After the shenanigans of the previous evenings award ceremony where far too much alcohol was consumed and sore heads aplenty, today first day proper had the sensible start time of 5pm.
After a short opening ceremony from the dancing girls and a look at the VIP seating area and layout of the very low stage, it was certainly going to be a challenging weekend for fans, reviewers and photographers.
With just the main stage being used today it was left to “LIBERTY LIES” to kick start proceedings, and after their short set at the awards event the previous evening I knew what to expect from this energetic 4 piece.
Traditional hard rock with a twist would be a fair description, Shaun Richards makes for a fine front man giving the crowd a choice on a cover song, either AC/DC or Zeppelin so with the loudest cheer going to the former it was Highway To Hell that was performed with a balls out fist in the air attitude, a great start to the late afternoon.
First big surprise for me was New Yorkers “KILLCODE” fronted by workaholic Tom Morrissey who simply hit the stage running. Again, the band had played at the awards the previous night but for whatever reason I didn’t catch their set.
Tonight was different I watched the full 40 minute show and left as an enthusiastic new fan. Opening up with the huge sounding “Show Me” which is played in a down tuned style from both guitarists “ Chas” and “DC Gonzalez”.
With a new album in the pipeline, 3 songs were played that will be featured on the record, “ New Superman” “Phenomenon” and the strangely titled “Lucky Elephant” all sounding great in the live arena.
A special mention going to “New Superman” with its melodic mid-section that breaks down for a short while before the twin machine gun sounding guitars fire back up into a frantic ending.
This song shows so many different musical styles it’s shaping up to be a very interesting album indeed. “Devil Song” has more fine vocals from the man that never stops moving and his enthusiasm is a joy to watch, a superb live set and one which no doubt fired the crowd up for the night ahead.
Next up was the female fronted “TEQUILLA MOCKINGBYRD” With the insanely talented “Gill Montgomery” on both guitar and vocals, she displays the chops and the confidence to match even Lizzy Hale.
The bands feisty attitude reflects in their music with hard hitters like “Jaegerbomb” that rips the roof from the walls of the Vauxhall Holiday Park it’s a fast-paced set of unrelenting punky rock attitude and a sniff of AC/DC boogie that gets the toes twitching. By this point in the day I was starting to find it a struggle to even see the stage let alone hear any song titles, all I can tell you is the music was fantastic.
Talking of fantastic, next up was a band that have been around nearly as long as the wheel. With an intro tape of monks in a monastery and a puff of smoke from the front of the stage, it’s time for “CLOVEN HOOF” a band so traditional in its British metal roots it’s a Iron Maiden or Judas Priest fans dream come true.
With Vocalist George Call they have a singer who can hit octaves like Murray can hit a tennis ball, and guitarists Chris Coss and Ash Baker have that legendary dual guitar sound worked out perfectly.
Hailing from Wolverhampton they instantly both pulverise and win the crowd over in one foul swoop. With synchronised dance moves like that of the Priest, we get the title track from the first album “Cloven Hoof” which sees the front man fall to his knees with every stage move known to man before high fiving the front row, this song alone has so many speeded up sections that we have all come to love with Iron Maiden.
What was a nice touch was the bass player singing vocals alongside the main vocalist that gave it an extra twist. “Nova Battle Star” – an amazing title for a song is the moment when everyone is told to get out their seats in the VIP area and join in.
“Crack The Whip” has acres of boogie in its DNA and is a particular highlight. Before we know it, the group are now rounding things off with “Reach For The Sky” and that’s just what all the hands were doing including mine. Such a great hour of entertainment so much so I was ready to tell everyone that I had just seen the band of the 3 day event but I thought it was a bit early to make those assumptions. (Cloven Hoof first formed in 1979 so can’t be described as a copycat band, they were at the front of the N.W.O.B.H.M movement!)
“ELECTRIC MARY” with this being their 3rd time at an HRH festival they knew what the crowd was expecting and they duly delivered in triumphant Aussie style. I just don’t understand how Australia manages to produce so many quality hard hitting rock n roll bands, who all have that bar room sound where you can just smell the beer and the fags. Electric Mary are no exception.
Vocalist Rusty was an inspiration and if the band were worried about following “Cloven Hoof” it didn’t show as they cherry picked a set list from their full career. “Woman” with its grimy sounding riffs to the head down no nonsense “One Foot In The Grave” where bass player Alex Raunjak walks to the lip of the stage and peels off a boogie rhythm while the band encourage us to be in the year 1977.
For the fans in attendance tonight they would have gone back to their accommodation happy indeed and on that performance they would have picked up many new fans tonight.
Headliners tonight however were “REEF” a group that need little or no introduction to the reader. A band within their rights to headline most UK festivals on the sheer quality of their back catalogue but sadly this was the wrong festival.
Many people in attendance just love REEF and enjoyed the show but to me I just felt so cold after the mighty Cloven Hoof and the hard rocking acts that were on earlier in the evening. Don’t get me wrong Gary Stringer, Jack Bessant and Jesse Wood are first class performers with Stringer being one hell of a front man.
Tonight they were joined by Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor on 2nd guitar for what reason I have no idea because the band can function perfectly with just one guitar. They played a who’s who of great songs like “Naked” “Revelation” “Place Your Hands” “Summers In Bloom” and the work rate was a joy to watch.
Even a version of one of my favourite songs “Consideration” could not change my opinion that this was the wrong show for these guys. But my humble opinion counts for nothing as I left the venue with the legions of Reef fans singing away as I headed home to get some sleep before the full on 12 hour day of music that lay ahead tomorrow.
Review by Steve Bruty
Photography by Darren Smith & Darren Mcveigh