Date: 2-4 September 2022
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Over the first weekend of September I was invited to attend this festival with our editor Bruce Mee. Having not been to a festival abroad before I was relishing the prospect of something new.
After a taxi to Manchester airport, flight to Dublin, flight to Hamburg, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, bus ride, U-Bahn again and a short walk we arrived at our hotel. After some sightseeing and café relaxation, Friday was upon us.
After checking out the merchandise and CD stalls we entered the gig hall. The Markthalle in Hamburg holds up to 1,000 people but I suspect that includes the bar area when you first go in as it seems smaller.
First band is a Marc Jurs acoustic set. He performed okay but would have thought a small bar setting would suit better. Next up were Degreed who also performed acoustically. They were excellent and went down well with the crowd (a bit smaller for the Friday VIP night). What I did notice was that viewing was good as the floor had steps rising either side of the hall which meant no matter where you were you got a decent view. There's always at least one surprise on the bill at festivals and for me it was Radiant, they were fantastic! Melodic Hard Rock from guys who looked like they were enjoying themselves; ‘Rock And Win’ even had me chanting although I had never heard the song before! Met the band afterwards and bought both their albums. Age Of Reflection are a band I have a lot of time for and they put on a fine performance. Shiraz Lane I don’t know a lot about but they put on a good energetic performance. The lead singer looks and comes across almost exactly like Ted Poley, even venturing into the crowd! The cover of ‘To The Moon And Back’ was absorbing. Ronnie Atkins, for me typifies the word ‘RockStar’. I love his voice. He can command the crowd with ease and to top it all he’s such a nice guy! His acoustic set was peppered with solo stuff, a little Pretty Maids and even a cover of KISS favourite ‘Hard Luck Women’ ̶ sublime. Rounding off the first night was David Reece. Leaning heavily on Bangalore Choir’s ‘On Target’ album he tore up the place with a fantastic performance and great vocals. ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ was a match for Coverdale! What a great start to the weekend!
Here we go again…
Captain Black Beard started off the Saturday at 3pm and were another band that were a surprise. Their energetic Rock came across great with the crowd and Iceman, the guitarist, was super cool on stage! Creye are a band I’ve seen before and were the lightest band on the day. A good keyboard-heavy performance with new songs included. Degreed for the second time, but electric, were again superb and the audience lapped it up. Next up was Nestor. Having heard tracks from their fantastic debut album I was really looking forward to this band; I wasn’t disappointed! Their bouncy Melodic Rock and interaction with the crowd was as good as it gets. The 80s sound is typical in the songs ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’, ‘Perfect 10’ and ‘1989’ but they can turn it up with ‘Firesign’ where I found myself rockin’ like a Motherer! Singer Tobias Gustavsson has a lovely voice and to finish with Whitney Houston's ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ was a masterstroke! Band of the festival for me. Maverick are a band I like. Super nice guys with melodic power and songs to match. ‘The One’ sung by strong vocalist Dave Balfour was performed with such passion I had a tear in my eye as I was singing along. Great performance. Following was CoreLeoni, a fine band effort covering the Gotthard back catalogue. ‘Firedance’ had me performing a spot of the old headbanging! Next was Kee Marcello, a late replacement for Crashdiet. To be honest, after a couple of songs it was clear it wasn’t working for him. He knew it and the crowd knew it! Time to head for the bar! Finishing off were favourites H.E.A.T. and they played a great energetic set full of old songs and some from their latest album. ‘Back To The Rhythm’ will be a favourite live song for some time. Kenny Leckremo has slotted in seamlessly back into the band but I felt there was something missing that Erik Gronwall brought to the table. Still a great show but felt like a different band. Another fantastic night.
Second day of wearing shorts to the gig as my Friday black shiny ones contained rivers of sweat which were running down my legs due to the heat of the night.
Universe started the day off. This is the third incarnation of the band and they played a solid set, if a bit plodding at times! Toxic Rose appeared onstage in leathers, spikes and gothic makeup; I feared the worst! But after a muddy start with the vocals, which was corrected, they sounded not bad at all. An enthusiastic W.A.S.P with hard driving guitar, including drinking blood, is how I would best describe them. Midnite City are next and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them several times and they never disappoint. Glam/Sleaze/Melodic/Hair Rock…they’re difficult to describe but they do it so well. ‘They Only Come Out At Night’ had me singing along, even though I was probably out of tune! The crowd loved it. Following on were Electric Boys. I had heard a couple of songs before but dismissed them as average. However, although not all the songs were to my taste, their performance was great and made for an enjoyable experience. Gathering Of Kings was another band I was really looking forward to hearing. Switching between four singers between songs sounds wrong but strangely it works! Great selection of songs, ‘Forever And A Day’ being the highlight for me. Bloody marvellous! The next band needed no introduction as they regained their place in the spotlight with the theme song on the TV show ‘Peacemaker’. Wig Wam are all glam with balls! ‘Do Ya Wanna Taste It’, ‘Hard To Be A Rock And Roller’, ‘Never Say Die’ and ‘In My Dreams’ had me singing till my lungs burst! What a performance! Hard to believe this is still the same band I saw at Firefest in 2006! Ronnie Atkins playing an electric set now. I can’t get enough of this guy! Playing a mixture of tracks from his solo albums was great but finishing off with the one-two of Pretty Maids favourites ‘Future World’ and ‘Little Drops Of Heaven’ was incredible! Maybe that’s why my voice is still hoarse 3 days later! Rob Marcello on guitar played a blinder [but NOT on vocals – ed]. To close the festival we had Lee Aaron (still looking great at 60!). Nice set, with ‘Powerline’, ‘Barely Holding On’ and ‘Metal Queen’ being the highlights. Didn’t feel she was headline material but as shes’ travelled from Canada maybe that was the deal?
Up early on Monday morning for the journey home. Arriving at Hamburg airport two hours before the flight and the queue for departures is winding all the way out the front door! I was extremely worried we were going to miss our flight to Dublin! We eventually got to the scanner for our boarding passes but Bruce’s wouldn't scan. He got so frustrated with this that he pushed his bag under the barrier and slithered his way under like a salamander! Not our esteemed editor’s finest hour! We lost each other in the queue and when I got to the bag scan area I was taken aside and frisked and had my bag open and searched. I was panicking at this stage and grabbed my stuff and ran all the way to the boarding gate. I sat down and Bruce was nowhere to be seen. I thought he had either missed the flight or had been arrested! But he eventually turned up, if a little flustered! Touched down in Manchester mid-afternoon.
Over the weekend I met friends, old and new. Everyone was in great spirits and I even got to meet Oliver Lange who ran this festival with great aplomb and made sure everyone attending had a great time. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it as it's still fresh in my mind! What other festival can we get more excited about….?
Review: Stuart Dryden Photos: Bruce Mee