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. 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 naysayers 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 shopkeepers and patrons why I was here from Toronto. None knew anything of the festival. So much for the local support.
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.
HAIR METAL HEAVEN – Day 3
Day #3 of Hair Metal Heaven Festival found us again at City Hall. Pretty sure that this isn’t the kind of city hall with court proceedings and such. This section of Hull was a little tidier surrounded by pedestrian shopping areas and a water fountain in the center of the square.
Yet again, things were late getting underway and a queue was beginning to form out front. Once inside and first beer of the day in hand, I couldn’t help but smirk as I entered the concert hall. Today, the last day, there had been a large backdrop banner erected behind the stage. Several folks commented and joked that we should have spent the money on Monroe instead of this.
MICHAEL MONROE BACKLASH
Social media was all abuzz this morning. Those that had been kept standing for ages on the concrete floor of Fruit leading the pack. The rumors of HMH money troubles that started quietly on Friday were now out and out talked about by festival attendees. Mostly with a thinly disguised lacing of bitterness and anger.
The Michael Monroe debacle had folks steaming! And to be honest, rightly so. While not the hugest of huge deals for me, the failure of that performance left me pondering…what’s the difference now between VIP and regular tickets? The goody bag was basically worthless. A generic coffee mug with the HMH logo, ZZ Top cheapo sunglasses, and a shirt. The t-shirt is perhaps the biggest insult. Little to no effort obviously went into this. Black tee with Hair Metal Heaven VIP Squad in plain white letters. Plain, boring, and thoughtless. The Monroe gig was the real VIP ticket and that was now gone. Honestly though, the price still held good value for the bands I’ve seen so far and the irreplaceable times with worldwide friends. So at the end of the day, I’m personally OK.
I understand the frustration and anger displayed by many, however. And festival communication could certainly have been better. Instead, we received silence until the official “Monroe won’t be performing tonight” announcement. Perhaps if the organizer had kept attendees in the loop, the blow would have been softened? Probably not, I suspect. Demanding refunds over FB threads seems a little silly though. If there is no money to pay performers, where you think refunds are coming from? Let’s make better use of things and get the final day of performance underway. We can deal with this debacle another time.
However, meet and greet communication was also beyond poor. The guy handling the M/G’s didn’t know much when questioned. Some were lucky and got their paid for time with the chosen band. But mostly because of their own determination at pestering stagehands and security and really anyone around for info. Some got less than 5 min with their band and one photo. No soundcheck as promised nor several other things. These folks paid 250lbs for this! Now they deserve a refund!
Oh wait, announced this morning on Facebook was Wildside‘s lack of performance. Now I’m getting agitated as they were a bucket lister for me. The statement reported that vocalist Drew Rose was denied entry to the UK. Well, nothing to be done there. More on this later….
In other related news, good news that is…Diemonds‘ gear arrived safely. The band was walking on air. Easy to see it.
Hell’s Addiction served as the Wildside replacement act jostling up the schedule a little. Hhhmmmm that replacement happened awful fast. Maybe I’m just cynical and conspiracy-minded after all the rumors and troubles. The band, unknown to me, took stage first in the former Diemonds day starter slot. Again, I was a bit lost during the set. Overly excited for my beloved Diemonds to take stage. The songs piqued my curiosity and I did pick out that the vocalist possessed some wicked pipes. Better check these guys out too.
Next to grace City Hall stage, we would find Princess Pang. This was another set I had been anticipating. As you may have heard on my podcast (CGCM Podcast Episode #9), I had the band’s debut album years back on cassette. As cassettes faded out, years later so did my memory of Princess Pang. Until that is, I saw their name printed on the HMH list. Memory flooded back, spurring me into internet hunting of a CD version of the album. Not sure it’s an official copy but I bought it anyway. Man, listening to that album is every bit as good today as in my youth. Led by Jenny Foster, Princess Pang opened up with “South St Kids”. To my knowledge a good portion of the humans on stage were Pang originals…but could be wrong.
My eyes were wide with wonder, ears at rapt attention for this long-awaited moment. Strutting confidently around the stage, Foster was commanding, covering the full space. The energy emitting was extremely high as they served “Anyway You Want It”. Foster‘s emotion and commitment to every song really sells it home. She means business and you can see that. Even feel that. Actually, she’s a bit scary up there. I get the feeling she would kick my ass if we met in a dark alley. That’s ok by me though ;). They dedicated “Find My Heart a Home” to their drummer who passed away. They played “Trouble in Paradise”, “China Doll” and “Sympathy” to close. What a show. What a performance by Foster. Even better when she announced a new album was in the works! Diemonds aside, this was my hands down best band/set of HMH.
Now it was Diemonds time! How they pulled third slot from first when Hell’s Addiction stepped in I don’t know. I would have assumed things would all just be pushed back one space. But no they leapfrogged somehow. Who cares…means more of a crowd hopefully. I worked my way to the front, standing just behind some folks in the front row. Conversations have a way of striking up while waiting. Perhaps sparked by my attire, a different Diemonds shirt every day so far. Enough others in my bag for the five UK shows I was catching afterward as well.
While the folks surrounding me were basically just holding their spots for later acts, they peppered me with Diemonds questions. I gladly shout my Diemonds praises from the rooftops. Sometimes, however, I get annoyed with people. After a few minutes of conversation containing the requisite “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” over my trek from Toronto for a Toronto band, one gent close by made a statement. He said “I know why you like them! She’s pretty.” following a quick google search on his mobile.
Unfortunately, I missed most of Leatherwolf‘s performance. Trust me, that was a mistake on my part. One I’m well aware of, I know, I’ve seen Leatherwolf before. After seeing Princess Pang followed by my beloved Diemonds, I was taxed. Mentally, emotionally and physically. I couldn’t just focus. In and out of the concert room, chatting with friends and Diemonds as they sold merch, autographed and posed for snapshots. Unfortunate since Leatherwolf are amazing live. On the Monsters of Rock Cruise, I was right front of the two foot off the floor stage as they destroyed one of the ship’s lounges with their set. I did hear “Thunder” though during my floating around, Olivieri‘s powerful vocals filling the hall. I will see Leatherwolf again, I just couldn’t concentrate, buzzing with positive energy from Pang and Diemonds.
I found Shark Island through two songs that the band provided for the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure film soundtrack back in ’89. Then it was on to their album Law of the Order. Basically their only official album until 2006’s Gathering of the Faithful. That Law of the Order album could well be one of my “desert island ten”. As a result, I was pumped to finally see them on Monsters of Rock Cruise last year. While they sounded fantastic, their setlist choice was rather poor. At least by my count, wanting to hear Law of the Order tracks. They learned from that I guess. The set here at Hair Metal Heaven was so much better. Still missing some key tracks from the debut, however. The sound again was top notch, Black‘s vocals leading the way. I did notice that the rest of the membership appeared different. It seems that vocalist Richard Black may be the only original member.
After Shark Island‘s set, it was time to forage for food. Those pre-made Tesco sandwiches did the job yesterday so back we go. It was funny watching that little Tesco supermarket become flooded with tattooed long hairs. I also took note that the sandwich section was basically stripped and not been re-stocked. I suspect they were unprepared for the volume of business. Even funnier was what I witnessed while sitting outside in the square by the fountain to consume my sandwich purchases. Two of the bartender ladies from the upstairs bar popped out a City Hall side door. Trailing a 2 wheel cart they trekked across the far side of the little square and right into Tesco. A short while later, they exited Tesco, the cart heavily laden with cases of beer. Oh no, this can’t be a good sign!
Having witnessed Japanese band Loudness in a live setting several times, I knew they had a penchant for being late on stage. Or it seems that way to me. This time it was quite a long while. Normally I would just chalk this up to Loudness being Loudness. However, with the now basically out in the open money problems that Hair Metal Heaven was having, I wonder. Perhaps there was another money issue in payment to the band. That was at least the main topic of conversation circulating. In any case, Loudness did take stage. They hit like a 2-ton hammer. Loud and heavy, delivering another crushing set. The band has seen some different eras, different musical directions, different members through its existence. But the main constant has always been guitar wizard Akira Takasaki. Always a joy to see and hear him rip on stage.
D-A-D, formerly Disneyland After Dark until the conglomerate shut that down, are a wonder to witness. When the band first attended the Monsters of Rock Cruise, many openly questioned, “who”? The same with a lot of European bands, many North Americans have not been exposed to. After the first show there, they were the talked about act, excitement for their next show working into a frenzy. I admit, while I was aware and had sampled the product, it didn’t really “grab” me. Until that is, I saw the live show. Talk about entertainment. Bassist Stig Pedersen is known for his outlandish stage costumes. Today he sported a fighter pilot uniform of some kind. Complete with helmet, that remained on his head the entire set.
Easily one of the most fun bands to watch. The songs are wickedly catchy, surprised how much they stick with you. Don’t miss D-A-D if you get the chance to be in the audience.
I had to wonder just what the hell Reckless Love were doing so high up on the bill. Oh yeah, we’re not in North America anymore! People here have heard of them and follow them. A lot more than me. While I have the albums, I can’t name one song. Not that I didn’t enjoy them, they just didn’t resonate with me. But holy crap do they command the stage live. The sizeable crowd with them all the way. A thoroughly enjoyable show that saw me inching my way closer and closer to the stage with each song. If I’m not mistaken the vocalist spent some time at the front of Crashdiet before Reckless Love. Gonna have to relisten to these guys when I get some time back home.
ROCK N’ HULL ALL-STARS
I’m not really one for these all-star jams, personally. People from other bands playing and singing each other’s songs. Basically a cover band. This one featured known names, Sebastian Bach, Vinnie Appice, George Lynch, Brent Woods and Chris Wyse. Special guests were also expected on stage which can sometimes be fun. Quite late once they took the stage, rumors and speculation again flying around. This time the word was that it would get shut down quickly due to noise ordinance at this time of night on a Sunday. That didn’t happen.
My personal opinion is that Bach just doesn’t sing like he used to. I feel he screams a little more. Forces it a little more. Hey, we’ve all aged, so no big deal. The All-Stars led out with a couple of Dokken tracks. I was incredibly surprised at how good Bach sounded providing the vocals on these. But after that, it was on to Skid Row material. Which did not sound as good, I thought. Facebook posts after the fact showed that many disagreed with me there. Two from the Appice catalog were next in line. Unfortunately, my advancing age and declining body screamed for departure. Another mistake as I missed the special guests which included Priya Panda and Akira Takasaki.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND WORDS…
As promised earlier in this blog, some Wildside info. The vocalist who it was reported was denied entry to the UK, posted via Facebook. The post stated that Wildside never had any intention of playing Hair Metal Heaven. Saying that it didn’t make sense for the band to make the journey for a 45-minute set. It also stated that Brent Woods knew this all along and surmised that he had not communicated with the HMH promoter. I sense there may be some internal band squabbles and miscommunications in the Wildside camp, so we wait to see how that turns out.
After the event on the HMH Facebook page, a message from the promoter provided some insight on his side of things. Of special note in there, he states he lost 50k. Not sure what currency that is in, but it’s a lot of money either way. There’s some mention of the booking.com website giving away several of the booked hotel rooms, causing the band homelessness that we would hear of from time to time. There’s also talk of Michael Monroe, what happened there and acceptance of the mistakes. He also says that the chances of seeing another bill like this in Hull or the UK again are probably zero. And that’s the real shame if you ask me.
Thank-you to all the great bands, fantastic friends and efforts of all the staff of HMH. Even through all the troubles whether I have correct or even all the information, promoter Ian Glen Wright put on a great event and I sincerely hope there will be another. And there you have my personal accounts of my experiences at Hair Metal Heaven Hull 2017. If you’ve missed my recaps of the first two days please check them out on Decibel Geek.