Review by Manny Manson for MPM
After too long a time of pandemic uncertainty, we finally get the green light to go, in the immortal words of Cockney comedian Micky Flanagan, OUT OUT! And not before time.
Excitedly, car loaded, the road is hit, obviously in a controlled manner, we set the Sat Nav to the heart of Sheffield, and with Planet Rock’s, Wyatt’s dulcet tones playing in the background we gently drift off into a coma, only to reawaken as a large roundabout looms up ahead, looking like a desolate planet extruding tentacles, we , prepare for the worst.
A shake of the head and I realise that it has several to many exits, so a couple of orbits later we are cruising by, first, a Mercedes and then a Porsche garage. Steel City isn’t as desolate a place as first thought.
Finally parked up and booked into our budget lodgings for the weekend we hurriedly get Gig ready and head for the arena, all but 2 minutes’ walk away.
Greeted by friendly staff we’re guided to get our respective wrist bands mine being Green for Press/Photo my gig buddies being Silver for Artist/Crew, he’s neither but that’s what the volunteers are wearing so they have AAA access should the need arise.
Friday night see’s action on the main ‘Mikey Lawless’ stage. Named after the Falling Red bassist who sadly passed away only months after playing on the main stage at the inaugural Rock in the Bowl.
The young man had an incurable brain tumour but still managed to play with his band one final time. A fitting tribute that has glasses raised several times over the weekend.
With six bands to get through on this opening night the gears start flying and the stage is a hive of activity. Pete Mally has the misfortune of being compare, and he starts as he means to go on. Funny but never vulgar which is great as there are children in the audience.
Bastette open the proceedings with singer Caroline wearing a black latex catsuit. With red hair blowing in the wind you could almost hear the red liquid racing through the veins of the guys already gathered, that woke them up, certainly a stand out moment for many.
Steal the City stepped in at short notice to fill the Liberty Lies slot, Covids first casualty. Having never heard of them before it was reassuring that they put on a good show and one to follow up after the weekend.
Everyone knows how good Cajun influenced Southern Rock band, so it was with no surprise that The Outlaw Orchestra in their hill Billie way, smashed through a great set with whoops from the crowd as reinforcement, a cigar box guitar was given away as part of their show.
The night, however, was all about Cats in Space. This 70’s inspired rock band put on a stunning set. New singer Damien Edwards has slotted in seamlessly, not surprising as he’s worked with Greg Hart, on guitar and Andy Stewart, on keys, on their side project, the Supersonic 70’s.
The Cats have already played a couple of other festivals this season, combine that with touring their new album Atlantis on an extensive UK tour. You can see they have shed the ring rust.
Sounding like ELO one minute and Journey or Boston the next, the Cats thumped and growled into the night. Tracks from the new album saw the band dig in and a dirtier, grittier sound was the result. They couldn’t be accused of napping, this gang of ‘Toms’ were definitely out for a night of fun.
A brief sleep brings the new day, and after a breakfast under the famous Golden Arches its back into the arena for a day of 16 bands, yes, we now have a tent for rising local bands to play in. This will fill the time between main stage turn arounds. called the Steel City stage tent, over the course of the day we see everything from Metal Core, to Prog to Acoustic sets. Being well attended it gave music fans something to enjoy while waiting for the main stage to fire up again.
The Mikey stage has a great line up and it starts off with Lowdrive, a great band that played at RTB-1 all those years ago.
JOANovARC make a striking entrance with new front girl Hazel Jade Rogers. With a face of white, green hair tips and red tinted glasses and looking like a cross between Anne Wilson and Dolly Parton, she nails the vocals far to easily. An exciting addition to the line-up.
Florence Black, are of note. Riding high on Sun and Moon, their single currently featured on Planet Rocks playlist, hit the stage for a heavy lesson in classic rock but all that fades into the background when they strike up that great Budgie cover Breadfan, a great set closer.
Empyre follow with their brooding dark coolness; Hells Addiction are up next with there take on 80’s hair rock on steroids. SKAM drummer Neil is the man beating the skins for them tonight.
Bad Touch, Norfolk rock at its finest follows. Stevie Westwood with long flowing locks, hat and flares hiding behind sunglasses absolutely delivers a masterclass in being a front man. The guy oozes cool and with a singing voice to match, delivers a sublime set.
Gin Annie, a firm crowd favourite, gets a rousing intro from Pete Mally, with references to Brian having a haircut and blocking the toilets. They put on a great show prior to the headline act.
Now for transparency I thought Doro wasn’t a headline act. Boy did she prove me wrong
This Teutonic Queen of Rock played an absolute blinder. Clad in the usual leather, studs n chains she proceeded to wrap everyone around her little finger. Opening with Earth Shaker Rock she held the crowd in the palm of her hand and gently caressed and squeezed them during the set. Talking to crowd between songs like a true professional.
The huge backdrop of her a stark reminder that Doro is here with smaller rock faces at her feet looking up to her.
The set is a greatest hits, from moderately fast tunes such as ‘Burning the Witches’’’, Raise Your Fist’, to the ‘ballad, ‘Für Immer’ and then back to the faster ‘Hellbound’ after which we get to that classic rock show must have, a ‘drum solo’.
‘Blood Sweat & Rock n Roll’ follows, then that anthemic ‘All We Are’ from the Warlock days and the album Triumph and Agony.
To make an already great set better we have the mighty Paul Quinn from Saxon join her on stage they go through a rousing rendition of Priest’s Breaking the Law.
A great set by a true legend. And true to form she takes her time leaving the stage, thanking everyone repeatedly as she paces the stage waving. At 57 the girl can still rock! Is she a headline worthy act? You bet your leather clad ass she is!
And so, I limp off to the room to download and sort my days images. My feet are in tatters, my knees in need of some three in one oil, my lower back is going to keep me awake, I know it. Yay I’m having fun at last.
Day three is a repeat of day one with the trip out for breakfast
The Steel City stage only has 3 acts today one of which is an acoustic set by the first band of the day, The Eddie Huntley Band. Covid strikes again with Baranovich having to pull out.
On the Mikey stage we have psychobilly band Dukes of Bordello kicking off. The morning sun shines brightly as the band goes through it set. With a double bass thrashing out the back beat, this punky trio show the gathered early doors crowd what’s in store.
Sons of Liberty are a fun southern rock band. Think Molly Hatchet and Bachman Turner Overdrive and you get the idea what this band are all about. With songs like ’Up Shit Creek’ and ‘Beef Jerky Boogie’ you can see that these guys enjoy their time making music together.
Collateral announce that its frontman Angelo Tristan’s birthday. Guitarist Todd Winger has a bottle of Cloven Hoof which Angelo has a pull of, the faces pulled are like those of a 10-yr. old trying a sip of his dad’s single malt, priceless. A stunningly good set delivered with aplomb by this energetic frontman, it’s obvious why he was chosen to play the young Steven Tylor in a recent documentary.
Sadly, SKAM fell by the wayside, Steve Hill, another victim to a positive LFT, in their place we have the Wicked Jackals. They played a great set and paid a fitting tribute to the absent guys.
Hollowstar made a huge impression. Having seen them a few times now, it’s unbelievable the improvement they have made in their stage presence.
They were never shrinking violets, but the time spent in lock down has not been wasted. The confidence these guys exude during the time on stage is fantastic to see. What a knock out set. Phil Haines is mesmerising as he jumps onto the speaker stack, in the pit, to demonstrate he’s no slouch in the lead guitar battle, my standout band of the day.
With orders and special instruction’s, we wait patiently for Massive Wagons to appear. Their set hidden behind a huge banner its obvious we are in for a treat, and a treat indeed. With pyro’s going off flames, sparks, confetti canons (I pity the grounds man) Baz and the boys deliver a knock out head line set.
Having seen MW’s a few weeks previously at Stonedead this one was next level. Dressed as Where’s Wally, Baz, devours the stage, hair being flicked here there and everywhere. His antics, full of vim and vigour, typical Baz as he throws his mike stand around the stage, his presence blows the minds of all that are watching.
I’m not a huge MW’s fan having seen them more than a few times, but this was a new revitalised band and hats off to them they smashed the headline and closing act slot effortlessly. What a finish to a great weekend.
A somewhat lack lustre desire to move suddenly sets in. The plan is to drive back tonight. Massive Wagons were on at 8pm its now just gone 9:30 home in tome for bed and medals.
A good bye to friends new and old and we hobble back to the car, my feet have not feeling in them at all, I’m shuffling like a Michael Bentine’s Potty Time character. I’m in pain thankfully my motor is automatic so stop n go simples.
Steve Hughes and the gang have done the impossible. Despite lockdown, they have put together a triumphant weekend of Music.
The saying ‘build it and they will come’ is no truer than what they have managed to achieve this year. Seeing Steve, Giany and Gino charging around the site continuously ensuring that everything is working was inspiring. It wasn’t until the headline acts did you see any of them relax and enjoy the fruits of their labours.
A nice touch earlier in the day was when Steve took the time to drag the volunteers into the pit and personally thank each and every one of them. Yes, they volunteered but that moment reinforced that without them there would be no show!
Well done all! Here’s to next year, but first please, all of you have a well-earned rest
And as for Pete Mally I hope his voice recovers, I hope he finds his wife’s knickers that at one point were on my head, and that at least one person bought a copy of his book!
The guy was a legend and did a seamless job in tying the bands together.
Thank you, my friend, legend!
Photography by Andrew Houghton