Winter Storm, Troon’s only rock weekender, proved to be nothing less than a success last year. With people coming from all over the UK, it was a great weekend with a wide variety of rock music and had an incredible atmosphere. Alongside that, tickets, accommodation and food and drink were all reasonably priced.
As festival director Ian McCaig said at last year’s event, bands were approaching them to perform at the weekend having heard through the grapevine of what a great weekend it is. Now with its third year to look forward to, this year being 23rd and 24th November, it’s fair to say the festival has well and truly hit its stride. One of Troon Town Hall’s rooms played host to a number of people this afternoon as Winter Storm 2018 was officially launched with a good chunk of the line-up revealed. Hosted by rock’s favourite Godfather, Tom Russell (did he tell you he’s got a book out?) and featuring live sets from Black King Cobra, no strangers to sharing a bill and having both played last year, it was a reunion of sorts.
Black King Cobra take to the stage first and their groove-based rock goes down a treat – as always. Much more loose and relaxed in the intimate confines, the band batter through their set with songs like “Ball and Chain”, “Shiver” and the heavy-hitter of “Quake” all featuring alongside the staples you’d expect from them like “Ruin of Youth”, “Wrack and Ruin” and “Blood Rush”. The four-piece are at the top of their game with bassist Johnny Keel battering his bass whilst guitarist Ross Clark bounces across the stage with his catchy, scratching riffs. Meanwhile Steve Todd locks in perfectly with Keel to finish off their solid funky grooves and frontman Callum Moran affably thanks the crowd between his croons. It’s a perfect kick-off to the afternoon, the band work the crowd and tight as ever, they ensure people are suitably entertained.
Shortly after, Ian McCaig and Tom Russell take to the stage to announce the line-up for 2018’s weekend. McCaig is insistent that bands new and old get a fair look-in and from what’s already been revealed, he’s pulled a blinder. McCaig also reveals that not only will Storm Breakers return to the Dreadnought in Bathgate once more (with Anchor Lane winning the inaugural year to land a place at last year’s Winter Storm), plans are also in place to bring the event to Belfast. Having seen a number of bands from Belfast at Wildfire, it’s a canny move. With musical cues and anecdotes leading into each announcement, they’re all met with loud cheers and going by the reaction already on Facebook, McCaig and his team are doing something right. Set to play over the weekend (and announced in this order) are:
- Anchor Lane
- Oliver/Dawson Saxon
- Bernie Tormé
- Wayward Sons
- Zal Cleminson’s Sin Dogs
- The Dead Daisies
- Geoff Tate
Following on from that, Anchor Lane take to the stage with “Cog in the Wheel” and much like their brothers in Black King Cobra, they’re out to entertain the people amassed. And much like their forerunners, they achieve that, reliable as ever. With their modern hard rock and anthemic choruses, it’s no wonder they’ve been asked back as the quality of their performance is as high as ever. Twin guitars from Conor Gaffney and Jack Nicol combine to show what king of influence the arena-fillers of today have on younger bands. Meanwhile the nonchalant yet perfect playing of Matthew Quigley’s bass work and Scott Horan’s solid drumming fill out the massive rhythms which are guaranteed to make you nod and clap along to songs like “Annie” and “Finished for Twelve”. It says something for the quality of Glasgow’s music scene that both these acts have massive things in store such as both supporting RavenEye as their tour hits Glasgow and Edinburgh (Glasgow gets Anchor Lane, Edinburgh has Black King Cobra).
And with that, the afternoon draws to a close. Early tickets were available exclusively to those at the launch afternoon and as I left, it was a fair assessment to say the staff were kept busy. Sales to the general public are set to start on Tuesday 6th February from their website as well as the monthly payment plans. Having seen roughly half of the already announced lineup at gigs and festivals, it’s set to be another great weekend in Troon and somehow, it seems the lineup is already on par with last year’s full complement.
As I said in my review of 2017, I can’t place enough emphasis on how special a place Winter Storm is and how fun and friendly the atmosphere is. Combine that with great value for money in all areas and not only paying due to established acts but nurturing the bands of tomorrow and you’ve got one of the best festivals on the calendar. Can it be November now?