review by Tim Marcus with photos from Sam Conquest Photography
As we continue our review of what for us was our final festival of a busy summer we’re back up the mountain for day two of Steelhouse.
Kicking things off today are London-based heavy rockers, Dead Man’s Whiskey. We first saw Dead Man’s Whiskey when they appeared on the small “Rising” stage at the 2018 Ramblin’ Man Fayre. We were impressed that day, have seen them several times since and were very much looking forward to seeing them today. They didn’t disappoint, although only allotted a thirty-minute slot we heard, “Masquerade”, “Never Gonna Win This Fight”, and the powerful, tear jerking, ballad, “Make Me Proud”, a song that Whiskey Chasers will know that Nico was inspired to write by/for his Mum.
Although we’ve seen the band perform this song several times before, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a powerfully emotional vocal performance from Nico as he produced today. I’m fairly sure that he and I were not the only ones on top of the mountain with a tear in our eyes as the song came to its conclusion. As I said, only a short set, finished off with “Racing Bullet”, which seemed to be appreciated by everyone who was there and hopefully, the boys did enough to earn a return invite for a slightly longer set in the not-too-distant future.
Next up were four pieces from Peterborough-based melodic classic rockers, Austin Gold, who delivered their thirty-minute set with fine precision, including “Mountain”, a single from their latest album “Those City Lights”, and “Before Dark Clouds, the title track of their 2017 debut album.
For the second weekend running we find ourselves listening to Black Spiders, having been brought in by Max and Mikey as late replacements for Blues Pills who had had to pull out due to illness in the band. Amongst the songs we hear from this long-established, Sheffield based, quintet of heavy rockers (who incidentally now boast Planet Rock’s very own Wyatt Wendels on drums)during their forty-five-minute set are, “Hot Wheels”, “Stay Down”, “Stabbed in the Back” and the ever popular, “Kiss Tried to Kill Me” and “What Good’s a Rock without a Roll”
Following Black Spiders we get another forty-five-minute set, our first international band of the day, Belgium’s five-piece garage rock outfit, Black Mirrors. Black Mirrors are not a band I’d come across before however the biggest takeaway from this set for me, was the wonderful, sometimes haunting vocal of the wonderful Marcella Di Troia.
A very impressive set then follows from our second international band of the day who are new to me, Canada’s The Damn Truth, who are in the midst of a UK tour. The band entered the stage to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”. Very appropriate as it turns out as the front lady (singer and guitarist) of these thunderous rockers from Montreal, Lee-la Baum, has a very powerful Grace Slick-like vocal.
She is joined by lead guitarist Tom Shemer and PY Letellier (bass) and Dave Trania (drums) as The Damn Truth power their way, maintaining the excitement levels throughout, through a set great of late sixties/early seventies inspired rock, opening with “This Is Who We Are” before it’s all over too soon with the concluding “Tomorrow”. To say that the Damn Truth have gone down here a storm would be a great understatement. A great introduction to them for me and judging from the reaction of the crowd around me, I would tentatively suggest, possibly the band of the festival so far.
There’s little time to recover from the excitement of what we’ve just seen and heard before we’re hit straight between the eyes by the powerhouse heavy rock trio that is Florence Black. Fronted by the charismatic Tristan Thomas, these local boys from just down the road in Merthyr are rapidly gaining momentum as the past two years have seen them steadily climbing up the pecking order on festival billings (including a headline slot which we witnessed this year’s Love rocks).
It’s a powerful, confidently delivered set as they kick things off with ”Smoke” and conclude their sixty-minute slot with a run of “Zulu”, “Sun and Moon”, and of course, sandwiched between the two of these, pay homage to great Welsh rockers, Budgie, with a breakneck paced version of “Breadfan”. I’m sure the late great Burke Shelley is looking down, very proud of what his compatriots have achieved so far.
On the subject of rising local Welsh bands, there’s another one who’s been making rather a lot of noise in recent years. Having probably now appeared at more Steelhouse Festivals than they’ve missed, riding high on the success of the release earlier this year of their third album,” Inhale/Exhale” and probably a band we look forward to seeing more than any other, we’re about to be entertained by Bridgend’s Those Damn Crows.
Entering the stage to flames being shot high into the air, Shane and the boys certainly know how to entertain a festival crowd having done so up and down the country regularly now for the past five years. What we get this evening is a balanced mix of tracks from all three albums. Kicking things off with the thematic “Who Did It” before moving seamlessly into “Send the Reaper (both from album No.2, “Point of No Return”) before we get a couple of tracks, “Man on Fire” and “Wake Up”, from the latest offering. Now it’s time to pay homage to the band’s debut album, “Murder and the Motive” as we get what might be described as a “greatest hits” segment as back to back we get three crowd favourites in the shape of “I Don’t Give A Damn”, “Rock n Roll Ain’t Dead!” and “Blink of an Eye”. “Takedown” from the new album is then sandwiched in between “Go Get It” and the wonderful “Sin on Skin” before Shane gives us all a little exclusive, revealing that Those Damn Crows will be headlining at next year’s Winter’s End in February. We’re into the home straight of this great set now as they continue with “Long Time Dead”, the emotionally charged “This Time I’m Ready” before concluding with the appropriately titled “See You Again” from “Inhale/Exhale”.
This has been another great, crowd-pleasing performance from Shane, Ronnie, “Shiner”, Lloyd and Dave. Having successfully filled the “Special Guest” slot at last year’s Stonedead Festival and now done the same again here tonight at Steelhouse, surely Those Damn Crows are just one small step away from being headliners at a major outdoor weekend festival.
Our final band for day two here at Steelhouse this year are Australian rockers Airbourne who like a number of the bands appearing this weekend, are midway through a UK-wide tour, selling out venues up and down the country. Having seen Airbourne a couple of times at previous Ramblin’ Man festivals, and having read people’s thoughts in the build-up to this weekend, I don’t think it would be unreasonable of me to suggest that they are a bit of a “marmite” band.
On one hand, you have those who just see them as AC/DC “wannabes” and on the other, there are those who love them. For me personally, I sit in the camp of the former however certainly would not disparage or criticise anyone who loves them. As a dear friend of mine says, if you love the music of a particular band then why wouldn’t you want to listen to new-sounding music? Again, being a reasonable person I cannot argue against that, particularly being a fan of Greta Van Fleet, a band who’ve been subject to similar sorts of comments. And as far as Airbourne are concerned, the success of the UK tour and the number of Airbourne t-shirts on the show this weekend would certainly suggest that their headline slot this weekend is greatly anticipated and well deserved.
What we get from them tonight is a full-on ninety minutes of energetic hard rock. Fronted by Joel O’Keeffe, these Aussie rockers kick things off, appropriately with “Ready to Rock”, quickly going into “Too Much Too Young Too Fast”. “Rock n Roll for Life” follows along with “Back in the Game”, before Joel makes a dedication to all the ladies dressed in black this evening with “Girls in Black”. And of course, during an Airbourne show there’s the usual spraying around of beer from the stage by Joel, the photographers in the “pit” being the first recipients early on and then later in the set from down the runway he lets loose on the crowd during “Burnout the Nitro”. “Steel Town” (played especially tonight for this festival), “Bottom of the Well”, “Breakin’ Outa Hell”, “It’s All for Rock n Roll” and “Stand up for Rock n Roll” all follow before the Evening is concluded with a three song encore, comprising “Live It Up”, “Raise the Flag” and “Runnin’ Wild”.
The curtain comes down on another power-packed day at Steelhouse and regardless of which camp you sit in with regards to Airbourne, what cannot be denied is that they gave it their all and left everything on that stage