Steelhouse Festival (Day Two). Ebbw Vale, Wales. 23rd-24th July 2016.
Following on from a riotous first day in Ebbw Vale, it was back up the mountain for day two of Steelhouse festival. While the opening day had provided both music and sunshine, by Sunday, the latter was sorely lacking. With admittedly leaner numbers as the bleary eyed crawled from their tents, with the likes of The Darkness, Terrorvision and The Dead Daises heading up the bill, it would take more than a few sore heads and grey clouds to dampen the Welsh spirit.
Photo: Ian Coates.
Doing their best to wake everyone up was TheLastGreatDreamers, whose seventies-tinged stomping rock shook the crowd from their morning stupor. Enjoying somewhat of a resurgence after disappearing for a number of years, it’s difficult to believe that their last release ‘Glitterball Apocalypse’ is an unbelievable twenty years old. Still sounding relevant as they postured and posed around the Steelhouse stage, it was immediately apparent that the previous days’ sound issues had been banished.
Up next, locals HandOfDimes were given - unsurprisingly - a heroes’ welcome as they strolled on stage. With front man Nev MacDonald grinning from ear to ear for the duration, the band’s sublime classic rock and blues tinged material went down a storm as the rain and mist descended. Debuting new single ‘Midnight Mile’, the ecstatic audience incredibly seemed to know every word. Anyone who remembers MacDonald from his previous endeavours in Skin / Kooga will know how powerful his voice is, however now also brandishing a Welsh flag branded guitar, his measured strumming adds to the sound perfectly. The rest of the band are no slouches either, with former Kooga counterpart Neil Garland showing his diversity by handling keyboard and harmonica duties. With their debut album to be released this October, the future is looking bright for Hand Of Dimes.
Following a racy set from Toesland, Raveneye astonished, with the sheer power emanating from a three piece band shaking Steelhouse to its mountainous core. With monstrous riffs and sheer raw energy, the material from their debut EP ‘Breaking Out’ saw Oli Brown and the boys entertain with a fantastic combination of screaming guitar solos, groove laden riffs and plenty of audience participation.
Comprising of ex-members of Mötley Crüe, Dio, Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne expectations were high for the next act, The Dead Daisies. Opening with ‘Midnight Moses’ - a Sensational Alex Harvey Band cover, it was clear that the band are more than the sum of their parts, and work superbly as a unit. Singer John Corabi loves every minute of their performance, and the rest of the band echoed his delight. Mixing tracks from forthcoming album ‘Make Some Noise’ along with covers such as an amazing run through of Free’s ‘All Right Now’, their set was went down a storm. Throw in the antics of bassist Marco Mendoza and abundant skills of guitarist Doug Aldrich, and theirs would have been a perfect festival appearance, were it not for a somewhat needless drum solo from Brian Tichy.
The Dead Daisies. Photo: Ian Coates.
Ginger Wildheart meanwhile, has been around for what seems like forever, and his latest incarnation is in Hey! Hello! Cut from the same trademark thrash / pop / glam aesthetic as his namesake other outfit, the five-piece offer songs bursting with sing-along choruses, monster riffs, and catchy hooks. New singer Kat does a sterling job, and though the crowd seemed a little less enthusiastic throughout the band’s set, perhaps it was down to a few obviously shaky early-set moments during which band members exchanged stern glances towards each other. By the end of their pop-tastic set however, the crowd had warmed to Hey! Hello!
Fittingly, it was as Terrorvision took to the stage that the sun decided to make an appearance. In tandem with the party atmosphere provided by the boys from Bradford, the change in the weather signalled a marked upswing in mood. With constant jumps, slides and energetic dancing, front man Tony Wright must surly rank among the fittest men in rock. Musically, it was nice to be reminded of how many hits Terrorvision have had, with ‘My House’, ‘Pretend Best Friend’, ‘American TV’, ‘Discotheque Wreck’, and countless others all present in their high-energy set. With the audience loving every minute, Wright took the time to show his appreciation, applauding the them in return every given opportunity.
Terrorvision. Photo: Ian Coates.
As daylight faded, it was on to the final band of the night, and arriving under a barrage of lights and smoke, The Darkness descended, ready to bring Steelhouse 2016 to a fitting end. With all eyes on main man Justin Hawkins, adorned in customarily over the top skin tight cat suit, the band launched into ‘Black Shuck’ and ‘Growing On Me’ from debut album ‘Permission To Land’. With Hawkins senior hamming it up with constant posturing and gyrating, brother Dan was a complete contrast, rooted to the spot and holding down the tight riffs that drive the band. New drummer Rufus ‘son of Queen’s Roger’ Taylor meanwhile, is a fine addition to the line-up; solid as a rock and locking in wonderfully with bassist Frankie Poullain, who still pulls off the 70’s porn star look admirably. With a mix of material old and new – including a particularly entertaining ‘Barbarian’ complete with punters trying but failing to match those damn near impossible high notes – it was the perfect set with which to close the festival.
The Darkness. Photo: Ian Coates.
With 2016 the biggest event yet, happily, Steelhouse appears to be here to stay. As the dust settles on the fantastic efforts of those involved, only one thought springs to mind; same time next year?
By Lee Kendrick. Click here for eonmusic’s review from day one of Steelhouse!