Ramblin’ Man Fair came back to Kent for a second year for a weekend of Prog & Classic Rock with a range of old and new bands. Mandy Morello went to check out if the Ramblin’ Man deserves a place on the UK rock festival circuit.
Saturday 23rd July
I could feel my skin sizzling from the beginning. There was nowhere to hide in this big open space, every shadow was occupied by pasty white people, layering on their sun cream like war paint. The rest of us had to bear it or endure the sounds coming from the one sheltered stage tent. The arena was full of black-shirted, beer-bellied, large-hatted men
whose golden days had seemingly passed. All that was left of these men was a disdain for people in close proximity. Everyone stood at least a meter apart from each other and by god, if you penetrated that invisible barrier, you most certainly heard about it.
Despite this, there were many people who had definitely showed up to Ramblin’ Man Fair for a bit of fun, to enjoy the music of their youth and to educate the future on the music that shaped them. Fists were flying high and I could hear impressive vibratos sporadically throughout the day. A lot of people were very similar aesthetically. Even a friend and I had both been mistaken for someone else.
I found solace in the Beer Festival tent but was saddened at the choices of ‘real ale’ rather than craft. But this came as no surprise. The majority of festival attendees were about the age of 40+ and are more likely to order a luke-warm stout than I. But the supply of portaloos wasn’t enough for the weak bladders of this age range though. Even the urinals had a queue that would rival any popular Alton Towers ride.
I made my way over to the main stage at 6pm, although it felt way too early for Europe. The sun was still high up in the sky. Some one in the crowd began chanting ‘Brexit’ as many onlookers tutted at the ‘immaturity’, including a woman who was propped in the middle of the crowd on a huge inflatable seat. I assumed, to get a good view of everyone’s droopy arses.
You could easily manoeuvre your way to the front if you wanted to although you had to bear in mind, you might upset some disgruntled silver-haired men who probably hadn’t been touched by their wives in years, resulting in an allergy to human contact. Europe jump out in poofs of smoke and a strumming of organ boards. They began with an arsenal of newer songs that was all well and good, but you could tell this wasn’t what the people came for. As soon as ‘Scream of Anger’ poured out of lead vocalist Joey’s mouth, everyone fist pumped in appreciation. They executed it brilliantly, hitting every note and almost sounding like the recording. There was a lot of enthusiasm coming from the Swedish rockers. The well-adored guitarist Jon Norum was flashing his impressive finger work to 10 minute solos while Joey sweated it out in leather. Not everyone appreciated the ballads though as some man walks off during ‘A Sign Of The Times’ with the comment “What’s this song called? I love tits or something?”. Naturally, they rounded off with their signature ‘The Final Countdown’ of course with 100% of the audience singing along- it’s a shame that that majority are unable to appreciate the rest of Europe’s set as they do with the obvious set finisher,
but of course it had to be played.
Needing more of a music fix, I headed over to the Prog Tent which was located further than the other tents.
’70s rockers Uriah Heep were already set up and about to perform. They launched in with the crowd-pleasing “Gyspy”. They played a mixture of their UH favourites and newer tracks such as ‘One Minute’ which blended together nicely. It was a great sight to see Mick Box and Bernie Shaw still giving their everything into ‘Lady In Black’ with their grey hair blowing in the wind.
Before long, I decided to move on and catch the rest of Thin Lizzy who had only one remaining member – Scott Gorham. They should rename the band to ‘Scott Gorham’s Thin Lizzy’ because it just isn’t the same band – it’s essentially a tribute act. Ricky
Warwick has taken the place of lost legend Phil Lynott on Thin Lizzy’s ‘Farewell Tour’. Although no one could take the unique singer’s place, Ricky was brave enough to rise to the challenge. Although most of the audience seemed old enough to probably have seen Lizzy in their hey-day, Ricky commanded the crowd and allowed everyone to enjoy the music – because those songs need to be heard. The band bounced and joked across the stage, and Scott looked like he’s still having fun even when playing ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. Pictures of Phil Lynott and old cowboy films are displayed across the stage, adding a little experience to the whole performance – although they would have been fine without the decor. Ricky rounds off by wishing the crowd well and with hopes we’re all drinking that golden nectar – whiskey. It was time for ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and they performed it with as much gust as they would have in the ’70s. It was as almost as if the song was their new hit buy it cemented itself as a timeless classic.
Men then parted and made their way to the bar as women, young and old, threw themselves to the front of the main stage for David Coverdale. Whitesnake flew on with ‘Bad Boys’ with a charisma that proved age can’t kill their sex appeal. Coverdale is clad in spandex and a loose embellished silky shirt accessorised with his brilliant white teeth that could light up the now darkened arena. I wasn’t sure if it was David or the waxwork that someone had stolen from Madame Tussards. Either way, I worried he’d melt in the heat. The gushing ladies in the crowd didn’t seem to mind and continued to swoon over this old man in his 60s. Fair play. His vocals were quite on point for his age whereas it had been criticised previously from past tours. Whitesnake had adopted Reb Beach that played a ’80s style solo for a few minutes while Coverdale had a rest and
had a costume change. His solo sounded like it was from another world. Everyone in the crowd was at peak drunkness at this point and lapped up Whitesnake’s energetic performance. Coverdale stalked the stage whilst keeping up with the pace. His energy seemed to disintegrate throughout the performance until it drew to their smasher ‘Here I Go Again’.
As the lights dimmed and signalled the end, everyone spilled out into the park and found the playground more fascinating than they did in the morning. Exhausted after a whole day of great performances, I draped myself under the Kentish stars dreaming of what tomorrow may bring.
Sunday 24th July
The sun came bleeding in through the rental car, piercing right back into my brain, signalling another day of ramblin’. Everyone else in the festival seemed to be feeling the effects too. The bars were less full, more subdued and there were new fresh faces, as I’d imagined. Last year the days were separated into classic rock on Saturday and prog on Sunday. Some clever wank had came up with the idea to mix them up a little this time, urging the classic rock fans to purchase two day tickets.
Upon entering the main arena, it was a nice surprise to see the rising stage had a young decent band playing heavy rock to the best of their ability. It was Will Wilde – a British blues artist with a flair for the harmonica. It perked everyone up and put us in the mood for another round of loud progressive rock.
I grabbed what I could of my energy, downed a coffee and headed to the Blues tent for the first time. Pat McManus was on stage dancing and jumping around with a bag full of energy. He seemed incredibly happy for a Sunday morning, perhaps he already had a shot of whiskey in a typical Irish fashion. He played with un-flawed precision, introducing his guitar solos as though he was taking you on a school trip into the woods. The dynamic Celtic-style riffs got a few people jigging, serving as the perfect music caffeine for the day.
There was no bands that intrigued me for a long while after Pat which gave me an opportunity to explore the arena. Ramblin’ Man arena was full of the usual generic festival stalls including the odd hippy attire and jewellery. But there was an arts section that included a Q&As with artists and photographers which served as a nice time-killer.
By one of the main bars, sat on a stack of hay, I noticed a flaw in the Ramblin’ Man layout – the Rising Stage was far too close to the main one. Bands were playing on both stages simultaneously which caused a remix that sounded like it was made by a retarded Skrillex. My ears just couldn’t figure out who to listen to.
6.15pm hit and Hawkwind broke me from my lazy cider-induced nap. Unfortunately, the sound had failed them and produced a monotonous noise which was reflected throughout their performance. They stood completely still, singing ‘Hashesh Hashesh’ in a draining and exhausting way. So much so that I had noticed that the booze had made me tired and lethargic too. I found that sitting down would suffice to watch them and I didn’t miss a thing.
Soon after, Thunder hit the stage, flooding the arena with that cockney-style gust and energy that I love.
unlimited bout of energy. Lead singer Danny Bowes jumped, jived and hit the high note with angelic qualities. My eyes never left this cheeky, pelvis-thrusting performer, and it was hard to concentrate on anything but his brilliant white jacket. He was a real crowd pleaser that commanded the previously lethargic audience to get involved. “Everyone Clap”, “Everyone dance!” “throw your hands in the air!” – he was one step away from doing the ‘Cha-Cha-Slide’ Slide. The crowd screamed back at him, “I Love You More Than Rock and Roll”.
After they had finished, The Carouser team and I were done. We felt as though you couldn’t top a performance like Thunder. They cast an extremely big shadow on the whole day even.
Next year surely has to have a monster of a line up to top this years- and I made it through without a scratch of sunburn.