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Review: Day 1 of Maidstone's Ramblin' Man Fair

By John Nurden

Maidstone’s biggest music festival has taken over Mote Park again for the fourth year running with bands from the worlds of rock, prog and country.

The Ramblin' Man Fair kicked off on Saturday with Those Damn Crows opening the Rising Stage with heavy riffs and killer vocals.

Some may say they would be better placed at Download but no one was complaining!

GUNN: Played the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture:John McMurtie (2803728)
GUNN: Played the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture:John McMurtie (2803728)
Gun lead singer Dante Gizzi, performing on the Planet Rock Main Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802935)
Gun lead singer Dante Gizzi, performing on the Planet Rock Main Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802935)

Scottish five-piece GUN certainly know what they’re doing, having been living on the music scene for decades. You might know them best for a cover of Cameo’s Word Up! but their own material really shone through with Steal Your Fire and Better Days about to be added to my own playlist.

They had so much energy and really went for it with their closing number, a cover of Fight for Your Right by the Beastie Boys.

Another brilliant band were Skinny Molly who deserve an honourable mention for playing the entirety of Freebird note perfect.

Skinny Molly get going on the Outlaw Country Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802972)
Skinny Molly get going on the Outlaw Country Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802972)

It’s one of those songs rare for bands to attempt live because of its sheer length and complexity.

But they nailed it - mainly thanks to Mike Estes, their guitarist and vocalist, who was in Lynyrd Skynyrd back in the mid-90s.

Myles Kennedy on stage at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803732)
Myles Kennedy on stage at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803732)

For me, country isn’t my cup of tea but I did find myself really enjoying this set.

Staying at the Country Stage and Myles Kennedy was up next.

You might know him best for his work with Slash and in Alter Bridge but he definitely more than held his own as a solo artist rattling through his own back catalogue including Haunted by Design and Songbird. An absolute must-see.

Glam-rockers Steel Panther at the Ramblin' Man Fair, Mote Park, Maidstone on Saturday (2803747)
Glam-rockers Steel Panther at the Ramblin' Man Fair, Mote Park, Maidstone on Saturday (2803747)

The part of the review I was dreading most was the fantastic Steel Panther.

This band’s song listing is not something which is printable and is definitely not for children or the feint-hearted.

But playing as glam-rockers who epitomise sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, they are so very entertaining.

Steel Panther's 'Ozzy' asking for Sharon at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803730)
Steel Panther's 'Ozzy' asking for Sharon at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803730)

At one point they even invited girls onto the stage and got ‘Ozzy’ involved for a cover of Crazy Train. It was a hilarious performance which I would pay good money to see again - but don’t take your children.

Mott The Hoople, in the distance, at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803722)
Mott The Hoople, in the distance, at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803722)

Finally, rock legends Mott the Hoople took to the stage.

They were headlining for a reason. Although ageing, they brought the feel-good vibes and fun.

With a strong R&B sound, they have not lost their mojo through the years.

Playing classics from the past, Ian Hunter still has one of the most distinctive voices from the 70s.

Obviously, they ended on All the Young Dudes which was written by the legendary David Bowie, to rousing applause.

Welcome shade from the 23C heat at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803724)
Welcome shade from the 23C heat at the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803724)

But the festival feels smaller this year with far less to do.

Last year there were plenty of additional attractions for festival-goers including a reenactment village and laser clay-pigeon shooting.

None of those are there this year, which was somewhat disappointing. But the music made up for it.

Crowds arriving for the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803726)
Crowds arriving for the Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone on Saturday. Picture: Poppy Jeffery (2803726)

Meanwhile, food and drink prices were much what you’d expect, £5 or more for a pint and up to a tenner for a meal. But there was a good variety and quality.

Overall, a fantastic first day which was bathed in sunshine.

Fans enjoy the sunshine. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802948)
Fans enjoy the sunshine. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802948)
Country fans enjoy Skinny Molly at the Outlaw Country Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802976)
Country fans enjoy Skinny Molly at the Outlaw Country Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802976)
Karen Johnson, lead singer of The Cadillace Three on the Planet Rock Main Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802987)
Karen Johnson, lead singer of The Cadillace Three on the Planet Rock Main Stage. The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802987)
The Cadillac Three perform on the Planet Rock Main Stage.The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802990)
The Cadillac Three perform on the Planet Rock Main Stage.The 2018 Ramblin' man Fair at Mote Park, Maidstone..Picture: Andy Payton. (2802990)

Bring on day two which will include Kris Barras (who recently showed what he was made of at the Bourne to the Blues club in Sittingbourne), Halestorm, Blackberry Smoke, Fish and The Cult.

Those Rockney rebels Chas 'n' Dave were due to play the Blues Stage today at 5.50pm but have had to pull out because Chas Hodges, 74, is suffering from flu.

Promoters Planet Rock said: "It is with regret that Chas 'n' Dave won't be able to appear at Ramblin' Man Fair this weekend.

Sick: Dave Peacock and Chas Hodges of Chas 'n' Dave had t o pull out of today's Ramblin' Man Fair at Maidstone
Sick: Dave Peacock and Chas Hodges of Chas 'n' Dave had t o pull out of today's Ramblin' Man Fair at Maidstone

"As most of you know, Chas is slowly recovering from the knock-on effects of a particularly nasty bout of flu but sadly won't be fit and his doctors have advised extra rest.

"Chas 'n' Dave would like to send their regards to their fans and all who were looking forward to seeing them. They, themselves, were very much looking forward to playing at such a great festival and hope to have another opportunity to play there in the future."

Their place will be filled by Big Boy Bloater.

Kris Barras: Playing the Ramblin' Man Fair at Maidstone Mote Park today (Sunday). Picture: Marcin Kaniak (2803745)
Kris Barras: Playing the Ramblin' Man Fair at Maidstone Mote Park today (Sunday). Picture: Marcin Kaniak (2803745)

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