This was to be my first time at the StoneDeaf Festival and I was really looking forward to it; despite only living a short distance away, I somehow missed it last year.
Now I’ll be totally honest, I’ve always had a thing for both Glenn Hughes & David Coverdale, and I enjoyed their 1970’s collaboration so whilst David was absent, I was really looking forward to seeing Headliner Glenn recreate his Deep Purple days.
Of course there were plenty of other bands to come before this, and again being honest none that I’d seen before. There were names that I knew but all in all this was going to be a completely blank canvas as far as the bands were concerned and with the weather set to be in the very high twenties, the day was looking better and better.
I’d heard good things about last year’s inaugural festival, and I also knew that the organisers had acknowledged issues and set out to make them right. Good to hear that they’d listened to feedback and set out not to repeat any mistakes.
Walking around, the stall-holders were willing to have a chat and there was a lovely laid back atmosphere with no pressure to buy, I really liked that. Whilst the vibe early on was chilled (with quite a few nursing hangovers from the previous nights camping parties) there was still a buzz in the air that let you know you were in for a good day.
The arena quickly started filling up and it was really touching to stand and watch the 11:11 tribute for the British Legion. You can say what you like about rock fans, but we care and aren’t ashamed to show it! There’s also a camaraderie within this fraternity that when we get together in numbers feels like a huge family party, rather than a gathering of strangers; Stonedeaf was no exception to this.
Standing near the front, waiting for Samarkind to come on, I noticed a young lad probably about six, stood with his dad, one of the staff members called him over, gave him a sweet and a packet of rubber ear plugs. Dad was already prepared as he’d brought ear protectors but it was great to see the staff taking notice. It’s little things like this, I think that make the smaller festivals a success and again it comes back to caring.
Irish band, Samarkind opened the festival, it’s certainly not easy being first up, especially early in the morning, but the band certainly did it justice and gave a performance you’d appreciate at any gig. The guys opened with a bang and it was great to see the numbers increasing around the stage with every song they performed. “Good Man Call” had the crowd singing along, to me, very reminiscent of Deep Purple so a great choice to open. It was the wake up that Stonedeaf needed to get the party started.
A quick chat with organisers, Chris, Jenny & Matt tells you that these guys have got is sussed and that their heart and soul goes in to making the day right. I commented on their decision to have a “mental health tent” and Jenny told me how important she felt it was that people could have somewhere quiet to go and decompress. They’d also made the decision to reduce plastic waste this year so were encouraging waters bottles to be refilled from a tap in the arena and to buy a cup that could be used all day.
As the day went on, the transitions of bands was really smooth and the signing tent was well organised. There was half an hour between each band so you had time to grab a drink or something to eat. The food prices were reasonable and the food was really good. A lot of variety from street food to WW2 authentic cooking! The beer was a little pricey and the queues tended to be quite long, perhaps a second beer tent could be introduced for future years?
I found myself smiling, most of the day in fact. The band choice was great, Massive – can you say crazy? This aussie band really knew how to rock and have a great time doing it. Pure energy they were the tonic to clear any lingering hangovers. They were brilliant and in my book the band to beat, I know I’ll be downloading them. It was also nice to see them, and other artists hanging out in the arena and watching other bands perform. This pedigree of performance didn’t diminish throughout the day and no matter whether you were a fan or not, it couldn’t be argued that every band gave their best and the crowd loved it.
The Amorettes already have a great following and this was clear from the reception they received, they were let down a little by sound feedback but the girls certainly rocked the stage.
By now the heat was seriously rising and drink was flowing. I walked around and at no point did I feel anything other than folks having a great time, there was no tension and certainly no trouble. The outfits were fabulous with some totally glamorous ladies who’d gone all out for the day.
Diamond Head were, in my book a “proper” rock band, giving it hard and playing it loud! “Am I Evil” had us all back in the seventies and the crowd loved it. Next up was Geoff Tate and for those Queensryche fans like me there was a lot to enjoy. I was thrilled that they played “Silent Lucidity” that made it for me. It was one polished performance after another, from all of the bands.
As it got hotter there didn’t seem to be anyone struggling but I did see the first aiders wandering around checking on people and just generally taking care of anyone that needed it. Food reviews were great, I had street food and wasn’t disappointed, the vendors were all super friendly and chatty.
Wayward Sons were up next and they nearly went out with a bang – literally! Somehow they manged to blow a fuse and were off stage temporarily. It didn’t phase them though and they attributed it to their awesome sound – which was pretty awesome and loud! If anyone was flagging at this point, the lads on stage brought the energy in the arena right back up.
I’ve been to other festivals and by this time of day you’d expect to see the odd scuffle or feel raised tensions but there was none of that. I genuinely felt relaxed and at ease, no worrying about being alone, pick pockets or trouble. This just wasn’t the place for it, you could attribute that to the demographic but there were a whole range of ages there so I don’t think it’s that. This was just a chilled festival with everyone having a great time.
Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons (which I discovered are actually his sons) were brilliant. They mixed the old and new seamlessly and their version of Ace of Spades was inspired. A truly awesome performance.
Then it was time for tea… well a cuppa actually from the brilliantly named Motley Brew and whilst I enjoyed my mug (yes a genuine mug of Yorkshire tea) I watched Inglorious. My goodness what a stage performance! Nathan James commands the stage and is mesmerising to watch. The band are reminiscent of eighties rock (which I love) and are incredibly well put together. Songs from their new album went down a storm.
And there it was, 9.30pm… it was almost dark and crowd was ready for Glenn Hughes. Unfortunately his entrance was delayed due to stage issues so the tension built for half an hour. There were a few grumbles but I think this was mainly due to beer and the fact that every band had hit the stage so promptly before! At last he came on and was his usual brilliance. He loves his craft and was obviously glad to be back on stage after his illness earlier in the year.
Was I disappointed? Heck no! Glenn belted out the old favourites and we loved him for it. A beautiful night, a fabulous event and classic rock performed by a master… you don’t get better than that!
See you next year!
Review By Taryn Johnston
Photography By Simon Walker // #RockTogUk