STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL 2019 – DAY 2 - Ebbw Vale, Wales 27.07.19



After a massive festival-preparing breakfast at the Wetherspoon’s in Ebbw Vale, we decide to use the shuttle bus that will take us from the station car park to the festival site. We all pack on the bus after a short wait, and the minibus slowly makes its way up the track. We get halfway up and the bus seems to be struggling. After a short stop the driver gets the bus going again, but not for that far. It’s a bright sunny day again, so we all pile out and walk the rest of the way – the smell of a well and truly burnt-out clutch assaulting our nostrils. Well it was only £2.00 so what can you expect!

Black Country boys LIBERTY LIES have already started and I walk up near to the front on the right of the stage. It’s still a very bass and drum heavy sound and I’m stood right next to the speaker. As I feel the bass start to align with my heartbeat I decide to move a bit further away just in case!

Although it was early there was a good crowd already in place. “Who’s seen us before?”, shouts Shaun Richards – in his best Peaky Blinders, “Who’s never seen us before?” … “Who’s coming back to see us again?” A great cry goes up as the band – morning openers with just a seven song set - are a hit with the crowd.

I missed RYDERS CREED’s set at Ramblin’ Man Fair so I’m determined not to miss the Midlanders this time around. If the crowd weren’t awake already then they certainly are by now! They looked great on stage, each band member having their own individual look.

Starting with ‘Ryder’, they play most of their debut album finishing with ‘My Life’ and show why they’re currently riding high as one of the new bands to watch out for. The sound still doesn’t seem quite right with Ryan’s vocals and Lee and Myles’ guitars somewhat lost again, however the crowd still show their appreciation and obviously enjoy the performance.

HOLLOWSTAR are one of those bands where I always think I don’t know many songs and yet I find myself knowing everything that they play. Singer and bass player Joe Bonson certainly looks the part, and has the voice to match. Phil Haines uses the walkway to full effect, and the band play most of their critically acclaimed debut album.

Joe always uses his time to talk about his concern for mental health problems and this time is no exception. “I have 3,000 therapists…” he states “… all of you” and many of us are drawn to reflect on our own experiences. For most it would be difficult to get back from that to the show, but Joe has the audience in the palm of his hand and he quickly takes us through it to ‘All I Gotta Say’, and everyone is singing again. Not surprisingly a clip of Joe striding around the stage is used in a video montage of the weekend.

For some, THE WILD! were band of the weekend. They were pretty unknown to the crowd, but coming all the way from Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada they certainly made an impression.

Best described as “blues with a punk attitude, loud and a bit crazy”, they start off with ‘Roadhouse’ and continue with tracks from both their 2015 debut album and their follow up ‘Wild at Heart’ from 2017. They finish with ‘Party Til You’re Dead’. Certainly a band to catch live if you get the chance.

CROBOT frontman Brandon Yeagley has a LOT of energy. Just watching him is exhausting. The whole performance is captivating though as he writhes around in his bright shiny, bejewelled blue and silver waistcoat. I was particularly impressed when he suddenly did a worm move across the stage – I’ve certainly never seen that before! They deliver an amazing fourteen tracks, including a cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’ and finished with ‘Nowhere to Hide’. Another band not to be missed live.    

GUN came on stage with their usual energy. Delivering the classics, ‘Better Days’ and ‘Word up’ in fine style as well as their recent hit ‘Take Me Down’. Frontman Dante Gizzi and guitarist Tommy Gentry making the most of the extended stage. They finish with their cover of The Beastie Boys’ ‘Fight for the Right’ which the crowd love and join in enthusiastically.

Somebody obviously worked out that the sound from the stage had been less than impressive all day, because after a very quick sound check THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT came out actually sounding like, well, THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT!

Paul Sayer’s blistering guitar took us straight into ‘Caught In The Middle’ and Phil Campbell - energetic as ever - danced around with his Jagger-like moves giving it everything. It was a totally professional performance and the band took us through sixteen tracks, from the upbeat ‘Midnight Black to the sombre ‘Another Spiral’, all beautifully played and sung. Their catalogue is truly extraordinary as almost every song is well known by the audience, something unheard of for such a ‘young’ rock band.

Without doubt this was one of the best performances of the weekend. I had seen THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT the week before at Ramblin’ Man Fair and had thought the same then. Their consistency is one of their main strengths and of the many times I have seen them every performance is as good as the last. Phil Campbell gives everything emotionally and physically and it shows. Finishing with ‘Built-In Forgetter’ they close to a rapturous applause.

I first saw THUNDER back in 1990 when Danny Bowes had a lot, and I mean a LOT of hair. I can’t remember the gig that well, but I do know that somehow I got invited to meet the band after the show. I will never forget walking into a room backstage and seeing Danny swigging on a carton of milk. I was completely overawed (being a sweet young thing at the time), but also slightly disappointed that he was drinking milk and not Jack Daniels. I have seen them since a few times and I know that it will be a good show and that the milk has obviously done its job in helping maintain Danny’s fine set of pipes.

And so it was after a long day that THUNDER come out to an expectant crowd. It had been lovely and sunny, and dry all day – almost unheard of “up the mountain” and the crowd were eager to enjoy this finale. They are essentially the same band that performed all those years ago and their set includes classics from their incredible 30-year career as ‘River of Pain’, ‘Backstreet Symphony’ and ‘Love Walked In’.

With Danny Bowes often baiting the crowd, the band love getting an audience reaction and Danny will patiently wait until they get it. It’s a confident performance and to be honest exactly what I was expecting. Finally, their encore of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ (although the Blues Brothers’ version is probably better known) and then best-selling single ‘Dirty Love’ gets everyone singing and dancing along and brings the second STEELHOUSE day to an end.