Ramblin' Man Fair came in to existence last year and debuted with an intriguing if a little underwhelming line-up. With Spirit Of Rock taking possession of the event this year their desire to expand is clear from the more mainstream line-up mixing iconic bands such as Whitesnake, and Thin Lizzy with modern big hitters the likes of , Black Stone Cherry, and Airbourne.
Taking place in the beautiful if a little awkward to get to surroundings of Mote Park in Maidstone; this year's Ramblin' Man Fair is graced by glorious sunshine as day one begins. With little in the way of camping or parking most people are left to their own devices to find their way to the park. Once on site attendees are met with queues and confusion with one steward remarking to a customer "it's not very organised." Not the best start but thankfully things only get better from this point on.
The arena is a decent size with no stage further than a couple of minutes walk away even when busiest. On the right as you enter is the small 'Rising' stage featuring a selection of young talent across the weekend and it's here that my day begins. Kicking my festival off are Leogun who do a decent job in warming the spirits of the customers who have just been waiting for a couple of hours to get in.
The main stage is calling next for another new up and coming band in the form of Inglorious who have been busy making a name for themselves this year with some impressive live shows. Having personally missed them last month at Download Festival, I'm quite intrigued to see what the fuss is about and I'm not disappointed as they plough through their short opening set; promising stuff indeed from one of a number of great new bands out there at the moment.
Up next on the main stage are The Dead Daisies who have featured a revolving cast of members from some pretty huge bands. They are now enjoying a more settled line-up that still features an impressive array of talent. Guitarist David Lowry (Mink) is the only constant member and is joined presently by singer John Corabi (Motley Crue), bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake), drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake/Billy Idol) and guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/Dio). As you would expect from such an accomplished ensemble today's performance is solid and gets the crowd into the spirit with early single 'Lock 'N' Load' a particular highlight.
With four stages in total at Ramblin' Man Fair the second stage is another open air affair dubbed the 'Prog In The Park' stage and if you haven't already guessed from the title it features the young and the old of the cultish genre that is prog. Youngsters Purson have perked my interest and I'm able to catch a good opening few songs of their set before heading back to the main stage for a disappointing performance from Terrorvision.
As mentioned, the UK and in particular Maidstone today is enjoying a heat wave. Ginger (The Wildhearts) and his band played one of the hottest gigs ever in Cambridge on Wednesday, a review of which can be read over on our sister website eGigs, and it's especially baking again as Ginger and co run through a selection of Silver Ginger 5, solo and The Wildhearts numbers to the delight of the crowd.
With the evening now drawing in it's the most important time of the day – food time! The festival has prided itself in advance of the food and drink on offer and what is on offer is fairly decent. With numerous bars throughout the arena and a large ale bar at the back, alcohol drinkers are well catered for. Food wise there are all your usual festival favourites but not many repeats meaning no precession of burger vans. Burgers are on offer but today I try out a pie from the pie van which was nice and reasonably priced for a festival. The cherry on top is that I can sit and watch a decent set from Colour of Noise, on the ' stage whilst eating said pie.
There is a lot of singing along to do as the main stage brings out the big hitters with Scandinavians Europe up next. The band is best known for that song but they are so much better than just that one song. Their set tonight mixes newer songs with classics such as 'Rock The Night' to the delight of the crowd. They really give it their all with numerous stage effects helping bring their show to life. There is of course though only that song that they could end with and the crowd love singing every word of it “...it's the final countdown...”!
The sing-a-long moments come thick and fast throughout our next bands set as the legendary Thin Lizzy take to the stage to celebrate 40 years since the release of 'Jailbreak' and remember the life of the great Phil Lynott 30 years after we lost him. With alumni Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton are Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson from the most recent incarnation of the band, Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis and Tom Hamilton from Aerosmith on bass.
Not a bad line-up on paper and a fantastic line-up on stage. What follows is a contender for set of the weekend with the likes of 'Jailbreak', 'Dancing In The Moonlight' and 'Emerald' inciting jubilant scenes amongst the crowd. There is even a short cameo from another Thin Lizzy alumnus in Midge Ure who jams with the band on 'Cowboy Song' and 'The Boys Are Back In Town'. With closing number 'Whiskey In The Jar' they also have a contender for song of the weekend. Now that's how you celebrate anniversaries!
Over on the 'Prog In The Park' stage a headline set from Roger Chapman's Family follows an earlier set from Uriah Heep but the majority of the crowd tonight appear to be at the main stage for headliners Whitesnake. Formed way back in 1978 by David Coverdale following his exit from a little band called Deep Purple, Whitesnake went from strength to strength and can now rightfully be classified as legends. With that in mind anticipation is clearly high for their set.
It must be said though that for the most part their performance falls flat and really struggles to get going. It's not helped for me by the constant solos. A drum solo especially a Tommy Aldridge special is to be expected and you can perhaps accept a guitar solo. But a second guitar solo and wait for it...a bass solo! I'm sorry but it's way over the top and continually stops the flow of an otherwise decent set.
With that said when all members are on stage together which is probably only 70 per cent of the time then it's a fine show. The likes of 'Fool For Your Loving', 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City', 'Is This Love' and 'Here I Go Again' provide more of those sing-a-long moments for the crowd and justify their billing but I can't help but feel it really is time for Whitesnake to be consigned to the history books.
'Still Of The Night' brings day one of Ramblin' Man Fair to a close and sends the crowd away happy. Be they heading home having just been for the day, heading back to the small campsite or a hotel somewhere nearby one thing is for sure everyone left with a smile. For those with weekend tickets more great music is on its way as the festival heads into day two.
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