Saturday, 21 November 2015

A Storming Time in Wales

November means it is that time of the year to pack tight, sexy clothes, high heeled boots, lots of leather and head off to North Wales for what has become a regular event for me - yes, it was time for Hard Rock Hell yet again.

This was now my third time at the event, and some things have become a bit of a ritual.  Firstly, heading off on Thursday morning, a stop for a late breakfast of the OK Diner on the A55.  The 1950's piece of Americana (although built in Manchester, I believe many years ago!) is a great place to stop and set the mood for the coming weekend.  To a backdrop of Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran's great hits, the diner offers up superb food too, and it was a somewhat fuller Dexi that clambered back into the car afterwards.  Brilliant.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - OK Diner
Despite the poor weather conditions the drive over the A55 was lovely, light clouds and sunshine following us all the way.  Unfortunately, as we left Caernafon, that changed - up ahead, the western mountains of Snowdonia were shrouded in heavy, low and dark clouds.  The first smattering of rain hit the car windshield and we headed towards the dark and foreboding weather front, and suddenly we were plunged into a heavy storm.  This was, it later transpired, the aftermath of Hurricane Patricia, the storm that hit Mexico a few weeks back.  Outside the car, poor little birds were struggling against the howling winds, and, shockingly, we had to turn the music up even more to hear it against the buffeting wind.  AC/DC on full blast?  Not a problem!

We reached our destination and found the holiday camp at Hafan Y Mor blasted by strong winds and rain - not the start we wanted.  We signed in and headed off to find our accommodation for the weekend - this time, as there were a couple more of us than last year, we had been given a six-berth caravan.

After unpacking we had a first toast to the weekend ahead with a drop of whiskey and Jack Daniels, (yes, it was still only midday but why wait) and headed back into the wild weather to find friends and company.

The on-site pub, the Mash & Barrel, had a Rock Quiz at 2.00pm, and after a few more drinks the full team of us (6) thought it was be a good idea to have a go.  Surely, with the spread of knowledge around the group we could do quite well.  Errr... no, as it happened.  Our final score (6 out of about 30) showed that we were pretty rubbish.  Oh well, it was an excuse for a commiserating drink rather than a celebratory one.

Thursday night saw us heading over to the main arena to watch the first of the bands hit the stage.  Best bands of the night were openers Screaming Eagles and the American outfit Black Label Society - I hadn't heard them previously (but judging by the assorted T-shirts worn that night I was in the minority!) but their heavy thundering metal more than matched Hurricane Patricia's efforts outside.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort -Black Label Society
Thursday night back in the caravan was bit of an experience.  With the storm lashing outside it was a little like sleeping in a biscuit tin while the outside was jet-washed.  I was still pretty tired when we got up the following morning and headed off for breakfast at the Mash & Barrel.  I felt a little more awake after a cooked breakfast - but having breakfast at a family holiday camp at 9.00am while Metallica play over the speakers is still an odd feeling.

Friday afternoon's entertainment really began in the smaller of the two arenas - Stage Two.  Bigfoot opened, with the animated singer looking very much like film star Jack Black - have the two ever been seen in the same room, I wondered.  They were followed by Dukes Of Bordello, a three-piece playing heavy and frantic rock - unusually with a double bass.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - The Dukes Of Bordello
By the time they had left the stage more friends that I'd made on my earlier visits had turned up, and it was time for yet a few more drinks and a catch-up.  Knowing it was going to be a long night I braved the storm and headed back to the caravan for some food.  I was back out at the main Stage One arena in time to find more friends and catch the last of American rockers Scorpion Child, who sounded excellent - I wish I'd caught more of their show.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Scorpion Child
By the time they had finished the arena was full as fans crowded in to watch German metal band Helloween.  I stayed for one song, though - they were a little too heavy for my liking and the arena was just too crowded.  I headed back to the quieter Stage Two, as one of my favourite bands, Black State Highway, would be on later.  I met more old friends from the previous years and managed to get a seat in time for Black State Highway hitting the stage.

Having bought their CD after the performance last year, I knew most of the songs this time around, and once again they put on a great show.  Fantastic songs, and a sexy singer that could get her luscious lips around mine anyday.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Black State Highway


Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Black State Highway

 This time around at Hard Rock Hell there was an after-party once the bands had finished, which included a couple of sets from bands that were featuring on the main stages over the weekend.  The other benefit was to get up close and personal with some of the other 'entertainment' for the weekend...

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Sexy Dancer!
OK, maybe not quite up close and personal as I would have liked, but she certainly provided a visual thrill that the band couldn't match.  I managed to meet the guys from Black State Highway who turned up for a late drink and had a long chat with the lovely gents - unfortunately the gorgeous Latvian singer Liva Steinberga wasn't with them, so I couldn't drag her away for a more intimate discussion.  Maybe next year...  It was 3.00am when I clambered into bed, with another storm brewing outside...

Saturday morning dawned as before under a heavy cloud.  I dressed and headed for the pub for my usual breakfast.  The mood in the bar wasn't as jovial and noisy as on previous mornings, and I soon learned that in another rock event, this time in Paris, a storm had indeed broken that had claimed the lives of many rock music fans.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort
On the two main stages, bands made time to remember those affected by the attacks in Paris, but the show did go on - as it must.  Any other way and the terrorists have won.  I enjoyed Sky Valley Mistress with their late 60's/early 70's heavy rock sound on Stage Two, but made sure I was seated with a good view of the stage in the main arena for the rest of the night.

I certainly enjoyed Black Spiders, the first band I caught once in Stage One.  Fabulous heavy rock - and another band that I'd not heard much of, but will seek out some of their music now.  Oh, and the video link above is well worth following - I'd watch tennis from Wimbledon on TV if it was more like that....

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Black Spiders
 Scottish rockers Gun were next up, their straight-forward no frills rock perfectly suited to Hard Rock Hell.  They played a cracking set, including a storming version of their Cameo cover Word-Up.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Gun
All-female trio Rock Goddess followed, but I didn't really enjoy their music - it was all a bit frantic and screamed - none of the tracks stood out for me, but trash rockers Faster Pussycat redressed the balance.  I loved their arrogant swagger and humour, and despite appearances their set was tight, well played and well structured.  Oh, apart from the drum solo when the lead singer introduced the drummer and all the band stopped playing, the stage set for the drum solo - only for the drummer to stop playing as well.  For a couple of seconds they all looked in surprise at each other and the vocalist laconically said to the embarrassed drummer "You know what a drum solo is, right?  That's where you keep playing, man!"  They kicked the song off again, and this time the drummer found his place and completed his solo to cheers, laughter and applause.  The crowd especially got into the mood with the track 'Pretty Fucked Up' and it's sing-a-long chorus - sadly I couldn't find a well-shot version on YouTube, but I think you'd get the idea from that one...  Fabulous fun.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Faster Pussycat
In a packed hall of over 2000 drunken rockers a respectful minutes silence was held in remembrance of those who had died in the attack in Paris, a humbling quiet moment in a wild night.  Heavy metal rockers Saxon finished the night, blasting and ripping through their back catalogue, the biggest cheers predictably for their classics - Wheels Of Steel, 747, and Denim And Leather.  Lead vocalist Biff was thoroughly engaging with his self-depriciating South Yorkshire humour, and they left the stage to a real Heavy Metal Thunder of applause.

Dexi Delite, Manchester and Cheshire Escort - Saxon

I headed over to Stage Two to say a final farewell to friends who had gathered for a last drink and to listen to the last band of the weekend Chase The Ace.  As Sunday dawned, and as always, it was sad to see this fabulous event pass for another year, but the journey home was full of tales of bands and friends that we'd all met and seen again. 

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