STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL - Ebbw Vale,     South Wales 28-30.07.17

By Morag Farley

 

Every summer brings the South Wales International Rock festival held at its unique mountain top location. This year, it was on 28-30 July and had a stunning line up of old, new, traditional, blues and classic rock from the USA, Canada all parts of the UK including, of course, South Wales.

 

By mid Friday afternoon, the campsite was buzzing with anticipation as people from far and wide rocked up with tents, caravans, campers while others took advantage of the recent addition to the site - Glamping.

 

Traditionally the Friday night lineup starts with a local band. The cream of New South Wales rock - Bands getting what is often their first taste of a big stage. The Steelhouse opener this year was Revival. They had the honour of opening the festival as winners of the Battle of the Bands competition held at Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff earlier in the summer.

 

As Revival took to the stage, they had a small group of about 20 at the barriers, hardy folk not scared of a bit of rain, with several hundred crammed into the beer tent, watching the young four piece rock their way through their set. They were very well received, and by the end, they had tempted many people out into the damp evening

 

Revival

Finley Nash - Vocals

Luke A. Williams - Lead Guitar

Alex Payne - Bass

Dafydd Fuller - Drums

 

Even though the rain continued, the festival spirit shone through as the northern Irish band Trucker Diablo made their return visit to the Steelhouse. They have a great hard rock sound which is heavy on guitar riffs tempting many more hardy fans to don their waterproofs to enjoy the set.

 

Trucker Diablo

Tom Harte - Vocals / Guitar

Adam Parkin - Guitars (covering for Simon Haddock)

Jim McGurk - Bass

Terry Crawford - Drums

 

The Final band of the night was another local band - Hand of Dimes. The rain still hadn't dampened the festival spirit.  They performed a flawless set of 12 their own tracks, spanning their career, kicking off with ‘Looking at You’ before inviting their good friend Bernie Marsden to join them. The crowd helped them remember the lyrics for some classic Whitesnake tracks including Fool for your Lovin’, Ready and Willin’ and ‘Walking in the Shadow of the Blues’ before the grand finale of ‘Here I Go Again’.

 

With the audience clamouring for more, they were finally allowed off the stage. It was a brilliant set, enjoyed by everyone. By now, the rain had stopped as the festival crowd trooped off to their various tents, caravans and cars.

 

Hand of Dimes

Neville McDonald (Vocals, Guitar)

Neil Garland (Keyboards)

Colin Edwards (Lead Guitar)

Mark Maybry (Bass Guitar)

David Stephenson (Drums)

 

Special Guest

 

Bernie Marsden (Guitar)

 

 

Saturday Morning dawned dry and sunny. The forecast predicted more rain later in the day, but having perused the selection of merch stands and catering outlets, the first band, Florence Black.

 

This is a 3 piece, hard rock band from the South Wales valleys, taking their name from a woman who used to take coal home in a sack at Aberfan in the early 1960s. Their music is powerful and heavy, with melodic undertones and they are a very popular local band with a string of festival appearances behind them. Despite a technical hitch, they played a set - including an impromptu rendition of the Welsh national anthem - which had the audience cheering and singing along, including the Budgie classic Breadfan.

 

 

Florence Black

Tristan Thomas Vocals, Guitar

Jordan (Fozzi) Evans Bass

Perry Davies Drums

 

The sun continued to shine, and Tequila Mockingbyrd were next on the bill. The band has had a few changes since the original T. Byrds arrived in the UK from Australia in 2016 to a string of UK dates as support and headline billing. Fresh off their tour, with fellow Aussie rockers, Massive, they came to the mountain and did not disappoint the Welsh audience. They performed a great set of original songs which was very well received, finishing off with the Planet rock A-list track ‘I Smell Rock and Roll’

 

 

Tequila Mockingbyrd

Louisa Baker (Vocals, Guitar)

Jacinta Jaye (Vocals, Bass)

Josie O’Toole (Vocals, Drums)

 

 

The front of the field began to fill up as the eagerly anticipated appearance from Midlands based hard rock band Stone Broken grew near.  With a future as bright as the sun that was still shining, they were phenomenal. The set included favourites including ‘Better’ and ‘Wait for You’ as well as a couple of tracks from the forthcoming new album - ‘Just a memory’ and ‘Doesn’t Matter’. The set was thoroughly enjoyed by both the crowd and the band and was over too soon. For many people, this was the band of the day, if not the weekend. They are a very popular band with a growing army of dedicated fans, whom they always have time for. They will be on tour later in the year, and if you haven’t yet caught them live, it would be well worth the price of a ticket.

 

Stone Broken

Rich Moss (Guitar, Vocals)

Robyn Haycock (Drums)

Chris Davies (Guitar)

Kieron Conroy (Bass)

 

 

With the excitement of Stone Broken over, the temptation for many people was to take a break and grab a bite and a beer. Those who did, missed the spectacle of the legendary Bernie Marsden take to the stage again for his acoustic set. Bernie is an extraordinarily talented individual who has forgotten more than most people know about music yet seems so humble in receiving acclamation from the audience. He will hear the odd call out from a fan in the crowd and react to it, with smile and retort. He gave the enthralled audience a package of his old and new music - tracks that are rarely heard but reflect his talent which spans the decades.

 

 

The quiet acoustic set made way for the sensational classic rock band Inglorious. With the difficult second album now making its way into rock fans collections, the band put on nothing less than the fantastic show that was expected. The flamboyant Nathan James and his huge vocal range showed the crowd why they are one of the UKs upcoming bands with a big future. The band supports him perfectly and are a tight, well rehearsed unit looking forward to a UK headline tour in the Autumn. Despite it being only 18 months since their first full gig, they played like they had been together for as long as their main influencers, Deep Purple. Their music is full of riffs and licks and the solos picked out so brilliantly by Andreas give Inglorious the well deserved reputation of a great live band.

 

Inglorious

Nathan James - Vocals

Andreas Eriksson - Lead Guitar

Drew Lowe - Guitar

Colin Parkinson - Bass

Phil Beaver - Drums

 

 

Monster Truck were next up. From the moment they walked on stage they had the crowd bouncing to their riffy rock. Coming from Canada, this southern rock band should be used to the less clement weather that was beckoning. The drizzly rain had started, but recognising the efforts of the audience so that they could watch them perform, the bare chested Jer Widerman announced that it wouldn’t be fair for him to be in the dry and he would join them in the rain. They loved him for that - cheering and singing along to the mix of tracks that people knew well as well as those that were less familiar as he got up close and personal, utilising the T shaped stage to its full potential.

 

 

Monster Truck

Jon  Harvey- Bass and Vocals

Brandon Bliss- Keys and Vocals

Brent Fitz- Drums and Vocals (covering for Steve Kiely)

Jer Widerman - Guitar and Vocals

 

As darkness fell as quickly as the rain, Last in Line came along to entertain the crowd, whose enthusiasm for the high standard of music had not dampened at all. Viv Campbell stole the show and clearly enjoyed being able to demonstrate why he and the band are in such demand.   For an hour they entertained us with their renditions of songs that made Ronny James Dio famous including Holy Diver, Rainbow in the Dark and Last in Line as well as their own, more recent tracks such as Starmaker, taken from their 2016 debut album ‘Heavy Crown’.  So many people commented that this was their highlight of the night, and worthy of the headline slot, rather than the Special Guest billing.

 

Last In Line

Vivian Campbell (Guitar)

Vinny Appice (Drums)

Phil Soussan (Bass)

Andrew Freeman (Vocals)

 

 

Having a local band in a headline slot is always going to get the audience bouncing, and Skindred was no exception. They really rocked the mountain with their unique sound and exuberant crowd who, by now, were drenched. No Skindred live set is complete without their trademark ‘Newport Helicopter’ in which the audience is encouraged to remove an item of clothing to twirl as directed by frontman, Benji Webb, during the song ‘Warning’. Despite the conditions, the Welsh crowd were up for it, and many went off to their tents semi-naked and very wet.

 

Skindred

Benji Webbe (Vocals)

Mike Demus (Guitar)

Dan Pugsley (Bass)

Arya Goggin (Drums)

 

On Sunday, the arena was late opening to allow the organisers to make some urgent repairs to the ground, which was still very damp despite the dry night and early sunshine. As a result, the first band up - The Texas Flood - were about half an hour late starting. Yet another talented local band from Neath/Port Talbot demonstrating well that rock is alive and kicking in South Wales. The Texas Flood played in the 2016 Battle of the Bands and were awarded this slot when they very narrowly lost out to last years opener ‘Everyday Heroes’. They are a talented group who made the most of the big stage playing some of the bluesy rock tracks off their album, a perfect cure for the Sunday hangovers!

 

The Texas Flood

Tom Sawyer (Guitar, Vocals)

Tom Williams (Drums)

Ben Govier (Bass)

 

After the powerful rock of The Texas Flood, the music slowed right down for Birmingham based Broken Witt Rebels and their addictive blues rock.  The Birmingham lads had the Steelhouse audience hooked from the opening few bars of their single ‘Low’ which saw them hit the Planet Rock A list. Danny has a lovely, soothing voice which is perfect for their style of blues rock. On stage, he gets locked in with an expressive style of performing which is thoroughly engaging. Fresh from time in the US recording their new album, the guys are back in the UK and ready to wow us with a UK and European tour. For many people, this was the first time they had seen this band live, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

 

Broken Witt Rebels

Danny Core (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar)

Luke Davis (Vocals, Bass)

James Tranter (Vocals, Lead Guitar)

James Dudley (Drums, Percussion)

 

Keeping the blues theme, we were then treated to the soulful talents of Jared James Nichols.

He played a mixture of his own music and included some covers the watching crowd were in awe of his skill. He had everyone cheering for more as they watched him, supported by a bass guitarist and drummer - both very talented and enjoying their time on the Steelhouse stage. Not even the showers that were now on their way stopped him playing to the fans leaving the shelter of the stage behind so that everyone could get a good look as he played.

 

Jared James Nichols (Vocals, Guitar)

Erik Sandin (Bass)

Dennis Holm (Drums)

 

 

Toby Jepson - ex-Little Angels - brought his new band - Wayward Sons - to the stage to wake people up and entertain us by turning up the tempo and the volume with some good old fashioned heavy rock.  Despite having a few technical problems and confusing the Steelhouse Dragon with a Dinosaur, no-one would have realised that this was only their 4th ever gig together. Social Media has reported how fantastic their recent Bristol gig was, and they repeated the performance at the top of the mountain.

 

Wayward Sons

Toby Jepson (Vocals, Guitar)

Nic Wastell (Bass)

Phil Martini (Drums)

Sam Wood (Guitar)

Dave Kemp (Keyboards)

 

A change to the published billing was needed at this point. King King had unfortunately had to pull out due to Alan Nimmo (lead singer) being unwell. It was difficult to get a band in to replace them at such short notice, but the organisers pulled it out of the bag. Nev McDonald, the Hand of Dimes front man agreed to fill the gap and brought his band back up the mountain. They performed a few of their own tracks to warm up the crowd before bringing on Bernie Marsden and the two Planet Rock presenters, Darren Redick and Ian Danter to help them with a unique version of ‘Wishing Well’.  Bernie stayed on stage to finish off the set with a few classic Whitesnake songs, clearly enjoying his third visit to the stage in 3 days.

 

Hand of Dimes

Neville McDonald (Vocals, Guitar)

Neil Garland (Keyboards)

Colin Edwards (Lead Guitar)

Mark Maybry (Bass Guitar)

David Stephenson (Drums)

 

Special Guests

Bernie Marsden (Guitar)

Darren Redick (Bass)

Ian Danter (Drums)

 

The stage crew had been working really hard all day to claw back the lost time from the late start, but unfortunately, there were some difficulties in preparing the stage for Steve Harris British Lion. They have a complex stage set, and setting it up in the small space left by Saxon’s stage set was a challenge. However, once they were on stage, the electricity in the arena was palpable. They are a hard rock band, and Steve Harris held the audience spellbound with his fast fingers and even faster feet as he ran round the stage. They delivered a great stage, finishing off with ‘Eyes of the Young’, their single off the album ‘This is My God’. British Lion have a few more UK dates this summer before heading off to Europe.

 

 

With the weather threatening to close in, it was time for the festivals Special Guest - Rival Sons. The American rock band captivated the crowd with their expressive stage presence. They have a fabulous blues sound and Jay’s expressive voice went down a storm. Sadly, the delays from earlier in the day meant that their set was cut a bit shorter than planned to ensure the festival didn’t run beyond its curfew.

 

Rival Sons

Jay Buchanan (Vocals)

Scott Holiday (Guitar)

Michael Miles (Drums

Dave Beste (Bass)

 

 

For the third night running, the headline act was greeted on stage by a downpour. Saxon had brought their Eagle back to the mountain which delighted the soggy revellers who had waited to see them. With a light show many bands would be envious of, Biff and his band powered their way through a mixture of tracks from their latest album ‘Battering Ram’ and a selection from their vast back catalogue, including Princess of the Night, 747 (Strangers in the night)’  and Dallas 1pm. Biff’s interaction with the crowd was second to none. He draped a Welsh flag over Nigel's drum kit, gave his wet towel to a young lad and wore another fan’s denim jacket for a while. He was yet another frontman who would not shelter while the rain fell and appeared with a brolly at one stage. There was no encore - they band just stormed into the final tracks of the festival.

 

Saxon

Biff Biford - Vocals

Nibs Carter (Bass)

Nigel Glockler (Drums)

Paul Quinn (Guitar)

Doug Scaratt (Guitar)

 

As Saxon left the stage to rapturous applause and cries for more, the 7th Steelhouse Festival drew to a close. As always, it lived up to its reputation as the friendliest festival in the UK. It may not be as big as some other festivals, with one stage and 6 acts each day it gives a wide variety of music to meet every rock fans taste.

 

The 8th Steelhouse Festival will take place at the top of the mountain, on the last weekend of July, 2018. See you there!

 

**PHOTOGRAPHS MAY ONLY BE USED WITH PRIOR CONSENT FROM MORAG FARLEY PHOTOGRAPHY / DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA **

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