“It’s easy to overlook the fact that rock music is a two-way process — ” A wise old rock fan started to tell us last weekend at the top-notch HRH AOR Festival held at Hafan Y Mor, Pwllheli in North Wales.
“The pastor comes out to address the congregation…” he explained, “wearing robes of office and administering certain sacraments … but it must be remembered that there will be no supernatural occurrences unless the audience gives freely their energy and unrestrained participative engagement. The high priest might prompt, cajole and petition … but he cannot summons the supreme rock spirit without the consent of the gathering. And so the diety will never materialize unless the priest and the people can collaborate and act as one.”
These thoughts were spinning around our mind while we watched the vivid and thoroughly polished show from GILBY CLARKE at the tail end of the superlative weekend. This is the American musician & singer/songwriter who famously replaced Guns N’ Roses‘ Izzy Stradlin during their Use Your Illusion Tour.
More recently CLARKE has formed his own supergroup with members of Metallica and Mötley Crüe.
He is testament to the truth we were told… that a genuinely talented druid will always use the motivating force of the crowd to conjure up thunderclouds and lightning. The GILBY CLARKE band gave us a whole bunch of self-penned numbers and some expertly chosen covers … These teased and tantalized the audience — creating a mystical swirl that went way beyond conventional scientific understanding.
Other wayward necromancers and assorted rock ‘n’ roll supernauts included the ever effervescent QUIET RIOT and the dreamy smooth band of gypsies known as THE QUIREBOYS. Even unswerving glam metal deniers had to admit it that these two were stand-out performances.
We were super excited to see Benedictum singer VERONICA “THE V” FREEMAN perform. She sounded like a cross between Freddie Mercury and DIO (according to an enthusiastic fan.)
Other favourites were Stockholm’s CAPTAIN BLACK BEARD whose “Divided Feelings” had a twilight country-swing to it and rivers of bitter expression. Midlands UK rockers KNOCK OUT KAINE played sparkling constructions like “Ain’t Your Kind” with searing-hot guitar intrusions. It was a stunnerlicious set based around some songs from their new new Cruel Britannia EP … . not too flashy but a spectacle of music and energy nonetheless.
And Swansea’s BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS who played torrid and slightly brutish numbers from their Crash & Burn L.P. Their show was flamboyant and theatrical with more proactive pussyfooting from singer Stu (Dade Davies ) than a vengeful cougar on the prowl.
RUSS BALLARD was 45 minutes late coming to the stage (blaming hold-ups on the highway), but the band played a full-set … which meant that the hard rockers from New York TYKETTO [playing songs from Don’t Come Easy] had to cut their set short to accommodate … I know which set we would have preferred HRH stage bosses to have kept intact.
But the crowd went sing-along crazy for the old-time hero and let’s be fair… If rock ‘n’ roll was a nation state, Russ wrote the national anthem for it. In the rock nation, you don’t get much more patriotic than BALLARD!
Friday night was completed with RAINBOW singer and Death Alley Driver JOE LYNN TURNER who played a dynamic hi-octane set bursting with Deep Purple and Rainbow numbers that were familiar to many…
On Saturday MÄRVEL’S Papa Bear singer was terrific and so was his guitar-play… in fact the musicality of the entire band was sensational … shame their songs weren’t punchier, ordered, or fizzier. Most memorable was the W.A.S.P. cover though — it was brilliant!
Australians THE RADIO SUN played a warm and compelling short acoustic set in the VIP lounge followed by a stunning full-electric set later in in the day. Their sound was elegant yet exciting.
The Estrella Warriors were out in force for Thurso’s rock heroes ESTRELLA … The band demonstrated how to bewitch a showroom with rhythms that exploded, sound-waves that rocked the room like pure energy and chorus lines that were as rampant as stampeding bull elephants.
ICONIC EYE played a sweetly disconnected UNPLUGGED session in the VIP room before giving a fine performance on the main stage. Their guitarist was super-quick and highly accomplished but their vocalist Tim seemed a teeny-bit bleary eyed and vacant. However the thrusting pace of their “Hidden in Plain Sight” kept things interesting.
Adorable Welsh indie rock band KANE’D [main picture] — boasting three beautiful sisters — also played a quality unplugged session before going onto the main stage to play a full-electric set “with less clothes on…”
As they suggested, their show was seedier and raunchier than expected. Those harmonies were just awesome though… and the crunching guitars and pounding beats kept us clapping.
Over on the sleaze stage we loved the idiotic rock ‘n’ roll mischief from those high-spirited yet endearing pranksters A JOKER’S RAGE. Trickery and high-jinks were in abundance but the North England band also played us some insanely good music. (Congratulations to the drummer who announced his other half was expecting at the show.)
Also special mention must go to BLACKRAIN, the French rocker outfit who closed the sleaze stage on Saturday at around 7pm and played such a glorious show. Their stage performance was one of the highlights of this super weekend. These stellar musicians played with noble intention and genuine humility … they should have been placed higher on the billing.
Yup! This year, the HRH AOR Festival in North Wales was filled with experts and the elite. The best of the very best.
Epic music, great party, amazing audience …
We cannot wait for the next episode … It will be a full standalone weekender on the 9-12th March 2017.