Being a newbie to the whole music festival scene, having only ever been to Les Fest/Wildfire, my first experience of Hard Rock Hell came as a culture shock. I’d been told it was good, in fact at LesFest there was one other festival on everyone’s lips. One which generated lots of conversation around the camp and one which almost everyone there was planning on going to. It had me intrigued as soon as I started to look into it.
That festival was Hard Rock Hell.
Social media ensures that around festival time you get a pretty good idea of what people like and with HRH everyone was posting about how amazing it was. I got the impression that, for some, it’s now a way of life, a massive annual family reunion. In the run up to the event many friend requests where exchanged, arrangements were made, then it was all systems go, avengers assemble type of thing. The prior warnings from the rest of Team CB had, in hindsight, not prepared me for the beast of a hangover that would follow.
A small price to pay I suppose.
Not only was it my first time at the festival itself, but HRH 8, Helloween was my first experience of the whole Hard Rock Hell universe as part of the cackblabbath.online team, and it turned out to be an experience that blew my pre-festival expectations out the water. Before the event I’d only heard of a few bands, but with everyone going on about how great HRH was for finding your next favourite band I must admit was looking forward to hearing from the newbies on the bill. There was something for every rocker across three days of music, from seasoned veterans like Michael Schenker and More to newer kids on the block, bands like Massive and Texas Flood who have been building a reputation on the back of some great live performances.
And there was Haribo, reluctantly shared.
Having been to Highway to Hell in Glasgow’s Classic Grand earlier in the year, it was great to finally see the Texas Flood lads grace the main stage. Their HTH success was a well deserved victory for them, and their early set was fuelled by an impressive audience reaction. This is a band with catchy riffs and melodies and it was a set made it hard for anyone to stand still.
Although the main stage had plenty to offer, I was well warned that many of the highlights were on the second stage. This was true when The Amorettes played a killer set as always and had the crowd going crazy for “Heartbreaker” and “Grab the bull by the horns”. The Glasgow 3-piece weren’t alone in flying the flag for the fairer sex with ThunderMother also playing to a packed crowd, with people fighting over space to get a snap of the girls.
Of the main stage bands it was Witch Rider that surprised me the most… They had a Muse-type vibe to them but sadly as they were on early, and the crowds were still dying from the night before’s antics so they played to a near-empty hall. In front of the right crowd I reckon it would have been pretty damn amazing.
No such crowd worries for Blackwolf though, who immeidately had me dancing on the spot. They had more of a Stone Temple Pilots sound to them and maintained a steady crowd. A handsome bunch of guys, all about good old fashioned rock n roll.
Another pick was Grifter, a band that I had heard of but never seen, and I was not disappointed. The rest of TeamCB had pretty much dragged me along to see them (there may have been beer on offer) but I’m glad I went along as Grifter were one of the highlights of the second stage.
As were the next band up. Put simply Western Sand were one of the best things I have seen of late. They were one of the bands for me that had a more unique sound to them, A mix between melodic, southern and good old fashioned rock n roll. I wasn’t the only person who immediately liked these guys though and judging by the reception they got I reckon they gained a whole batch of new fans.
Back on the main stage, Blues Pills were a band I heard a lot of buzz about, and after watching them perform I can understand why. Elin Larsson, their Female vocalist was mesmerising to watch. Dancing and beating the life out of her tambourine, and flying the flag for the next wave of big names in blues-rock. You need to check these guys out.
Big Elf were another psychedelic/prog rock band, with a hard rock twist playing main stage. Not everyone’s cup of tea, they gave us a much needed chance to chill after some of the louder, heavier and harder bands of the weekend..
Massive were a band that had a lot of people talking. Aussie rockers who are all about the music, and frontman Brad was also the willing subject of my first ever attempt at interviewing. They played stupidly late night but as the HRH faithful are a hardy bunch most of us were in full party mode Massive generated loads of interest. Unfortunately the also caused outbreaks of drunk dad dancing from people who should know better.
Not only are they a cracking band to see/hear perform, they are also a really nice, down to earth bunch of lads. In my interview Brad came across as very humble guy, passionate about his craft and serious about the music.
And he was nice to me during the interview, I was a “bit” nervous when I was told I was doing that, a minute before it happened.
By the time Saturday night came, there were 2 names on everyone’s lips, Blue Oyster Cult and Michael Schenker. Having queued to get into the main stage arena, while nursing a serious Hard Rock Hell hangover, I waited patiently as the crew set up the stage for the legendary Michael Schenker. The queue for the photo pit rapidly increased and the crowd got bigger, no idea where all these people had been hiding all day but no one wanted to miss out on a legend. The atmosphere was electric as people waited and waited. As the intro tape ran the whole crowd were in battle mode…
Then magic happened.
As the first few notes played I was grinning like a cheshire-cat. Not one for saving the best until last, things kicked off with one of my all time favourite songs, U.F.O’s Doctor Doctor !! Doogie White came on and gave a lesson in exactly how to be a frontman delivering a killer version of this classic tune, with the crowd more than willing to sing and bounce along. For me this summed up what this whole weekend was about…. Good old fashioned rock! The whole HRH experience had been great so far, but I thought Schenker and his pals were in a completely different league from most bands I had seen or heard over the weekend. Genuinely, touch of class.
Credit to the organisers for putting together the beast that is Hard Rock Hell, it’s a journey I will never forget. The proof is in the pudding though and the testimonials and reviews on Facebook from fans, bands and the like speak for themselves.
So what makes HRH so damn good ? I’m still not sure. The bands, the atmosphere, the crowd ? Probably a bit of all three but heading back up north I understood just why so many people are so passionate about the whole HRH universe…
You go to these festivals with a few friends and end up with a new family, and I for cannot wait for Team Cackblabbath’s next adventure at Hammerfest, and then the road trip to Ibiza.
It’s a way of life. Hope to see more of you on the road.
Til next time….