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Are You Ready To Rock? Michael Schenker, Those Damn Crows, Vandenberg and more take to the stage at Newark Showground. Saturday 27th August.

Article by Steve Harrison

Photo - Mark Ellis

Stonedead Festival is rapidly building a legacy of it’s own, not just for those that can still remember the 80’s but for thousands of young rock fans that have yearned for that experience, heard those tall tales round the camp fire of ‘oooooh I remember Van Halen in 84’; and have been desperate for something that represents the heritage of that time, that still burns with passion around the music world today.

But this is way more than just a jaunt down memory lane for a few like minded rockers, it’s become more than a nostalgia trip for the thousands that attend. For some that still holds true, with the festivals continuing ‘tip of the hat’ to the historical and iconic Monsters Of Rock Festival of the 80’s and it’s mantra of ‘one day, one stage, one monster rock show.’

The testament to what Stonedead is achieving in only its fourth glorious instalment is nothing short of miraculous. Hard graft and an iron will combined with a volunteer workforce who imbue the tangible essence of a welcoming community! Arms outstretched from a high-vis waistcoat, a beaming smile and a genuine sincerity that only comes from a sense that this is my festival, this is our festival…this is your festival!!

The nature of this pervades through the revellers who have turned up in their thousands to sell out this years Stonedead Festival 2022.

And what a sensational line-up it was, from rock superstars, guitar icons and NWOBHM legends to the latest and brightest rising stars from the UK, Europe and beyond!

With the sun shining and the delightful linguistic articulations of the mighty Krusher Joule’s compere segues between bands, it was on to festival openers These Wicked Rivers to blast out those foot stomping southern groove riffs and vocal melodies. And boy did they ‘Shine On’ . Poll winners from this years people’s choice to open up the main day’s proceedings and you can see why their fervent blend of dep soulful rock and lyricism sets the crowd on a road to a sun drenched utopia!

The transition to kick ass rock'n'roll is somewhat of a stark contrast from the opener but none the less Kicking Valentina deliver with a grit and determination that sees many of the crowd bopping around in the early afternoon to some high octane retro sleaze. To great applause we see the band bring out the future of rock and have a young fan join them on stage and tear it up in style strutting it with a cool Les Paul!

NWOBHM stalwarts Tygers of Pan Tang are up next. They seem to have hit a renaissance. With the recent release of their latest EP ‘A New Heartbeat’, there also seems to be a renewed vitality about the band even if their only original member Rob Weir, is the only one that can remember back to their early 80s heyday. there's no doubt we were all ‘Raised on Rock’ but of course it’s that cover of Love Potion #9 that gave them their 15 minutes of fame and saw guitarist John Sykes leave for Thin Lizzy, that got the heads rockin!

Photo- Mark Ellis

Ahead of their set we caught up with The Treatment guitarist Tag,’ Yeah. You know it's brilliant. I love to see that bands on one stage again. Yeah it is amazing going to festivals and you got 750 stages that you can watch 2 million bands across the weekend. But there's something epic about it's like the original point. Yeah, it's like if a bands not playing then there's only one place you can go, well there's two and that's toilet or beer tent. Do you know what I mean? And that's what's amazing. It's a you know, everyone experiencing the same bit of music and it definitely creates a kind of sort of unique thing that we don't have anymore. Like we as festivals are so spread out now. And that's what I really liked about that something special. So that's it as long as nothing goes wrong on the walk to the stage.’

At last The Treatment hit the stage, after having pulled out of last year's Stone Dead festival they were determined to give 110%. They came out with all guns blazing, smashing out a rip roaring set that gave the festival goers another shot in the arm, not that they needed it, but why the hell not. A mix of the classics from their early repertoire and throwing a couple of new tracks in to the mix too. I’m a little surprised with their great songs and killer live set, that they’ve not had the break to really step it up but this years extensive touring schedule could see them move on up! Let’s hope so.

Having seen H.E.A.T many times over the years, including Kenny Leckremo’s first stint with the band, I was keen to see them again now that he’d returned to the fold. Needless to say I was not disappointed although the vocals were a little low in the mix initially, but H.E.A.T came and did what they do best. High energy melodic rock that puts a smile on your face. With a short set relying heavy on the new album ‘Force Majeure’ it was still good to hear early songs including ‘Straight For Your Heart’ and to see Kenny fit straight back in, with his powerful soaring vocals, effervescent stage antics and Timotei hair. What’s not to love!!

Photo - Mark Ellis

We managed to catch five minutes with Kenny straight after the set to talk about his return to the band ‘ We kind of grew up together. I mean, musically, as well. That's, that's a really big one because, for me, music is quite personal. Literally, I write from the heart all the time. So all my music it just comes from that place. And I discovered so much music with the guys like together with the guys. So, you know, I didn't have to think twice. It was just like, well, I have an opportunity to perform this amazing music again, with the guys and to take part of this. Well in a way legacy, you know, that they created, even when I wasn't there. And to be able to carry that into the futures just it's awesome. And I am really happy and grateful to be able to be a part of it again’

Photo - Mark Ellis

As an interlude, the atmosphere of the festival is further rocked by the thundering low level flyby of a magnificent AVRO Lancaster Bomber, one of a few remaining WWII planes that still fly as part of the RAF Memorial Flights for the Battle of Britain. Circling low over the Newark Showground, as if on it’s own bombing run, it buzzes the delighted crowds three times before roaring off into the clear blue skies.

Stone Broken take to the stage looking like extra’s from a Chuck Norris film, they deliver a punchy and polished set. Kicking off a slick performance that is lapped up by the crowds, with the driving disco riffs of Revelation through to the banger that is Not Your Enemy. It is solid from start to finish but for me somehow lacks that big stage quality and I do wonder though whether they have plateaued on their rise to rock stardom or if they’ll take the next step into big production arena material. Only time will tell.

Photo - Mark Ellis

An artist used to touring arenas for two decades and who’s rock star status with Whitesnake is not in question is none other than Adrian Vandenberg, chatting to him ahead of his set and celebrating 40 years of the release of the debut Vandenberg album he talks about that support tour with Michael Schenker back in 1982 ‘ You know, it's so interesting how all the die-hard veterans like Michael and me, , you know, because when we played Wembley Arena with Whitesnake, Michael was opening for us, I never… opening soundss weird. You know, what I like about France, for instance, one of the few things, in France tey say the ‘premiere partie’, so the first part, and to a lot of people the support act, it sounds like, you know, yeah, we're gonna stay at the bar. But I've never looked at it like that because every musician wants to do the same thing. You want to play your music for people that hopefully appreciate it. Yeah. Whether you’re the so called main act or not.’

Photo - Mark Ellis

The late afternoon slot for Vandenberg see’s them kick off with songs form the Vandenberg 2020 album, before settling into ‘Your Love is In Vain’ from their debut of 40 years ago. A few technical issues do not deter the band from performing a rarely played ‘Sailing Ships’ with the soulful vocals of Mats Levens providing a deep Coverdale-esque resonance to the song. The crowd respond well to the trio of Whitesnake songs that include ‘Judgement Day’ and of course ‘Here I Go Again’ but for me I can’t help feeling an opportunity was missed to play more off that debut album, maybe because I was there for that premiere partie back in 82’. Resoritng to a Led Zeppelin song to close out the set leaves me rolling my eyes and sees me heading to the bar thinking they could have played the classic ‘Wait’ instead of wasting 5 minutes on a cover….but they didn’t, and you can’t have everything so maybe next time! Still…Vandenberg though!!

The special guest slot at this years Stone Dead festival is taken up by one of Wales finest, Those Damn Crows. A band that have class and talent in truckloads. If you've not heard of Those Damn Crows before then you must have been living as a hermit on a remote island. A band that have been crafting their performance in pubs and clubs and on to festival stages across the UK and Europe and wider.

Songs that have you at the first chords struck, ‘Send The Reaper’ with the driving riffs and into ‘Someone Someday’ sees vocalist Shane Greenhall leap around the stage working the crowd like the proverbial ‘putty in my hand’.

This band are definitely heading for bigger things, the UK’s answer to Shinedown, has Shane’s genuine humour that we brits love, putting smiles on our faces and who doesn’t love a rocked up rendition of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. Taking a seat behind the piano for the emotional ‘Blink Of An Eye’ clearly demonstrates the musical and emotional depths ‘the crows’ bring to the fore for British rock music. With new music in the offing from the band, time will tell whether they take on the mantle of arena worth band, but for me, they’re already there!!

And so on to the headline act. Guitar god, guitar legend, guitar icon, Michael Schenker, not enough superlatives to describe the influence, his career of 50 years has had on thousands of guitarists worldwide. And yet the Michael Schenker Group continue to inspire and deliver.

Opening the show with ‘Into The Arena’ an instrumental form the first MSG album and you know it’s going to be two hours of a Schenker masterclass. Picking from the inimitable UFO classics and MSG staples, we’re only three songs and already the crowd go wild to the UFO classic ‘Doctor Doctor’ singing the chorus and helping along the fantastic vocals of Ronnie Romero. Those MSG and UFO classics keep coming, one after the other, ‘Looking For Love’ from the album MSG, and one of my favourite Schenker songs, straight into Red Sky from the ‘Bult to Destroy’ album. That distinct guitar tone, phrasing and feel, gets you every time. Michael is on fire and with a band around him that have decades of playing experience, they rip through an astounding set list of fan favourites. Interspersed with tracks from his new album ‘Universal’, including ‘Emergency’ and his own tribute to Ronnie James Dio ‘A King Has Gone’, but it’s the latter parts of the set with a run of UFO classics, with the extended solo in the mighty ‘Rock Bottom’, then ‘Shoot Shoot’ through to the rousing ‘Too Hot To Handle’ that closes out a fantastic headline set from a true legend in guitar rock.

And with that we say goodbye for another year to a festival, that in such a short time has captured the essence and spirit of a world renowned heritage from The Monsters of Rock, but has found a niche beyond that which all the other three day festivals provide.

And with no sign of faltering amidst the glut of festivals emerging throughout the UK year on year, this sell out year has shown, Stone Dead Festival is a jewel in the crown and the epitome of a festival that has a true community spirit.

You can hear the full interviews with H.E.A.T, The Treatment and Adrian Vandenberg on All Talk with Steve Harrison on Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud.

More details on Stonedead Festival can be found here.

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