Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018 is underway. HRH Mag slapped on the sunscreen ahead of another eclectic Mote Park bill.
At some point during the last decade country music suddenly became cool. How? The Outlaw Country Stage provided some of the answers on a day when the genre’s various strands were woven together to create a melting pot of midsummer heat. The sugar sweet harmonies of The Adelaides – think The Coors doing country – were juxtaposed with foreboding blues-tinged rock courtesy of Thomas Wynn And The Believers and a bloke better known for belting out black metal anthems as the face of Behemoth. And then there was the peerless Steve Earle and his damn fine Dukes: a long overdue outing of Copperhead Road and essential cuts from a bulging back catalogue setting the seal on a brilliantly diverse bill. No wonder country’s so cool.
Weeks without rain (and we’re not complaining) and a stiff breeze meant the only downside to Ramblin’ Man 2018 was avoiding the intermittent dust clouds blowing about the fringes of the festival site. But those looking to wipe their eyes sought sanctuary in the remodelled Rising Stage – transformed from last year’s tiny temporary platform into a full-blown tent and still featuring an array of fresh young talent. HRH faves Those Damn Crows kicked things off in typically abrasive style but band of the day had to be The Dust Coda. Built on a foundation of classic 80s hard rock, passers-by could have been forgiven for thinking Ratt had sneaked in through the back gate. Slick – but never sleazy – The Dust Coda could give The Dead Daises a run for their money given half a chance. Check them out at Steelhouse Festival later this month and Hard Rock Hell XII in November.
When Steel Panther were added to the Ramblin’ Man line-up, an already eclectic line-up suddenly became seriously divisive. Swathes of festival regulars flocked to social media decrying the decision to include a band that’s hardly synonymous with a family friendly celebration of all things rock and metal. And as Eyes Of A Panther played through the main stage PA it seemed a fair few punters had already voted with their feet. But Michael Sweet and co. love a challenge and the hair metal throwbacks dug in and emerged victorious on the back of a brilliantly pitched set (including an hilarious rendition of Crazy Train) replete with trademark banter and canny stagecraft. The scores of female fans encouraged to join the Panther during Gloryhole didn’t need asking twice and with The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnson and Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy watching on from the wings a full-on party ensued. Not to everyone’s taste but this was an overwhelming triumph in in the face of potential adversity.
Hoop Hoop Hooray
Four weeks ago Ian Hunter turned 79. But age is just a number. And in full Mott The Hoople guise Hunter appears utterly ageless. Surrounded by a crack team of accomplished musicians the main man led a glorious, glam-tinged classic rock celebration to bring the curtain down on Ramblin’ Man’s opening day in fine style. Rumours were rife that Mott were late additions to a line-up shorn of its first choice Saturday headliner but on this evidence who cares? Just as Extreme were forced to justify their top-of-the-bill status 12 months ago, Hunter and co. were clearly ready to tackle the critics head on and prove there’s still a place for 70s party rock with 2020 approaching fast. Mott have always relied on quality rather than quantity – their short-lived career a source of constant frustration for die-hard fans – and this felt like a set as focused as it was fun. There have been plenty of better and bigger bands (and a fair few have played Ramblin’ Man’s main stage) than Mott The Hoople but in his 80th year Hunter still preys on the raw emotion that drives an unforgettable live show.
*Images courtesy of Pete Key