted down by the phalanx of fans up front they wanted to see every moment of the final set as the day darkened into a summer’s night. Yes, the air temperature was dropping high above Ebbw Vale, the festival was heating up a light display, entrance music and then Thunder hit the stage to the chant of Harry! Harry as the drummer took his seat. Danny Bowes lead from the front building the vocals and the crowd’s excitement. Thunder did not disappoint, hitting the music running with a thunderous set that connected with fans and beyond. The audience sang to the words that tripped off the tongue we were partying the night away creating a great atmosphere as the last notes faded away. For those who wanted to party the night was young with the DJ’s setting up for dancing and fun at a festival with no neighbours to upset.
Sunday 24th July 2016 – Grey, Drizzle and Misty Rocking
Day one, was a success, anticipation was high for day two as Last Great Dreamers started the day’s rock fest. With their take on glam rock, they opened up to a bleary-eyed crowd for me their pop rock got Sunday off to a meandering start and the weakest band so far. Next up were Hand Of Dimes full of Welsh verve and pizazz as both singer and front man Nev MacDonald got the early birds rocking through the drizzle and Sunday morning mist nothing was going to dampen this festival. This is rock music that warms your rocky heart and soul and the first and only harmonica of the festival thanks to Neil Garland the keyboard player and fellow ex. SKIN member. This is a band that understands space between the chords, the timing was superb and layers of sound certainly kick starting the day. Toseland were up next and the first technical gremlins hit the stage crew, quickly dealt with and the live music was back on stage. James Toseland, may have left the adrenalin-fueled world of motorbike racing but he still packs an adrenaline-fueled vocal punch. James has surrounded himself with a band that enhances his vocal prowess playing with energy and excitement. The set was the highlight pf the festival for many and Toseland certainly won new fans after this performance.
Today, Welsh weather reverted to type, the sun was shrouded in mist, interspersed with drizzle and rain. That did nothing to dampen the festival audience spirits. Steelhouse in its sixth year is growing in size and the reputation is based on the music not the weather.
The stage was now set for Raveneye, and we were in for some guitar fireworks from Oli Brown. He may have started out his career as a blues guitarist, but this young man certainly knows how to rock and put on a show. Including not missing a note as he is paraded around the stage on the shoulders of bassist Aaron Spiers. Raveneye’s set was animated and the music superb with the vestiges of his blues career a pick on his thumb and a shining sapphire blue guitar.
There was no doubt that the excitement around the next out was equivalent for a headliner. Who? The Dead Daisies. Why? Their sound is stunning, awesome, they are a live band that excites with superb melodies, and fantastic vocals. The Dead Daises connect to your rocking heart and soul the music flows through your veins full of electric brilliance and spark. This is Rock n’ Roll that makes you want to scream, shout out loud and laugh with pure delight. The latest member is Doug Aldrich who fits into the Daisy gang perfectly. John Corabi, on vocals, fronts this charismatic group and is given the room to develop the lyrics and have fun. We are taken back to the seventies and forward to now as they blend the sounds, whilst delivering their re-takes of classics. The rhythm section powers through the rock with the animated and flamboyant Marco Mendoza on bass and drummer Brian Titchy and rhythm guitarist David Lowy. The festival was on fire with excitement as the set sadly drew to a close many just wanted them to play on as for them The Dead Daisies were the band of the festival.
The programme moved on with Hey! Hello!, we were in for some noisy pop-rock with Ginger Wildheart, The Rev and two women Ai on drums and new singer up front they were fun and the pop rock contrasted to The Dead Daisies who are never an easy band to follow. Just as everyone had given up on being dry and seeing the sun the crowds rolled away as Terrorvision hit the stage. They have a distinctive lively rock sound with elements of rap, glam and the late eighties tonal context. Terrorvision are definitely the marmite band of the weekend, causing many a debate between the fans and those who just don’t quite get the band. The fans were treated to a set that captured rock they delight in.
Now for the finale, the skies once again darkened the lights shone as The Darkness bought 2016 Steelhouse to a close. The Darkness rewarded the fans for waiting for them to play as the rock-pop theme of the last three acts was maintained. Jason and The Darkness provided an uplifting and rousing finale to the festival.
A big thank you to the organisers Max and Lee and the phalanx of volunteers who kept the bands happy back stage and the whole event organized, the sound crews, and security. Then a special award should go to the mighty Darren Redick from Planet Rock for carrying out the MC role, stopping and talking to many who stop him as he wanders around the festival.
Every band performed at the top of their game, bringing live music energy to the festival. Bluesdoodles standout acts were opening band Bigfoot and Von Hertzen Brothers, both new bands for us. Then we really enjoyed Tax The Heat another young band going places, The Answer, Blues Pills and Raveneye. The top band of the weekend just has to be the effervescent The Dead Daisies.
Sunburn and Rust combined for Steelhouse Glory 2016, for me The Dead Daisies should have been the headliners. But that said what a fantastic two days of rock energy and music high up a mountain via a dirt road. Roll on 2017 when we will be back up the mountain. Make sure you keep the Crepe stall they were perfect.