We arrived back at the top of the mountain for day two of Steelhouse about 20 minutes after the arena opened. After the brief walk from the car park had seen us through the entrance and down at the front of the stage again within 10 minutes of arriving, it left just enough time for a quick visit to the merch tent where I acquired the “mandatory” souvenir festival t-shirt at the very reasonable price of £20. One of the many things I like about this festival is how reasonably priced everything is. Not just the admission prices but once you’re inside too. There’s an excellent choice of food from a variety of friendly vendors who don’t take advantage of the fact that they have a captive market and charge no more than you’d expect to pay at your local takeaway. Likewise on the merch stand, unlike many of the larger festivals and corporate owned venues, Steelhouse are happy for each band to set their own prices for their merch rather than insisting on a standardised or minimum price for a t-shirt etc.
First on stage today were four piece hard rockers, Liberty Lies hailing from Wednesbury deep in The Black Country. An excellent way to kick off the long day ahead, they delivered a short set of traditional heavy rock/metal spearheaded by a strong vocal performance from frontman, Shaun Richards. Ably supported by Josh Pritchett on guitar, Adam Stevens on drums and Miles Bagshaw on bass, the only negative to report is once again, for my liking anyway, the bass drum was far too high in the sound mix, giving me the feeling that I had an over active defibrillator attached to my chest for the entire thirty minutes!
Next up were one of half a dozen bands doing the Ramblin’ Man/Steelhouse double this year, Midlands based, Ryders Creed. Make no mistake, this was an electrifying set delivered by this high energy, hard rocking, metal quintet who’ve only been around for a little over two years. The whole band had great stage presence, typified by the endless energy of guitarists Myles Cooper and Lee Spencer who shared every inch of the stage with frontman Ryan Antony, and the “Animal” like performance of drummer Lee Gilbert. When not strutting their stuff around the stage, Cooper and Spencer demonstrated their playing prowess with some great Hendrixesque soloing throughout and despite not having seen them before or knowing what to expect it was no surprise at all when at one point we were treated to the opening riffs from “Voodoo Chile”. I must’ve enjoyed the performance as at the conclusion, I realised I’d been grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. As they closed their 40 minute slot with “My Life”, I couldn’t help but think to myself that if the Festival organisers continue with their policy of taking a “home based” band who’d performed well lower down the bill at the weekend, and bring them back the following year to headline on the Friday, then with this performance, Ryders Creed must’ve put themselves in prime position.
Band number three on stage today was four piece classic rockers from Cambridgeshire, Hollowstar. I’d seen Hollowstar for the first time about 8 months ago (supporting The Dan Reed Network, along with Mason Hill) and had been very impressed so was looking forward to their appearance. Bass player Joe Bonson is an excellent front man for the band and is ably supported by brother Jack on drums, along with Phil Haines and Tom Collett on lead guitars. Their short set is soon over and if I’m honest, whilst it was delivered with panache and efficiency, it didn’t excite me as much as it had done the first time I saw this band play. If I’ve been a little harsh, perhaps it’s because I was still reflecting on how good Ryders Creed had been sixty minutes earlier.
The next band to take the stage today was another that I’d been looking forward to seeing, not least because illness had prevented me from attending their last London show back in November last year. The band in question was Canadian rockers, The Wild! whose genre of music can best be described as good ole hard hitting rock n roll. They have to be the only band I’ve ever seen that has entered the stage to the theme tune from television’s “Daktari” (you need to be of a certain age to know what that is!) however I think that just set the tone for what was to come. Fronted by lead guitarist and vocalist, the interestingly named Dylan Villain, whose rasping voice was not too dissimilar to Bon Scott or Brian Johnson, they launched into a rip roaring set which barely seemed to stop for breath for the entire forty minutes. It was difficult to take your eyes off the stage for a moment as rhythm guitarist, “The Kid”, with a meticulously waxed moustache, doing his best impression of a head banging Hercule Poirot, and bass player Lucas Boozus, with long wiry beard resembling a youthful ZZ Top apprentice, along with Dylan, all made maximum use of the stage and it’s jetty, posturing and posing to the crowd. Towards the end of the set, Dylan also gave us his “party piece” as he poured a can of 1664 down his throat (not to mention over the stage!) in one hit before crushing the can and tossing it away. For me I think it was a case of Wild by name and wild by nature and as they closed their set the energy levels had certainly been raised considerably making it a tough task for the next act due on stage to follow.
And that task fell to four piece rockers from Pennsylvania USA, Crobot. Crobot are an exciting new band that first got together in 2011. A US contribution to the New Wave of Rock bands, they describe themselves as purveyors of Dirty Groove Rock and in the space of fifty five minutes they took an already good day to a new high. We weren’t quite sure what to expect as they entered the stage to an off key (Les Dawson style) version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, perhaps better known as the theme tune to the iconic 60s film, “2001 A Space Odyssey”. However we didn’t have to wait long to find out as they quickly burst into action with vocalist Brandon Yeagley strutting and gliding across the stage in a glittering, shiny waistcoat, conjuring up an image of a manic, high speed, Russell Brand! Musically, their raw power, energy and bass driven hard rock style reminded me of Aussie rockers Wolfmother when they first hit the scene some 13 or 14 years ago. Guitarist Chris Bishop also kept us entertained, proving several times throughout the set that Warner E Hodges (Dan Baird, Jason & The Scorchers) isn’t the only axe man who can swing a guitar around his neck at speed without decapitating or strangling himself! Not to be outdone though, Yeagley demonstrated his break dancing prowess as he gave us his best “dolphin” down the stage’s jetty! Oh yes, and he also became the first singer, to my knowledge anyway, to dedicate a song to the great British institution that is brown sauce! The set finally closed, all too soon, with the commercially successful 2014 track. “Nowhere to Hide”. With Gun, The Temperance Movement and Thunder still to come, could the day possibly get any better?
Next to take to the stage were five piece Scottish hard rockers, Gun. After an initial ten year career starting back in the late 80s, the band got together again in 2008 and have been touring ever since. Despite the high energy stage entrance by frontman Dante Gizzi, disappointingly, for me anyway, Gun didn’t cut it today, failing to reach the heights of the bands that had gone before. Unfortunately for them, I think they were another band this weekend that suffered from a less than perfect sound mix with the bass being far too high and distorted. Nevertheless they were appreciated by many and there were still a number of high points, the vibe in the arena notably lifting as they launched into their excellent cover of Cameo’s “Word Up”. The set ended on a high too as they finished things off with another cover, this time delivering a rip roaring version of The Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”.
Six bands down and two to go, next up on stage were a band who’ve regularly featured high up on the bill at festivals for a number of years now and based on the performance delivered by The Temperance Movement this evening, it’s easy to see why. The Temperance Movement are a Scottish blues rock band established around 8 years ago who did what it said on the tin, and delivered an immaculate set of blues rock. There was a strong heavy bass line throughout supplied by former Jamiroquai man, Nick Fyffe, who has also performed on stage for the likes of Robert Plant and Deep Purple. This was complimented perfectly by the melodic playing and soloing of guitarists Paul Sayer and Matt White and overlaying all of this, frontman Phil Campbell delivered a pure in tone blues based vocal, not too dissimilar to early Rod Stewart in The Faces or The Quireboys’ Spike, minus the raspiness. Before the excellent set was over, the band also paid tribute to the influence of Led Zeppelin in their work with a rocking cover of “Custard Pie”. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen The Temperance Movement at a festival however it was the first time that I’d watched them through from beginning to end; and I’m very glad that I did.
Finally, as the sun began to set and the natural daylight began to fade, it was the turn of Saturday’s headliners, Thunder. I have to confess that Thunder completely bypassed me back in the hair band days of the 80s and 90s and I didn’t get to see them for the first time until the early 2000s when they were the “warm up” act for Deep Purple and Peter Frampton. It was obvious to me at that time what a great frontman Danny Bowes was and I have loved the band ever since. Readers will no doubt be aware that Thunder are due shortly to release a “Greatest Hits” album so it was appropriate that tonight they played a greatest hits set.
Despite being a big Thunder fan I will start off by saying that this was not the most electrifying performance I have ever seen them give. Nevertheless it was a good, strong, energetic performance as for ninety minutes, Thunder did what Thunder always do as they rolled out a succession of classic hits; Luke Morley and Ben Matthews playing immaculately while Danny toyed with the enthusiastic crowd, teasing every last ounce of audience participation out of them. Without wishing to appear too critical of the organisers who put on such a great value for money festival, once again, visibility of what was going on on the front third of the stage was less than ideal although with Thunder perhaps making less use of the size of the stage than some of the bands earlier, it didn’t really detract from the spectacle or their performance.
As the long day finally came to an end with the final choruses of “I Love You More Than Rock n Roll” echoing across the mountain top, I reflected on what had, overall, been a fantastic second day of this year’s Steelhouse Festival. There were some great performances throughout the day but for me, band of the day today had been Crobot, with The Wild! not far behind. After grabbing some food and just chilling out for half an hour or so while we ate and listened to the Planet Rock DJ spinning some tunes in the bar tent, we made our way back to the car and back down the mountain to get some shut eye in preparation for tomorrow which would be our sixth day of festival going in the space of ten days.