Gig Review: Stonedead Festival (26th – 27th August 2022)

My first visit to Stonedead festival and my final festival of the summer. It’s been a month of extremes weatherwise with Steelhouse and Arctangent experiencing warmth and rain whilst Bloodstock was more of a test of endurance. So, it was good to finish the season with a smaller new one that I’d heard so much about. Stonedead has been growing in strength year on year and with a strong line up this event sold out weeks before.

There’s a strong community vibe and everyone was in friendly mood as tents were pitched and beers sunk. The Friday evening was a celebration of 10 years of MMHradio and the ideal warm up for the main event. Plenty of positives as the early evening crowd assembled for the first of three bands.

With the sun setting, Liverpool’s Revival Black took to the stage and treated the audience to a fantastic set. Full of energy and passion, the band stormed through a selection of songs from their debut album and their brand-new record Under the Light. The band are one of the most exciting of the new wave of classic rock bands currently storming the UK scene and demonstrated why they are so highly rated. Lead singer Daniel Byrne is a pocket dynamo and possesses a fabulous voice. Taking the acoustic guitar to lead on the calmer “Hemispheres” or racing around the stage to the more riff heavy songs, he has it all. But Revival Black are very much a band, and their cohesive and vibrant performance makes them ones to feature much higher on the bill in years to come.

Celebrating 10 years since Full Throttle was released, Aussie rockers Massive continued the tempo and passion with a show full of chunky riffs and their usual power and energy. Apparently two members of the group were unable to travel, but you wouldn’t have known that the bassist of Gorilla Riot was filling in if you weren’t aware of it. Thumping good tunes and typical stomping energy, Massive showed why they are well loved on these shores.

It was only a month ago that I saw Black Spiders play at Steelhouse. Taking the headline slot saw Pete Spiby and co in ferociously good form, notching the intensity up several levels from their South Wales show. Such was the power and sheer aggression that a large mosh pit broke out, which was greeted with equal amounts of indignation and amusement from a crowd who probably don’t get a lot of pit action. It was all good fun and the traditional “fuck you Black Spiders” chant was delivered with gusto by the crowd, all now well-oiled an in fine voice. Finishing with “Kiss tried to Kill me” and joined onstage by four ladies painted in the New Yorkers make up, Black Spiders brought a cracking evening to an end in style.

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Saturday dawned bright and the business of one day one stage one monster show moved into focus. A leisurely start time of 11.30 allowed plenty of chilling in the campsite before getting down to the main business … music and nine bands who were set to thrill.

Kickin’ Valentina (c) Sean Larkin

The honour of opening Stonedead 2022 fell to Derby five-piece These Wicked Rivers who had wowed me at Steelhouse Festival. They will have gained many admirers after this festival with a superb set which featured a new song alongside set staples from their previous releases. They play with a bluesy swagger that is a perfect combination of Southern rock combined with contemporary blues, with more than a nod to The Black Crowes. Easy listening with a crunch, this band are slowly gaining a reputation for quality and the first ovation of the day was well deserved.

Dragging us back to 1985, US sleaze rockers Kickin’ Valentina brought a big, brash attitude and crunchy riffs. Their music isn’t anything that excites me, but they exude a confidence that US bands have in spades.  Vocalist DK Revelle commands the stage with an arrogance that borders on outrageous. A new song debuted, with other songs from their discography fitting neatly into the set. Swaggering rock n roll ala Crue, Cinderella and the like is best done in that way and although not my bag, they certainly helped to maintain the momentum that the previous act had started.

Rolling back the years, NWOBHM legends Tygers of Pan Tang burst out following the inevitable “Tiger Feet” intro and spent the next 40 minutes proving why they remain a much-loved band by many. “Gangland” and the inevitable closer “Love Potion No 9” were included in a set which spanned the decades. Guitarist Robb Weir remains the driving force, but it’s vocalist Jacopo “Jack” Meille who is the focal point, his uncanny resemblance to Robert Plant in both appearance and vocals aside, Meille possesses one of the best voices around. Slick and tight, this set proved that the Tygers still have bite.

I missed a portion of The Treatment, but they are a fantastic live band and what I caught mirrored their headline set earlier this year at The Fleece in Bristol. Heavy riffs, endless energy and another solid show proved why they are so well loved by the classic rock crowd.

The annual fly past which apparently is another feature of festival was an absolute bonus. The sight of what I understand may be the only Avro Lancaster bomber still in service roaring across the campsite and arena was incredible, the Rolls Royce Merlin engines bringing a new thunder to the already heavy proceedings. An immense treat to many, myself included and a great thanks to those who arranged it.

Mid-afternoon and by now compére and all-round legend Krusher Joule was in full potty mouthed flow. A couple of ‘Krushanories’ drew snorts of laughter, whilst his continued use of the F word caused a little consternation on the festival Facebook page, thankfully later resolved in amicable fashion. Personally, I find Krusher a good laugh with a rock history that is filled with tales that would make your ma’s toes curl. But if you don’t like him, then tune him out.

H.E.A.T (c) Sean Larkin

H.E.A.T followed their sterling set at Steelhouse with another octane fuelled performance. Kenny Lecremo’s return to the band in 2020 has given the band a huge presence and the singer not only has the infectious drive of a party full of Haribo fuelled toddlers but the stage presence to match. Cajoling the crowd from start to finish, the Swedes melodic tinged hard rock was once again ideal in the middle the afternoon.

Brummies Stone Broken are intent on world domination and they pulled a huge crowd who thoroughly enjoyed their polished and crafted set. Bathed in purple lights, the four-piece are another band who I admire without really enjoying the music. Their hard graft is paying and the thousand ls cheering them at the end of their set confirmed this.

As we moved to the business end of the evening, a virtuoso treat for all fans of guitar and vocals. Yes, Vandenberg were making a festival appearance and they took their chance. Dutchman Adriaan “Adje” van den Berg, a guitar hero to many in the crowd brought the latest incarnation of his band and delivered a lovely set which featured a mix of his own music and a couple of classics from elsewhere. Van den Berg is a superb guitar player, and nowhere was this demonstrated more than on the duo of “Sailing Ships” and “Judgment Day”, both songs which he appeared on during his time with Whitesnake and the album Slip of the Tongue. Accompanied by probably the best vocalist of the weekend in Matts Leven, who you may remember from his days with Candlemass, the acoustic element of these songs was breathtaking. Ensuring that the crowd remained onside, a gusty version of that festival classic “Here I Go Again” and a rousing encore of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n’ Roll” ensured that those who may not have known who the smiling Dutchman was certainly knew afterwards.

Called in when The Wildhearts imploded earlier this year, South Wales Quintet Those Damn Crows demonstrated why they are likely to be headliners at this festival in two years’ time. A display of control, humour, warmth, and humanity coupled with some damn fine hard rock songs saw The Crows dominate and deliver the set of the weekend. Led by the incredibly charismatic Shane Greenhall, whose performance cemented his reputation as one of the best in the UK rock scene today, a 12-song set featured a brand-new song in “Wake Up,” an audacious cover of The Buggles anthem “Video Killed the Radio Star” as early as the third song alongside a plethora of anthems including “Who Did It” and the audience participation staple “Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead.” By the time Greenhall had bantered with the crowd (inflatable penis, blow up sheep – you work it out!) and dived into the crowd to race across the arena to day hello to those on the elevated viewing platform, the day was already won, and talk was mainly of how the headliners would follow. With a new album imminent, Those Damn Crows will be headlining arenas very shortly. You mark my words!

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Stone Broken (c) Sean Larkin

Michael Schenker is a guitar legend. No doubt at all. He’s one of my favourite musicians, a staple for my teenage years and again for the past couple of decades. His live shows have usually been solid, although his rotation of vocalists doesn’t help with the cohesion. Dogged by a muddy sound that left his Flying V and Ronnie Romero’s vocals low in the mix, MSG entered around 15 minutes later than stated and launched “Into the Arena” with visible tension amongst the band. Bassist Barend Courbis was evidently troubled, with technical fiddling continuing even as the intro music started. Even Schenker had to ask “the sound guy” to turn up the guitar to no avail as Courbis’ bass thundered away drowning out many of the early solos that Schenker peeled off.

Romero is cited as one of the most exciting singers in the world of rock and metal. His performances with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow a few years ago cemented his reputation but my word, did he lack charisma. Flatter than a hedgehog under a steamroller, he managed reasonably well with the songs he had sung on including “Sail the Darkness” from the album Immortal but his between song conversation was tired and uninspiring. He struggled to meet the quality that Robin McAuley had demonstrated at Steelhouse on many of the classics that Schenker ground out. A lengthy “Rock Bottom” provided the expected elongated solo which still is stunning, but by the time they dropped into “Shoot Shoot” I’d had enough. Not wanting to hear some of my favourite UFO songs butchered I chose to join several hundred already streaming back to the car park and campsite. A slightly sour end to a fantastic weekend, which overall was thoroughly enjoyable.

As I type the 1200 early bird tickets for next year’s event have already sold out. It will sell out again so I’d suggest getting your tickets as soon as possible.

Photos by Sean Larkin Photography

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September 7, 2022 7:29 PM

[…] recent great performance at Stonedead Festival shows the band are at home on stages of any size. Whether there are playing to 1000s or 100s, they […]