Well, what can we say about HRH 15? Besides being a milestone achievement for the festival, it’s always a joy to return to sunny Great Yarmouth. And although the summer weather was in our rear-view mirror, the weekend’s stellar line-up certainly brought the heat.

Thursday – All Shuck Up with The Darkness

For the early birds, LA supergroup The Mercury Riots kicked off the HRH 15 proceedings in style on Thursday afternoon. An upbeat set including a stellar cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s a Winner” got the crowd nicely warmed up for the weekend. A special mention must go to guitarist Felipe Rodrigo, for getting in amongst the crowd with some incendiary fretwork and making an impromptu bar visit while the audience sang along with their closing number.

First up on the main stage, White Raven Down’s mix of melodic metal, soaring prog solos and a sprinkling of audience participation got the crowd going. It’s easy to see why the band was voted as winners of the HRH Young Blood award at the previous night’s HRH Awards. It’s always lovely to see a bend genuinely happy to be performing. The energy between the audience and performers was notable, especially during the band’s heartfelt dedication to lost loved ones.

Bolting out of the gates with face-melting, high-energy riffs, Australian rockers, Black Aces, raised the bar for the evening and blew the roof off the venue. Colourful song intros including a particularly graphic description of a morning after the night before led into more frenetic-paced tunes that kept the crowd bouncing. The band put on a masterclass of showmanship interspersing new material with crowd-pleasing favourites.

Local legends The Darkness closed out Thursday on the main stage. With a set of old and new material, including a personal favourite of mine from their latest album, “Welcome tae Glasgae”, the Brit quartet had the crowd in the palm of their hands. So much so that there were no complaints when Justin confiscated several audience members’ phones and set up the world’s first 360-degree frontman Beltorama with their cameras. Their seemingly effortless showmanship kept everyone thoroughly entertained and provided a fitting conclusion to the first night of the event.

Friday – Gronwall Brings the HEAT To Skid Row

Opening the main stage on Friday, The Kut, fronted by Princess Maha brought some grunge-influenced stylings to the proceedings. Melodic harmonies and riffs warmed the crowd up nicely and they rewarded the band with a sea of phone lights during one of the quieter tunes. With the announcement that they will be touring as support for Electric Six, there will be many more opportunities to catch them live in the future.

Irish six-piece BlockC took over on the second stage with their intricately crafted tunes and memorable hooks. Throughout the set, the talent of these musicians shone through as they changed both instruments and positions. The various influences on the band merged wonderfully, producing an engaging and unique sound. The guitar solos, in particular, are epic in scope, but everyone on the stage performed seamlessly to craft a highly polished show.

Australian rocker Cassidy Paris justifiably packed out the room for her first UK performance. Her infectious blend of 80s-inspired classic rock filled the venue to the point that it was one in, one out. With a mix of her own tunes and a spectacular cover of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Hate Myself For Loving You”, it’s easy to see why so many turned out for the show. Cassidy’s impressive vocals, the arrangements and an assortment of guest artist appearances combined to make this arguably one of the finest performances of the day. As this was the first date of her UK tour, there are plenty more chances to catch her at venues around the county.

Whilst the international array of talent on display may have raised a few heads, The Gypsy Pistoleros flew the flag high for the UK scene during their multitude of sets over the course of the weekend. With their distinctive look, and arsenal of crowd-pleasing numbers, the Worcester-based outfit certainly won over the Great Yarmouth crowd, so much so that the band had a huge queue wrapped around the merch room after their set, and deservedly so. The band’s airing of their latest Peaky Blinders-inspired single “The Ballad of Tommy Shelby” along with the inclusion of “The Mescalito Vampires” were some of the many highlights on Friday evening on the main stage. With the Pistoleros’ diverse musical palette, there really is something there for everyone.

Legendary icons Skid Row headlined the main stage on Saturday night with a truly exceptional performance. Sadly, Snake Sabo tested positive for Covid and was unable to attend – we wish him a speedy recovery. The set was a highlight reel of some of the band’s finest work over the last three decades, and they still sounded as fresh and exciting as ever. Classic tunes such as “I Remember You”, “In a Darkened Room”, and “18 and Life” had the entire room singing along, whilst the more upbeat numbers such as “Psycho Therapy”, “Slave to the Grind” and “Piece of Me” had the crowd bouncing. Finishing up with the classic “Youth Gone Wild” brought to a close not just Friday at HRH 15 but the band’s UK tour. Hopefully, it won’t be long before they return with more classic tunes and maybe even some new ones.

Saturday – Ugly Kid Joe Are Still “So Damn Cool”!

Starting Saturday’s shenanigans on the second stage, Melbourne-based Wicked Smile drew in a strong crowd with their heavy rock stylings. Belting out thumping tunes with vocalist Danny Cecati’s incredible voice, the guys got the audience thoroughly invested. Joined by Cassidy Paris for a guest slot during the song “Stronger” solidified her as one to watch in the coming years. Cassidy will also join Wicked Smile on their current UK tour.

North-East based outfit Thieves of Liberty opened the main stage on Saturday afternoon to great effect. Fresh off the back of their win at Highway to Hell, the five-piece treated the crowd to a selection of their tunes as proof of their deserved win. One of the highlights was the band’s latest single, “Calypso”. A tight, entertaining performance showcased the talent of the band and undoubtedly won over scores of new fans.

If anyone’s energy was starting to wane, Revival Black provided a much-needed wakeup call as they exploded onto the stage on Saturday evening. Guest vocalist, Kim Jennet, wasted no time getting in the middle of the crowd and whipping them up into a frenzy. At one point, she sang her way through the crowd, past the bar and the sound desk and back onto the stage without missing a step. Jennett only recently stepped into the role after the Liverpool-based outfit parted company with their previous frontman Dan Byrne. I have to say that it is a testament to the musicianship and performances of all involved that they delivered one of my favourite performances of the entire weekend.

Illinois’ glam rockers Enuff Z’Nuff took to the main stage, opening with a cover of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour”. This would continue to be a theme throughout the set as they paid homage to The Beatles and Wings with covers of “Jet”, “Helter Skelter”, and a particularly special cover of “Eleanor Rigby”. The rest of the set was a mix of classics, newer songs, and some rarities. Closing on hits “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing”, the band delivered a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying set for both fans and newcomers to Enuff Z’Nuff and undoubtedly Beatles fans alike.

Finally, Californian-rockers, Ugly Kid Joe brought HRH 15 to its conclusion. Immediately rearranging the stage to create a makeshift podium from a couple of stage monitors, frontman Whitfield Crane led the crowd into a selection of their hits. Keeping the energy high and the audience engaged, they played through classics such as “Neighbour” and “Cats in the Cradle” as well as tracks from their latest release, “Rad Wings of Destiny”. Their cover of “Lola” had what remained of the audience’s voices singing along before dispensing with the convention of leaving the stage before an encore in favour of squeezing in a bonus track in the form of a storming cover of “Ace of Spades”. All that remained then was to close out the set and the entire event with their iconic track “I Hate Everything About You”.

HRH 15 was memorable for sure, but most importantly, it was incredibly enjoyable. We can hardly wait for next year already!

Words by Simon Spindles Potthast

Photos by Adam Kennedy

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