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 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.
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 2
And so here on day #2 of the inaugural Hair Metal Heaven Festival, we moved venues. Last night’s events were held at The Welly Club. Today found us at City Hall. Pretty sure that this isn’t the kind of city hall with court proceedings and such. It wasn’t super close to last night’s Welly, but certainly walkable. Especially considering The Swede and I have already been walking the half hour or so from my budget booked hotel anyway. This section of Hull was a little tidier surrounded by pedestrian shopping areas and a water fountain in the center of the square.
Once again things were late getting underway and a queue was beginning to form out front. Upon entry, the venue was quite a bit larger than The Welly. Also a little more ornate. Climbing the steps of the grand hallway, I got the feeling this was a place for an old persons style theatre. Not beer drinking, tattooed long-hairs. Speaking of beer, I hope there’s more than just this tiny little bar!
A huge smile hit me as I right away noticed C.C., guitarist for Diemonds selling merch at a table to the left side. For the uninitiated, Diemonds was the reason I was here. Don’t get me wrong, the whole bill has many amazing bands. But it was my little band from Toronto that I’ve followed for many years that spurred me into purchase. How could I not be here to support them in their first ever UK shows?
He greeted me warmly, all smiles himself. This despite telling me that only three of the band’s nine bags made the journey! The good news was that at least the airline had located them and hoped to have them here by tomorrow in time for their set. Why do these things always seem to happen to Diemonds when they travel? On the journey to Japan a couple years ago the four male members had missed their flight and arrived a mere 15 minutes before hitting the stage.
BLACK CAT BONES
With things about two hours late getting going, our first act was Black Cat Bones. Completely unheard of by me, they were a new addition on the bill. I suppose replacing the absent House of Lords, whose name just sort of vanished a few days back. Their lead off position pushed the other bands back a slot each. Not bad by any means, but also not mind blowing. But in all fairness, I was again more interested in “holding court” with worldwide and newly met friends than the band. Several friends Facebook posts, later on, spoke highly of them. I really feel that I missed something great here while chatting out in the lobby. I had better get on line and check them out!
Shiraz Lane took the stage next. They were an anticipated highlight for me, especially since I’d never seen them before. They had a commanding start. Drawing attention forcefully at the outset with “Wake Up”. These young Finns certainly have stage presence down pat. Riveting would be a word I’d use. Even the drummer who I’m sure was much older than the 14 years that he looked. While I did enjoy the album, they are simply incredible live!
Time now for my first adventure to the lu. My God, I am turning British! I just said, “lu” and earlier “queue”! Before long the whole “chips”, “fries” and “crisps” thing will take hold I fear. This lu adventure was sponsored by the larger bar that I had found. Adventure is the correct word. The damn place, all the way downstairs and then down a few more into the labyrinth. Seriously, labyrinth down there. Twists and turns and urinals around every corner.
So last night in a drunken stumbling search for food, I wandered into the only place open outside The Welly. Al Pacino’s Pizza. Inside I met a few patrons. Probably they were laughing at me as I tried to wrap my head around what a cheese and chips wrap was. Pun intended. And yes, it’s simply a wrap filled with shredded cheese and fries. I met the guys from Killcode. Never having heard of them I was surprised when they told me they hailed from New York. I had just assumed they were UK based. Keeping my promise I was present at the front for their set. They were a bit heavier perhaps for this “Hair Metal” roster, but they seemed to go down well. I heard many speaking of the impressions Killcode left on them after the set. I need to get a copy of their CD since I failed to do so at the festival.
The Poodles I have seen before during my venture to the last ever Firefest Festival in Nottingham a few years back. Prior to the journey, I ensured that I was well versed in this Swedish band’s catalog. Loaded with catchy Pop-styled tunes, this melodic rock band has some truly great numbers. However, it’s the live show that really sells it for me. As with many bands, they are just that little bit heavier live. That little bite that I prefer from my music. And engaging performers as well. Thoroughly enjoyable. They may not be overly known in North America as yet, but fans of acts such as Canada’s Harem Scarem would do well to check them out.
I’ve never really “gotten” this band. I’m sorry. I know that many reading right now are shaking their heads. It’s not that I dislike them. I’ve listened to the albums. I just don’t understand all the hubbub and cult following they have. From what I heard of this apparently rare live performance, they sounded great. And their fans seemed pleased so that’s what matters. Yes, I know that’s Rob DeLuca of UFO/Sebastian Bach on bass. No, I’m sorry, I just don’t identify with their music the way you would like me to. I’ll keep trying but for now it’s beers in the lobby…or maybe some Tesco sandwiches in the square outside?
I’d never really listened to Junkyard until last year. The band surfaced in the roster for that ill-spoken of USA festival I mentioned earlier. I did some YouTube sampling as due diligence and liked what I’d heard. They drove it home live. How had I missed the boat on these guys? Earlier this year I had seriously been looking forward to catching them with Little Caesar as they rolled into Toronto. But unfortunately, the show never happened. Here at Hair Metal Heaven, they upheld my expectations as an incredible live band once again. I really need to pick up their latest album effort.
Vain are one of those bands that have a cult following. I caught them on the Monsters of Rock Cruise and was suitably impressed. Although many say the No Respect album is the perfect album, I don’t exactly catch that. Diemonds frontwoman Priya is a big fan and just seeing the smiles on hers and the faces of C.C. and other Diemonds guitarist Dekay was infectious. To be fair, Vain put on an absolute clinic tonight. They sounded almost perfect through my beer filled ears. Davy Vain held the audience in his hands both with his vocals and with his stage bantering jokes between songs. Such a charismatic frontman. This is a fantastic live band.
I’ve always loved the song “Naughty Naughty” since hearing it. Can’t say that much else of the Danger Danger catalog has stuck with me. Of course, I know all/most of the songs. How could I not? Between Danger Danger playing festivals like Monsters of Rock Cruise, Firefest, Sweden Rock and more or Ted Poley solo (acoustic/electric) on every MORC and festival he can get on. I hear the same Danger Danger tracks at every event. I noticed today that we had Trixter’s Steve Brown on guitar. A spot that I have seen held down by different folks. In any case, they sounded as they usually do, top. I just spent more time wandering the bar and merch area than I did rockin’ rockin’.
In the lobby/merch area, I somehow found myself in a conversation with members of Junkyard. I expressed my disappointments on the ill fated Toronto show. If not mistaken both members of Junkyard and the double billed Little Caesar were denied entry to Canada. I became a photographer of sorts as I snapped pics of fans with Junkyard and also with Vain. I’m pretty drunk folks…you may get some blurry shots! A guy even approached me and asked: “Are you The Meister?”. “Depends if I’ve pissed you off” I returned. Turns out the gent follows Sleaze Roxx and after seeing my name and perhaps photo appear on there with Olivier and I being friends, he wanted to say hi…cool!
To close down the day would be TNT. I’ve seen TNT with both Harnell and Mills and really enjoyed both sets. I enjoy the different eras of the band and the material created in each. However, I knew that I wouldn’t be catching the whole set tonight. You see with things being so late all day long I was afraid to miss out on the VIP event. The event started at midnight and would be Michael Monroe acoustic for VIP only. Not a huge fan of acoustic, but this would be a new tick in the chart of live performances. Unfortunately, I found Tony Harnell’s vocals to be beyond high pitched, shrill and shrieky tonight which served to speed up my departure to only a few songs in.
A fine young lady assisted by leading a group of us lost rockers a few streets over to the tiny venue called Fruit for the show. A small place with bare concrete floors, a simple stage and of course a bar. The place steadily filled up as I enjoyed a beer or two chatting with friends. The rumors were getting heavier about bands not receiving payments and the festival organizer’s troubles. The Michael Monroe name began to pop up here and there. And sure enough, after what seemed like an absolute eternity an announcement was made. There would be no Michael Monroe show. Many were angry. The phrase “no pay, no play” ran rampant through the VIP crowd. Time to get outta here!
The bitterness was no longer thinly disguised or talked about in hush whispers. People openly expressed their warranted displeasure throughout Fruit as we drained our pints in preparation for heading home. Many cited the poor communication as a large bone of contention. To be honest, had this info surfaced much earlier I would have stayed for TNT. Who, I was later told, had the sound issues adjusted and gave a wicked performance. Over Facebook a few hours later Michael Monroe himself posted in regards to the canceled gig.
Stay tuned for my Day 3 recap coming soon to Decibel Geek. And/or check out Day 1.