Ramblin Man Fair
July 25, 2017 | Maidstone, Kent, UK
Photos by Pete Key
Now in its third year, after the success of the previous 2 years, Ramblin Man seems to go from strength to strength. With yet another strong line up, featuring over 60 acts on 4 stages, over 3days, in the picturesque surroundings of Mote Park in Maidstone, Kent.
Friday, which seemed to be added as an afterthought, only featured 4 bands on the main stage, but what a warm up. Graham Bonnet band were up and running as we made our way in with ‘All Night Long’ being played to a small but rapidly growing crowd. Rainbow classics and more recent solo material made up the set with “Since you’ve been gone” sang with the usual gusto.
Dio remnants Last In Line, fired up the now sizable audience. Viv Campbell, Vinnie Appice and co.’s set comprised of Dio classics plus a couple of tracks from their recent release ‘Heavy Crown’, Andrew Freemans vocal style in keeping with the great Ronnie James Dio, without trying to copy.
Y&T were excellent despite missing rhythm guitarist John Nymann, due to illness. “Dirty Girl” and “Meanstreak” were a couple of staples in a quality set.
Saxon power through a top headline set with usual aplomb, hitting us straight away with the title track of the latest release ‘Battering Ram’. Biff demanding every ounce from the crowd. Everyone is a winner in a 19-song set that takes us through Saxon history.
Saturday. Day 2. Jarred James Nicholls opens the main stage with his energetic Blues rock.
Because of the way Ramblin Man is set up, I managed to see most of Lionizes set on the Grooverider stage, before a quick walk to the main stage to catch the last couple of songs from Toseland. Then off to the bar for a quick pint of Ramblin Man Ale, before comfortably getting to the front of the Planet Rock mainstage for Steve Harris’ British Lion. Steve and the boys were excellent, despite (as Steve told me earlier) not getting a proper sound check.
Off then to see The Kyle Gass band, fronted by the Tenacious D man, on Grooverider when the rain set in. A hasty retreat to the bar was required, where there was still a great view of the stage. During a slight break in the weather I wandered to the other end of the arena past the various array of merchandise/ food outlets and show stands, (everything from Ostrich burgers to Harley Davidsons) to the Rising stage. Next up were former Little Angels man Toby Jepsons latest project, Wayward sons, who were watched from the wings by Saxons Biff Byford. Staying on the Rising stage as the rain came again, I was keen to have a look at Brummie based, Broken Witt Rebels, just returning from a U.S tour. Suitably impressed I stayed for the whole set.
The rain continued to lash down, but didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowds gathered for the popular Rival Sons on the Grooverider and Blackstar Riders on the main stage, Ricky, Scott and co, rarely disappoint and today was no exception.
Saturday headliners Extreme aren’t every ones bag but are ‘Extremely’ good at what they do. Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt know how to put on a show. Having recently finished a tour celebrating 25 years of ‘Pornograffitti’ playing the album in its entirety, their set tonight featured a variety of songs from other albums too. There was a couple of fantastic instrumental solos from Nuno, as well as the obligatory “More than words” and “Get the Funk Out”, topped off with a Queen cover or 2.
Sunday. Day 3, and the weather couldn’t be more of a contrast to Saturday. The sun shone all day and everyone seemed to be enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of this festival. With Download becoming bigger and heavier, Ramlin Man looks to be the choice of the Classic Rock fan and families. Having a walk round the arena I saw a great range of ages on show, even a couple of very young rock fans with their ear defenders , sat a on dads shoulders.
Up and coming band Stone Broken and ex-Whitesnake members, Snakecharmer, opened up the proceedings on the main stage. Meanwhile on the Rising stage newcomers KilliT get things going, before Knock out Kaine bring their rock n roll debauchery to the stage.
A slight break in musical proceedings at 2.00 for an American Civil War re-enactment. The Blue and the Grey going head to head with muskets and cannons.
Swedish outfit Blues Pills mesmerised us from the main stage with their almost psychedelic blend of blues rock. The delightful Elin Larssons energy filled the stage as did her soaring vocals, which were a little reminiscent of Grace Slick.
The Prog in the park stage featured Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash, the strangeness of Focus before Magnum took to the stage. Bob Catley took a while to get going on the first couple of songs “Soldier of the Line” and “Storytellers Night” but eventually got into his stride, finishing the set with the title track and “When the world comes down” from the album ‘Vigilante’.
In the marquee was an array of Blues artists , including Aaron Keylock and a special set of blues covers by The Quireboys, and headlined by Joanne Shaw Taylor.
As the shadows started to lengthen on this glorious afternoon we were treated to a master class in British rock. U.F.O could have quite easily Headlined, playing a set that barely scratched the surface of their huge back catalogue.
ZZ Top finish off the night with a set that includes 2 encores, the second being a cover of ‘ Jailhouse rock’. A host of hits and covers made up the set with songs like “You got me under pressure”, “Cheap sunglasses” and a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy lady”, but very little interaction with the audience made it seem like they were just going through the motions a little .
Overall Ramblin Man Fair seemed to be a success, other than Saturday’s weather. A load of great classic artists and excellent new talent across several genres , a variety of great food and drink and afield full of like minded people out for a good time. What could possibly go wrong?
VIVIAN CAMPBELL of LAST IN LINE
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