Bloodstock 2019 : A sorry tale of a glam rock queen lost in a sea of Proper Metal!

This is my first ever time at the UK’s premier Metal festival and I am nervous. I’m so far out of my comfort zone here musically that it feels like being in a foreign country, but at the same time there are a couple of bands on the bill that I’m really looking forward to so tally ho! Marshall the troops and all that, and lets get down to the mayhem.

By the time I’ve run the gauntlet of the M6 and prepared my camping spot it’s time to wander over to catch my first band on the weekend. Manchester’s mighty Footprints In The Custard. The Sophie Lancaster tent is filled with inflatable penises, and off we go for a set of mayhem and silliness. Songs from their recently-released album “A New Low” are romped through, the atmosphere is joyous, and as is the norm there are tutus and mankinis galore both on stage and off! Its daft, it’s catchy, it’s infectious and I forgot to take my bloody camera so if you want to see what the Custard is like you’ll have to go along to a gig yourself won’t you?

That concludes my Thursday shenanigans and I retire to the comfort of my tent to prepare myself for the weekend to come.

Friday dawns bright and sunny but alas this doesn’t last long and the rain soon arrives in a bit of a deluge. Due to the weather and other issues a trader friend of mine is in dire need of help, so most of my time is spent doing that rather than watching bands so you’ll have to rely on my ROCKFLESH colleagues for info about who played what and where.

I do make it out in time to catch the mighty Powerwolf though. They are German, they wear corpse paint, they wear leather trenchcoats, they have pyro and fire and they ROCK! They play epic riff-laden anthems with singalong choruses, they teeter just on the edge of the line between Serious Metal and over-the-top silliness, and it’s a very fine line indeed. We wave our arms and chant our anthems, and I have a pang of regret that I am not running into battle, sword or axe in hand, ready to fight for my…. something! I loved them, I could have watched them play all over again.

Which brings me to Friday’s headliners, Sabaton. They are a fine band, Swedish (so I kind of have to like them), and they play… oh. Epic riff-laden anthems, with singalong choruses. So now we have a problem because Sabaton, as good as they are, fall much further over the Serious Metal line and to my eyes and ears at least that makes them somewhat less enjoyable than Powerwolf. Seen in isolation they are great. Seen after someone doing a very similar genre of music but just slightly better? Sorry Sabaton, I thought they had the edge on you.

I spend the early part of Saturday wandering from stage to stage looking at bands who seem to be curiously angry about life in general, and eager to tell me about it by shouting it in my face as loudly as possible and punctuating it with mega-hard music. There are a lot of angry names too, except for the rather wonderful-sounding Goat Monsoon who I sadly managed to miss as I was being shouted at by Cancer Bats and the resulting trauma made me forget they were on!

It was something of a relief then to have the familiar Evil Scarecrow gracing the main stage. They blend the heaviest of Metal with some wonderful theatrical stage props, and top it all off with lyrics about alien life-forms of various types killing all humans. And robots. Not quite sure where the robots come in but they definitely do, we know a dance about that! It was lovely to see a band who perform the music that they love with their tongues very firmly in their cheeks draw a huge crowd so early in the afternoon. Bravo chaps, a very fine performance indeed. Seeing many thousands of people scuttling back and to on the command of the ‘Crabulon’, claws raised and clicking, is probably one of the highlights of the weekend.

I now retire to my tent to procure painkillers for the headache induced by all the shouting, and head back just in time to catch my perennial personal favourites The Wildhearts. The set contained many old favourites and a couple of songs off their most recent release “Renaissance Men”, and although they came on to a sparse crowd of just a few thousand by the close of the set the crowd had swelled to a much greater size and I witnessed the birth of a whole new batch of Wildies fans. Even though Ginger was not at his bantering best ( I think he’s still recovering from a recent hernia op) the ecstatic crowd response saw him visibly perk up as time went on and I can hand on heart say that this was one of the best performances I’ve seen from this band in quite a long time.

Next band on my list were 3 Headed Snake. I’d never heard of them, but one of them was posting on the Bloodstock facebook forum and he looked a bit like Nikki Sixx so I thought I’d just pop into the tent on the off chance that they weren’t another in-yer-face shouty band. Glad I did, as they turned into my find of the weekend. Turns out the chap who doesn’t actually look like Nikki at all in the flesh is one Sin Querin. Yep, the guitarist from Ministry. 3 Headed Snake is his latest side-project and this appearance wasn’t just their first UK gig, it was their first gig ever. Musically they were awesome, big metal riffs, pounding bass and drums and the icing on the cake of the stunning vocal talents of singer Johnny Ray. An almost-empty tent soon filled up (partly perhaps because the main stage was closed due to the high winds and Cradle of Filth’s scheduled spot had to be postponed until the following day. Kudos to the Bloodstock organisers though, as they announced that all Saturday day-ticket holders could, if they wished, come back on Sunday for free because of the weather disruption). The band were as tight as a nun’s chuff, as heavy as the most Acme of anvils and I came away feeling that I had maybe just witnessed a bit of history in the making. I’m looking forward to seeing where this band goes, and hoping their destination includes a few more UK gigs at some point!

I’ll leave it to my colleagues to tell you about the rest of the Saturday bands as they had a much greater appreciation of them than me, and move on to Sunday now. My first musical encounter of the day was with the legendary Ross The Boss, erstwhile guitarist with both The Dictators and Manowar. His set was enjoyable if a little predictable, with slightly less histrionics than a full Manowar show, but then something a bit special happened. Another more local legend joined him on stage in the form of K K Downing, and they duly ripped through a couple of Judas Priest covers much to the delight of the assembled crowd. That was a great way to start the day!

There followed a couple of hours of me wandering about trying and failing to find something that engaged my interest, until I was back at the main stage again for yet another legend. This time it was Dee Snider, and his set was a mix of classic Twisted Sister songs and tracks from his new album “For The Love Of Metal”. Dee is maybe not the most accomplished singer you will ever hear but he is inarguably one of rock’s finest frontmen and his humorous banter and excellent showmanship gave us a very happy hour indeed.

The postponed Cradle Of Filth came next, and I have to admit that I retired to my tent for more rum as they really aren’t for me. Much to my surprise neither were the next band, Queensrÿche. Everyone kept telling me they were great and surely I must be looking forward to them but… no. They are an excellent band. Todd Le Torre has a great voice, and does the old songs justice as well as his own recorded output with them. But it’s just so, I don’t know, bland? Flat? Metal by numbers. Technically proficient but just lacking any soul. Everyone around me was rocking out but I was just bored. Great band, just not doing it for me.

This was in total contrast to the next band I caught, on the tiny Jagermeister stage. Ladies and gentlemen (but especially ladies) I give you the mightiest of mighty metal bands – Women O War! Yep. A mostly-female tribute to the mighty Manowar, with a frontwoman who looked suspiciously like Gemma from Dakesis in a bad Cher wig and a backing band who also looked suspiciously like members of Dakesis in similarly bad wigs and the odd rather startling dress! I also spotted Becky Baldwin from Hands Off Gretel on keyboards and sandwich-making duty because every good woman can make you a sandwich, right? They ploughed through a batch of Manowar songs in a screamingly funny over the top manner and were quite possibly one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Well done ladies and also-ladies-honest, you were hugely entertaining and you really should do this more often. You crowned your bass player Joanne La Maio (who looked a lot like Anne from Dakesis in a bad wig of course) as the Queen Of Metal but really that crown belonged to all of you. A sneaky part of me was really hoping Ross The Boss caught them too and was impressed at the not-so-subtle art of British pisstaking….

After them I took a quick stroll over to the New Blood stage to have a bit of a bounce around to The Lazys. They are a typical Australian bar band and they sound like every other Australian bar band. If you close your eyes you could be watching Airbourne, or Massive, or Jet, or even the mighty AC/DC themselves, but it doesn’t matter. They leap about the stage throwing shapes and belting out infectious, bouncy 4-4 rock and it’s fine. There are no deep lyrics here, no poetry, no philosophical introspection. What there is is a party, and we’re all invited so let’s party on cobbers!

Finally we get to the Sunday headliners, and the real reason I decided to come to Bloodstock. Scorpions have decided to retire when they finish their current tour, as they are all getting on a bit. Problem with that is, their current farewell tour has been going on for around 6 years now and shows no sign of stopping. Still, you never know, this could be the year they do finally hang up their instruments and I wanted to see them one more time before they are gone forever so here I am. (Did you see what I did there Scorps fans?!!) It’s been a while since I last saw them, probably mid 80s, and although they seem to have been around forever I note that there have only been a couple of original albums released since then. The rest of the releases have been greatest hits or live offerings that have traded on their glory years (oops I did it again!) of 1978-1984.

So what do you get from 2019 Scorpions? You get a highly polished rather eclectic set covering all eras of their music. There’s a mashup of 4 songs from the early Uli Jon Roth stuff, and a cracking version of the instrumental track ‘Coast To Coast’. There’s a lot of songs from Lovedrive, but with the glaring omission of the title track, Holiday and Always Somewhere (which will be my funeral song). There’s a beautiful acoustic rendition of Send Me An Angel, and the whistling goodness of probably their most well-known song ‘Winds Of Change’. For some bizarre reason there’s also a drum solo from Mikkey Dee (ex Motorhead) which seemed to go on for ages and was, in my opinion, totally unnecessary and brought the set down a bit. Klaus Meine is looking a little frail these days but has lost none of the power from his voice. Rudolf Schenker still looks the same as he did in 1985 when I last saw him, and Matthias Jabs is still a solid guitarist with a weird taste in hats. This is classic rock at its finest, and the band may be re-living their past triumphs but with so many powerfully crafted songs under their belts that can only be a good thing. I sang along, and danced, and may have even cried a little bit. There was nothing new to see, nothing at all, but who needs new when you have Scorpions. Long may they keep a sting in their tail!

Words by Jo Crosby

By Jo Crosby