Newark Showground, Nottingham
August 25th & 26th, 2023
Review By Smudge photos by Sumdge and Adrian Hextall
The fifth anniversary of Stonedead was tinged with sadness what with the sad unexpected death of FM’s Chris Overland during the week and just as we arrived the announcement that the legendary former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden had died too. All those in attendance decided to celebrate the lives of two fine musicians in the only way they knew by drinking vast quantities of fine ale and rockin’ out.
Friday – I have been a regular visitor to Stonedead and I’ve seen it grow and make subtle changes to the running and the set-up. The one thing that has not changed is the staff who are all polite, friendly and extremely helpful something that other festivals in the UK could learn from. Kicking off the Friday night party were The Karma Effect who breezed on and enjoyed the big stage with their fabulous blues rock which was warm and familiar but with a modern edge.
Singer/Guitarist Henry Gottelier is the closest thing I have heard to Steve Marriott and the band behind him made it look easy. They gave us songs like ‘Mercy’ and ‘The River’ which hit the spot perfectly. Unfortunately, midway through their set the heavens opened and a lightning strike hit the stage – how very Metal!! So, in the interests of health and safety, the band had to come off and the rest of us got soaked wet through. It didn’t dampen our spirits though (sorry). The Karma Effect returned a short while later and we were assured that neither of the other two acts would have their sets shortened because of the lightning strike.
Kira Mac entered the stage, having never heard anything from them I was interested to see what they would bring and whether they would live up to their recent reputation. We got a touch of blues tinged with country, a whole lotta rock n roll and a bit of soul. Both guitarists knew their way around a fretboard and pulled shapes for a focal point but there was just something extra missing. Can’t put my finger on it – maybe I need to be exposed to their music a bit more. Huge cheers greeted Myke Gray who appeared last year and played tracks off his Shades of Gray project.
Today he delved deep back into his career and brought a bag load of Skin and Jagged Edge numbers which the crowd lapped up. Helping him out were his expert band including my old chum Neil Ogden giving it large behind the kit and the vocal expertise of Daniel Byrne who shone on the excellent ballad ‘Which Of The Tears’ and the funk metal party ‘Money’. Gray has lost none of his dexterity and shows once again why he was often considered for larger bands who were looking to recruit. Looking around the crowd they were very pleased with what they had been given for Friday’s party and most were looking forward to doing it all again on Saturday.
Saturday – The risk of rain was evident, but we were prepared for it. The crowd was noticeably larger and noisier as Collateral opened the days shenanigans. I’ve seen Collateral a couple of times and I’ve listened to their record and my opinion of them has not changed – I think they are average with average songs and average ability, but the crowd liked them and that’s what counts.
There was more of a buzz when South Of Salem’s two freaky (and very attractive) dancers clambered onto their podiums. The band came on and blew us away with their dark melodic metal. Their music and performance is suited to the bigger stage where we were treated to huge bangers like ‘Let Us Pray’, ‘The Hate In Me’, new song ‘Static’, the monstrous ‘No Plague Like Home’, ‘Pretty Little Nightmare’ and the final boom of ‘Cold Day In Hell’.
From dark and heavy we went to the hair metal Sunset strip vibes of Deraps from Canada. All I’m going to say is Van Halen! That gives you a taste of their flavour and boy did they tear it up. Only a three-piece they brought their ‘A’ game and finished with some crowd-pleasing covers – ‘Hot For Teacher’, ‘Highway Star’ and a raucous ‘Ballroom Blitz’ which got everyone of all ages going crazy. Deraps – perfect for a festival.
It was time to get heavy again with Florence Black – deputising at short notice for Mason Hill – They are another I have seen a few times and they just get better and better.
The sound they make is huge with a ton of groove and melody and they’re not afraid to go into some pretty dark and heavy territory with the likes of ‘Smoke’, ‘Black Cat’, ’The Deep End’ their cover of Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’ and the one everybody came to hear the utterly superb ‘Sun And Moon’. I decided it was time for food, so I sacked off King King who, in my opinion, was just not suited for this festival.
The first four bands had brought a bundle of energy and got the crowd going but for me from what I heard and saw King King felt a bit flat.
They are great at what they do, no doubt, but it just didn’t work. The Answer followed and brought some semblance of energy back and singer Cormac Neeson played the Blues Messiah by leaping into the crowd and cajoling them to get down on their knees in some sort of gospel ritual.
Things did get going again as Therapy? Came and crushed with their Northern Irish riffing and shouting (trademarked by Andy Cairns). The crowd absolutely loved them and bounced along with bassman Michael McKeegan to every number. Cairns encouraged everybody to speak in a Northern Irish accent then obliterated us with the likes of ‘Diane’, ‘Teethgrinder’ and the mighty set closer of ‘Screamager’ which literally brought the house down.
Black Star Riders have reached a level of performance where you pretty much get what you expect. Their set was full of finely crafted tunes before the crowd went wild for ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Crazy Horses’ before the stirring ‘Finest Hour’ finished their evening.
When Blue Oyster Cult were announced as headliners, I must admit I was sceptical. I have heard horror stories about their behaviour and attitude towards fellow bands and staff plus I think you have to be a real true fan of the band to appreciate them. We all know that one song but will people stand or sit through a whole set just to hear it? They started brightly enough but it was evident that Eric Bloom’s voice was not what it once was, sounding thin and weak.
They carried on and brought out ‘That Was Me’, ‘The Golden Age Of Leather’, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Burnin’ For You’ but they sounded slow and dated. The cheers went up for ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ and we got an extended jam on the final cut ‘Cities On Flame With Rock n Roll’ but most of the crowd had left well before then and the talk was that it was a disappointing end.
That said, Stonedead overall has once again done a remarkable job as always. All the staff were friendly, engaging and willing to help especially LJ and Carly. I have to say thanks to Mark Ellis for his hard work in dealing with the photo pit and new friends Craig and Paul who were attending their first Stonedead and of course my old mucka Adrian Hextall. One of the things I love about this festival is that you get to see loads of members of other bands just there for the craic. We bumped into members of She Burns Red, Circus 66, Star Circus, Doomsday Outlaw, The Dust Coda, King Kraken and a few others – none would admit to being on next year’s bill. Here’s to next year – who’s gonna headline?