"Lord, I was born a ramblin' man" sang Gregg Allman, as this weekend saw ramblin' men, women and children descend upon the picturesque Mote Park in Maidstone Kent for a fest of delights from the world of Classic Rock, Prog, Country and Blues.
I was only one month old when the Allman Brothers Band released that song, however rock music is timeless and it was great to see not just crusty old rockin' men, but young families enjoying the great music and atmosphere too. Organisers 'The Rock Collective' have come up with a great location that's only 40 miles from central London and highly accessible from Europe in the stunning 13th Century Mote Park - a former country estate converted to a park, the word 'mote' meaning "a place of assembly" in Old English.
Enough of the History lessons, what about the music! Exclusively to the UK, the big draw headliners for rock fans this weekend were undoubtedly Germany's premier Hard Rock band Scorpions celebrating their 50th year together! Not playing in the UK for 10 years and coming to their let's say politely the latter part of their careers it was a rare opportunity to hear the hits 'Rock You Like a Hurricane' 'Big City Nights' and 'Still Loving You' possibly for the last time (with constant rumours of calling it a day), but let's hope not as they were totally on form and full of energy, Klaus Meine's vocals being spot on. Another UK exclusive were the hugely popular Prog Metal band Dream Theater, but one of my favourites of the day were Saxon playing their classics from the NWoBHM era, Biff Byford warming the crowd with his dry wit and funny anecdotes made for an enjoyable experience.
Still on the main Classic Rock stage the amazing Blue Öyster Cult played the classics such as 'Godzilla' and '...Reaper' but there were a few groans afterwards that a forty-five minute set was too short. Other bands on the main stage were FM whom played their hit 'That Girl' that Iron Maiden made even more popular and Toseland fronted by the ex world superbike champion James Toseland who rocked! Of course if Prog Rock is more your thing, there were the superb Camel and a highlight in the Country and Blues tent were the utterly brilliant Hayseed Dixie with a unique fusion of bluegrass and rock music the only band who've managed to pull off a decent cover of the 'Ace of Spades'!
There was also plenty to do in-between bands, the free app Ramblin' Man helped myself and friend Andy plan our day with ease. Regular beer stops are of course essential with the festival standard Tuborg and Somersby with a nice treat with Trooper premium beer, plus a beer festival tent for the real ale connoisseurs! Food stalls were plentiful with Hog Roasts, Paella, Pizza, Indian & Chinese, any type of meat burger you could think plus something for the veggies, so a complete mixture for everyone. Kids could be kept entertained if they're really doing your head in with an assortment of rides including dodgems, swing ride and big wheel. A real bugbear with me at festivals is toilets, but these were in abundance, kept clean with plenty of hand sanitizer.
...and so, on to Sunday, the weather was awful. There's something to be said for standing in the rain soaked field with a pint in your hand, there's nothing quite like an English summer! We obviously couldn't get to see every band so planned our day mainly around Classic Rock ending the evening on the Prog stage. The openers on the Classic Rock stage were the cool retro looking Blues Pills from Sweden, a real mix of hard/blues rock with hints of folk and psychedelia.
A pleasant surprise were The Quireboys, now in their 30th year (blimey I'm feeling old) got the crowd going in the drizzle with a combination of great sounding bluesy glam rock and Spike's slightly tipsy wit got everyone singing along to their popular hit 'Hey You'. Next up were a new band I regularly heard on rock DAB radio and thought were an old band. The Temperance Movement could really be classed as a supergroup although I agree that term is totally overused, but with ex members from Ray Davies Band, Jamiroquai, The Waterboys and Feeder you'd have to acknowledge the pedigree, their highlight track being 'Only Friend'.
Whilst taking a regular pit stop I heard a familiar voice in the distance introducing Rival Sons - the one and only Vic Reeves who lives 30 minutes down the road being a fan of the band. Although with a growing following they weren't really my cup of tea, the focal point for me watching Vic and family dancing on the side of the stage. It's a small world as I bumped into an old school friend who now lives locally and after a very messy 'Terminator Burger' and a pint of 'Jennings Cumberland' we all headed off to the Prog Stage.
I got into Jethro Tull from an early age as my Dad was a fan and played it in the car alot when I was a kid, so I was please Ian Anderson was doing a Tull set and it didn't disappoint (me anyway), my mates weren't really that impressed for newcomers to flute rock, but I may have convinced at least one of them who appreciated the musicianship. Their latest guitarist Florian Opahle was pretty awesome and showed off his skills on JS Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue' climaxing on the end guitar solo of 'Aqualung' - perfect!
Instead of choosing the Southern Rock legend that is Gregg Allman to finish the night on and being a massive Marillion (Fish) fan, we stayed at the Prog Stage area for Marillion. After a minor technical problem of what looked like someone tripping over the extension lead and pulling the power went on to play technically a good set although being an old stubborn Fish era fan only really knowing one song 'Sugar Mice' which was sublime - Rothery's guitar solo sending a tingle down my spine! My only real disappointment was missing Bernie Marsden in the Blues Tent which overlapped artists, hopefully they'll have him back next year on a bigger stage! **Just announced Ramblin' Man Fair 2016 early bird tickets**
There's plenty of ticket options to suit ranging from standard Daily/Weekend admission, Grandstand, VIP and Founders Club. VIP consists of access to the VIP bar and seating area and luxury toilets, whilst the exclusive upstairs Founders Club gives you inclusive VIP access to a complementary bar, Grandstand admission, 12 months online subscription to Total Rock and Classic Rock Magazine, merchandise plus lots more. There are also multiple accommodation options including Hotel Packages, Glamping and off-site camping from as little as £22.50 per night with the full details here: https://podpads.com/ramblin-man-fair
Please visit the official Ramblin' Man Fare site here for further and future information: www.ramblinmanfair.com