The Hair Metal Heaven festival took place in Kinston Upon Hull (commonly known as Hull), a three hour train ride from London, England (and perhaps an entertaining car ride for those who traveled from countries like the United States where we drive on the correct side of the road.) We chose the easy route, a morning train from London’s famous King’s Cross Station with a stop at the equally famous Platform 9 3/4 (luckily the first day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was the following week).
Immediately welcomed into a family-like atmosphere exchanging stories with new friends as we approached Hull, we were greeted in town by friends old and new from around the globe traveling from the United States, Australia, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France and beyond, and other press who were strategizing their coverage of the massive display of talent that was featured at this festival.
When we arrived in Hull, we were all set, but a bit later than we’d planned for. Our hotel was a short walk out of the train station, and we had luckily booked it on our own (and avoided issues that plagued those that booked with their VIP packages). We shook off our travels, got a good lunch and then headed to the Welly Club.
The festivities were set to start around noon with the Mayor of Hull introducing the festival, representing Hull as the City of Culture, we were still on the train at this time so we can’t report exactly what happened early in the day with Fragile Things, Mason Hill or Bigfoot’s performances, but we can tell you that when we arrived, Nite Rain was on stage much later than their scheduled slot and that the venue was overcrowded, sticky, smelly, and hot, hot, hotter than…
So after returning to our hotel to minimize our attire, we arrived at The Welly Club (again) in time to watch the incredible Crazy Lixx, a hard rock band from Sweden with tongue-in-cheek cuts like “Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot” and “Lock up Your Daughter” these guys offer up obvious sleaze influences, oodles of energy, and loads of guitars. The five-piece, featuring Danny Rexon on lead vocals, Joél Cirera on drums, Jens Sjöholm on guitar, Chrisse Olsson on guitar, and Jens Lundgren on bass are celebrating the fifteenth anniversary this year with the release of their latest studio album, “Ruff Justice” on Frontiers. From “Ruff Justice” they pulled out their latest single “Wild Child” and paid homage to the Friday the 13th series of movies with the song “XIII”.
Next up was San Francisco’s own Babylon A.D. who have been “boozin’, bruizin’, ballin’ and brawlin’ since 1988, and still going strong nearly thirty years later with all original members; Derek Davis on vocals, John Matthews on guitar, Ron Freschi on guitar, Jamey Pacheco on drums, and Robb Reid.
On the heels of their live album LIVE@XXV and several festival performances, Babylon A.D. has been writing new material again. During the show in Hull, they featured five new songs from their upcoming November release of Revelation Highway including “She Likes To Give It” and “Crash and Burn” and pulled out classics like “Bang Go the Bells” and “The Kid Goes Wild.” And, Davis confirmed that just like the club, the stage was “hot as hell.”
The Swedish invasion continued when Eclipse took the stage. Coming from the United States, it was our first chance to catch this band live, and after being teased by a guest performance from Magnus Henriksson with Jeff Scott Soto on the Monsters of Rock Cruise last February and catching up with Erik Martensson for the The Pure Rock Shop show on 91.7 FM WNJR : W&J Radio – Washington, PA, we couldn’t wait to finally see a show.
Opening hot and heavy with “Vertigo” and capturing our hearts with overwhelming crowd participation during “Battlegrounds” vocalist Erik Martensson, guitarist Magnus Henriksson and the rhythm section – Magnus Ulfstedt on bass and Philip Crusner on drums – with out a doubt stole the show at The Welly Club Friday evening. While we were in England, there were countless Swedish fans in full force in Hull, and the energy from the stage and from the packed in crowd was surreal. I knew that words couldn’t possibly describe the atmosphere during Eclipse’s performance, so I made sure I captured some video:
I’m not sure if our Swedish friends know lucky their are to have easy access to this band, one can only hope that they don’t take them for granted.
Yet another Swedish delight was the band. Treat. True “monsters of rock” Robert Ernlund, Anders Wikström, Pontus Egberg, Patrick Appelgren, and Jamie Jompa Borger have a history that dates back to the early 80’s. Kicking things off with the title track from their 2016 release “Ghost of Graceland,” highlights from the show included the “Skies of Mongolia”, “Roar” and the rock anthem “Paper Tiger” from their Coup De Grace album. They also perfomed classic cuts like “Conspiracy” and finished up the night with their best known song “World of Promises” (which was covered by fellow Swedes In Flames).
Hardline, lead by founder Johnny Gioeli on lead vocals, Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards, Josh Ramos on guitar, Alex Jansen on bass, and drummer Francesco Jovino from the German power metal band Primal Fear, headlined Friday evening at The Welly Club during Hair Metal Heaven.
It was a long and hot wait, but so awesome to hear all of our favorites from the Double Eclipse album in celebration of the release’s 25th anniversary. For the first time of the evening, first pumping was joined by some dancing with the excellent groove of “Takin’ Me Down” and oh so very “Hot Cherie”. The set was rounded out by the sentimental “In the Hands of Time” where Gioeli took time to pay tribute to his supportive father who unfortunately passed away just days after the show. At the end of the night we were all singing the sweet melody of na, na, na, na ….”I’ll be There.”
Opening off day two at the much more comfortable Hull City Hall were Black Cat Bones, Shiraz Lane, and KillCode. The first band that captured our attention were another melodic metal act from Sweden, The Poodles, featuring Jakob Samuelson, Christian Lundqvist, Johan Flodqvist and Henrik Bergqvist.
Next up with a heavy-hitting set were Rik De Luca, Ziv Shalev, Ray West and Rob De Luca of Spread Eagle. Despite a short set, these guys covered all of our favorites dating back to the early nineties like “Suzy Suicide” and “Switchblade Serenade” from their debut release and “Revolution Maker” from their second release “Open to the Public”.
Straight out of “Hollywood” California…Junkyard laid down their classic blues rock sound to liven things up mid-day at the city hall. David Roach, Patrick Muzingo, Todd Muscat, Jimmy James and Tim Mosher brought us back to 1989 with favorites like “Blooze” and of course “Hollywood” and other favorites like “Misery Loves Company,” and new material from the first Junkyard album in over 26 years, High Water.”
VAIN, lead by energetic frontman Davy Vain was joined by original members Ashley John Mitchell on bass, Tommy Rickard on drums, and Jamie Scott on guitar, along with guitarist Joel Proto, for a sleazy set of favorites with a heavy focus on their first album, No Respect.
The set included “Down for the 3rd Time,” “Beat the Bullet” and “Icy,” and more. Without a doubt VAIN was one of the highlights of the festival, and we haven’t seen a fan post or speak with people during the event that didn’t list them as such. With the promise of an hour set shortened to about forty minutes (like so many sets during the festival), our only complaint was that these guys didn’t play longer! With their latest release Rolling with the Punches hot off the press, we can only hope that we will see more of VAIN in the near future.
DANGER DANGER brought us back with a heavy emphasis on their first album kicking things off appropriately with “Boys will Be Boys.” Frontman Ted Poley, bassist Bruno Ravel, and drummer Steve West, were joined by guitarist Steve Brown (TRIXTER). Their fun set also included “Under the Gun,” “Bang Bang” and of course “Naughty Naught.” Other notable inclusions were “Monkey Business” from Screw It! and “Hearts on the Highway” from Revolve.
When the Norwegian TNT fronted by Tony Harnell, and featuring Ronni Le Tekrø on guitar, Disel Dahl on drums, keyboards by Roger Gilton, and Ove Husmoen on bass finally arrived on stage at Hull City Hall to headline the second day of the festival, VIP fans were faced an unique and very frustrating dilemma, because the private Michael Monroe show as set start around the same hour.
Many traveled on foot to the Fruit Club hoping to secure a spot in front of the stage for what was promised to be a private acoustic performance from the glam rock icon. This left TNT with a smaller yet dedicated crowd, and those who stuck around were treated to a stellar performance from the band, which included favorites like “Seven Seas” from Knights of the New Thunder and “Forever Shine On” from Intuition. They ended the evening with “Everyone’s a Star” and an epic finale of “10,000 Lovers (In One).”
And as it turned out, those who stayed for TNT made the right call. While there was a party at Fruit as fans waited in anticipation for Michael Monroe, the show never happened, and many were left frustrated with the lack of communication and beyond disappointed…
With Diemonds awaiting the delivery of their equipment and Wildside having apparently backed out several weeks before the festival, day three kicked off with a newly added band called Hell’s Addiction who describe themselves as “no-bullshit Rock ‘n Roll in the style of AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses and Motley Crue hailing from Leicester, UK”.
Next in line was the first female-fronted band of the weekend, Princess Pang, featuring original members Jeni Foster (Jenny Foster), guitarist Stefan Byrstedt, and drummer (Trunk) Peter Forsberg along with Spencer Hoveskeland on guitar and Peter Beckman on bass.
Their set consisted of material from their one and only self titled album from 1989. They opened the set with “South St. Kids,” and of course included their video hit “Trouble in Paradise.” Other highlights included “China Doll” and “Baby Blue.” Stay tuned folks, Jeni tells us that they are working on new material now!
Next up were our friends from Canada – DIEMONDS who did a stellar job of making new friends in the United Kingdom and beyond by taking shifts at the merchandise booth all day Saturday and Sunday to greet festival attendees. Priya Panda, Caleb Cooper, Daniel Dekay, Tyrone Buccione, and Kyle Lecourt delivered a scorching set that included “Take on the Night and “Get the F*ck Outta Here” from The Bad Pack, “Highway” from their debut In the Rough and “Never Wanna Die” from the 2015 release of the same name.
Priya told us, “It was a great festival for DIEMONDS. It gave us the chance to be the anchor show for our first ever tour of Europe and the UK! Plus we got to play with a bunch of our favorite bands, some of whom we’d never had the chance to see live before. The icing on the cake was getting to perform a song with the super group at the end of the festival. Cherry on top!”
Shifting from girls to guitars mid-day, the festival continued with Leatherwolf, featuring Michael Olivieri on lead vocals and guitar, Dean Roberts on drums, Patrick Guyton on bass, and Rob Math and Luke Man on more guitars! These guys get my vote for the best swag of the weekend with their Werewolves of London shirts, marking their return to the United Kingdom after nearly three decades.
They killed it on stage with highlights including the title track and “Thunder” from Street Ready, a rarity “Alone in the Night” from the Return of the Living Dead II soundtrack, and “The Calling” as their finale.
SHARK ISLAND fronted by the legendary Richard Black, featured Alex Kane and newcomer Damir Simic Shime on guitar (replacing Michael Guy who had joined them on the Monsterwood cruise), along with Marko Karo on Bass and a newcomer on drums. Fans will remember Richard Black as the king of the sunset strip and the frontman of the supergroup Contraband. And, of course SHARK ISLAND songs could be found on big-time movie soundtracks like “Father Time” from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and “My City” from the original Point Break movie – we got to hear both.
Frustrated that the band’s set was cut short before we got to hear “Shake for Me,” but no reason to walk away disappointed with other favorites like “Go West” and “Paris Calling” early on in the rotation. And, the crowd apparently energized Mr. Black from what we’ve been told.
Guitarist Alex Kane tells The Pure Rock Shop that he “…saw Richard Black step out of the shadows and with the help of the fans at HMH, re-establish himself as one of the great front men of our time. That all happened at HMH and now he has been inspired to get out there and kick ass and play music.”
Alex says, “I want the fans who came to see us in London and at HMH to know what an amazing thing they did by re-energizing the man who literally taught Axl Rose everything he knows. You f*ckers did a good thing for rock ’n roll and I thank you as I’ve rarely been more inspired by working with anyone like working with Richard. We’re gonna make a new SHARK ISLAND record and it’s already feeling amazing!!!”
LOUDNESS fronted by Minoru Niihara with axe-master Akira Takasaki, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita and drummer Masayuki Suzuki (drummer) hit the stage later than expected, but did not disappoint. Worth the wait, we were treated to a set that included newer material like “The Sun Will Rise Again” and classic cuts like “Crazy Nights,” “Let it Go,” “In the Mirror,” and “Crazy Doctor.”
D-A-D lead by Jesper Binzer on guitar and vocals, Jacob Binzer in the top hat on guitar, Stig Pedersen in a futuristic jumpsuit and helmet on the left-handed, two-string bass, and Laust Sonne on drums. Opening with “Jihad” from their 1989 release No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims, that first album was represented well with “Girl Nation” and “Sleeping My Day Away” later in the set. If you’ve ever had a chance to catch these Danish rockers D-A-D live and seen the unique costumes and bass guitars that Stig has created, I promise you will no longer wonder why they originally called themselves “Disneyland After Dark.” Other highlights included “Grow or Pay” from Riskin’ It All, and “I Want What She’s Got” off of DIC·NII·LAN·DAFT·ERD·ARK.
Pumped up and ready to go, the Finnish “Kings of Merry Metal” Reckless Love featuring Olli Herman on vocals, Pepe / Reckless Love on guitar, Jalle Verne on bass, and Hessu Maxx on drums came on strong and didn’t let up. Continuing the fun with high-energy favorites like “We are the Weekend” and “Scandinavian Girls” from their 2016 release InVader, “Beautiful Bomb” from their self-titled 2010 release, and of course “Hot,” Reckless Love stole the show and made the audience promise to stick around for the headlining all stars (as if we wouldn’t!).
While we are sure that they enjoyed the bands earlier in the day, women from multiple countries were lined-up against the stage barrier for many long hours to get the best views of former Skid Row frontman and Broadway star Sebastian Bach as he led an all-star cast including Brent Woods of Wildside and the Vince Neil Band on guitar, Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch, Vinnie Appice of DIO fame on drums (who actually played the city hall in 1984 with the metal god back on the Last In Line tour), and Chris Wyse from the Ace Freely band on bass.
With lyrics sheets presented old-school on a music stand, back led the band through Dokken’s “The Hunter” and “Alone Again” and Skid Row hits “I Remember You” and “Youth Gone Wild”, along with some rock ’n roll party favorites from their favorite bands. The audience felt like we were invited into a garage-style jam session with some of our favorite rock icons, and it was a beyond cool kind of experience. Things got especially fun when guests Priya Panda from Diemonds and Akira Takasaki from LOUDNESS joined the “all stars” for a reprise of “Crazy Nights” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell (HULL)”. The party was definitely “on” as Akira jumped on a microphone to sing some lead vocals, and fans stormed the stage to end the night in true hair metal-style.