Since Ramblin’ Man Fair’s inception in 2015 the festival has garnered a dedicated fan base. For this year’s fourth edition, that fan base is graced by the weather gods with one of the hottest weekends in recent memory. The atmosphere has always been delightful at Mote Park for this festival and with the country experiencing a genuine heat wave and with the national football team not yet embarrassing themselves in Russia there is real reason to be cheerful.
The build up to this year’s event hasn’t appeared to be the smoothest for Ramblin’ Man with underwhelming headliners and the ‘controversial’ booking of Steel Panther just two sources of annoyance amongst that fan base. All that is forgotten however as soon as you enter the, somewhat downsized, arena and soak in the atmosphere. The arena has seen a number of alterations including the loss of a stage and the downgrading of the ‘Prog In The Park’ stage to a tent; much to the dismay of the prog faithful.
The main stage is also slightly smaller but the layout makes the venue easy to navigate and there are still some nice little additions such as the motorbikes on display and a tent featuring hologram performances of some acts of yesteryear. Really though it’s all about the music and Ramblin’ Man manages to perfectly mix both new and old on that front.
To begin the festival I first head to the big top tent that tomorrow will host the prog stage but today is dubbed the ‘Rising Stage’ and features a number of up and coming young acts. The first of those acts is Those Damn Crows who draw a big crowd as the only act on at this point. This presents the band with a huge opportunity to impress and they duly deliver with a well received set.
With the present layout it’s very easy to manoeuvre yourself around the site and that’s what I will spend most of today doing. With the two outdoor stages getting started I first find myself seeing what veterans No Hot Ashes have to offer. Following a perfectly pleasant half hour it’s then a short stroll to check out the second stage which today is the ‘Outlaw Country’ stage and plays host to range of musicians who loosely fit said bill.
The positioning of this second outdoor stage has moved to a central position up the hill to the far side of the festival site and this year features a design with open back and sides that coupled with the weather transforms Mote Park into a scene reminiscent of California’s Coachella festival. After a short glimpse at The Adelaides however I head back to the main stage to catch rejuvenated Scottish rockers Gun.
After a lengthy period of inactivity the band re-emerged back in 2008 and went through a number of further line-up changes, but since bassist Dante Gizzi switched to lead vocals the bands hasn’t looked back. Last year’s ‘Favourite Pleasures’ has been a fantastic success for the band and they are in celebratory mood as they run through a short but sweet set that has the fans in the palm of their hands. ‘Better Days’, ‘Word Up’ and a cover of The Beastie Boys ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’ incite the first of many sing-a-longs this weekend.
After another short trip to the second stage for the very impressive Me And That Man, it’s time for the fantastic Therapy? to take the main stage by storm. Ploughing through a set that heavily leans on songs from iconic album ‘Troublegum’ they deliver a near perfect festival performance that ends with a run of ‘Knives’, ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Screamager’ to the delight of the audience. There is then time to nip to the second stage for Skinny Molly and another great sing-a-long moment as they deliver a crowd pleasing rendition of ‘Freebird’.
Southern rock has featured heavily over the years at Ramblin’ Man and this year is no different with The Cadillac Three making a heroic return to the main stage next. Led by Jaren Johnston the trio spend the next hour showcasing just why they are one of the hottest young rock bands around. The set itself is a good mix of new and old, but it’s the ending of old favourites ‘I’m Southern’, ‘I’m Rockin’’, ‘White Lightning’ and ‘The South’ that solidifies the performance as one the weekends most talked about.
Another of the grumbles against Ramblin’ Man this year has been some unusual placing of bands and the ensuing clashes. One such clash was The Cadillac Three and Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy who is gracing the second stage as we speak. I join most of those in attendance in rushing to catch the end of what appears to have been an absolutely stunning set by Kennedy. Mixing tracks from across his career with those from his debut solo album it’s the title track ‘Year Of The Tiger’ that brings his time on stage to a close.
Up next on the main stage is a band that continually divides opinion and certainly did when they were announced for this festival. Americans Steel Panther are an acquired taste, but sadly it’s a taste that I can’t stand. As a parody they were entertaining for all of five minutes, but that was ten years ago. Now they are a parody of themselves and after witnessing the first twenty minutes of their set and only getting two songs I’ve had enough.
I choose to head over to the second stage for the legendary Steve Earle and The Dukes who are celebrating ‘Copperhead Road’ by playing the album in full and more. What follows is a thoroughly gripping performance intertwined with the stories of the songs from the man himself. To end the day I headed back to the main stage to catch another classic band in action as today’s headliners Mott The Hoople serenade a somewhat depleted audience with the likes of ‘All The Young Dudes’.
All in all it’s a decent first day to the festival with some great performances from the likes of Therapy?, The Cadillac Three, Myles Kennedy and Steve Earle. Tomorrow promises more of the same and with the sun set to continue shining, I for one can’t wait.
You can read the Sunday review here.
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