Review by Howard Whitelaw for MPM
Having promised wall to wall sunshine on Saturday earlier in the week, now we were here, the outlook wasn’t so promising from a weather point of view. But looking on the bright side, it was late morning and I had the best part of 11 hours of live music ahead of me, so whatever the weather threw at me I didn’t really care!
First up on day 2 of Maid of Stone was Skinny Knowledge who took to the Maiden stage in their colourful shirts and immediately set about waking up anyone who had slept in on the nearby camping area.
Formed in 2020 this 4-piece alt-pop punk rock band from the south of England started with ‘Whoah Rock n Roll’ for their first ever gig in Kent and got the early risers (well ok it was 11.30am!) shaking off any hangovers as they soon moved onto their 2022 single ‘Stereo’.
A short tease of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ was soon curtailed and lead singer and guitarist Andy Smooth was into ‘Molly I’m Not Coming Down’ before the bands latest single ‘Disobey’ which is released next month.
It’s always difficult for the first band of the day as people wander around searching for breakfast, the showers or just seeing who’s on out of curiosity, but Skinny Knowledge pulled in a respectable crowd and looked like they were having a ball on stage.
In turn the audience showed their appreciation as the band worked through their set with boundless enthusiasm. The 45 minute set was soon coming to a close as the guys wrapped it up with ‘Keep Me Out Of It’.
Time to take a wander across the arena via the axe throwing trailer where 2 ladies were slinging axes into wooden targets, thankfully within the confines of a metal cage. If I were their Husband, I would be hiding the knives when I got home just to be safe!
Next stop was the Jeff Beck Memorial Stage to see Collateral in their home town gig, having last seen them live in this very location at the Ramblin’ Man Festival, before the departure of lead guitarist Todd Winger. However, for reasons that weren’t made clear they didn’t start their set until over 20 minutes later than scheduled.
Eventually, Angelo joined the band on stage and they broke into ‘Big Shot’ before he donned his acoustic guitar for ‘Midnite Queen’ and ‘Sin In The City’. Having seen the guys 4 years previously I was impressed enough then to go out and buy their debut album, but it was now a little like going back in time as the set was fairly predictable.
To be fair to them, a good sized crowd had gathered and were enjoying the show, even when Ben broke one of his drums and had to call for a replacement before continuing with ‘Promised Land’. By now the skies were starting to look a little dark and the wind was blowing but the crowd stood firm to see the boys finish their eight song set, which having started late was cut short to about 25 minutes.
I decided to stay at the Jeff Beck stage for Kira Mac who were not a band I had seen before. One of the beauty of festivals is that you do get the opportunity to see bands you may not normally go out of your way to see.
It turned out to be a very good decision as I was soon into a set that was packed full of driving beats, scorching riffs and stunning vocals from lead singer Rhiannon Hill Most of the set was comprised of tracks from their debut album released in November 2022 with Hill’s vocals standing out on ‘Dead Man Walking’ before they slip neatly into the catchy title track ‘Chaos Is Calling’.
The heavens then opened, but despite the rain the audience didn’t budge and were rewarded with a set that not only captured great music but also Hill’s infectious humour and enthusiasm between songs which was used to great effect while she filled for time with guitarist Joe Worrall having technical difficulties with his guitar.
Technical difficulties overcome the set continued with ‘Scorned’ and ‘Hellfire And Holy Water’ which even had a guy at the front waving both his crutches in the air, while I was wondering how he was still standing, but he seemed to be not only coping but having a great time.
Kira Mac’s sound is big and in places reminiscent of Black Stone Cherry and Nickelback with touches of Country thrown in for good measure, which when coupled with Hill’s vocals give spectacular results. Far too soon the set was concluding as the band worked through ‘Hit Me Again, ‘Mississippi Swinging’ and finishing with ‘One Way Ticket’. The band lapped up the recognition that we had all enjoyed the set and wanted more, but sadly that was it.
Having just seen a relatively new band on the rise that I wanted to hear more of, my attention then switched to the legendary Tygers of Pan Tang on the Phoenix stage that I first came across around 1982 when they released their cover version of ‘Love Potion No 9’.
These days Robb Weir is the only original member still in the line up, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by and was in at the barrier for the start of the set. It was evident from the off, that the band were sticking to what we knew and loved them for and that was old school heavy rock. The band gelled well and sounded polished with the vocals of Italian lead singer Jacapo Meille as strong as I heard during the weekend.
The set flitted between older tracks like ‘Love Don’t Stay’ and ‘Gangland’ from their 1980’s heyday to ‘The Edge Of The World’ from their new album released later year, but all were received enthusiastically by the ever burgeoning crowd.
The hardcore fans alongside me sang their hearts out to ‘Paris By Air’ and it was evident that the band were enjoying the positive vibe they were getting from the crowd which they had achieved by getting just the right balance between their old classics and the new tracks.
‘Slave To Freedom’ bought a cheer from the assembled masses before the band were joined on stage by a troll who showed an interest the guitar work of Francesco Marras and hung around for a while on the now crowded stage, before departing once again. The band then closed their show with ‘Hellbound’, another track from the 80’s before departing with cheers and whistles ringing in their ears.
The 45 minutes between acts on the Phoenix stage gave me enough time to grab a drink and take shelter from the fine rain that had been slowly seeping though my jacket since the Kira Mac set 2 hours earlier, but a little rain wasn’t going to stop me from returning to see Gin Annie.
The lads from Wolverhampton have been a favourite of mine since I picked up on their tracks on YouTube and having seen them live a couple of time since, I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time with new guitarist Marc Bradley.
It was pretty obvious the band were pumped to be here as they bounded out on stage and broke into “New Bad Habit” followed by ‘Rain’ which considering the conditions was the most relevant song of the day, Byron Garbett and Marc Bradley switching sides of the stage to whip up the drenched crowd.
Gin Annie have always been good live, but David Foster’s voice was sounding particularly strong and the recent lineup change seems to have given them a boost which came through loud and clear, none more so than when they did a cover version of Seal’s ‘Crazy’ which was received very well.
Despite the continuing bad weather they lifted the crowd with the new single ‘Perfect Nightmare’ and closed with ‘Devil in Me’ to the delight of the existing fans, while winning themselves plenty of new ones in the process.
A short break for yours truly followed before I was back at the Jeff Beck stage to see Orange Goblin and a large crowd had already gathered in anticipation of the rock legend’s performance. These boys have been going since 1995 so they already have a dedicated fanbase but their album output has been modest by any standards over in the intervening 28 years.
First thing I noticed was the lead singer Ben Ward had been shorn of his long locks, making him almost unrecognisable, but once he started singing there was no mistaking his growling voice. Prowling the stage fist pumping the crowd as he went, he’s a massive presence in attitude as well as stature.
Alongside him Joe Hoare was playing some seriously searing guitar, while facing off with Harry Armstrong on bass and Chris Turner completes the quartet while thumping the tubs. Between them they were knocking out some serious rock that the audience were lapping up as they bounced and clapped along.
When Ward introduces ‘Renegade’ from the 2018 album ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ he dedicates it to Lemmy – a nice touch that the man is still in our thoughts.
The final act on Saturday was all time rock legend Glenn Hughes performing Deep Purple tracks to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic album ‘Burn’. This is a guy who has had an amazing career and has fronted Black Country Communion and The Dead Daisies in recent years in addition to his own solo work and the crowd had swollen considerably to see him.
So many classic songs are at his disposal and he opened with ‘Stormbringer’ with ‘Highway Star’ and ‘Burn’ also included, living up to the moniker of the ‘Voice of Rock’ at the same time as proving that he can still play the bass as well as anyone.
He took a moment to dedicate ‘Getting’ Tighter’ to the memory of his Deep Purple mate Tommy Bolin and with the band sounding tight, he gave the very wet, but very happy crowd exactly what they had come for and sent them into the night happy at the end of day 2.
Photography by Paul Sabin for MPM