The morning after the night before and the Maidstone masses regrouped for an action-packed final day of this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair.

Sunday’s festival programme included the return of the Prog In The Park and Blues stages along with a UK first appearance by US-based prog-rock supergroup Sons Of Apollo.

The Weather

Did Mother Nature receive the memo that it’s British summer festival season? Following last year’s washout on the first two days of the festival, this year the Ramblin’ Man Festival punters could pack away their wellies and ponchos and safely break out their shades and sun cream with temperatures reaching the dizzy heights of the mid to high 20’s. This year’s weather was certainly a rare treat.

It All Started With The Blues

As they say, it all started with the blues. The roots of rock and roll originate from the early blues artists of the 1920s-40s and those pioneers paved the way by influencing and inspiring the musical greats we have come to know and love today. Blues music comes in many shapes and forms, and that diverse musical cross-section is largely represented here at Ramblin’ Man Fair this weekend.

The blues scene is a hotbed of talent right now and Sunday’s line up is a testament to this; the whole festival site was awash with both rising and internationally established blue artists. From the psychedelic blues-rock of The Last Internationale who opened the main stage through to homegrown talent such as Jack J Hutchinson who made a return to the festival following a superb set in the blues tent last year.

A stage dedicated to the genre featuring artists at the top of their fields such as Connor Selby, Laurence Jones, The Kris Barras Band, Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind, Big Boy Bloater and Gov’t Mule pulled in the crowds all day long.

Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown

Following one of the standout sets of the weekend in the Blues tent at last year’s Ramblin Man Fair, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown are one of the only acts from last year’s bill to make a return appearance. Following the release of their eponymous sophomore album last year the US-based quartet have been upgraded to a main stage spot, and rightly so. During the band’s Sunday afternoon set they showcased tracks from their latest offering including the aptly titled “Ramblin’ Bones” and “Don’t Mind The Blood” and won over a whole raft of new fans in the process. The Texas-based guitarist, singer, and blues-rocker has skill and flair in spades is on a mission to bring real rock and roll to the masses.

Blackberry Smoke

Following on from the success of 2016’s critically acclaimed Like An Arrow, Blackberry Smoke recently returned with their incredible self-produced sixth studio album. On Sunday afternoon the group delivered a career-spanning setlist that centred on their seminal album The Whippoorwill. A heartfelt rendition of “Ain’t Much Left of Me”, the hard rocking “Six Ways To Sunday” and “Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost” all featured. The band chose not to go too heavy on their new material with only a small smattering of tracks from Find A Light included. The Georgia based five-piece was the perfect soundtrack to a beautifully sun-kissed Sunday afternoon in Mote Park. Blackberry Smoke will be returning to the UK for a full headline tour in November.

Halestorm

With an imminent new album on the horizon in the shape of Vicious and a forthcoming September UK tour which has already sold several months in advance, Halestorm are certainly back with a bang. Two new tracks featured in their set including opening number “Black Vultures” and recent single “Uncomfortable”. On the strength of these songs alone, the band’s forthcoming release is set to be one to watch out for when it drops on July 27. 

Big Boy Bloater

Our award for the hardest working man at this weekend’s festival has to go to Big Boy Bloater. Having entertained the crowd in the VIP tent with a stripped back set on Saturday, MC’d the Blues stage all day Sunday as well as picking up a late afternoon spot due to the eleventh-hour cancellation of Chas and Dave Big Boy Bloater worked the Maidstone crowd all weekend.

When a string snapped on his trusty Fender Stratocaster during opening number “Devils Not Angels” Big Boy Bloater was unphased and continued to repair his instrument whilst simultaneously rallying the crowd through an elongated rendition of the song, thus adding guitar tech to his long list of responsibilities at the weekend.

Bloater delivered a set which showcased tracks from new album Pills including the likes of “Unnaturally Charming”, “Friday Nights All Right For Drinking” along with the title track itself. A thoroughly enjoyable set was brought to an explosive conclusion with crowd favourite “It Came Out Of The Swamp”. Bloater later invited all in attendance to his airstream situated in front of the main stage for an impromptu signing session and a chat. Big Boy Bloater and the Limits will be touring the UK throughout the rest of 2018 and are not to be missed.

Gov’t Mule

Gov’t Mule doesn’t necessarily conform to the rules. They are not going to show up and play a review of their greatest and latest material. Instead, each show is a unique experience that represents a tour de force of musical showmanship and stamina. When it comes to the blues-rock masters there are few greater than Warren Haynes. With a long and successful career including stints with The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends among countless others Haynes is a bluesman of the highest pedigree.

Highlights of Gov’t Mule’s set included classics such as “Mule” and “Blind Man In The Dark” along with a sublime rendition of The Allman Brother’s Band’s “Blue Sky” featuring Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr. On Sunday evening Gov’t Mule performed a 90-minute musical extravaganza where no stone was left unturned which culminated in a two-song encore featuring Whitesnake legend Bernie Marsden.

The Cult

With a career spanning three decades, The Cult are an integral part of our rich British musical tapestry. The band opened their headline set with old favourites “Rain” and “Wild Flower” alongside “Dark Energy” from their latest album Hidden City. The Cult took us through a well-balanced set list featuring many a timeless classic, along with a few tracks from their latest release.

Back to back crowd pleasers in the shape of “Peace Dog”, “Li’l Devil”, “Nirvana” and “Spiritwalker” are enough to transport the band’s fans to classic rock heaven. Ian Astbury, whose voice still sounds incredible today, completely immerses himself in the music throughout. A euphoric airing of “Fire Woman” and the anthemic “Love Removal Machine” signal the end of the band’s main set, but they aren’t done yet, returning to the stage The Cult close out this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair with the unmistakable sounds of “She Sells Sanctuary.”

Next Summer’s Ramblin Man Fair can’t come soon enough. To keep up to date with all Ramblin’ Man Fair announcements please like, follow and visit the event’s website and social media pages (links below).

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Event Date: 01-July-2018

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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