HRH United combined Hammerfest VIII and HRH AOR 4 into one three-day spring music festival, offering a wide range of rock and metal styles across three stages for those looking for a March fix.
The location was Hafan y Mor, a holiday park in the north of Wales, located on the coast in Pwllheli and around 45 minutes from the city of Bangor. Offering accommodation in apartments and caravans, day tickets were also available, and those with live-in vehicles could also park up for the weekend.
HRH United was previously two separate events, and it's expected to revert to that system for 2017. Combining the two meant that it was possible to catch the likes of Cradle of Filth, Turisas, and Exodus on the Hammerfest stage, and then wander to the larger AOR stage for rock acts including Quiet Riot, Joe Lynn Turner, and The Quireboys.
Hammerfest and AOR are part of the Hard Rock Hell family of events, meaning many loyal festival-goers return year after year, selling out the accommodation well before the line-ups are even confirmed.
En route to the event, returnees were quick to extol Hammerfest's virtues as a relaxed weekend of great music and relentless boozing. One northern rocker referred to it as "Hammeredfest" which, on reflection, seems as good a review as any.
Getting to Hafan y Mor for the event is not easy. With a car, travellers from cities such as London and Birmingham were looking at a several hour drive. But without a car, it's even trickier. Although Pwllheli itself has a very remote station, Bangor is the easiest rail stop to get to, but tends to require several changes to do so.
Once at Bangor, a shuttle bus was then available, pre-bookable for a fee of £18. It was, however, advertised as fully booked as early as February, suggesting that anyone hoping to jump on last minute - as you can at most festivals - might have been left with a very expensive taxi to the site.
Travel difficulties aside, the Hafan y Mor site is a pleasant place to take in a music festival, and has plenty of amenities to offer. Two on-site branches of convenience chain Spar sold out alcohol and other food, and although this couldn't be taken into the venues themselves, it allowed attendees to pre-drink heavily in their accommodation before heading to see the bands. Prices were only slightly higher than the usual - you could buy a can of beer for £1.50, or a two-litre bottle of soft drink for £2.20.
Beyond the branches of Spar, Hafan y Mor also featured the familiar chains of Papa John's (with a delivery service to boot), Burger King and Starbuck's, and a well-rated fish and chip shop. Again, prices were reasonable.
The accommodation itself was varied, from particularly plush apartments to some slightly older caravans. Free parking was included, but Wi-Fi was not, with mobile data connectivity poor around the site. Accessibility is also good, and there's not much walking to do compared to larger camping festivals.
The first afternoon of the event, on the Thursday, started in uncharacteristically sunny conditions, with the first band - Crashgate - taking to the stage at 5PM while many were still checking in or finding their bearings.
Thursday was, however, a pre-party of sorts - and lots of fancy dress, particularly large groups of King Diamond nuns, were around the site and more interested in the drinking than the bands on show.
The first bands on the Hammerfest stage, such as Reign of Fury, were not especially inspired, and were also plagued by horrendous sound that was widely criticised, although this didn't last and by the end of the evening had mercifully been amended.
The AOR stage instead featured the best of the early action, with Preachers Son, andKnock Out Kaine, both entertaining if hammy, setting the stone for the old-school rock feel of that side of the festival, and attracting a noticeably much older crowd.
The highlight of the opening evening was The Quireboys, the long-running hard rock band known for hits including Hey You. Appearing with original frontman Spike in all of his microphone stand wielding glory, they were an accomplished cut above their competition, and still know how to entertain despite an over thirty-year career.
A fairly quiet - for the music, at least - opening evening closed with Tragedy, billed a an "all metal tribute to the Bee Gees and beyond". The sheer concept of it suggested brilliance, and they were definitely entertaining in covering the Gibb brothers' biggest hits in a rock style, as well as disco hits such as It's Raining Men. They also fooled around on-stage, involved the crowd, and put on a good party to close the night.
The opening Thursday was about drinking more than anything else, though, and the Hammerfest crowd particularly continued late into the night in their accommodations. The big-hitting bands were yet to come, although for some would undoubtedly be viewed through the veil of a hangover.
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