Tag Archives: The Answer

Review of Ramblin’ Man Fair, 23-24 July 2016, Mote Park, Maidstone

It’s certainly a novelty for the sun to be shining on a festival weekend, but Saturday 23 July dawned bright and full of the promise of a sultry smasher.  Having secured guest VIP passes, we took our time getting to the site at Mote Park, enjoying the feel of the sun on our backs as we walked from the train station at Maidstone.

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Much has been said about the queues to get in on the Saturday, but we only had to queue for 10 minutes or so before we were in; breathing in the familiar smell of BBQ meat and hearing the background noise of a sound check still taking place … walking into that field felt like coming home.

The Fair had four stages, set across a fairly large piece of the park; the main stage, the Outlaw Country stage (which became the Blues stage on the Sunday), the Prog in the Park stage and the Rising stage.  I already knew who I wanted to see across both days, thanks to the Ramblin’ Man app (much better, it must be said, than some other festivals), so we kicked back in the VIP bar for an hour or so, enjoying some people watching.

The Dead Daisies kicked things off for me on the main stage with their blend of 70’s and modern rock, opening a shining set with ‘Midnight Moses’.  Next track, a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Evil’ went down a storm, with people actually getting out of their folding camping chairs to take a get better look. The title track of the new album, ‘Make Some Noise‘ came next, followed by a great cover of John Fogarty’s ‘Fortunate Son’.  A competent, funky performance from this supergroup earned them much applause when their set finished – well worth buying tickets to see them tour with The Answer later this year (8/10).

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The Dead Daisies, Main stage

Next up on the Outlaw country stage were Arizona four-piece Hogjaw; their set kicked some English butt and they played a short but very sweet set to a packed tent, kicking off with the frenetic ‘Rollin Thunder’.  Just as the crowd was getting into it, they slowed it right down with ‘This Whiskey’, before ramping up the pace with ‘Gitsum’.  I couldn’t actually get into the tent to see them, but Hogjaw rocked the very appreciative crowd and they’re my hot tip of the weekend (8/10).

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Hogjaw, Outlaw Country stage

I stayed where I was to listen to Whiskey Myers; I don’t know any of the track names as I’d not come across them before, but they sounded pretty good; a cool, mellow, bluesy sounding band.  Another one to watch, I think (7/10).

At this point it was so hot that I flaked out on the grass and sent my colleague from Dirty Rock Photography to buy lunch.  This meant that I missed Terrorvision, although I could still hear them and see them on the big screens.  I have a special place in my heart for these chaps as much of the soundtrack to my misspent youth came via their albums’Formaldehyde’ and ‘How To Make Friends and Influence People’.  They romped through classics like ‘Alice …’, ‘Pretend Best Friend’ and ‘Oblivion’.  I rocked out as much as I could whilst grazing on a yummy, but somewhat overpriced, ostrich burger (8/10).

All I can say about old school old timers, Europe, is that they didn’t disappoint the predominantly middle-aged audience.  Wheeling out and dusting off such classics as ‘Rock The Night’, ‘Superstitious’ and ‘Cherokee’, the crowd was lapping it up.  The set ended, of course, with the obligatory crowd-pleaser ‘The Final Countdown’.  Cue lots of 40-somethings plugging in their air guitars and moshing with imaginary hair for one of the most anthemic songs of our time (8.5/10)… all I really remember is Joey Tempest’s stunningly white teeth blocking out the sun from the big screens.  Can someone please get me the number for his dentist?!

The rest of Saturday passed in a bit of a blur, with sterling sets from Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, who capped off a virtually perfect day of rock in the sunshine.

 

Sunday turned out to be another beautiful day, although thankfully there was a miniscule amount of cloud cover which kept me from getting sunburned for a second time (and yes, I was using sunscreen!).  First act up for me on the main stage was old school, unashamedly southern The Kentucky Headhunters.  I knew about this band purely for the Black Stone Cherry connection, but I had never heard any of their music before.  Consisting of four mature, long-haired gents, this band absolutely smashed it out of the park, garnering appreciation from all four corners of a somewhat drowsy site.   I mean, who else comes out to play the drums with what looked like a fully stuffed raccoon sitting atop their snowy white locks?  These guys rocked it up with tracks from their not inconsiderable back catalogue, including ‘Walking With The Wolf’ and Freddie King’s ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’.  They played tracks from their latest album ‘Meet Me in Bluesland’, giving a touching tribute to the late almost-family member and fellow musician, Johnnie Johnson.

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The Kentucky Headhunters, Main stage

I’d already departed for the next band when I heard the crowd singing along to the Beatles’ ‘Hey, Jude’; I was gutted to find out later that BSC’s Ben Wells had made an appearance on stage with the Headhunters.  Overall, this was an outstanding set from a band that have only just made it to the UK; I think the Ramblin’ Man crowd made them suitably welcome (9/10).

Over on the Rising Stage, however, it was time for Illustr8tors (formerly BlackWolf) to kick off an energetic, if slightly tentative set.  I believe it was the first time that this band have played since their ‘rebrand’ and they eased into it, looking more comfortable as they dispatched each song, including new offering ‘Something Biblical’ and new single ‘Your Animal’.  Sounding sharp, singer Scott and co pulled in a decent sized crowd and pulled off a quietly triumphant debut appearance (8/10).  Look out for them touring later this year with the excellent Toseland.

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Illustr8tors, Rising stage

I stayed at the Rising Stage, although I could hear the most excellent Irish rockers, The Answer over on the main stage.  I was waiting for Dirty Thrills, a long time favourite of mine (you can find the interview I did with them here), although we had already been treated to an impromptu acoustic performance over in the VIP area a couple of hours beforehand.  As it happened, due to circumstance, I only managed to catch one song, filled with energy and attitude, with a pride-inducing large crowd gathered from the first note. I think it’s fair to say that Dirty Thrills are definitely on the up (8/10).

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Dirty Thrills, Rising stage

It was with great impatience that I weaved my way nearly to the front of the crowd over at main stage for The Cadillac Three; this is a band who I discovered a couple of years ago through Classic Rock Mag, but never had the opportunity to see.  Wearing shades and baseball caps, looking achingly cool and effortless up there on that huge stage, TC3 kicked off a sublime set with the sultry ‘Peace Love and Dixie’ from the EP of the same name. Such immense blues/country/rock tracks as ‘Tennessee Mojo’, ‘I’m Southern’ and ‘Back It Up’ showcased fantastic musicianship and genuine love for playing live (9.5). They had a fantastic and well deserved reaction from the crowd and I’m seriously excited for their tour later this year – I would highly recommend that you get tickets.

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The Cadillac Three, Main stage

I was in two minds about seeing Thunder; I’ve seen them so many times and they always put on a good show, so I settled for sitting at the edge of the VIP area and watching them on the big screens.  There were newer songs in the set, but also they rolled out absolute classics such as ‘Higher Ground’, ‘Backstreet Symphony’ and ‘Love Walked In’, finishing with the banging ‘Dirty Love’.  The issues they had with the sound didn’t seem to dampen the atmosphere and once again their set was competent and accomplished (7/10).

So far, so epic.  A fantastic weekend of music, beer, friends and the most glorious sunshine.  How on earth could an already amazing memorable two days get any better?  Well, it turns out it just needed three little words … Black. Stone. Cherry. I believe this was my fourth BSC gig and the third time I’ve seen them at a festival, although this was the first time they have headlined a UK festival.  The anticipation was almost palpable as Chris, Ben, John Fred and Jon took to the stage with an explosion of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’.

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Black Stone Cherry, Main stage

Going straight into ‘Me and Mary Jane’, with the crowd knowing the words and singing along, the whole band were on superb form and sounding note perfect.  The energetic ‘Blind Man’ followed and ‘Rain Wizard’ drew a most favourable response from the assembled fans.  Chris took the opportunity to introduce the band, before launching into the epic ‘Soul Machine’ followed by a very competent cover of George Thorogood’s ‘Bad to the Bone’.  ‘Soulcreek’, ‘Maybe Someday’ and ‘Rescue Me’ followed, leading to an emotional rendition of ‘It’s In My Blood’, with Chris leading the audience in a repeat of the chorus of the track, having shared some confidences about depression and his personal struggles with thousands of people as if he was talking alone to his best mate.  I have to confess that I did shed a few tears during ‘Things My Father Said’; as I recently marked the two-year anniversary of my Dad’s death it was a rather poignant moment for me. Thankfully the pace picked up after that  with the marvellous ‘Cheaper To Drink Alone’ – the first live performance of that track.

Last two songs were the crowd pleasing ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Blame It on The Boom Boom’, which finished an epic and highly emotive set.  The reflective, beautiful track ‘The Rambler’ – closing song on the new album ‘Kentucky‘ – kicked off a three song encore;  the anthemic ‘Lonely Train’ leading to a final and fitting tribute to late Motorhead front-man Lemmy with ‘Ace of Spades’.  I think BSC can be forgiven for getting emotional on what was, frankly, a triumphant and engaging first headline festival appearance.  Many people present had not seen them before and I’m 100% sure that they made a lot of new fans based on the performance they gave (10/10).

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Black Stone Cherry, Main stage

We couldn’t have asked for a better finish to a festival that, despite some teething problems (more toilets and please, please give the stewards better information about queuing to get in next year!) is rapidly rising to challenge other, bigger festivals in the UK for the title of the best.  This was only the second year of Ramblin’ Man and I was blown away by the nice atmosphere and the overall laid back attitude that pervaded the site across the two days.  I already have my ticket for next year so I hope to see you there!

Thank you to Chris at Dirty Rock Photography for the fab photos!

 

Footage of Illustr8tors – https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemusicjourno%2Fvideos%2F1257576554283347%2F&show_text=1&width=560” target=”_blank”>Illustr8tors

Footage of Dirty Thrills – https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemusicjourno%2Fvideos%2F1257606827613653%2F&show_text=1&width=560” target=”_blank”>Dirty Thrills

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Scott Sharp of Blackwolf

It’s been a bit of a year for Bristol rockers Blackwolf; what with touring, being nominated for the Classic Rock ‘Best New Band’ award, releasing their debut album … you would think that singer Scott Sharp would be above talking to a lowly blogger like me, right?  Wrong.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a more humble rock star and it was a real pleasure to chat with him for half an hour following a belter of a show at the Dome in London this month.  Enjoy …

Blackwolf band pic

Blackwolf was recently nominated for Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Best New Band’ award.  How did it feel to see all of the support that you were getting?

We got a lot more support than we perhaps would have thought, really but Cadillac Three are a great band; I’m a big fan and I would love to get out on the road with them – it was well deserved.  To be honest, when Classic Rock nominated us, it hit us for six.  We had no idea and we were very, very chuffed, just blown away, to be honest.  We’ve been together for just over two years and the support that we’ve had has been insane.  We wrote the EP literally in my audition for the band and we recorded it a week later.  From that we got the Union tour, then The Answer and Winger tours.  One thing has kind of led into the other really, which is great.  We pledged for the debut album, ‘The Hunt’ and we did that just after our first tour.  It was a case of, we want to record an album, let’s just see what happens and sincerely did not expect to meet the target, but I think it took nine days and it just kept coming.

You’ve had some great, positive articles and reviews from the big magazines, Powerplay, Classic Rock etc., – do you enjoy doing press and publicity?

It’s a massively important thing because success for us is sharing what we’re doing with as many people as possible and magazines, radio stations and all the rest of it, they’re one of the prime ways (apart from live shows) to do that, so we relish it and we love talking to people.  It’s all fun!

I don’t like pigeon-holing bands, but if I had to put you into a genre, I would say you fit into the Southern rock genre.  Do you think it’s a genre that’s getting over-saturated?

It’s weird because everyone seems to call what we do something different, so some would say southern rock, some would say classic rock or modern hard rock.  To us, it’s rock and roll and that’s what we play, how we think it should sound today and we don’t forget what’s gone before us because rock and roll has such a rich bloodline which you can’t escape and we’re by no means interested in imitating or pretending that we’re in an era that we’re not.  That’s nothing against bands that do that, some bands do it amazingly, but every time we write or every time we do a show, we try and just take a step forward.

A lot of people say they hear grunge influences and that kind of stuff, which could be a little bit of me as I’m a huge Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains fan, all that kind of stuff.   I’m also a fan of people like Aretha Franklin, Big Mama Thornton, and all those kinds of blues and soul singers as well.   The influences do literally go from the beginning of rock and roll; Jason is very into Chuck Berry and our influences go right back to Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, all the way up to Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry and what’s happening now.  There are all kinds of stuff in there.  I tend not to listen to our stuff much because I’m a huge perfectionist and I tend to pull everything apart; it’s good when you’re writing new stuff and I do hear the odd kind of metal slant it has and that soul edge.  I suppose it all kind of hovers around that blues rock and roll sound.

You’ve already mentioned your debut album, ‘The Hunt’.  Was it well received?

It was, shockingly so.  We got in the studio; our supporters paid for it all and got us in there and it was fantastic, in all honesty it was a real kind of intimate thing with us and the people that are following us and funding it all.  We did loads of blogs and video diaries, Q&A’s, stuff like that.  It was a very close relationship with the fans on that album and all we were really thinking about was making sure they were happy with it.  We weren’t thinking about magazines, or about how we were going to go down live.  When we released it, the magazines starting picking it up and for us it went insane because we expected it to get lost in the void as there’s so much good music out there.  We’ve been very fortunate with all the support that’s come out for us.

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How does your writing process work? 

It’s really important for us all to be there together.  Because our influences are so vast, it’s important to us that we all feed off of each other, but it will always initially start with a riff, or, like with ‘Moving Mountains’, I had a melody in my head  and I whipped out my phone and recorded it.  I took it to Ben, who’s like our riff-master and he just whacked something out straightaway and it fit perfectly.  That was on the way to rehearsals and we just jammed it out and it came to life – that’s pretty much how it always happens.  It normally ends when we’ve played it live a little bit – although we’ve recorded the album, we’re still writing the songs, they change constantly and continue to breathe.

Do you find it easy to engage with your fans?  You have over 5,000 likers on Facebook and you seem to be on twitter quite a bit … are fans that have been with you since the beginning?

Yeah, there are lots, we hang out with some of them.  In all honesty, I find it easy to talk to them because – and I mean this from the bottom of my heart – if it wasn’t for them, we would be five guys playing to an empty room and making stuff that nobody’s listening to, which is a bit pointless and just a bit of an ego massage.

With regard to Facebook, probably about two thousand of those people are also on my own FB account and we’ve got street teams, as well as a twitter group who spread the word for us.  In Birmingham we had a lock in with fans who came and saw us and a whole heap of them followed us to Hard Rock Hell and some stayed in our caravan with us!  It’s a lot of fun and they’re like family to us because that’s how much they mean to us – it might sound cheesy, but it’s crucial for us and anything we can do to encourage them to fall more in love with what we’re doing, we’ll do it.  There is so much great music out there and so many great bands, that I think it’s important to make that personal connection if you can.  Every show, we hang out at the merch table, whether it’s headline or support – we just want to meet as many people as possible.

But you won’t be able to do that for much longer, surely …

I don’t care, if the Gods look down on us and eventually took us to an arena or something like that, we’d still be doing it.  When we stop doing that, we’ll stop playing because there’s no point.  If you’re not playing your music for the people that want to listen to it, why are you doing it?

If you’re hanging out with fans all the time, do you get people coming on to you?

Sometimes, I suppose – it always freaks me out a little bit.  I’m quite shy when it comes to things like that, and I’m so over-the-top focussed on the music and what I’m singing!

Blackwolf B&W pic

You mentioned earlier that you’ll be starting work on a new album soon, are there any particular producers that you have lined up or anyone that you would really like to work with?

We’ve got a small list of producers that we’re meeting in December and there are a couple of people who we would love to work with, including Toby Jepson (Little Angels) and Jeff Rose (formerly of Skindred).

Who’s the biggest pain in the arse on tour?

It’s not really someone, it’s something, i.e., tiredness.  I don’t know if the other guys struggle with it, but vocally, I get tired and it’s constantly just keeping up my voice and what we’re doing. That’s probably the hardest part of touring.  I’m such a perfectionist that I hate it if I can’t reach 110% on every show.

I notice that there’s no alcohol in here either …

No, the guys do drink a little bit but I don’t touch the stuff until the last date, so I’ll probably have a drink tonight but whilst we’ve got shows I won’t touch it.  It messes with my vocal cords and people are coming out to pay to see us and we want to make new friends – I don’t want to let them down.

What are the best and worst things about doing this?

The best thing is looking out and seeing people, well for me anyway, and shaking their heads or grinning like a Cheshire cat.  The worst thing is looking out and seeing a straight face.  For me, if I see a straight face, I just want to get them smiling.  I don’t want to create anything weird between me and that person, but I do kind of keep coming back to them and obsess a little bit.

I’m very much a homebody, quite a rooted person and if we go on a long tour, sometimes I get a bit homesick, but that’s nothing, really.  It is something that I think about for later on, when we’re out on the road for eight, nine months at a time; we were talking to the Blues Pills and they’ve had four weeks off in the last twelve months or something insane and although we can’t wait to get to that point, and there is half of me that loves doing that, I’m a big family guy and I love being at home with my family.  It’s a double edged sword because we’ll come out and meet loads of new people and I love all of them too, that’s kind of what ‘Sleepwalking’ was about.

If the world was to end here in one hour, what would you do?

That’s deep … I would go and see as many of my friends and family as possible and try and get in a show with the people that want to come and see us.  If anyone out there wanted to come and spend their last few hours with us then that would be awesome!

What’s been the biggest highlight so far for the band?

It’s hard to say because every time we do something, something else happens that tops it!

A semi-serious question for you that I ask every band that I interview … given that rock is allegedly ‘dead’, where do you see the music industry as we know it heading?

I kind of get irritated when people say rock is dead, it’s absolute bullshit to be honest.  I think what people are on about when they say rock is dead is that the money in rock and roll is dead.  As long as people look at this type of music like that, it won’t make any money because it’s not about how much cash you’re making.  When it went down that route, it was the death of that element of it, because it became about something it was never meant to be.  If you go back to the original roots of rock and roll, it was deep, they played and sang about stuff that meant a lot to them.  As long as bands are still doing that then rock will still be alive.  People like Royal Blood, I think what they’ve done is fucking fantastic because they’ve gone out and they’ve shown that with the right support and backing and marketing plan, just two lads, they can do a lot of shit.  We just need to hijack their marketing plan!

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

We just want to share what we do with as many people as possible.  Playing arenas would be fantastic, if we can do that in 5 years I would die a very happy man.  Next year it would be good to get some more backing, like an agency and maybe a label.  It’s very intimate the way we work; we’ve literally got a manager and an agent and then us.  We have people coming out and crewing for us but it’s very small so more support in that kind of business element would be great.  As we grow as a band, hopefully we’ll get bigger and the quantity of people following us will grow.

Vix and Scott of Blackwolf

I would like to thank Scott for his time – it was awesome to chat to him and the guys in Blackwolf and it’s not very often that someone’s so happy to answer questions!  If you haven’t yet bought ‘The Hunt’, you can find it on iTunes.  check out the video for ‘Moving Mountains’ here – http://youtu.be/XayXsQIgImU and new single ‘Kiss The Fire’ here – http://youtu.be/M9TMwrxtkqg

www.ukblackwolf.com

www.facebook.com/ukblackwolf

Planet Rock presents UK showcase featuring Blackwolf, The Brew and Fire Red Empress

Planet Rock Blackwolf poster

Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Best New Band’ nominee, Blackwolf, will be appearing alongside fellow British bands The Brew and Fire Red Empress on a mini-tour of the UK in September.  Dates as below:

Fri 12th – MANCHESTER – The Roadhouse
Sat 13th – OXFORD – The Bullingdon (Art Bar)
Thu 18th – SHEFFIELD – The Corporation
Fri 19th – BRISTOL – The Exchange
Sun 21st – LONDON – The Barfly* – date change (originally Sat 20th September)

Bristol-based Blackwolf have already toured with the likes of The Temperance Movement and The Answer so far this year and their debut album, ‘The Hunt’, went down a storm.  Following the release of new single ‘Moving Mountains’, they also appeared at Wales’ Steelhouse Festival.  With a nomination for ‘Best New Band’, alongside the likes of Blues Pills and The Cadillac Three, these guys are not to be missed whilst you can still catch them in a fairly intimate setting.  You can watch ‘Moving Mountains’ here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XayXsQIgImU

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Blues-infused rockers The Brew have been busy, with lots of headline shows under their belt, as well as support slots to rock royalty such as ZZ Top, Joe Bonamassa and Lynyrd Skynyrd. With an album produced by Toby Jepson, The Brew are set to perform at Hard Rock Hell VII later this year, so this will be the perfect warm up for them!  Watch their ‘Repeat‘ video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhOIbj92wKs

The Brew band pic

New boys on the block, Fire Red Empress are picking up followers at a rate of knots with their own particular brand of melodic rock and their EP, ‘Paint Me The Devil’, is gaining critical acclaim from music press.  You can catch them in the latest issue of Classic Rock magazine.  Watch their video for ‘Left Unspoken’ here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxmphhvoN8Q

Fire Red Empress logo pic

Tickets for this epic, energy-infused mini-tour can be found here

http://www.ukblackwolf.com

www.facbook.com/ukblackwolf

http://www.the-brew.net

www.facebook.com/thebrewofficial

http://www.fireredempress.com/

www.facebook.com/fireredempress