My final thoughts leaving Winterstorm last year as I trudged through the snow was they are not going to top this. That was my first year attending and the whole weekend blew me away. From the staff who are all volunteers, the amazing location, the like clockwork organisation down to the bands it left a lasting impression and came out top as my favourite festival of the year.
The thoughts that it could not be beaten faded as soon as the line up to 2018 was announced and I knew in an instant I would be back in this beautiful town again…so would it rate as highly as last year?
I did not make it for first band of the day Tomorrow Is Lost and the festival did not start on a good note as Cass king had a fall but managed to finish the set and we all heard later that she had broken her leg and had to go for surgery. From everyone here may we wish you a speedy recovery and thank you for your professionalism in closing the set.
I walked into the amazing venue as Departed were mid set and “Steal your Crown” was blasting from the PA. Having seen the band before I settled into the riffage straight away. These youngsters were the perfect way to open the show for me with their upbeat rocking out numbers. You can feel the Treatment backbone from guitarist Ben.
Having just arrived I was not ready for the tempo to be turned down but when “Pretty Little Thing” starts I know that it is not for long and I am upstairs shooting photos and headbanging away(yes, us photographers can do more than one thing at a time). Next is the almost indie “Are you Ready”. This is what us older folks would call a stadium filler. Back in the 80s this would have been a huge hit as it is a complete killer of a song with that little touch of radio friendliness that sold tens of thousands of records.
I cannot recommend this band enough and if you do not believe me just check out set closer “Come On”. This band won plenty of fans today and they just need to keep putting in the miles and things will definitely change for them.
There is a bit of a theme running through Winterstorm again this year, yes there are plenty of Scottish connections but as Quartz took to the stage I realised the first time I saw them was on the stage of my all time favourite venue, The Glasgow Apollo and many of the bands this weekend also stood on that 15 Foot high stage.
The band may have changed since those days but with three members from the original line up from the 70s that is good going. The biggest change has to be singer David Garner and that man is a showman without doubt. This band is pre NWOBHM and many say they are partly responsible for that movement even if they are a bit overlooked these days.
The set took me back and I was in my element and even without the barnstorming rendition of “Heave and Hell” I would have been happy with the set but this song was incredible. It got the whole place singing and really started the party in Troon.
Anchor Lane played the festival last year and they have been moved up the bill considerably but based on the year they have had this was well deserved. The boys are on fire just now and even with a change of guitarist they cannot be slowed down.
The youngsters from Glasgow took that huge stage in their stride and tonight I felt a massive change in the band. I only saw them a month ago for the first time with new boy Lawrence O’Brien playing one of his first shows as they supported Heavy Pettin. It was not a good night for them as the sound was horrific.
So one month on and with the knowledge that the sound would be spot on tonight I was looking forward to see how they would go. I was more than impressed, much more than when I saw them for the first time(and that was a huge amount). Lawrence has shaken off the nerves and tonight he let loose. He was adding parts to songs and basically lapping up the whole thing and it was obvious that the whole bands dynamic had changed.
As they went through songs that I have seen many times before I could see the change clearly. This little band have stepped up to the big time with some huge festivals this year and tonight I looked on and thought to myself they truly have become rock stars.
With the ability of Lawrence on guitar front man Conor has gained some slack and is now able to sling the guitar to the side and focus on the singing and the geeing up of the audience and this was brilliant to see. I caught up with Conor later and said I would love to see him out from behind that guitar and little did I know it would not be long before it happened.
Once again the boys wowed the crowd, so much so they sold out of their EP and hopefully that cash will go straight into the coffers for finishing off their debut album which they have been working on for some time.
These four boys did Glasgow proud once again and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for us in 2019.
The next band of the day was the one I had been waiting for. I had never caught The New Roses live before but considering they rarely venture outside of their native Germany that is no surprise. I am just hoping that the reaction tonight and the rest of their short tour tells the band just how loved they are here.
They were incendiary from the moment “Every Wildheart” burst forth. My anticipation to this set was paid off in about 2 minutes and the wait to see them was worth it. The words on everyone’s lips this weekend was The New Roses whether you had heard of them or not. Even playing this early in the weekend they instantly became one of the bands of the festival.
Their merch stand took a pounding as soon as they finished and as the boys were out there signing autographs and getting photos taken they were winning more fans(now, I won’t say it was all women but with those looks you know there was a lot of feminine hormones going into overdrive).
The New Roses are the epitome of a party band with songs like “Dancing on a Razorblade” and “It’s a Long Way” you have to be paralised from the head down not to be on your feet and going crazy. Timmy Rough is a brilliant front man and has the crowd in the palm of his hand. This is evident as he gets us all trained up to sing along to “Life Ain’t Easy(For a Boy with Long Hair)”. The southern/country mix with the lyrics most of us can associate with got everyone kicking off.
As they closed with “One More For the Road” you knew you had witnessed something really special and you know this band are going all the way to the top. Before they finished their set I had already made my mind up that if they do not tour here next year I will be making my way to Germany to see these boys in their own back yard and I can assure you that not many bands have that effect on me.
Back to the Glasgow Apollo link with Oliver Dawson’s Saxon. I saw Saxon in The Apollo many times and I have seen them many more times since those days but I have never caught this line up. I knew what to expect set wise as they do focus on the early Saxon releases but I was not expecting the show which played out in front of my eyes. I was also not expecting Bri Shaugnnessy to be such a showman and vocalist.
He is the perfect choice to replace Biff and he won me over in moments. As soon as “Strong Arm of the Law” started and the decades rolled back I was in heaven. Now as much as this song is amazing next up in “Frozen Rainbow” was the one that shook me as I had not heard that live for so long I forgot how much I loved it. Those two songs were then backed up with a knockout punch in “Dallas 1PM”.
It is easy to forget how much of an impact Saxon had on my teenage years and when you hear these songs it just reminds you how fucking amazing they were. To prove the point we follow up with “Denim and Leather”, “747” and finish on “Wheels of Steel”. The last song spliced hysterically with the proclaimers “500 miles”.
This was the band that blew me away all those years ago. I first saw them in 1979 when I was in the throes of my punk era. I sat on a hill in Loch Lomond for a festival and that was where my love of noisy guitars started.
Nobody can say this band is a parody as you have two integral members to that original band and for me with a set like the one I had just witnessed you earned your stripes to bear the name Saxon.
Next is a Glasgow Apollo legend in Zal Cleminson’s Sin Dogs. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band shows at the Apollo are a piece of Scottish folklore. From the infamous Christmas parties and the half naked women to some of the best live shows performed on that stage.
Having never seen Sin Dogs I had to wonder if Zal had calmed down any but it did not take me long to find out that was not the case. The space age pensioner walked onto that stage as if he had bought the whole of Troon.
He plugged in the guitar, pulled down the silver shades and taught the youngsters what a performer is. The Sin Dogs are a million miles away from SAHB but they are sheer entertainment. The mix of guitars and electronics gives you a real up to date feel and boy can Zal can sing.
To say Zal was not happy with the sound would be an understatement and this man has no idea how to be subtle so the abuse came forth. Having never seen the band before I thought the sound was spot on apart from when the wifi mic came flying out of the guitar.
What did hit me was how good a guitarist this man is, he was mesmerising and the band he has built around him played their part in giving a brilliant industrial sound throughout songs like “Armageddon Day” and “Guns of God”.
This is one band that is now firmly in my sights and I will be catching them the next time they hit Glasgow as this set left me wanting more.
Next I ran over to the second stage for my discovery of the weekend in The Rising Souls. I was dragged to this one and I have to put my hands up and admit when I am wrong. My good lady and a good friend had caught the boys recently at King Tuts and from what I had heard I was not too impressed but when you see this band live I challenge you not to be gobsmacked. The first thing that will hit you is That voice, singer Dave has such power you are hooked immediately. Follow that up with the groove train that is going on behind him and this makes for one hell of a show.
The sound goes from blues to funk to slithering vocal stripteases. Even as a man I can get how sultry this sound is from the boys. The song “Set me Free” could have been the song from the Movie Dusk Till Dawn as Salma Hayek strolls across the tables.
Seeing this band is must so if you are going to see Black Star Riders this tour make sure you are early to catch the boys. Failing that catch them early January on their own short tour.
The night was closed off with Gun and with their recent resurgence they were well deserved headliners. After “She Knows” they burst into “Don’t Say It’s Over” and the place erupts as if this was a Barrowland headline show.
To me this band are better than they were back in the 90s. After going through numerous singers(One playing this festival tomorrow so I hope there was no fighting) Dante stepped behind the mic and has rejuvenated the band and with the excellent new album Favourite Pleasures gaining huge plaudits from fans and media alike it looks like the boys are back for good.
The Glasgow Boys stormed through numbers like “Better Days”, “Steal Your Fire” and “Taking on the World”, songs that will kick your ass live and remind you how strong this band’s back catalogue is.
My top moments are always the cover of “Word Up” and show closer “Shame on You”. Gun stepped up to the headliner monicker and totally deserved it. They finished off an incredible day with sheer style and makes you smile with pride at the talent Scotland has which is showcased at this festival.
Images and words Ritchie Birnie