A Shirt on Sunday: Waco - 9/11/2019 - Hard Rock Hell 2019
In the previous shirt I went through the main stage bands at Hard Rock Hell. The main stage room was low-ceilinged, with a stage that came too far forward and had the ‘VIP’ seating area right in front, reducing the atmosphere, until the third evening, where they removed the chairs from right in front of the stage forcing people to stand and improving the atmosphere but reducing visibility for those further back.
The second stage room was smaller, and the seating was set at the back by the bar. Which got the ‘VIP’s out of the way, but meant they sat there and talked through the music. That said, the atmosphere was so much better in the smaller room, and the bands far more varied and interesting.
Welsh band Ravenbreed were first up on the Friday, and were one of the top bands of the weekend, despite having lost their singer a few weeks before. Instead they had Will Taylor, of Black Tree Vultures singing and he did a phenomenal job. If he’d not said he was a guest, I’d have not known - he certainly delivered the songs as if he meant every word. As such, the show was very intense and delivered a southern rock meets Sabbath sound that was a great start to the day.
Kikamora gave it the full Led Zep and were great fun.
White Raven Down (second Raven of a day also featuring Crows and Vultures) were another band coming from the Sabbath side, to the point where they did a bang on cover of 'Iron Man'.
Then I lucked out, as a band swap meant I saw nearly all of Those Damn Crows, but missed some of the punky messiness of Y!kes (sic). There was a touch of Ezra Thurman here, with the mix of bubble-gum pop and full on punk, and at one point they delivered a version of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’ that sounded right at home.
On the main stage, Praying Mantis offered a contrast of great harmonies on a lovely rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Kind of Man’, but I had to go back in the small room for Black Tree Vultures, after being so impressed by their singer at lunch time. Has to be said: I preferred him with Ravenbreed, as they were more to my taste. But they did have some interesting stuff, including a song based on Dylan’s ‘Visions of Johanna’, which is something you don’t hear every day.
Wicked Stone were an odd combination. A band of lads in their teens with a singer in his thirties (I’m guessing here, but you get the point). They were okay, but one of the guitarists seemed irritated by the singer, and even more so when the singer accidentally pulled his lead out of the amp and blew the fuse. There was much seething.
After the fun of Gun, Gin Annie were kind of dull, but more enjoyable than Buckcherry.
Devilfire ended the night well: thrash with a bit of glam, and perfectly good without being outstanding. One of those line-ups where I’d rather have seen it the other way up.
Saturday was a day where I mostly stuck my head into the main stage, went ‘Meh!’ and came back to the second stage, which was awash with variety, fun and talent, personified by this lot:
Pulverise were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing and did not disappoint. Rap metal crossover from Leeds, fronted by a quite barking singer with ‘gobshite’ written across the back of her t-shirt, they were even better than I remembered them from the tiny new bands tent at Bloodstock a few years ago. The bass player is a behemoth and works as the perfect foil and the whole package is awesome. We got a couple of Cypress Hill covers, which is never a bad thing and an absolutely brutal song called ‘Kittens and Unicorns’.
Bootyard Bandits are comedy country metal, which is fine for about three songs and then wears very thin. They can play, and they also have some good songs, but four was enough.
Stonewire were okay - 80’s classic metal ala Dio. Unfortunately, the singer’s voice was a bit knackered, as she said herself. The drummer broke his snare drum, and cheerfully continued without it.
Samarkind had come over from Ireland and just arrived. Imagine Ronnie James Dio fronting Sabbath, but doing a Robert Plant impersonation. They suffered a broken drum pedal and broken mic, but still played a blinder and it was definitely worth their trip.
Cadence Noir are hereby my favourite folk metal band (sorry Kathryn), as they do exactly what I’d want from such a band, being a bit more folky and metaly and a lot less growly & doomy (apologies for the butchering the English language). They also called their CD ‘Physical Copy’, which made me smile (and buy one).
Rocket Dolls looked like a Manics-style band but sounded more Nirvana. It was hot in the room and the singer was sweating under his makeup.
At The Sun played very good but unmemorable country rock.
And then: Waco. During the day a young man had been hanging around the second stage between bands, handing out flyers. I’d taken one and assured him they were on my list as a must-see. The lad seemed very nervous but smiled and was polite, so I assumed he was a brother of one of the band. A few hours later, he was on stage in a kaftan and being a rock god! Folk music fans may be familiar with Gerry Colvin, and Waco’s Jak is cut from the same cloth, albeit the tie-dyed and rocking end. TThey share a sense of optimism, nervousness and delight that the music they're making is giving people pleasure. Waco's music is rock ‘n’ roll with a touch of psychedelia and glam. Their sound-check song was about how Barry Gibb was their landlord, and another song was how the singer should aim for more in life than finding the next Wetherspoons, which I agree with, and recommend the CAMRA Beer Guide phone app as a route to higher drinking.
When they announced there were tie-dyed shirts for sale I was straight to the merch room and sure enough, on a wall of black shirts, I had to have the coloured one!
Skam had the benefit of a mad bass player to offset the studied and stationary guitarist singer but played average metal that didn’t stick after the Waco experience.
The last band of my weekend was Wolf Jaw - reminiscent of Dumps Rusty Nuts but without the humour.
Having listened to some cracking bands during the day, they weren’t enough to hold my attention and I took the opportunity to stager back to my B&B in a break in the rain.
Since that weekend, I’ve bought tickets to one more HRH event at the Great Yarmouth holiday park, as Molly Hatchet are playing (let’s hope they don’t cancel again), but the others I’m not going to bother with. This is not a good venue for live music and hopefully HRH will move on again soon. Plus, I have all of these bands to see again in the pubs and clubs around London, so I've got lots of gigs to go to next year!
Apologies once more for the bad pics. Since this event, my phone - a Samsung Galaxy 5 mini I've had for nearly ten years - has finally died, so I'm now getting used to a new phone camera.