Review & Photography by Lindsay Smith for MPM
The fourth Stonedead Festival has again got lucky with the weather as sunshine floods the outdoor showground and families and friends set their chairs up or take their positions for a full on day of live music from some of the best bands around.
An array of food options, stalls and bars ringing the arena and a well planned accessibility platform next to the sound and lighting desk ensure no one has to go far from the music today.
No matter where you sit or stand, you can see the stage, higher and bigger than previous years with screens allowing all to see exactly what’s going on. So. Let’s get to it!
Kicking things off are poll winners These Wicked Rivers from Derby. An immense sound of heavy blues rock rumbles out of the PA’s as in stark contrast to the grandma’s living room lamps of the stage set.
The stonking baselines and powerful beats underpin the gravel blues tones of John Hartwell’s vocal. A band known for the depth of their lyrics, the power of the emotion always gets me with these guys. A true talent and worthy openers. A brilliant start to this one day, one stage, monster of a festival.
American sleaze rockers Kickin Valentina in contrast to the rich blues-rock of our openers, smashed into their set of gravel rough, dirty riff laced songs, winning over new fans with serious attitude, and some kick-ass songs.
The biggest win of the day was winning the hearts of the Stonedead audience with a special guest appearance from a young fan who joined them on stage to play alongside the band. What a lovely gesture!
From American Sleaze rock to British stalwarts Tygers of Pan Tang who are enjoying a rejuvenation of late and epitomise the heart of Stonedead in bringing in classic NWOCR bands.
The band are more of an updated take of their old selves however with only Robb Weir remaining from their original 1978 line-up, but they sound phenomenal.
I’ve seen them more than a few times over the years and I can honestly say they always deliver. Guitarist Francesco Marras and Bassist Huw Holding have breathed new life into the band who have a new EP out and an album due in 2023.
The Treatment were next up and again a band that I had been looking forward to seeing. I love their full-on classic rock sound with so many good songs the setlist would be sure to keep the sun shining with infections hooks and riffs and big choruses and guess what?
They did – splendid in the sunshine, roaring riffs and melodic strong vocals ensured that no one was dozing, and everyone was on their feet rocking out. Catch them on tour with Reckless Love.
Bouncing onto the stage Kenny Leckremo is back with Swedish rockers HEAT after 10 years and from the opening lyrics od ‘One By One’ it’s like he has never been away! HEAT literally turned up the heat with sensational harmonies, magical musicality and full-on fabulousness…. A set spanning their albums including songs from their new album ‘Force Majeure ‘.
Leckremo is the epitome of a front man, he’s a ringleader and a showman, a master of ceremonies, but predominantly an incredible vocalist, never faltering or missing a note as he bounces and runs around the stage.
Songs including ‘Rock Your Body’, ‘Hollywood’ and ‘ Dangerous Ground’ hit the festival vibe and walking through the crowd, people were dancing and singing along, revelling in the music and having a bloody good time.
Many new fans were deservedly won, ear worm songs embedding in brains long after the guys have finished their triumphant set.
The crowd remains tight up against the barrier as local(ish) band STONE BROKEN take to the stage amid rapturous applause and cheers. A favourite on many people playlist and a draw for any gig goer, the band have the songs and the polished performance down to a fine and well oiled art.
They mix it up opening with ‘Revelation’ and ‘Heartbeat Away’ nestling nicely together. “Stronger’ shows the song writing at it’s emotional finest as the band have developed and progressed.
You would be hard pushed to follow HEAT without seeming lacklustre but STONE BROKEN smashed it out of the park – well showground.
A wonderful polished and perfect performance highlighted by a marriage proposal from a fan who had been invited to watch from side stage with their partner after winning a competition (a ploy and planned by the bride to be and the band). He said yes, so that was all perfect too!
I’d been looking forward to seeing Vandenberg even after hearing some mixed reviews after their UK appearance last year. As I do like Adrian’s playing and songs like ‘Hell and High Water’ are good plus the added bonus of Whitesnake classics being played such as ‘Judgement Day’ and ‘Here I Go Again’ too, I was happy to give it a go.
I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but I felt that the whole set almost deflated the crowd. From such strong performances getting the festival vibe up to ten, this one felt like everything was turned down to 7. I can’t say they weren’t good, they are but they didn’t keep up the festival feel.
I’d have liked to see Adrian come forward and throw some shapes but it felt all a bit timid. Musically they were brilliant and vocally great from Mats Levén but no chemistry.
However, it was good to hear some classics and many in the crowd were in full voice. Just a bit subdued for me.
Special Guest slot went to THOSE DAMN CROWS who are the very embodiment of new British Rock. A band who are tight and a frontman who was born to command a crowd.
The security team are briefed about the ‘possibility’ that afore mentioned frontman Shane ‘might’ go into the crowd or climb on something as he tends to do. No might about it chaps! Emerging from a very smoky stage, he climbs on the barrier early on in the set and then about 2/3rds into the set he is off over the barrier and headed for the accessibility platform returning adorned in a Welsh flag .
The set list has the Crow Choir at full voice, young fans pressed against the barrier knowing every word to every song, the next generation of rock fans being incredibly well educated by their parents.
Fast paced, hard and heavy riffs, blasting bass and drums are The Crows sound from the off but it’s when Shane sits at the piano and begins ‘Blink Of An Eye’ the crowd sing but many with a lump in their throats and a tear in their eye as the powerful emotion in the song hits hard with many.
That voice! Spinetingling. A cracking set ramping up the tempo with songs including ‘Sin On Skin’ and new song “Wake Up’ showing the progression of the band from huge chouses, soaring riffs into grimy dirty heavy riff territory which is a winner in my book.
Plenty of chat from Shane, plenty of giggles but most importantly plenty of fabulous music from a band who showed why they deserve the special guest slot. Big things coming for this band I hope. Just brilliant, nailed it…
So we are there, the final band, Headliners MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, fresh from a hugely successful gig in Scotland, the band seem up for the challenge of following Those Damn Crows. A beaming Michael and his Dean Flying V taking up his familiar stance as ‘Into The Arena’ blasted out from the maestro. The dexterity of this legends playing is astounding.
The current tour marks his 50th year of performing in the big time and also a new album ‘Universal’ which has all the traits of Schenker. He is a master at work. Joined on stage by the fabulous Ronnie Romero, the band seems gelled and polished.
Michael seems relaxed but focussed with easy chat and a request to turn some lights on at the front of the stage so he doesn’t fall into blackness are met with cheers.
More light on the main man. The UFO classics such as ‘Doctor Doctor’, ‘Rock Bottom, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’ interspersed with MSG songs including ‘Armed and Ready’ keep the enthralled and delighted Stonedead Festival crowd transfixed and held hostage by the magic of Mr Schenker and co to the very end.
Well what a day! Phenomenal bands, incredible staff and volunteers, superb organisation, even cakes and tea for the press which was massively appreciated!
The irreverent and entertaining Krusher Jule compared the day in his own inimitable style… and was presented with an award on stage for his services to Rock after he himself had made a presentation to the late John Hendley’s wife and daughter, who was a member of the Stonedead team losing his battle to cancer.
The traditional toast to the fallen and the wonderful fly past by The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster makes this festival personal to so many.
A family friendly (Hands over the delicate ears when Krusher is on stage) festival which retains the whole ‘One Day, One Stage, Monsters of Rock vibe is what makes this such a special festival and long may it continue.
So many thank you’s and appreciation from us here at Metal Planet Music for allowing us to cover this amazing festival which is run by fans for the fans.
And superbly so.