Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Now in its 14th incarnation HRH returns to the East coast of Norfolk for a second time. Following the initial west to east transitional shift to Great Yarmouth in 2019 this is an emotional gathering of the musical clans; the HRH family are back as one.
The spectral near-death knell of Covid and the subsequent lockdown have had their collective effect but momentum is gathering slowly but surely; the signs of positive re-energisation are there to be seen.
Although the pandemic continues to wreak it’s influence upon the industry there is a steely determination within Team HRH that, in the immortal words rooted in the traditions of nineteenth century circus, “The show must go on”. Challenges of varying nature are placed en route to opening day but they are cleared in the metaphorical realm.
Cometh the time when the clock strikes the hour of rock so the doors swing open to the festivities that dwell within.
The glory days of this renown seaside resort are on the wane but there’s a strong sense of identity here on the sandy shores of the southern reaches of the North Sea.
The holiday expresses are long gone and clowns in barrels are no longer towed down the River Bure by geese. However, the neon lights of the seafront arcades shine brightly as a new generation of ‘staycationers’ rediscover the holidays of their forebearers.
A Spanish guitar themed intro with a pounding beat heralds the arrival, right out of the Worcester badlands, of the highly animated and sublimely unique banditos who ride under the moniker of Gypsy Pistoleros. The lighting flashes, an unseen brass section – no doubt formed from the ranks of the undead – heightens the frontier feel. Coyotes, seeking solitary company, howl at the midnight moon that casts a glow upon the arenaceous desert plain.
Vocals snarl, the guitar growls whilst the drummer pulverises everything within his reach; the Pistoleros are in town. Lock up your tequila for none is safe.
The utterly riotous ‘Hotel De La Muerta’ kicks off the entire festival with front man Gypsy Lee sporting the finest sombrero this side of Norwich.
The self-proclamation of ‘The Greatest Flamenco Sleaze Glam Band Ever’ is an accurate selection of words with an acoustic Dogs D’Amour feeling being countered with the arid devil-dog attitude of Ghoultown.
A lone gunslinger enters the dustworn town, mesas and buttes silhouetted upon the wildscape’s horizon, curtains twitch as shadows dart out of sight. ‘The Name’s Django!’ he cries; his bounty he seeks.
The ranks of The Pistoleros are a quarter down on the previous evening. Gypsy Lee explains “We’ve sacked our bass player. He got fucked up on Jager last night at the awards.
You’ve got the original three piece from the album tonight.” There’s no dip in the intensity, to their collective credit, with hard galloping rockers nestling in with punk-edged westerns butting into Mexican inspired six-strings.
The ghosts that dwell within the depths of the disused mine fly from the adit into the clear, starlit sky as ‘Gun In My Hand’ romps along the freeway.
A rollickingly high-paced deliverance of ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ ends a stunning set with Lee explaining “This will be our Christmas single, we’ve got Jon Morton (RATM vs X Factor) on board. All proceeds will be going to Shelter.
The tres amigos barrel through Ricky Martin’s hit single “Like a bullet to your muthafucking brain”. There will be no better way to spend time once the traditional serving of ‘From Russia With Love’ has rolled its closing credits on the festive day.
Hotfooting it over from Javea, Spain are multinational four-piece Happy Freuds; a punchy heads down no-nonsense hard rocking bunch. Throughout their polished nine track set classic vibes flow forth from the quadrumvirate; an outfit that features Swedish brothers Teo (lead guitar/vocals) and Victor Holmstrom (drums) along with Jack Hunter (bass) and Sergio Canadas (guitar).
The ear-catching power riffs of ‘Push’ impress as does the track’s pounding mid-song rhythms from Jack and Victor. Think Pearl Jam melded with The Rolling Stones to head towards the expansive arena that these guys inhabit. ‘Break’ assaults the senses with a snarling, roaring full-frontal incursion. Although a largely unknown quantity they’re most warmly received; the HRH crowd know potential when they see it.
‘Song X’ features a soaring solo and as the last notes fade away Teo raises his pick towards the skies. The chopping riffs of The Freuds’ new song ‘No Rush’ wrap about a gentler middle; shades of varying light. This has been an accomplished performance which is rounded off with further powerful riffs that come hurtling out of ‘Panic Machine’; there’s a hint of an embryonic Nirvana herein. Excellent stuff.
Hurtling at breakneck speed, a spectral Brownian motion of sorts – shaken not stirred however – South Of Salem have departed their South coast diurnal lairs to tear up HRH with their gothic punk metal. Fresh from winning the Rising Stars award at the previous night’s HRH Awards the Salem pack are in rapacious carnivorous mood once more as carnal nocturnal activities call loudly across the ether.
Full pelt their oh-too-short set cracks off with vampiric punk-fuelled ‘Let Us Prey’ rattling the very rafters; the guardians of the night flooding from their roosts. A regnant camarilla Bournemouth’s very own Lost Boys wassail upon fresh blood.
Stage One is packed and the crowd lap it right up as the Wisthounds growl as they blaze a fiery trail with ‘Another Nail In My Coffin’. Engaging frontman Joey attacks the front of the stage whilst his fellow Salem brethren are the perfect complement. Filled with diablery ‘Demons Are Forever’ summons the underworld; an ethereal mist descends and brimstone snorting cacodemons awaken.
The howling guitars of Kodi and Starfish gnash incisors in a musical fashion; tortured and anguished they’re a thing of combined darkened beauty. Layered upon a solid base of mutilated rhythms from the depths of Hades it’s a temptuous and stormy concoction that bassist Dee and drummer Pip deliver.
The toxic romance of ‘Pretty Little Nightmare’ can’t be resisted; a love of the finer, darker things in life. The bar has been lifted several notches and the roof is lifted for a final time by SOS with the infectious stalking of ‘Cold Day In Hell’. The following band have a high bar to reach such is the stock of this Dorsetshire quintet even though they’ve only recently reached the double figure mark gigwise.
Entering to Lizzy’s classic ‘Rosalie’ the fourth band of the day, The New Roses, take to the HRH boards in explosive fashion. Frontman, and founding member, Timmy Rough enquires “So you guys ready for a rock n’ roll party from Germany?” The loud response draws the conclusion that Camp HRH most certainly do! Initiating business with the Southern-infused ‘Nothing But Wild’, the titular track of their most recent long-playing offering, the hard rocking quartet are swiftly into action.
Alloying the swaggering riffs of Aerosmith and Rolling Stones alongside a fast stomping beat results in an irresistible force rammed full of dynamic energy. This force is the perfect fuel for this good-time whisky drinking rock; it’s a hard driving machine that powers along the autobahn with the top right down.
The heavy southern-drenched beast that is ‘It’s A Long Way’ possesses an AC/DC edge that is loudly received by the large gathering. It’s been a couple of years since the Roses last landed upon these shores and a further number of years since they last played an HRH festival; this is a band that is much loved and their return is much vaunted.
The sleazy, gritty ZZ Top-esque tones of ‘Whiskey Nightmare’ are the consummate melodious accompaniment to the party atmosphere of the opening night. Whilst the anthemic ‘Glory Road’, lifted from 2019’s ‘Nothing But Wild’ album, brings elements of Tom Petty and Johnny Cash to the revelries for a country-fenced rocker.
The Roses are far removed from being a one trick pony; in fact the next song ‘Down To The River’ demonstrates the highly polished collective output is akin to the starting line of the Grand National. The very spirits of Springsteen and Petty envelop a core inhabited by The Black Crowes within this notable crowd favourite.
A fine set is brought to a befitting finale with the classic ‘boogie-woogie’ of ‘Thirsty’ with Timmy exclaiming “We’re The New Roses from Germany and we love rock n’ roll!”.
We’re HRH from all over and we love The New Roses!
Cacophonous salutations greet the Sheffield steel of the recently re-formed Black Spiders as they take to the HRH stage to the strains of a heavy-riffing Sabbath-esque intro.
It’s a hundred miles per hour, full throttle thundering metal with wrecking-ball ‘Dead Comes Creepin’ bringing more than a touch of Motorhead and Metallica to feed the ravenous hordes. Cosmic six-strings, a rumbling bass and hard as nails beats lead the crowd in worship of ‘St. Peter’; it’s deep, dark dirty blues-laden riffs eliciting fervour afront the metaphorical altar.
Flanked with the darkest of candles that burn a fierce blue flame the scene is completed. It’s proper metal right out of the old-school amphitheatre; it’s furiously paced and raises a celebrious middle finger to conformity.
You gotta tear it up. You gotta live it up” snarls frontman Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby as the conflagrant ‘Stabbed In The Back’ ignites the first mosh pit of the festival. Bodies bounce and horns are raised, there’s no relenting as the Spiders follow up with a barnstorming version of The Easybeat’s ‘Good Times; an absolute octopedal metal banger mined from the vein that The Amorettes once tore up.
The Spiders have a crystal clear notion of what they have set out to achieve; there’s allotropes of Sabbath melded with the alloying elements of AC/DC and Motorhead herein. It’s just what the medical metalliferous doctors have ordered. A thousand head of cattle stampede the arena as ‘Teenage Knife Gang’ kicks and screams in demonic manner.
It’s high tensile metallic rock n’ roll that is comletely absorbed by a highly-charged and packed to the very rafters arena. Mercifully there’s a reasonable interval to draw breath and restore energy levels before the Geordie high lords of rock n’ rolling mayhem throw their penneth-worth into the HRH ring. The Spiders have come, The Spiders have conquered.
Once asked to describe their career in four words or less Ginger Wildheart replied “Can’t believe we’re alive.” The Wildhearts’ excesses and anti-establishment stance have generated press aplenty over the years but that’s not the reason that the Stage One arena is packed to the gunwales.
Expectancy is edging off the veritable scale and the atmosphere is live with electricity, green-powered naturally. Ginger’s words “Don’t Worry About Me, I’ll be alright” reverberate around the gently steaming arena as the intro tape signifies the drawing close of showtime.
The punk fuelled quartet deliver a ‘Diagnosis’; “your system is fucked” sneers Ginger. The dials of ‘Vanilla Radio’ are turned to 12 before the crowd erupts as the helter-skelter riot of ‘Sick of Drugs’ – The Wildhearts’ highest charting UK single – gets the crowd pogoing madly.
A snappily spiky ‘Caffeine Bomb’ ensures the riot continues apace before bassist Danny McCormack steps up to the mic for ‘Anthem’.
There’s much in the way of punk attitude within especially the chorus that tips wide-brimmed head apparel to The Clash’s ‘Janie Jone’. We’re all in love with that rock n’ roll world but none more so than the dude who took the acclaim for the first crowd surfer of the night!
A thousand fake heroes sidle up to the throne but can’t get further than the arena door; there’s no room herein. ‘Everlone’ is given a rumbustious deliverance with CJ hammering the heck out of his six strings.
The expansive back catalogue is delved into for a sing-a-long ‘Let Em Go’ and a buzz sawn ‘Caprice’ which concludes, in fine fettle, the main body of the set.
The Wildhearts however, are far from done and return for a triple encore of utter classics. The incendiary coupling of ‘My Baby Is a Headfuck’ and ‘Suckerpunch’ off the debuting album ‘Earth vs The Wildhearts’ scorch a trail into the darkest of souls prior to the absolute anthem ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ applies the beautiful coup de grace. It’s been a roof-lifter of a set for sure and a flawless opening HRH night.
Photography by Pete Key for MPM
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM