The first ever Hair Metal Heaven Festival in Hull UK has wrapped up its inaugural run. I’m here to give you a brief synopsis from a Canadian who traveled the Atlantic for this first-time event. You may agree or disagree, but these are my truthful and honest thoughts as I sit here days after the event has wrapped up.
I certainly do not know all of the facts, not the ins and outs. I haven’t even heard all of the rumors. What is written here below and in the subsequent daily accounts is based on the knowledge and/or rumors that I have heard (or saw posted on Social Media) throughout the weekend. As far as I know, the organizer did this basically alone. There were no major corporate sponsors. No government grants. One guy who has limited or no experience (depending on which rumors you take as gold) presented this absolutely massive undertaking. Similar to an American Festival that’s received its share of negative press.
Could I have done a better job? Maybe yes, probably not. I suspect many of the haters and ruckus stirrers couldn’t either. Quite possibly similar to the American event, that I also do not know the ins and outs of. Much like that ill-spoken of US festival, I had a fantastic time attending this event as a patron and fan. This is despite all the issues. Despite the Social Media wars. I love Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and the live experience is paramount. It’s the reason I often travel the globe to events such as these. I have been seriously burned in the past by “a smaller” festival when Sweden’s Vasby Rock went belly up leaving many holding expensive VIP or regular tickets. Rock and Roll doesn’t make money anymore. Why would anyone want to create it, let alone promote an event? Because it’s in our blood, good or bad, succeed or fail. I will keep buying my ticket and attending these events because it’s in my blood. As are my worldwide friends…at some point, it becomes almost more about them than the bands…almost!
HAIR METAL HEAVEN HULL
The 3-day weekend festival, situated on a UK bank holiday was not without its troubles. Right from the get go of the initial lineup announcements many nay sayers were adding up the flight costs alone to the massive roster and thinking this event would never happen. A few bands came and went from the roster. I’m sure various reasons all around. Always a tough pill to swallow when it’s your personal fave or bucket-list check-off. But it happens. Even to the major worldwide festivals like Sweden Rock and Monsters of Rock Cruise…albeit perhaps not as often.
Upon arrival in Hull, early thoughts of the promoted UK 2017 City of Culture had me wondering, why here? I’d heard warnings and tell of it as a dirty, rough place and walking about revealed the sides of streets littered with beer cans and assorted rubbish. That’s garbage to us North Americans. The proper city core did seem tidier, however. There was not a ton of Culture promo on display at least that I noticed. There was no and I mean not one flyer or poster for Hair Metal Heaven. This served to explain the total confusion when telling shop keepers and patrons why I was here from Toronto. None knew anything of the festival. So much for the local support. My hotel was a 40-minute walk away. The evils of last minute cheap skate booking. Not to be deterred, this weekend was just what the doctor ordered to clear my head…the reason I ended up actually following through on my VIP ticket purchased months and months back.
HAIR METAL HEAVEN – Day 1
After getting lost on the walk, an unintentional penchant of mine if you know me. I arrived with The Swede (a fellow festival goer met years in the past) at The Welly Club for the kickoff. Of course, things were late and a line up present outside in the humidity, steaming for doors to open. Well, no worries, first-time events and all, this didn’t bother me. I entered the pub next door in search of food and beverages. Totally and completely elated with overwhelming joy as I was called by name to a table behind my entrance. I knew many worldwide friends were planning attendance, but it’s the surprises that really move you. My friends from Finland had kept their attendance quiet, and here they were in the UK calling me to their table. This is what worldwide festivaling is all about. The lifelong friends that share your passions.
Upon entrance to The Welly, our VIP wrist bands were not ready, a hand stamp doled out in place. I’m glad the VIP goody bags were not ready as I hate to carry stuff around all afternoon/night. Time for beers and greeting/chatting with more worldwide friends as they entered or milled about The Welly Club.
I will try to give a few brief words on as many bands as I can here. I did my best to take notes, but I missed much of several acts over the weekend as I engaged in exactly what I needed from this trip…the company of friends against the backdrop of live rock.
The first band, in a tough spot, to launch Hair Metal Heaven was Fragile Things. I knew absolutely nothing, not having the opportunity to do my YouTube due diligence prior to departure. The vox seemed a bit low in the mix but I caught the name of their recent single “Better Than This”. They were decent, not overwhelming, but to be fair to them I was completely more entranced with beer and friends during their set. I need to give them the respect and investigate their music once getting home.
Frontiers SRL‘s recent signing Mason Hill graced The Welly stage next. Still not commanding my full attention, they were more enjoyable than Fragile Things I thought. Definitely another band that I need to check out. Aside from the friends and party atmosphere of sheer joy that happens when you only see some of these friends once per year, the sweltering humid heat was beyond oppressive. Do they not believe in A/C in the UK FFS!
No, that’s not a Canadian Sasquatch! It’s a new-ish band (I think) from the UK. From the first note, they had me. Their songs had an energy and punch that I found magical. They have an album coming out on Frontiers Srl Records in the coming months. Buy it, I will be. After their set, I clamored at the merch table to hand over my pounds for their two EPs. Which will get spun shortly after landing home in Canada next week. Highly recommended by Ye Olde Meister!
It was great to enjoy some pre-show beverages with these guys the night past. Chuffed that they remembered and recognized me. Wow, I’m turning British…I just said “chuffed”! I’ve followed these young Norwegians for a few years now, having seen them at least four times live. They deliver in every sense of the word. At Rocklahoma I called their song “Come Out” as the song of the festival. Their Vendetta album, despite releasing in November 2016, still hit in my top ten of the year. It was a real treat to see/hear them rip through The Beastie Boys‘ “Fight For Your Right”. Can’t wait to see these guys again…hopefully, that’s soon.
I had been looking forward to finally seeing this band. Their near implosion with losing both guitarists, one the main songwriter, recently was almost their demise. They came back with a strong album and new members. The heat was sweltering and I started to feel weak. The heat, not the alcohol I said. Coming in from the lobby, I had missed a bit. Maybe a song, maybe just part of a song. The Welly was totally jammed now, everyone drenched in alcohol filled sweat. Crazy Lixx proceeded to lay waste to the stage. The boys sounded fantastic with all instrumentation super clear in the mix. Great stage presence and I look forward to hopefully seeing them again in the future.
Babylon AD are one of those bands that I discovered back in the day and always longed to witness on stage. I finally got that during my attendance at Firefest: The Final Fling a couple years ago. Since then I have seen them several times through events such as Monsters of Rock Cruise and Rock n’ Skull. They always impress. The band is so tight and Davis‘ vocals still strong. Almost like playing the actual CD! I love watching the reactions of folks seeing them for the first time. I understood that there were some accommodation issues for the band last night and also heard tell that there were no transformers for their American equipment. Everything must have worked out as they took The Welly by storm. The two new songs from their forthcoming release delivered tonight fit right in with the previous work. Their show stealing combo of the songs “Bang Go The Bells” and “Maryanne” had me jumping despite the oppressive heat.
A great band that are starting to gain popularity in North America. Their appearance at Rock n’ Skull Chicago went down very well with the crowd there. Here, they are more known and consequently higher on the bill. This marked the third time for me to see them live. Frontman Erik Martensson is something to see on stage. His boundless energy is a concert highlight. Prior to them going on stage rumors had been circulating that they might not be able to perform. Apparently, it was down to the wire on receiving payment. Again, I don’t know that for sure. Nonetheless, they conquered The Welly. Unfortunately, the heat was conquering me.
Hardline‘s Double Eclipse album is one that has stuck with me since first hearing it shortly after its release. It still plays well cover to cover today. It’s great to break it out from time to time. Having seen them a few times with a few different members depending on the country they are playing, I knew they were a good headline choice. Vocalist Johnny Gioeli possesses a powerful voice that goes down well on stage. Unfortunately, their choice of setlist tonight did not appeal to me. A few songs in they played three slower numbers back to back. And then followed with a drum solo. Between this and the muggy sweltering atmosphere, I took my leave of The Welly and Hair Metal Heaven‘s opening night.
Last night there had been some talk and confusion of bands not having hotel rooms. By now, the complaining was heightening with the delays in doors and band stage times that we had encountered today. Also beginning to surface were the ugly rumors of bands not getting paid. Stay tuned for my Day 2 and Day 3 recaps coming soon to Decibel Geek.