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There was a superb amount of variety of bands on offer for this flagship event that's meant to represent the whole HRH stable

Great Yarmouth: Vauxhall Holiday Resort, 3-6 November 2021


Proceedings began with star studded awards on the Wednesday night with Arthur Brown taking "Legend", Bernie Marsden taking "Blues Lord" and Ginger taking best British vocalist. It was the usual well-fuelled event with Jaegermeister and Fireball as sponsors and the glamour of a red carpet and guests being "papped" on entry. There was choreographed dancing and live showcases from bands such as Bastette with a singer to rival the biggest of singers in her class, and Gypsy Pistoleros whose bass player drank all the Jaeger on his table and then stole a bottle from another table, resulting in him getting sacked from the band after his performance. Having said that I thought they were really good, but clearly whatever the double bass player had agreed to do, he didn't manage it to the satisfaction of his band mates. The crowd at the front are so pissed by the time the band went on though, I am certain no one noticed anything amiss.

Day 1

Gypsy Pistoleros also began public proceedings on the Thursday. Obviously as a three piece, given what had happened the night before, but they were also very good with Lee Pistolero explaining that they had performed in the same configuration for the album. The Mexican outfits and the show is impressive, concentrated on songs from the latest album 'The Mescalito Vampires'. Also I think without the double bass is it much easier to hear the lead guitar which got a chance to shine! They finish up with their excellent version of 'Living La Vida Loca' which they promote as a candidate for Christmas number one!

Happy Freuds from Spain are up next with a striking young blonde singer á la Sebastian Bach. Their style is definitely post nineties though, with more of a Nirvana garage band vibe, albeit with a few Hard Rock screams and feedback/guitar effects, witness no elaborate guitar solos to speak of. They take an opportunity to play a completely new song with a machine gun style riff, although it did not seem fully formed to me. I guess I love my guitar solos.

South Of Salem, having won the award for "Rising Stars" last night, are fast becoming a slick stadium ready band. Also, their dark tinged aesthetic and lyrics (which are also often clever plays on words like 'Demons Are Forever') make them a firm favourite with younger Rock fans while their melodic catchy songs and traditional guitar based foundations make them appealing to older Rock fans too. The singer has a straightforward but strong voice and knows how to work the crowd and the barrier. Every time I have seen them, including this one, they effortlessly deliver.

The New Roses from Germany are competent with a transatlantic sound in the field of traditional Hard Rock with one song having a more Country vibe. Unfortunately their singer reminds me a lot of Charles Manson which I find a difficult thing to completely forget. I suppose the positive on that is that he does have some of that magnetism.

Black Spiders are heavily inspired by Black Sabbath with ethereal falsetto style vocals like Ozzy and even with black fringes on sleeves. They are massively un-PC, urging the crowd to raise their middle fingers and shout "F u Black Spiders!" and to get their "tits out or whatever else you wanna do". They also ask "if there are any Punks, Stoners or Styx Fans in the crowd cos if there are you came to the wrong weekend!" and threaten "We are taking note of those not clapping and later we are coming to your chalets to ask why not." So they are pretty entertaining and also do a good cover of 'The Lost Boys' movie track 'Good Times', a song I happen to really like. They must be doing something right as there is a lady, who is seventy if she if a day, dancing for the whole set with one of their t-shirts on.

Next up are The Wildhearts, who are definitely on a high following Ginger's award last night. They do the all hits set that they did at Steelhouse and on their recent tour, and having such strong melodic and recognisable songs and opening with titanic tracks like 'Diagnosis' and 'Vanilla Radio' they get things off with a bang straight away. They do however include some new and heavier tracks like 'Splitter' and 'Dislocated'. Full of energy and big riffs, it's hard to believe this is the same band that were dissatisfied with their performance at Download not that long ago. Certainly they are justifiably full of confidence and play the crowd well, "I like the sound of you more than you like the sound of us". I am pleased that they do, however, include 'My Baby Is A HeadFuck' which they have not always played recently and they end on a high with 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go'.

Day 2

In a surprise last minute reshuffle due to Wolfsbane's non-appearance, The Meffs open proceedings with their wild eyed, slightly Punky, left wing, cheeky Essex attitude. Just a singer/guitarist and a drummer, it's a set of three-minute wonders. The risk with taking an overtly political stance is that, given the climate, it may overshadow people's impression of the music, but they appear to be preaching to the converted as no one seems to protest.

Bastette follow with their glossy performance of classic AOR. They are worthy successors to bands like Romeo's Daughter and Vixen. Not only can Caroline Kenyon sing, but in her glossy PVC cat suit she has all the Rock 'n' Roll old school Soft Metal goddess cards to play, and she is not afraid to do so. She has a pure and clear voice and a killer figure and she's not above working the barrier, definitely a winning combination and with classy lovely high lyrical guitar and a good band behind her there's a lot to like.

Yikes! have an American lookin' blonde surfer/Andy Warhol kind of vibe and are unsurprisingly offering a kind of NY brand Punk inspired Rock. It's not deep, but it has a kind of fast food-satisfaction-style instant fix accessibility.

Ward XVI took performance art to a new level with their Alice Cooper style Shock Rock complete with murders, blood, monsters, Satan and references to mental illness. The music is alternative with high falsetto and death growl vocals rather that Cock Rock though. Their performance is absorbing and entertaining in a fascinating, what's gonna happen next kind of a way, but given that it's definitely not my genre I can't see me wanting to see them again unless they completely change and update the theatrical side of things every time I see them.

No one sent front of house the memo that the running order had changed and there's a bit of a comedy moment as the compere announced Chris Holmes and the electronic screen says the same and we get The Screaming Eagles, who to their credit do not have a strop and carry on unperturbed (Indeed the electronic screen is corrected pretty quickly afterwards.) They are a straightforward Hard Rock style band and give the impression of being no nonsense and hard-working, letting the music do the talking, sometimes channeling AC/DC, sometimes Status Quo. There are some quite good guitar solos and the by-now-pissed punters loved it.

Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons are now less Motörhead-like with the addition of their new singer. They still do the Motörhead and Hawkwind numbers and his voice with its high Ozzy like quality is particularly suited to 'Silver Machine'. It's pretty much the same set as Steelhouse with new material and stuff from Campbell's solo album too. He makes an effort to talk to the crowd and they do a good solid set.

Headliner Chris Holmes appears to have a few problems setting up his gear at first, but once they get going it's a non-stop whirlwind of WASP favourites, sung extremely well by Ollie Tindall, and good material from Holmes solo albums including the latest like 'The Devil Made Me Do It' which he sings himself. It's certainly a professional show and anyone still remembering the 'Decline Of Western Civilisation' and expecting a car crash will be pleasantly surprised. Holmes has been sober for twenty years and under guidance from his wife Cathy today he's doing pretty well. He acknowledges that "early in his life he burned the candle at both ends and shouldn't be alive", but he's clearly grateful to get a second chance and he's not wasting that opportunity. He does refer to the crowd as "London", but getting to hear tracks like 'Blind In Texas' and 'Wild Child' no one appears to notice; or if they do they politely pretend they did not. There's a lot of Holmes' guitar featured, eg in the long intro to 'Born Work Die' and an emotional full solo in 'Animal'; he can definitely still play with his unique tone. They easily took the position of headliner tonight. It's nice to see him back at the top.

Day 3

Opening Saturday are Wild West themed band Sons Of Liberty and they are engaging with their old time Western costumes like something out of a film, while also providing quality Southern inspired Rock and blistering guitar not a million miles away from Skynyrd.

Nitroville have a singer who can clearly belt out the high notes and has a confident and easy manner with the audience, telling stories about forgotten gear and panic trips to local guitar shops and things that have inspired her to write songs, such as something that happened in the Sixteenth Century 'Dead Man's Hand'. Certainly their set seemed none the worse for any forgotten equipment.

Ryders Creed's vocalist is so sprightly he reminds me of a leprechaun. Pencil thin and super energetic, he puts everything into the visual performance while providing a powerful Ozzy style vocal. Referring to the two shitty years we just had they appeal to the crowd by saying "if we touch one person we have done our job."

Piston's singer Rob Angelico is in a buoyant mood in sunglasses and telling anecdotes between songs. They have a quality back catalogue of songs to choose from and they are very loud, reminding me of an early Def Leppard, although I am not sure the sound is as good as it could be for them. They say there are doing a new song and "there might be a few fuck ups" and indeed it was a little weird. Songs like 'Who Cares Anyway' are a classy combination of Heavy Blues and modern Hard Rock. As well as the hard rocking stuff Angelico also shows with an a cappella section on 'Carry Us Home' that he has a soulful quality voice. Jack Edwards on lead guitar reminds me of a young Richie Kotzen. Angelico takes his shirt off for the 'Proud Mary' encore and they throw beach balls out into the audience, even though it's autumn!

Tigertailz pack out the hall and are clearly crowd favourites. HRH is familiar territory for them and they look confident and own the stage with an energetic performance of 'Bezerk' tracks, a medley from 'Young And Crazy' and 'All The Girls In The World' from the most recent studio album - pretty much the same set as HRH Sleaze. They always inject a bit of eighties Glam Rock 'n' Roll into proceedings and while it may not be popular (myself excluded) to say that you love this kind of music, it is clearly hugely popular with the HRH cognoscenti.

Terrorvision are also a popular choice with major singalongs occurring during their most popular tracks like the iconic 'Alice What's The Matter', 'Tequila', 'Whales And Dolphins' and the fabulous 'Josephine'. Singer Tony Wright is amazingly unchanged, still wearing the clashing T-shirt and baggy joggers. His dancing with the push push and chop chop motion will take you straight back to the nineties guaranteed. They are super rocking and very loud. They even play a new song which they say is a tribute to Lemmy. However, a slower song reveals more transparently that they can still sing and play super well.

Orange Goblin hit a few technical issues which meant they were super late going on, and just as they looked as though they were getting into their Viking supermen stride disaster struck in the form of a crowd injury which halted proceedings. Unfortunately the two delays combined and late running resulted in the crowd being somewhat thinner for this final band. Eventually they called time on proceedings and finished early, in recognition of the person who was hurt and no doubt as things were by then ridiculously late. Nevertheless, things had gone so well earlier I don't think any of the crowd felt that this spoiled their entire day,

There was a superb amount of variety of bands on offer for this flagship event that's meant to represent the whole HRH stable. Given the difficulty in getting overseas bands at the moment it was a great representation of how much British talent we have and can still be proud of, both with established and up and coming bands. HRH have a good instinct for backing the ones to watch and so it's a definitely always a good barometer of what's happening out there. Personally I love to see overseas bands represented in a normal year, but this year was definitely not a second class event compared to usual. Extremely well done!

Dawn Osborne

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