“Who’s hungover?” Tom Russell asks Saturday’s assembled audience as he raises his own hand. Glasgow’s Beard of Doom is in fine spirits as always and despite the earlier start to proceedings, a sizeable crowd has already invaded Troon Concert Hall. Talk consists of how Heavy Pettin split the vote – pretty equally. Some thought they were great, some wish they hadn’t bothered. Almost unanimously, highlights include Stone Broken, Bernie Marsden and Tyketto. And much like that, people are in agreement that whilst yesterday was a strong line-up, today was even better – reflecting in Saturday being a sellout.
Having made his introductions and a band he’s been eager to see, Tom departs the stage for Black King Cobra. No strangers to these pages, they launch into “Blood Rush”, followed by the funky “Wrack N’ Ruin”, the local boys give their strongest performance to date. Bassist Johnny Keel bounces across the stage channelling Flea whilst guitarist Ross Clark shows off his own guitar prowess. With a tangible chemistry and a varied yet signature sound, the groove rock band deliver their best performance to date. Closing the set with “Harvest Moon” with a Led Zeppelin vibe, they lead into the next band who they’re due to appear alongside at Bathgate’s Dreadnought and if this is anything to go by, they’ll be even better then.
Smashing the competition at this year’s Storm Breakers event, Anchor Lane hit the stage with enough force to blow away a hurricane. With the anthemic “Twenty Sixteen” showing the four piece mean business, they waste no time in leaving their mark. Making full use of the stage and much like their predecessors, they deliver their tightest performance yet. With staples like “Eclipse” and “Take Some Time”, they’ve got the crowd eating out the palm of their hands. As “Cog in the Wheel” and “Finished for Twelve”, close out the set, the modern hard rock band depart to become one of the most talked about bands of the weekend. Much like their Wildfire performance, they win over a whole load of new people and in keeping with the spirit of June’s performance, are the best band of the weekend.
The King Lot
The familiar air raid siren welcomes The King Lot on stage and going by the merchandise on people’s backs, there’s a lot of fans in the crowd. One of our in-house favourites, the band are promoting their upcoming album, A World Without Evil, its title track sounding much grittier than their previous melodic efforts. Showing progression and more depth, the new material is sounding better than ever, so much so that nothing from the debut album features. With new boy Jay Moir firmly bedded in, there’s no doubt they’ve stepped things up a gear and are even better than this year’s Wildfire outing.
Massive Wagons hit the ground running with their tribute to Rick Parfitt in “Back to the Stack”. The crowd are bouncing for the entirety of the set and frontman Baz Mills, in his crimson trousers, refuses to stay still. However, the same could be said the rest of the band. Loaded with energy and up for providing the crowd a good time, they deliver on their promise and continue to prove why they’re such a draw at a festival with a dedicated fan base. Always a tight performance, the hard rock outfit look like they’re just warming up and it comes as a disappointment to many when they depart.
Like a few bands here this weekend, Rock Goddess have recently reformed and are enjoying their newfound resurgence. With a set of pipes on her anyone should be jealous of, the ear-splitting “Scotland!” from Jody Turner announces the trio’s arrival. With a blend of those mid-late 70s sounds, you can hear the muscular tones of classic hard rock mixed with the snot of NWOBHM’s impending arrival. In fact, they’re heavy enough to make Girlschool sound like a pop band and the dabble of new songs they play sound modern but sit at home with the older material.
Mason Hill hit the stage with everything they’ve got, opening with “Survive” from their EP and tease a couple of new songs which may feature on their upcoming debut album. With a massive crowd and an excellent show from them, they show why they’re one of the hottest up and coming bands right now. If anything, it’s proof hard work and talent will put you in front of the right people and it’s a far cry from the days when they opened for The Burning Crows and Falling Red in a half-empty Ivory Blacks. Bursting at the seems after not playing live for three months, there’s no signs of rust as they run guns blazing into supporting Gun at the Barrowlands this weekend.
Tygers of Pan Tang
Tygers of Pan Tang tease the crowd with a “Tiger Feet” intro before their arrival. With a good energy about them, they impressed mightily at this year’s Wildfire in its final hours. Here, they’re even better than in Wiston and they didn’t mess around then, either. With a captivating set, the NWOBHM fit in with the old-school Reading feel they were aiming for and it works perfectly
Taking things in a more melodic vein after Tygers, it feels a bit flat but after the constant barrage of hard rock, it comes at a welcome time before the fun and run into the final stretch of the evening. Like every other band here, they’re well put together. For me, they don’t really do anything but they give everything they’ve got and portions of the crowd appear to enjoy it.
Graham Bonnet kicks off the rock royalty portion of the evening as he provides a career-spanning set from Alcatrazz, Michael Schenker and Rainbow. It’s the latter which has the crowd enraptured alongside an outing of “Night Games” and for a man approaching 70, you’d never guess he was. Joey Tafolla, having to handle the guitar work of three seminal guitarists (Blackmore, Malmsteen and Schenker) shows his own skill and makes it looks easy work and not even pushing himself.
During the changeover, Tom introduces festival director, Ian McCaig to the stage who gives a short speech. He apologises for not giving one last year when he should have for one simple reason: to thank everyone from the caterers, G4S, his unflinching team, the bands and everyone who believed, bought and ticket and enjoyed themselves. And as a parting shot, he divulges some information: next year is already on the cards and in the two short years of the festival, they’ve already established such a reputation that bands are approaching them to play.
The Quireboys are the epitome of good-time rock and roll and if you don’t enjoy yourself watching them, chances are you’re dead. After opening with “Going Down” and “Leaving Trunk” from their recent White Trash Blues album, they bed in for what is a standard but shortened Quireboys setlist featuring all the usual staples like “Mona Lisa Smiled”, “Misled” and “Tramps and Thieves”. As always, the sextet put on a solid performance and despite Guy Griffin having a moment of guitar trouble, they carry on regardless. “Hey You”, “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “7 O’clock” close out the set before they return with “Sex Party”. In between the jokes and all the rest of it, one of rock’s hardest working bands are showing the crowd a good time with their blues-edged rock. Kings of their world, they know how to work the crowd and promise to be back soon to continue doing what only they can.
Glen White McManus
Glen White McManus are the final band of the weekend. Comprised of Chris Glen, Doogie White and Paul McManus, the all-star line-up make for a fun set to end the weekend and there’s a real sense that it’s some friends having a jam. Joined on stage by Mason Hill’s James Bird for “Midnight Moses” and “Buff Bar Blues”, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band songs have the crowd singing word perfect before they venture into White’s time with Rainbow. Welcoming Gun’s Jools Gizzi and Tommy Gentry onstage for renditions of “Better Days” and Cameo’s “Word Up”, between the main members of the band and the guests, everything is perfect and with visible enjoyment on their faces, it’d be a shame for this to be a one-off. “Temple of the King” closes the weekend and acts as a fitting tribute to all those departed icons over the years with a moving finale.
Tom Russell makes his final remarks of the night and wishes everyone well. With no bands left to play, it’s home time and in the fallout, there’s been nothing but love for the festival and everyone involved. Excellently promoted, well-organised and not a bad booking on the bill, the festival has gone from strength to strength in a short space of time. There’s an incredible atmosphere in the place and to be able to celebrate legends of rock alongside exciting up and coming talent under one roof alongside everything else Ian McCaig and his team do to make the weekend a success should be commended.
Tom explained people laughed at Ian when he first had the idea for Winter Storm but even if you only stayed for one band, it’s obvious it’s Ian who’s had the last laugh. There’s something very special about this festival and I hope it remains a permanent fixture for years to come. We’re thankful to have been a small part of it and I’m already looking forward to next year.