Rock fans descended in their droves upon Mote Park in Kent for the third annual Ramblin’ Man Fair.
Having firmly established itself as one of the UK’s premier rock festivals, Ramblers travelled from all over the globe to the South East town of Maidstone for three days of music and maybe a little bit of mud along the way. Yes, Mother Nature didn’t entirely co-operate on Friday or Saturday, but in true British Festival spirit the crowd put on their wellies, grabbed a beer or two and carried on regardless.
The beauty of Ramblin’ Man Fair is both the relaxed vibe, the incredible setting and the diversity of the artists performing over the course of the weekend. With stages spread out across the four corners of Mote Park, the crowd were treated to a musical feast featuring both established artists and rising stars from across the whole spectrum of the rock, blues and country genres.
The Nile Deltas kicked off the proceedings on Saturday afternoon, delivering a superb set of British blues rock. The band were also joined by none other than ex-Whitesnake bass player Neil Murray, who made his first of two appearances of the weekend, before rejoining his Snakecharmer bandmates early on Sunday afternoon on the Planet Rock main stage.
Gazing upon the main arena from the other side of the park the likes of Bad Touch, Broken Witt Rebels, Black Water Conspiracy and Massive wowed the large crowds in front of the Rising Stage over the course of the weekend and proved that they are more than ready to follow in the footsteps of Stone Broken with a main stage appearance next year. The future of rock music is bright and in safe hands.
There’s been a real groundswell in country music in the UK in recent times. Subsequently, Ramblin Man’s Outlaw Country stage played host to several of the scene’s hottest artists on Saturday afternoon. This included the likes of Nashville’s Caitlin Koch and New York’s Jessica Lynn. The latter of which has been widely regarded as the next Shania Twain.
Koch showcased her beautiful voice during her country rock set, the highlight of which being a stunning cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post”. Caitlin was accompanied on stage throughout by the Kris Barras Band, who also was a hit on the Rising Stage on Sunday afternoon.
It may have taken thirty years to get there, but Extreme made their first ever festival headline appearance at Ramblin’s Man and their only UK outdoor show since Monsters of Rock in 1994, where the band appeared alongside the likes of Aerosmith and Pantera.
Extreme’s set packed a punch from the off with classics from the Pornograffiti era a plenty; “It’s A Monster”, “Get The Funk Out”, and “Kid Ego” all featured early on.
Arguably one of the best guitarists in the world, Nuno Bettencourt lit up the stage during a blistering rendition of “Play With Me” and also his eastern tinged acoustic number “Midnight Express” before a huge singalong ensued during fan favourite “More Than Words”.
Bettencourt also proclaimed his admiration for Californian rockers Rival Sons and was left scratching his head as to why the band weren’t appearing on the main stage this year, he probably wasn’t the only one. Rival Sons were most definitely the talk of the festival and judging by the strength of their set, one thing is to be sure the band will headline this festival without a doubt – it’s only a matter of time.
The ‘Broken Army’ were out in force early on Sunday afternoon to see the UK’s favourite rock quartet Stone Broken open the main stage.
The rest of the day had a distinct blues tinge to it with Jack Hutchinson, Big Boy Bloater and Joanne Shaw Taylor being highlights of the day. Bloater also won the award for having the best pitch at Ramblin’ Man with his airstream parked in the in the centre of the main arena throughout the course of the weekend, you can’t get a better spot than that.
Supersonic Blues Machine featuring Fabrizio Grossi, Lance Lopez and legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff made their UK festival debut, bringing with them in tow material from their debut record West of Flushing, South of Frisco. The super group were also joined onstage by US blues guitar virtuoso Eric Gales.
From one guitar slinger to the next, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown packed out the blues stage on Sunday afternoon with a high energy performance. With a new album tipped for an October release, Tyler teased the audience with new song “Easy Target”. Bryant who has skill and flair in spades is on a mission to bring real rock and roll to the masses and following a recent tour with Guns N’ Roses, he is definitely one to watch out for.
Blues Pills were one of the standout sets of Sunday on the main stage. The band’s latest offering Lady In Gold was arguably one of the best albums of 2016. The band led by the enigmatic Elin Larsson captivated the Maidstone crowd with the likes of their sublime take on Tony Joe White’s “Elements and Things” and the hard rocking “High Class Woman”. The group will be returning to the UK later in the year as support to Black Star Riders and are not to be missed.
ZZ Top closed out the festival on Sunday evening in spectacular fashion with a career spanning set. Tracks like “Cheap Sunglasses”, a slide-tastic rendition of “Just Got Paid” and their take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” sent the Ramblin’ Man crowd to blues rock heaven. Billy Gibbons asked the audience “Are we having a good time tonight?” the answer was, of course, an overwhelming yes.
ZZ Top closed out their main set with anthemic fan favourites in the shape of “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs”, which each had the crowd hanging on every word. The trio returned to the stage for a duly deserved two song encore of “La Grange” and “Tush”, which was the perfect ending to a marathon weekend of live music.
With the dates for the Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018 having already been announced as the 30th June/1st July, next Summer can’t come soon enough.
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Event Date: 29/30-July-2017