Troon isn’t the first place you’d think of to hold a rock festival, much less in November. Thankfully, this is indoors so you don’t have to deal with the climate unless dashing to and from your car or accommodation for the weekend. Now in its second year and boasting an arguably even better line-up than last year, Winter Storm has firmly laid claim to hosting one of the last festivals of the year which celebrates legends and new talent in equal measure.
As soon as you step into Troon Concert Hall, you wonder why no-one had the idea to do this years ago. Compered by Godfather of Rock Tom Russell (did he tell you about his book?), the family-friendly atmosphere of the building is wonderful. There’s a small hall acting as a market for bands to sell their wares alongside official Winter Storm merchandise and you can indulge in one of the famous Winter Storm pies (they’re great). The entire menu looked interesting, the prices fair and the food looked appetising. The corridor connecting the main hall where the bands played and this one held people socialising whether it was music fans and friends chatting or bands taking time to chat with old and new fans, it was always a busy stretch but not overly crowded.
Meanwhile, the G4S staff on hand were always happy to hold a door and at no point did it feel like they had to diffuse any situations. Honestly, it felt like they were there just to fulfil the legal obligation and that’s the way it should be. Everything feels like it’s running like clockwork and people just want to watch some quality rock bands – of which there are plenty to be enjoyed over the next two days.
Til Death Do Us Part
No one wants the unenviable job of opening a festival but Til Death Do Us Part handle the honour with flair. As a last-minute replacement for Florence Black, the four-piece are loaded with youthful energy, excited to have been added to the bill. Featuring incredibly skilled riffs from Kieran Robertson and massive bass lines from Jack Ross, they make a heavy, gothic sound with some industrial flair to kick the weekend off in style.
Bigfoot waste no time in making their mark with their modern sounding classic rock. Hammering through songs from their debut album, the dual Les Pauls keep the growing crowd entertained and whilst live they never clicked for me, it’s on this performance that it finally does build on the album. Making the most of their time, the Wigan lads endeavour to put on a show and even include some pyro in the run-up to their final song – only for it to set off the fire alarm and the building having to be evacuated.
Back into the hall once the fire brigade have carried out their checks, Syteria bring their blend of hard rock and NWOBHM back to Scotland after their performance at Wildfire this year. With Jackie Chambers on guitar (yes, Girlschool’s own), bassist Keira Kenworthy and Julia Vocal providing the throaty tones, it’s something of a different outlet for Chambers whilst still drawing in fans of hers. They put in a great performance and one which is even better than June’s.
Attica Rage go full-on metal with us as the local thrash lads are one of the heaviest bands of the weekend. With the first of two appearances from bassist Matthew Ward, the band are firing on all cylinders. Despite the obvious clash of sounds on the vibe of the weekend, it works with their predecessors gently building up to their set. Having found them to be a bit weak last year at the ABC2 compared to their Bloodstock set (something Sean noted as well), it was great to see them deliver their usual best. Their parting shot of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” is the first of many tributes to Malcolm Young this weekend and with its thrashier makeover, it sounds even more rough around the edge than the original.
Bringing things into the realm of the modern hard rock sound which is rife right now, Stone Broken prove in seconds they do it better than most. Having seen them a few times (all of which had appalling acoustics), they deliver nothing but a flawless performance as usual – and this time even had Rich Moss’ vocals audible! It’s evident they’re one of the main draws of the day with a massive crowd and a reception to match as the crowd lap up songs from their debut album, All in Time, and love the teases from their upcoming album due next year. A special shoutout has to go to drummer Robyn Haycock for being able to deliver an entertaining drum solo – it’s not often you can say that!
Praying Mantis are one of the few bands to make their return from last year’s line-up. Having jokingly been introduced by Tom Russell as being older than him, the NWOBHM band prove within minutes why they’ve been invited back. Full of technical prowess and an energy which puts bands half their age to shame, it’s a wonderful throwback for those in the crowd of a certain age.
Bernie Marsden brings the tempo down a notch with a more bluesy set which comes at a perfect time. “Born Under a Band Sign” and with Neil Murray on bass, he quickly establishes he’s not messing about. For many, he’s a highlight of the weekend and rightly so. He shows why he’s so highly thought of as a guitarist, displaying a technical ability better than most, including his contemporaries.
Whilst Winter Storm stated that there was no headliner as such, Tyketto have the longest set of the night. Having seen them in the past and not being impressed, an open mind was required and I’m rather glad for it. Melodic yet still heavy enough to stand with their peers, they put on an excellent and captivating show. With songs from their latest album and favourites like “Strength in Numbers” which has the crowd chanting, the band also cover Waysted and naturally close with “Forever Young”. It was a great set from a band and there was a real sense that whilst this was a standard performance for them, it shows they’re a consistently good live act with many people the next day saying they were the highlight.
Heavy Pettin have the honour of closing the night and likely for many of the older generation in attendance, were enough to sell a ticket. Making their first live appearance in over a quarter of a century, on a technical level, they give the impression their last performance was last week. However, what they make up for in technical ability, it’s lost in the chemistry and it feels more like an exercise than actually doing it for the love of it. With songs like “Love Times Love”, most of the crowd seem to be enjoying it and a chance to see one of NWOBHM’s lost acts back in the arena.
With midnight drawing close, the first night is over as people decamp to the afterparty, their cars and nearby hotels. It’s been a long day and today’s line-up proves there’s not been a bad booking all day, perhaps one or two not quite catering to individual tastes but you can’t fault the performances from both the new bands and the long established ones.