DIVERSE, eclectic, raucous, but most of all fun – the second year of Ramblin Man Fair took the template from the previous year and brought it to a new level.
20,000 fans of rock, blues - and even new country – joined in the massive music party in Mote Park, Maidsetone, Kent.
And, there was no-one without a huge grin. Even the weather gods decided to join in the festivities, blessing the audience with sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s.
The weather may have enhanced the enjoyment, but music was why so many – of so many varying ages – gathered in the garden county of England.
It may have been an ‘English’ festival, but it had an international flavour. From Kentucky to Australia, all parts of the globe brought the groove.
Probably what sets Ramblin’ Man apart from the rest of the festivals is the range of different styles and genres of music available. Fans of all out hard rock could walk down to check out acts on the Outlaw Country stage, watch new and upcoming talent on the nesly added Rising stage or even sample some lengthier tunes on the Prog In The Park stage.
Whether it was Hawkwind or Hayseed Dixie, Whitesnake or Walter Trout, there was plenty of everything for old fans and not so old.
With four stages it was impossible to catch every act (anything not covered here will be on our sister site) but that was the challenge facing Ramblin ‘Manners’ – and not a bad challenge given the wealth of talent on display.
Rising rockers, Inglorious, opened the Planet Rock main stage, and after a recent set of dates with Dead Daisies their craft has been honed to a sharp edge. Despite a few technical hitches, and a crackling from the PA, it didn’t take Nathan and the guys to get into their stride after opener ‘Until I Die’.
Nathan James' experience shines through, cajoling the early afternoon to make their way to the front. Andreas has helped add a shine to the whole set – and given that he only joined two weeks before they recorded their début album, released in February.
Stand-out tracks, ‘Girl Got A Gun’ and ‘Unaware’ closed the set to applause, and apparently quite a few making their way to purchase ‘Inglorious’ t-shirts.
Rotating membership ‘super group’, Dead Daisies, took to the stage as if headliners, justifiably so given the stellar cast. Marco Mendoza and John Corabi stalked the stage as if they wanted to raise the already soaring levels of mercury.
Meanwhile on the Rising Stage the insanely energetic Massive Wagons, who have been touring with Ginger Wildheart on the back of their ‘Welcome To The World’ album, hit the stage with verve.
Bax was a bundle of bouncing moves, as he led the band on a merry dance, courageously opening with tracks off their new release, as Adam and Carl tried to avoid the singer’s wild mic stand.
The catchy ‘Tokyo’ and chunky ‘Nails’ set the tone for their half hour, and despite at least one guitar glitch’ the five-piece were there to prove that they may be on the Rising Stage now, but it won’t be too long until they are playing to larger crowds.
While Terrorvision were tearing up the main stage with a range of catchy melodic work the Outlaw Country stage was beginning to fill out in anticipation of the appearance of Supersuckers.
Variously described as ‘cowpunk’ ‘country rock’ or ‘garage rock’ it must have been difficult to decide where they could be placed, as their brand of humorous, hilarious lyrics sometimes hide the fact that they are fine musicians.
Eddie Spaghetti has more one-liners than a stand-up comedian and his easy banter had the packed marquee – in text speak “LOL”.
The audience was familiar with every chorus, and needed no encouragement to join in describing one of Eddie’s ex’s as ‘Pretty Fucked Up’.
Yes, Supersuckers have developed as late more of a country feel, but this was rock at its purest, four guys playing what they enjoy to fans who want to have a good time.
Ginger Wildheart is one of the true road warriors, and has more projects, such as Hey Hello, on the go than any living human being aside from Bruce Dickinson.
But what belies is his ability to produce melodic, almost easy listening rock with a distinctive punk ‘feel’ to the music. ‘Mother City’ and ‘Anyway But Maybe’ were among the delights from the band.
Europe are among the rock royalty from the 80s who have re-emerged to command a more prominent role on tours and on festival stages. Opening with ‘War Of Kings’ they quickly had those on camp chairs rising to their feet.
Joey Tempest may have lost the long blonde mane, but he hasn’t lost his distinctive voice and stage presence. Cheekily introducing one song á la Coverdale with the line “Ere’s a song for ya” by the time Europe played ‘Rock The Night’ the main stage audience was in the band’s hands with John Norum laying down the licks as if it was 1984 all over again.
However, down at the Outlaw Country Stage there was a cover band playing… Not any old covers band, it was a blur of fiddles, banjos and good ole boys in the shape of Hayseed Dixie.
Make no mistake about it, despite the laughs and the wild playing of songs such as ‘War Pigs’, Ace of Spades and ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ these are not only talented, but able to manipulate an audience into wild abandon.
And, yes the familiar chant of “Coldplay Sucks” was played out – and for those yet to see the band (they have five UK dates in November) we won’t spoil the twist to that shout-out.
While some see the band’s “rockgrass” as a piss-take on rock and metal they are play each song with genuine affection.
Amongst the pioneers of the twin guitar attack of the 70s Thin Lizzy’s back catalogue is packed with songs that resonate for several generations of fans of rock.
Of course, only Scot Gorham is the only remaining original member and many see this is a cash-in on the name, but give a crowd of beer-filled fans songs such as ‘Waiting for an Alibi’, ‘Emerald’ and The Boys Are Back In Town’ and it is a mass singalong.
Ricky Warwick is commanding and even before he introduced Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith on bass the crowd had spotted this special guest appearance.
And, it wasn’t the only guest on stage. Midge Ure may be mostly remembered for Ultravox and working with Bob Geldof on Live Aid, but he stood in as Lizzy guitarist for a period in the band’s past.
Of course, the set ended with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ - we wouldn’t expect anything else.
As the strains of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ rolled out across the darkening night sky Ramblin Man Fair geared up for Day One headliners Whitesnake.
The set was marred by a series of solos – drum solos, bass solos, guitar solos that were all performed well but broke up the flow of the set.
Dave Coverdale has made the smart move to draw a line under his lengthy career, as he no longer has the voice to carry many of the hits, and wisely lets his current line-up pick up many of the line he used to roar out.What he does, and does well, is make the audience feel that they are part of a massive party.
Tracks like ‘Slide It In’, ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’, ‘Fool For Your Loving’ and ‘Slow And Easy’ had almost everyone at Mote Park join in, but as Coverdale closed with ‘Is This Love’ the main emotion as he prepares to hang up his mic for the last time was “We Wish You Well”.
ONCE again the weather in Maidstone was baking the 20,000 ramblers as they queued with no signs of exhaustion from the previous days festivities at Ramblin Man Fair.
First up on the main stage were the Graveltones, but at 13:25 the Blues Stage was packed as Pat McManus strapped his guitar around his neck and did with his six-string what many axemen could only dream of doing.
Even those not familiar with Pat’s material were awestruck as the congenial Ulsterman tortured emotion out of his instrument with every riff, run and solo.
There is an easy banter with the crowd from Pat as Marty and Paul roll out powerful rhythms for each track.
Joking that he was “playing a fast one” so we wouldn’t spot the mistakes, no-one heard a dropped note on ‘The Bolt’.
The trademark fiddle came off the rack for Mama’s Boys ‘Runaway Dreams’ followed by an example of why Pat has been an adept at playing the traditional instrument at a very young age.
Honouring Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore Pat played his tribute to Moore with ‘Belfast Boy’ and as the set ended most mulled why he wasn’t higher on the billing.
On the main stage the Kentucky Headhunters brought their mellow southern rock groove, but truth be told it brought the mood down a bit and some of the energy of the crowd dissipated despite all seeming to enjoy their set.
Such was not the case when The Answer arrived on stage – it may be the tenth anniversary of their début release ‘Rise’ but Cormac and co show no sign of losing their energy as the band explode on to stage.
‘Under The Sky’ kicked off with such vigour that any lethargy around Mote Park was gone after the first few chords.
Cormac was his usual energetic self, bouncing around the stage like a toddler given too many e-numbers and still able to boom out tracks such as ‘Come Follow Me’ and the crowd were willing followers.
Paul was on fire with his guitar work as Mickey and James sweated bullets of rhythm. ‘Memphis Water’ was an appropriate song for those having a shot of bourbon, while ‘Preachin’ had all there considering a new career as a Baptist preacher.
Treated to tracks from the forthcoming release, ‘Solus’ and The Answer left stage to well deserved applause.
Just before the mood again slowed down a bit for Cadillac Three’s southern groove down at the Blues stage Tax The Heat were impressive with a nice blend of rock influences delivered with talent.
But if there is one band who can raise the rafters of a stage and have a crowd in the palm of their Aussie hands.
We were ‘Ready To Rock’ as Joel’s springs unwound in a blur of proper pub rock on a festival delivered in a slab of riffs.
Sure there was much codology in everything they did, but you can’t bluff good music. David Roads is the rhythm guitar foil to Joel’s lead work and rough and ready, gruff singing.
The in-between chat was as usual full of fun, as Joel scanned the audience pointing out all the ladies wearing black band t-shirts was, of course, the cue for ‘Girls In Black’.
No Airbourne show is complete without Joel climbing…and as part of the ‘rock ‘n’ roll pantomime’ there was a warning in a pre-recorded interview that he wouldn’t be allowed to mount the rigging, and if he did the plug would be pulled. So, he climbed the rigging.
There then appeared a gentleman gesturing to the sound desk to cut the sound. Joel went up and down twice, before admitting defeat and then, on shoulders, went into the crowd to much acclaim and scrambling with phones to get a shot.
Title track of the new album, ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’ sounds strong while ‘Runnin’ Wild’ closer had all there going wild.
Unfortunately Airbourne clashed with Hawkwind, meaning the crowd was split a little, but as Thunder came up there was definitive evidence that fans of classic British rock were gathering to celebrate.
Smooth, slick and lovely the band re-created that sense of the glorious past, without the nostalgia. Danny and Luke have a telepathic bond around the sound.
This was a ‘Backstreet Symphony’ in a sun-bathed field, the band on ‘Higher Ground’ yet down-to-earth.
Love might have ‘…Walked in’ but we were all enjoying that ‘Dirty Love’. When they played ‘I love You More Than Rock ‘n’ Roll’ girls and guys looked at each other and proclaimed, “no we love rock ‘n’ roll more than anything else”
Thunder wowed Ramblin Man and the acclaim from the crowd as the coolness of Danny and the band eased all into that state of rock bliss.
With the various clashes it was not possible to check out all the bands, but a few tunes from Procul Haram were the perfect way to kick back and admire tracks such as ‘Hummingbird’.
Some might have questioned the choice of Black Stone Cherry as Sunday headliners given their relatively young career compared to the likes of Whitesnake et cetera but their rise has been steady from 200-seater venues in the UK through to 3,000 seaters it was not only right but just that the band closed the festival.
There is something warming about what Black Stone Cherry do on stage, there is power, but that power doesn’t overwhelm, there is passion, but the melody is never lost.
As Chris bellowed out ‘Me And Mary Jane’ the vitality of the band on stage transferred to the crowd. By the time ‘Rain Wizard’ was played there was a real sense of occasion.
How the band managed to perform at this level when they had just flown in from the States and were flying straight out back was remarkable. There was no sense of them being flat or overwhelmed to be headlining their first UK festival.
Ben, John and Chris were constantly on the move, while John’s drums were the steady but perfect thing to stop the show running out of control.
‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Maybe Someday’ were stand-outs, but as the final chords of ‘Things My Father Said’ the band chose to pay tribute to Lemmy with a storming version of ‘Ace of Spades’. Truly a great set and the doubters were converted…
Billed as a bijou but well sized festival Ramblin Man Fair attracted a wide, wide variety of people. The 20,000 punters were as diverse as the line-up. Babies were held aloft on parents’ shoulders, children looked up from their tablets, surprised by the music, teenagers realised that the songs they heard in their father’s car sounded so much better live, and adults of all ages celebrated with beer and singing their lungs out.
Next year? Hard to top, but we are pretty sure that it will once again sell-out...…
Review by Jonny - Pictures by Darren McVeigh - reproduction of words and pictures only by written consent.