Review by Howard Whittlaw for MPM
It’s 4 years since Kent last hosted Ramblin’ Man festival that bought the great and good of the rock, blues and Americana world alongside more leather than a herd of Fresians to the Garden of England.
Since the demise of the aforementioned festival, the South East corner of the UK has been somewhat quieter, but that was all about to change this weekend as Maid Of Stone, a brand new rock and blues festival took up a 3 day residence in Mote Park, Maidstone.
Some big names from the rock world were attracted (more of that later), along with some local and up and coming bands who would be spread across the 3 stages – the Maiden stage, the Phoenix Stage and the Jeff Beck Memorial stage, named after the guitar legend who lived in Kent and passed away earlier this year, so there was a good mix and something for everyone.
The festival kicked off on Friday night with Rockaoke, where pre-selected members of the gathered masses sang on stage alongside a live band to rock classics. It was an interesting start to the evening with a definite ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ feel to it, but all done with great humour and certainly got the audience warmed up for the 3 bands that were to follow.
The first of these was Fury who were enthusiastically received having asked “who wants some rock n roll?” before they ripped into their set at breakneck speed with Julien Jenkins and Nyah Ifill sharing vocal duties on the early tracks.
The 5 piece from the West Midlands have been around a little while, releasing their first album ‘The Lightning Dream’ in 2014 and a number of line up changes have occurred through the years, but they are sounding punchy tonight and soon get the audience bouncing.
‘Burnout’ from their album ‘Born To Sin’ is next up, allowing each of the members to showcase their abilities and there is some serious talent here. The set is fast and loud and the audience are encouraged to participate and they duly oblige by singing and clapping along when directed.
As the set comes to a close the mood is slowed with ‘Upon The Lonesome Tide’, a ballad which gives Jenkins a chance to show us the quieter side of his vocal range before a belting finale which sees the band leave the stage to rapturous applause and plenty of the audience talking of giving them another listen when they get home.
Next up were The Hot Damn, an all female 4 piece who won the early award for most colourful band of the night and probably as it turned out, the weekend. The music is very much pop rock and its obvious the band don’t take themselves too seriously, They are out to enjoy the ride and aim to take their audience with them with plenty of feel good songs.
Gill Montgomery the lead singer, had plenty of power in her voice and used it to good effect to bring a party infused vibe to the Maiden stage.
The catchy ‘Jukebox On The Radio’ soon followed closely followed by an announcement that a new album had just been finished.
This was followed by a warning of low flying shoes during the next song as flip flops had been lost during previous gigs, hitting one unlucky punter in the face. With all shoes secured the fun continued with the new single ‘Live, Laugh, Love’.
A shameless rip off of Janis Joplin’s ‘Mercedes Benz’ then rang out, complete with amended lyrics, to promote the merch stand before we were into the last track of the evening ‘I Didn’t Like You Anyway’. Once again the crowd gave the band a good send off.
The final offering for the opening night was The Treatment, who were headlining Friday on the Maiden stage. Formed in 2008 in Cambridge these boys kicked off their set with ‘Lets Get Dirty’ and ‘Runaway Train’, both of which are high octane slabs of rock n roll.
The volume had been turned up and the end to the night was going to be a raucous one! The Maiden stage was set within a marquee and it was by now bulging as people moved inside and started to headbang in numbers.
The crowd were loving the heavier sound and as the band worked through the set, the cheering and applause that greeted the end of each song seemed to get louder and longer. ‘Wrong Way’ was belted out, before the AC/DC influenced ‘Bite Back’ had the crowd jumping in numbers.
Tom Rampton proved what a great rock voice he has on ‘Running With The Dogs’ and ‘Shake The Mountain’ as the band headed towards the final songs in the set with ‘Get The Party On’ complete with audience singalong and then a big finale with ‘Rat Race’.
Despite the bands longevity, there were several people around me who had not heard their music before, but fully intended to delve deeper once home, which is one of the advantages of a festival for both bands and punters alike.
On the strength of tonight’s gig I think The Treatment may well have won over plenty of new fans.
The shortest day of 3 completed, there were still plenty of bands to see on Saturday and Sunday.
Photography by Paul Sabin for MPM