WET WET WET! This is what greeted us on arrival Friday afternoon. Not the band I hasten to say, but the incessant rain which had continued to fall for 24 hours. Dishevelled and a little disheartened by the long drive, and lack of signage en route to the site, we were all tired and fed up by the time we finally reached the Ramblin’ Man Fair, being held at Mote Park in Maidstone, Kent, England from July 25-26.
Once parked up, we made our way from the car park to the Glamping area. Here we were met by a lovely young lady who checked us in and showed us to our Bellepad. Luckily, 3 of us had booked into a 6-person pad, which was roomy and tidy and a welcome sight. However, 2 of our Pattaya Mail media party had a twin Podpad (Mott the Dog and Clever Trevor), which they likened to a “Wendy House made on the cheap”! This was a phrase we became accustomed to hearing over the weekend, as others who had booked one of these were also implying it was a big mistake.
Scorpions’ lead singer Klaus Meine and his band brought the house down with a string of classic hits.
Saturday arrived and the sun finally made an appearance, so the mood was much more upbeat. Once we’d gathered the troops, we headed down to the Arena entrance where there was a bit of a delay in the opening of the gates, but generally speaking, everyone was in good spirits, wallowing in the sunshine and talking to everyone around them. Once inside we headed straight to the VIP area and Founder Members Bar to partake in a few beers before wandering off to see some of the bands.
Well this article would have to resemble a novel of “War and Peace” dimensions if I were to write a review for every act playing over Saturday and Sunday, so that will have to wait until another day. What I will say though, was that there was a myriad of top headline bands throughout the weekend, including on Saturday in the sunshine.
Blue Oyster Cult were the first band to grab the Fair by the tail and do a monster of a set, like Godzilla flattening Mote Park. Hayseed Dixie then set a smile on everybody’s faces with a rumbustious set on the Outlaw Country Stage with their thrilling countrified versions of rock classics, including the greatest killer song ever written in rock… Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen!
Mott the Dog stands guard outside his ‘Dog House’, home for two people for 3 rain soaked nights.
Whilst the younger members of the Pattaya Mail team went off to head bang to Saturday’s Classic Rock Stage headliners The Scorpions, the more sedate of us, led by the good Captain Steve, retired to the Prog Rock Stage to watch the wonderful Camel who brought the night to a glittering climax with some dexterous music and a wonderful light show, even if the British weather was trying to freeze us all solid.
Top of the bill on the Saturday night were the aforementioned mighty Scorpions. It’s hard to believe they are now in their 50th year, as they still have it, whatever ‘IT’ is: Jumping around the stage in a blaze of glory, and soaking up the admiration of the assembled masses. Lead vocalist Klaus Meine’s voice proved as powerful as ever. They really performed to the crowd, nothing subtle about it, just an almighty powerful set delivered with genuine enthusiasm.
Camel’s Colin Bass and Andrew Latimer.
The stage set was a mega light show, which surely underlined the pomp of the band. A huge screen created two levels, meaning you could see each band member’s skill in clarity. These screens were used to the band’s full advantage, scanning quickly between the musicians and the audience reactions, which complemented the songs beautifully.
One of the biggest highlights however, was the point at which a giant Union Jack was projected, full screen, to an already excited crowd, who reacted with an even bigger cheer. The set list was fairly predictable, showcasing all the classics from their long and illustrious career. As always, it had to be their most famous hit “Wind of Change” that created the biggest crowd reaction, lighters held aloft, and the audience singing along, chants filling the night air. Great to see these guys back in the UK, it’s been way too long!
Blues Pills’ Elin Larsson.
On Sunday, for a brief 40 minutes, the rain relented long enough for the Blue Pills to open up the day’s proceedings. Never have a band first on in a heavy schedule made such a great impact – a true rock band fronted by the rock goddess, Elin Larsson.
Our keen reporter and friend to the people, Mottman assured us that in the Blues Tent, Mick Ralphs and Bernie Marsden played some scorching sets, along with excellent performances by Gregg Allman and Seasick Steve, but I’m afraid it was getting late in the day so the whole Pattaya Mail team went to go see the Prog Rock Stage for the end of the fair.
Whether or not you were an avid rock fan, there was something for everyone at this Fair throughout both days. I was impressed by all the bands already mentioned and being a massive Scorpions fan it was great to see them play the UK for the first time in years. But of all the acts it was actually Marillion that really blew me away. I have seen them a few times over the years, and I don’t know whether on this occasion it was their impressive stage set, the sound, their energy or something else, but they were truly fantastic.
Marillion’s Steve Hogarth.
Besides the fabulous line-up, there was so much to do and see here over the two days, from an impressive fairground, to a great selection of food stalls and, of course, the obligatory random stalls selling everything from clothes, records, masks, wellington boots (which sold very well on the Sunday), you name it.
Unfortunately the weather did play a key part in the attendance figures I guess. It certainly didn’t seem as crowded as some of the other major UK rock festivals I’ve been to. This was a real shame, as the Ramblin’ Man Fair is definitely at the top of my list for the future, and I’ll be doing my best to encourage everyone else I know to go next year!
(NB: All Photos courtesy of Sean Cameron and Oliver Halfin).
The Pattaya Mail team in The Founders Bar.
A Sunday highlight – Ian Anderson playing the songs of Jethro Tull.