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Stonedead Festival

Artist: Blue Oyster Cult, Black Star Riders, Therapy?, The Answer, King King, Florence Black, Deraps, South Of Salem, Collateral, Skin, Kira Mac, The Karma Effect.

Venue: Newark Show-Ground

Date: 25-26th August 2023

"We always get a wave and a smile when we drive in and out and I always wonder why all festivals cannot be run this way. It will be interesting to see who will be there next year."

The Answer
The Answer © Andy B

Well, another year has passed and it will be Christmas in a couple of weeks, as Stonedead has arrived for 2023. Started in 2018, after many people said it would never work, the one-day festival has grown in both stage size and attendance figures. The stage size I didn’t confirm, but the crowd size was increased by twenty-five percent from last year, to a total of five thousand; still a smallish festival, but sold out ages ago, and still growing.

I have to admit, the lineup didn’t enthral me when I saw it. As usual, many of the bands lower down the line-up I had never heard of before, but all of them have a following, evidenced by the number of respective t-shirts worn by attendees; and those I was aware of, well, Black Star Riders I had seen a few times before, but I was unaware at this time that there had been a change with them, and Blue Oyster Cult has never been on my hit list, my only knowledge of them being that I know they did ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’; oh, and I knew the names of Buck Dharma and Joe Bouchard, who I knew played in the band, as I met him when he was with Dennis Dunaway and Neil Smith at a gathering in 2002. I had totally forgot that I had seen them on one of the very early Monsters Of Rock shows, which may tell you something. And last year’s headliner will take some beating. Still, Stonedead always seems to come up with bands that pique interest, and the weather is always great.

This year however was a little different.

We started, as usual, on the Friday night party, generally done for the attendees who were camping over the weekend. Three bands were listed, but the evening started on a bit of a downer when it was announced, by Planet Rock DJ Paul Anthony, who was tonight’s compere, that ex-Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden had passed away that day. After that, which to be fair wasn’t the best thing to follow, The Karma Effect from London, describing themselves as bluesy Rock ‘n’ Roll, kicked off proceedings at around 18.45. Again, the problem with festivals is, with lots of bands I have never heard of, playing songs that I don’t know, including the titles unless they are introduced, which many aren’t, I end up still unaware after the event. And another problem; when you get on in years, and you have seen a lot of Rock bands from all the sub-genres; and I qualify for both of those, it becomes really hard to be blown away by new music, sometimes even by the bands I like. Being unfamiliar with songs only compounds that problem, but I can tell when a band are doing it right, and enjoying what they are doing, and The Karma Effect certainly did that. There was however a problem. Something I have never experienced at Stonedead happened just as they were coming to the end of their third song. To be precise it rained. Well no, it didn’t. It actually came down in lumps. From the centre of the pit, to the entrance at the side, wasn’t too far, but I was wet by the time I got there, and thanks to Lorna Jayne on the gate for letting me stand under her umbrella for around twenty to thirty minutes. I still ended up drenched down my back though, as the rain was coming in at an angle from behind me, and I was up against a metal fence panel. Then we got thunder and lightning, and consequently, the show was halted. That’s something I have never witnessed at any outdoor event I have been to. It took around thirty minutes to stop, and had it been at any other event, TKE’s set would have probably been over, but the Stonedead folks don’t like to disappoint, and the band returned to the stage to finish their set. There was nothing new for me here (apart from the aforementioned events), but that’s not unusual, and completely down to me, but the crowd seemed very content, and that’s what counts.

Next up was Kira Mac, who I had heard of, but again sadly, I was totally unknowing regarding the music they played. A female-fronted band, named after that very singer (real name Rhiannon Hill from Stoke-On-Trent), turned out to be a Southern Blues Rock band, and if the name rings a bell with you also, that’s probably because she appeared on the BBCs’ ‘The Voice’. (Did she win? I don’t know, I don’t watch it!). Whether she did or not, it didn’t do her any harm, as here she was, with her own Rock band, doing her thing on a large stage. The band, as all of those I have ever seen here, were tight and precise, although there was one point in a song where she sounded slightly flat, but not for long, and I don’t think anyone else noticed.

The intro for Myke Gray’s Skin was ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin,’ a Cole Porter song from the film ‘Born To Dance’, made more famous by Frank Sinatra, and now being played at Stonedead. I bet when he wrote it, he never sat there and thought ”Hmm, this would sound really good at a Heavy Rock festival”, mainly because neither existed then. Myke Gray has played Stonedead (or possibly Stonedeaf) before, just under his own name, and after resurrecting the name Skin, he returns to headline tonight. Being aware of the music makes it a lot easier to appreciate, and with him appearing as Skin, I thought the set would probably be just that band’s material, and I turned out to be correct. With his well-worn, white Charvel guitar and wearing his customary black and white attire, he cruised through his hour-long set, which pleased the crowd totally.

Set list:- Money, Spit On You, House Of Love, Raised On Radio/Nightsong, Stronger, Soul, Which Are The Tears, Monkey, Look But Don't Touch, Colourblind, Take Me Down To The River, Tower Of Strength.

Saturday 26th August

Hopefully the weather was going to be better today, but there were dark clouds in the distance, and I noticed many in the crowd kept looking towards them, probably to see if they were depositing. I know we were. (Looking, not depositing). It did rain a little early on, but generally speaking it was dry most of the day, and we even got sunshine in the afternoon.

Today, we had the presence of the mighty Krusher acting as compere, utilising his favourite four-letter, Latin (apparently, or French, or German; who the f&@£ knows) word right from the start, and the first band he introduced was Collateral who started early with an explosion as soon as they walked on. They are from Kent, this year’s competition winners to claim the opening slot on the line up, with five members, and only formed in 2018 and have toured with Jared James Nichols, Phil X, Skid Row and Jon Bon Jovi among others, and I would say their sound isn’t too far away from Bon Jovi. They were lively during their thirty to thirty-five minute set, very happy to be there and a good start to the day.

Set List:- Mr. Big Shot, Midnight Queen, Sin In The City, About This Boy, Glass Sky, No Place For Love, Lullaby, Merry Go Round.

South Of Salem from Bournemouth entered the stage with a backdrop and two screens towards the rear on either side, adorned with a winged coffin. OK… It makes a change from skulls I suppose. I thought they would be Doom Metal with a potential for grunting and screaming, but they didn’t do that at all. They produced a high energy Rock show with a touch of Punk thrown in, and a bit of theatre, which I just love. There were a couple of young ladies, with very short cheerleader skirts, pom-poms, and rather grotesque grinning clown masks, dancing on either side of the stage, and there were an awful lot of tattoos, and pyro. I had a feeling flames, smoke, explosions and such like were going to be a bit of a feature throughout proceedings. Little did I know. I quite liked them, and no doubt the theatricality of it added to this.

Set List:- Let Us Prey, The Hate In Me, Made To Be Mine, Static, No Plague Like Home, Death Of The Party, Pretty Little Nightmare, Cold Day In Hell.

Deraps are a three piece band who had flown in from Canada, which immediately put the thought of Rush into my mind. Krusher commented that he hoped their arms weren’t too tired. Always good for bad jokes is Krusher. It became fairly clear early on that this was a band mainly based around guitarist/vocalist Jacob Deraps (who’d have thought), and from the first number, my guess was that he was influenced by Van Halen. There was a tremendous amount of widdle, with each member having a solo spot, and during ‘Make Ya Groove’ we had the traditional fly-over from one of the Battle Of Britain Memorial flight aircraft and, same as last year it was the Lancaster Bomber, the plane getting as much applause as the band. It’s a great thing to have, but I just wonder what the band thinks when attention is distracted from them. Having said that they reminded me of Van Halen, we actually got a cover of ‘Hot For Teacher’ along with Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ and The Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’, and I don’t know where they came from, but lots of female dancers on stage for this closing number.

Set List:- Sex, Drugs & Rock 'N' Roll, My Side Of Town, Make Ya Groove, Bass Solo, Live Fast Die Slow, Drum Solo, Wild To The Woman, Guitar Solo, Fuck Off, Highway Star, Hot For Teacher, The Ballroom Blitz.

The next slot should have been occupied by Mason Hill, but due to vocalist Scott Taylor being unwell (apparently he has since left the band due to this), last minute replacement from Wales, Florence Black, were up next, and blow me, they were another three-piece. Strangely, there were no females in the band, but I don’t suppose it’s done Alice Cooper any harm. From the start, best wishes were sent to Scott from FB frontman Tristan Thomas, with the crowd joining in. The band, as all bands today, were delighted to be there, and hats off to them for sorting things out so quickly. Also, like all bands today, they were tight, and you would have thought they had been preparing for this day from their inception which, to be fair, they probably had. Not being familiar with their material makes it harder to appreciate it, but they sounded punchy, and again, the crowd loved them. One song they did I was aware of was Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’, which I originally witnessed live when the band played our local club in the seventies and which I hadn’t heard for quite a while. They did quite a good job on it. This gig was something they wouldn’t have been expecting to do a month ago, but that’s the secret of success. If you are given an opportunity, take it, and Florence Black did that today.

Set List:- Zulu, On The Ropes, Bird On A Chain, Start Again, Smoke, Black Cat, The Deep End, Don't Hold Me Down, Breadfan (Budgie), Sun And Moon.

Scotland’s King King were another first for me today. It was a bit weird at the start because we were told we couldn’t go between the speaker stacks in front of the stage, as pyro had been set up on top of them for Blue Oyster Cult, which was a bit of a pain. And then the band came on stage, took their positions, frontman Alan Nimmo played a chord on his guitar, spoke into the microphone, and then they all walked off again. A couple of minutes later and the intro music started and they were back on. I wasn’t the only one confused, and they didn’t even have a Krusher introduction. Again, a Blues based band, comfortable in what they do on stage, including Nimmo wearing his kilt. There were some nice harmony vocals in ‘You Stopped The Rain’ and, despite being a bit too Blues and Soul for