It’s time to ramble again as Ramblin’ Man Fair returns to Mote Park in Maidstone for the fifth consecutive year. Ramblin’ Man has firmly established itself as a fixture in the summer calendar for discerning fans of classic rock, prog, country and blues. Traditionally a two day event, this year sees the return of a Friday line-up for only the second time and the first since 2017.
That year’s Friday seemed more of an afterthought; comparatively this year the festival has got it right with a great line-up on offer. Despite only the main stage running, the whole site is open and the fans flock in ready to rock. Aussies The Lazys open proceedings with a very decent set as the weather tries to decide what to do.
Forecasts predict not just rain but thunderstorms for the Friday and Saturday morning of this year’s festival and we begin the afternoon with that annoying rain that’s too light for big waterproofs but too heavy to ignore. It has also been hard to ignore Kris Barras and his band as a regular attendee at Ramblin’ Man Fair.
Barras has emerged as something of a cult hero at the event and his previous sets on the smaller stages seem to have become legend amongst Ramblin’ Man fans. This year sees Barras progress to the festival’s main stage; a stage that has seen some positive changes this year. The area around the stage is clearer with the horrendous seating towers gone. Although this leads to further encroachment of the camping chair brigade, all in all the experience around the main stage is a lot nicer.
As for Barras, the fans clearly love every minute of what is another decent performance. A mixture of old and new material, ‘Hail Mary’ receives one of the best reactions of the entire weekend. I think it’s fair to say that the Ramblin’ Man legend of Kris Barras has grown even further with this performance and I have no doubt he will be back soon and even higher up the bill.
Next to grace the main stage are British rockers FM, who have been experiencing something of a renaissance since reforming around ten years ago. It’s a reassured performance from the veterans as they plough through the likes of ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, ‘I Belong To The Night’ and set closer ‘Killed By Love’.
Another band seemingly in the middle of a renaissance is The Wildhearts. In fact they have just released their first album in ten years and funnily enough it’s called ‘Renaissance Men’! Ginger and co are tonight’s special guests and what they deliver is a great set to the delight of those in attendance. ‘Dislocated’ kicks off a career-spanning hour in which we are treated to tracks such as ‘Vanilla Radio’, ‘Sick Of Drugs’ and ‘Caffeine Bomb’ before the anthem that is ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ leaves the audience raving about what they have just witnessed.
With four very good performances already in the history books, it’s up to The Darkness to close the evening as headliners. Sadly often written off by elitists as nothing more than a joke, they are in fact one of the best live acts this country has to offer. Tonight they prove this with a stunning headline show complete with great music, Justin Hawkins traditional stage banter, pyrotechnics and yes a leotard!
‘Black Shuck’ and ‘Growing On Me’ instantly get the crowd on side and it’s ‘Permission To Land’ material that goes on to dominate the set; The Darkness are masters of giving the fans what they want after all. The likes of ‘Open Fire’, ‘One Way Ticket’ and ‘Barbarian’ go down a treat however and prove that there is more to The Darkness then just their debut album.
We even get a new track from their next album in the shape of ‘Live Till I Die’. It’s ‘Permission To Land’ though that brings their performance to a close with ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ and ‘Love On The Rocks With No Ice’ rounding off the show perfectly. Say what you will about The Darkness, yes they are silly, but that’s the point. Strip all the shenanigans away and what you’re left with is a great rock band. Friday at the Fair, over and out.
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