Ramblin' Man Fair - Day ONE // Saturday
If, in its first year of business a festival can showcase the likes of Rock and Metal legends such as Saxon, Dream Theatre, Gregg Allman, Ian Anderson (just to name a few) and the much loved and celebrated German Rock masters Scorpions, then, regardless of ticket cost, I'm sold and, apparently, so are my friends that aren't really clued up on their Classic Rock, Prog and Metal thing...
On July 25th and 26th 2015, Mote Park in Maidstone - Kent, saw a stellar line-up of what long-time rockers would consider to be a near perfect blend of Rock and Metal sub-genres working side by side and ultimately forming a festival that’s pretty much impeccable on the music front.
In the first year of business you'd expect there be some teething issues. You tend to get yourself prepared for the tedious wristband queues where you hear all the other festival-goers’ casual issues. You also expect that your carefully organised 'bands to see' schedule will, to an extent, be thrown out the window due to dodgy set lengths and mismanagement. Alas, no such first world problems occurred and was probably too plain sailing for comfort! I mean... I was prepared to be at least slightly miffed! Never mind, eh?! You can't complain about not complaining!
It's important to note that Ramblin' Man made space for both talented up-and-coming bands and household names alike. One of these 'newer' bands being the very pleasant, inoffensive No Hot Ashes. Though this band might be a new discovery to the majority, they're not new kids on the block and are recently reformed and hitting the music scene more so than ever before. In front of a very welcoming early crowd, these Irish lads certainly delivered a beautiful set with no ego, but a whole lot of ease and passion which was highlighted by a memorable performance of original 'Boulders'. I won't say anymore, so go and check this band out, you won't be disappointed.
'Toseland' was the second band to take to the Classic Rock stage, which was their first opportunity to play a main stage set. James Toseland never fails to give his all in each performance and without a doubt, this band is growing and moving from strength to strength, though as we'd seen Toseland twice before, I took this time to explore the grounds of the festival, get my bearings and have a general look around at what RMF had to offer, away from the music, all whilst enjoying the sounds of Toseland in the background. Also, this step away from hustle and bustle was an ideal time to get a pint or two in before the next big set of the day!
A band I never fail to support is the mighty "FM". I wasn't letting this be any different. FM is a band that never fail to impress, and they always deliver the goods in a fashion that only FM are capable of. Opening with the already fan favourite "Diggin' Up The Dirt", the band entice the dedicated FM followers to sing word for word with the front man with the golden pipes, Steve Overland. Falling quickly into the classics 'I Belong to the Night', 'Wildside' and the delicate tear-jerker 'Closer To Heaven', the familiar melodies flood the audience and the love for this band amongst the masses becomes overpowering and uplifting.
Crowd of the day goes to none other than British legends, Saxon. With a performance as fierce as their band members, they delivered a high impact set that was more than pleasing. It's evident that above all, these long-time rock and metal bands have the strongest of fan bases and this shone through in all aspects of the crowd that was formed by people of all ages. The love for the music rises above all in these live settings. I don't think I'll ever forget this Saxon set. It just gave us all that 'tingly' feeling, y'know? Denim and leather definitely brought us all together on that epic Saturday afternoon.
There were a lot of first time live band experiences at this festival, with Dream Theater being one of them. Known for crafting astoundingly intricate and technical music, though oddly, outside of technicality and personality, I didn't get much from them. The audience seemed to lack 'oomph' and it made it all fall a little short of what I'd built it up to be.
It's likely that the majority of onlookers were in a state of awe with the musicianship, as was I, but, all in all, I was expecting a little more from a crowd that was dominated by a million and one Dream Theater merch wearers. Without a doubt, I will never write this band off and will undoubtedly be sure to see them on tour where all focus is on nothing but DT.
Some time to pass and some beer to drink before the hugely anticipated appearance of Scorpions on what is their only UK appearance of the year... you could feel the excitement build. As the night sky draped over the Classic Rock stage, RMF crew scrambled for a lengthy time to set up the stage for what was later revealed to be an elaborate visual set-up that sky rocketed this set to another dimension. Opening with 'Going Out With A Bang' from latest album 'Return To Forever' the whole arena came alive whilst Klaus Meine, Schenker, Jabbs and Mąciwoda gave the Scorpions the returning welcome that they truly deserved. The set was a complete contrast of both old and new material which pleased fans of all ages. 50 years in and they still have it - heaps of quality showmanship, especially from drummer, James Kottak, who does what he does best, suspended on a platform and often taking to his feet, scaling his drums to display his 'Rock & Roll Forever' full back tattoo. The only complaint I have is about the camera man who chose to capture specific individuals in the crowd more so than the guys at 'the top of the bill'. Baffling.
Saturday at Ramblin' Man was one of my more pleasant festival experiences to date, and seriously the greatest line-up I've had the pleasure of witnessing.
Review By: Christiane Robinson
Photographer: Darren Mcveigh