For a fortunate few, the entertainment started, albeit one and a half hours late, on Friday night with a warm up gig featuring artists appearing on Saturday.
Supporting on the night were Leogun, the opening act from the Rising stage, with a great Bluesy sound, and Hogjaw from the Outlaw Country stage, who’s sound was unfortunately so bad it completely distracted from what would probably have been a great set.
Then, with just a couple of acoustic guitars, none other than Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson from the current Thin Lizzy lineup. The two were obviously having a great time playing a diverse setlist at this intimate gig, which included songs from their pasts, Alice Cooper’s ‘I’m Eighteen’, The Almighty’s ‘Free ‘n’ Easy’, along with ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ from their current outing together, and a bunch of songs they clearly just enjoyed playing.
We were now definitely warmed up for Ramblin’ Man, bring it on!
Arriving in Mote Park on Saturday we were confronted with some very long queues of annoyed and over-heating ‘Ramblers’. Stewarding was almost non-existent.
The site itself had no end of choices for food, gone are the days of only being able to get a burger at a music festival!
Two big bars, a large under-cover VIP area, stalls offering the usual wares and, of course, the four stages, the Planet Rock main stage, Prog In The Park, the Rising Stage and a tented stage that today would be Outlaw Country and tomorrow Blues.
Thank goodness for the mobile app that allowed you to build your own schedule, as there were a lot of clashes, but we’re used to having to make these choices at modern music festivals aren’t we?
Opening the main stage, after only having done their first official live gig in December 2015, Inglorious really have come a long way in the past seven months and their place is very well deserved. Nathan James’s voice is stunning, belting out numbers from their debut self-titled album and adding a cover of Rainbow’s ‘I Surrender’. Nathan also gave Ramblin’ Man his seal of approval declaring it was “more fun than Download”!
The Dead Daisies with their new guitarist Doug Aldrich took to the stage next. Like quite a few of the bands over the weekend, they have a new album coming out in the next couple of weeks and played a couple of songs from it. If they’re anything to go by, it’s going to be great. A cover of ‘Fortunate Son’ had everyone singing along, but the biggest crowd pleaser was ‘Lock ‘n’ Load’ from their debut album.
We were then taken back to days of festivals past as Tony Wright, dressed all in bright orange, introduced his band, “Hi, we’re Terrorvision and we’re from Bradford”. The audience sung and bounced along with classics mostly taken from their ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ album. There was as much energy to both their performance and the reaction from the crowd as there was back in the ‘90s.
A band that really stood out from the Rising stage was Colour of Noise, from Brighton, whose members boast guitarist Bruce John Dickinson from Little Angels and singer Matt Mitchell from Furyon. With their classic power rock sound, they were fantastic and could quite easily have opened the main stage.
Swedish rockers Europe started their set with ‘Rock the Night’, and, with the big light and smoke shows starting up, we were certainly ready to do just that.
Joey Tempest said it was “great to be back in the UK, the cradle of rock”. ‘Last Look at Eden’ and ‘Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ were played as the anticipation built. Then, the keyboard sound that signalled the start of the song Europe are destined to play for the rest of their career, the now over excited audience jumping around singing ‘The Final Countdown’.
As the sun disappeared behind the tree line, shouts of “Lizzy, Lizzy, Lizzy” rang out and, 40 years after it’s release, Thin Lizzy opened their set with ‘Jailbreak’. What a lineup too. Joining Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton were Ricky Warwick, Damon Johnson, Scott Travis from Judas Priest and Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton.
For ‘Cowboy Song’ Midge Ure also made an appearance and Ricky, in acknowledgement of it also being 30 years since Phil Lynott’s death, adjusted some of the words “coz Phil’s still here with us, he’s riding in this rodeo”, a lovely touch to a fantastic set.
Finally for the day, Whitesnake burst on stage with ‘Bad Boy’. David Coverdale was definitely on form, raising his glass and declaring that “we are all Ramblers tonight”.
All the much loved classics were there including ‘Love Ain’t A Stranger’, ‘Fool For Your Lovin’ and ‘Is This Love’.
Solos were thrown in every few songs, including a drum solo in which Tommy Aldrich threw his sticks into the audience and then, resembling Animal from the Muppets, played with his hands.
Introduced onto stage as “the band that takes up the least amount of space at Ramblin’ Man”, The Graveltones started off the second day. You forget that this band is only a two-piece, Jimmy O on guitar and vocals and Mikey Sorbello on drums, a great set and start to the day.
On their first tour of the UK, The Kentucky Headhunters were up next. Wonderfully Bluesy, southern swamp music, they are made for a chilled out Sunday afternoon. Obviously very proud of his dad and uncle, John Fred Young and the rest of Black Stone Cherry joined them on stage for covers of ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Hey Jude’, it was a lovely sight.
After our afternoon chill out, The Answer had everyone up and dancing with the likes of ‘Under the Sky’ and ‘Never Too Late’.
Like other bands over the weekend, they also took the opportunity to play a couple of numbers from their new album, another one for the ‘to buy’ list.
With enough y’alls to throw your cowboy hat at, the southern drawl of The Cadillac Three was up next, the ‘Outlaw Country’ stage definitely seemed to have migrated to the main stage today. A very popular act for the weekend, their now very familiar songs were being sung by everyone. After Jaren Johnston told the audience “well, I’m hammered drunk” new song ‘Drunk Like You’ seemed very apt.
When six sets of Marshall stacks get wheeled onto stage, you know you’re in for something big and Airbourne didn’t let us down! Running and leaping into view with ‘Are You Ready to Rock’, they’re a very high energy band and really put on a show.
To much laughter, the scaffolding for one of the giant screens was scaled by Joel O’Keeffe, and after being told off and chased across the stage, he then paraded through the cheering crowd on a crew member’s shoulders.
Always a crowd pleaser, Thunder took to the stage with ‘Wonder Days’, even their new songs sound like classics. There was, of course, the big sing-a-long to ‘Love Walked In’ and the set ended with what can only be described as an aerobics session, Danny Bowes instructing to wave both arms in the air, jump up and down and sing along to ‘Dirty Love’.
Ending what was an amazing weekend were Black Stone Cherry, and what an end!
Singer Chris Robertson said it’s “the coolest thing in the world to close a festival”, this was the first time they’d done it and what dedication they showed to it too, with three days between two shows in America, they flew to the UK just for Ramblin’ Man.
They were in fine form and you couldn’t tear your eyes or ears away from them.
Amongst their own songs, including the song Chris said “embodies what they do”, ‘In My Blood’, was a cover of ‘Bad To The Bone’ and, a swap from earlier in the day, The Kentucky Headhunters joined them on stage for ‘Things My Father Said’, everyone with their lighters or phone torches in the air, it was a moving moment.
Tugging further on the heart strings was Chris’s admission that Black Stone Cherry had almost been no more in 2011 as he battled with anxiety and depression, it would have been an enormous shame if they hadn’t continued.
Of course, the acoustic ‘The Rambler’ from their recent album was played and as the last song for this year’s Ramblin’ Man, a cover of ‘Ace Of Spades’, rung out over the Park, there were a lot of very happy and, for a change at a UK festival, sun soaked rock fans.
A lot of whom no doubt, will be back Ramblin’ again next year.
I fully intend to be one of them.