Welcome to HRH Blues.
Welcome to HRH Blues.
Once again the HRH team have managed to get together some of the biggest names on the blues circuit worldwide and this year was extra special, there was going to be a second stage and even more bands to see for the loyal royalty fans and media people.
We kicked off with Dani Wilde with her collection of blues country and gospel tunes which got the early crowd clapping along and straight away everyone knew this was going to be one special festival.
Next up were The Billy Walton band, a five piece from New Jersey complete with a jumping jiving saxophonist and a trumpet player and right from the start you knew that these guys were going to be a little bit special. Billy, a former Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes guitarist didn’t disappoint with a mix of Cajun, funk, Hendrix, and songs from the new album Crank It Up. And when somebody threw an array of hats on to the stage, they had the crowd on their feet enjoying every moment.
Third band, The Gravel tones, a total change in atmosphere and a band only for the true fans, I describe them as blues punk rather than funk. The raspy voice of Jimmy O and Micky Sorbellos’ stick thumping of the drums soon saw people leaving their seats and heading for an early drink at the bar. They do what they do well but not everyone’s cup of blues tea on the night.
Next I headed for stage two for the first act I had heard a lot about, Will Wilde brother of Dani from earlier on. When I got inside the very dark area it was already nearly full so I wasn’t the only one who had heard of his reputation as a musician and entertainer, and boy did he entertain, he has been voted four times best blues harmonica player and you could see why, he played and sung Chicago blues like an old hand and he’s not even thirty yet. With his guitarist Stuart Dixon who pulls some of the best guitar faces I have ever seen, drummer Richard Newman, and the lovely Victoria Smith on bass this man is going to be big, very big in the blues world.
Back to the main stage for the legends that are Pig Iron, going since 1999: blues metal, it’s loud and heavy and the crowd loved it.
Next was the Belfast born Simon Mc Bride, who is following in the steps of Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore with his blues rock and he certainly showed why some people say he is going places.
Throughout the afternoon there were whispers about King King, the headliners for tonight’s gig and whether they were going to play, so I popped on their page and sure enough they were going to have to cancel some tours including tonight’s due to Alan Nimmo’s throat infection.
So the final band of the night were going to be the legendary Ten Years After, who were going to play an extended set due to the King King no show, with their new front man the much younger Marcus Bonfanti. And as soon as they started he commanded the stage, strutting and dancing as if he had been with them all his life; you could see the way he interacted with the older guys in the band that he has fitted in with them perfect .
Hope the people still waiting in their seats for King King after 10 years had finished were not too disappointed.
What a first day, roll on tomorrow.
A Little earlier start this morning as I was one of the lucky ones to catch the unplugged sessions in stage 2 at 12 noon .
We started off with Crow Black Chicken: three bearded Irishmen comprising of Christy O’Hanlon lead vox, Stephen McGrath Bass, and Gev Barrett Drums and vocals. Our first real taste of delta blues, mixed with songs of the bands encounters. A twenty minute mix of real Irish craic and blues. And for such an early start the area in stage 2 was pretty full for them.
The next person on stage for unplugged was a young lady I had heard of around the blues rock scene: Chantel McGregor, with a broad Bradford accent she says are you ready for some fun. She plays a few songs from her album and a brilliant acoustic All Along the Watchtower, this girl can play guitar and I can’t wait to see her set tonight with the electric.
Now for the next act. He goes by the name of Big Boy Bloater, or Bloater as he prefers to be called even by his family, you can’t help but love this man: he comes on stage pint in hand, happy Easter everyone, cheers. Then he starts to sing with his gravelly voice and you feel like he has blues in his veins. He has come through some dark times which shows in some of the lyrics in his own songs but he performs old school blues as good as anyone I have heard.
Now for the first really disappointing set for me: it was from Dan Patlansky who straight away looked nervous and actually told the crowd that this was out of his comfort zone and he didn’t do acoustic, it showed .
Then comes Jack J Hutchinson an added extra to the unplugged session and the only artist not to appear later on. He was a fun foot stomper playing modern blues style and his single BOOM was a guitar feast.
I now headed for Stage 1 and the first of the main acts, Sean Webster & the Deadlines, who incidentally had the longest set of the weekend. He has a big reputation among the blues and rock scene and you can see why. In his hour and a half set he delivered an original collection of blues based songs with rock thrown in now and then for good measure. And when he sang his version of I’d Rather Go Blind you could have heard a pin drop with the huge audience and after he had finished I even saw tears in some people’s eyes. It was an honour to witness that performance and what a great start to the day.
After seeing Chantel McGregor’s acoustic set earlier I was excited to see what she would be like with her band and the electric axe, and all I can say is absolutely sensational: she played the guitar as good as any of the rock musicians out there and with her Yorkshire wit and rapport with the audience look out Nita Strauss and Orianthi. Chantel’s coming for ya.
Stage 2 and a heavy loud blues metal band StoneWire, what can I say the minute the wonderful Sky Carter opens her mouth and that amazing voice comes belting out you are whisked away. Now myself being foremost a metal head I didn’t expect to be head banging at this fest but man with their blistering metal sound my head didn’t stay still long. Loved them and the huge crowd agreed.
Third act up on main stage, a young man: Laurence Jones, now I was expecting a lot from him, and I don’t know if I had just been spoilt by the blistering performance of Chantel but he didn’t impress me. Yes he’s a good guitarist but you can only listen to trilling for so long before it gets boring and that’s what happened I’m afraid to say. For me he did a little too much to try and impress instead of just singing the blues.
Next up: another young man who is getting a big reputation, Aaron Keylock, probably the youngest there at the tender age of 18.
He is an impressive guitarist and singer songwriter for his young years but that’s all I can say: it had all been done previously and sadly a lot better.
Off back to see Crow Black Chicken’s full set on stage 2. People must have been chatting about their earlier unplugged set, the place was rammed! I had to watch from the speaker by the front door – thank goodness for plugs. Christy O’Hanlon, the big bearded front man, would be just as comfortable as a stand up with his tales of the band’s misadventures in between some fantastic delta blues and original numbers which the band perform . Everyone loved them.
New Yorker Alix Anthony on the main stage next with his black top hat he sounded like James Brown when he came on, but he mixed the sounds with Stevie Wonder, Muddy Waters and lots of rock and soul artists.
I was moving between two stages as I wanted to see the next band on stage two, Pearl Handled Revolver: a Bedford based 4 piece blues rock psychedelia band. Lee Vernon, the charismatic front man who is a cross beween Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux and the Doors’ Jim Morrison. They play a heavy blues Pink Floydesqe psychedelic sound that is infectious and they have been praised by none other than Wilko Johnson and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, need I say more.
Dan Patlansky next, hoping he would sound better than his earlier acoustic set, I’m afraid he didn’t, and when Laurence Jones joined him on stage for a dueling guitar riff that seemed to go on forever I moved back to stage 2 to see The wonderful Big Boy Bloater’s electric set. Man this is what we had come here for: he performed old school Howlin’ Wolf and a catalogue of his album tracks like the Blues meister he is. You have to catch this guy somewhere or you will be losing out on a master class of blues.
Finally the main act of the night: the legendary Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack – a strange one to end on but the best way to describe the performance is that the 71 year old Stan can still play the guitar like the legend he is but his voice now lets him down. It is a shrill wail which soon had the people getting their coats and heading for a last drink and saying their goodbyes.
To sum up the weekend, it was amazing. Yes it had its bad points: one being no announcements for any of the bands, they just came on and played and if you didn’t have a programme it would have been confusing for some. Also there was no announcement about King King not being able to play. Most had known by the evening, but there were still some people waiting to see them after Ten Years After had finished, but overall HRH had done another wonderful job and worked really hard to please everyone .
If you have never been to an HRH event give it a go, you meet old friends and make new ones every time. The HRH mob are one big happy family no matter what genre of music you like. And you never know one day you might become part of the infamous Dark Circle.
Thanks HRH and in the words of Bloater, “CHEERS”.