In the lead up to this event it was being billed as "A 48 hour Maelstrom of Metal", also in the lead up to this event one of the only reasons I had originally decided to purchase a ticket (The 69 Eyes) decided to pull out.
So arriving on the Friday to find that "Reg Varney" had long since retired his services from driving the Holiday Camp's bus, I resigned myself to a somewhat subdued weekend.
How wrong could I be?
(So in my best "Jack Bauer" voice) "What follows is a reconstruction of events between the hours of 14:00 Friday 9th November and 14:00 Sunday 10th November".
Friday 9th November
14:00 Arrive on site, not many people around, check in and realise the room is a bit of a fleapit (albeit a Gold standard fleapit).
14:15 The first drink of the day is taken to help us relax into our surroundings Hic.
17:00 The day is passing us by and we haven't yet managed 8 cans. A quick reconnaissance mission and find "Vixen" are signing at 19:00. Yippee!!!! Finally, something to leave the room for.
19:00 One of my mates queues to meet "Vixen" with about 5 other people.
19:30 Watch the first band proper of the weekend "Tiamat" who are fine and dandy in a goth/doom crossover type of way, but the ambiance was lost in a holiday resort covered in "Billy Bear" insignia.
20:30 Manage to catch the end of "Spit Like This" who seem to be doing a grand job in the arena that the mighty "Twisted Sister" will be playing tomorrow.
21:00 "Zodiac Mindwarp" hits the stage with "High Priest of Love" and proceeds to play a mixed set of new and classic old stuff. The band being joined mid set by stocking clad Air Force girls. The festival was now fast turning into that "Holiday On The Buses" film I alluded to earlier.
22:30 "Cradle of Filth's" comedic value doesn't hold out for long in a small venue, they seem lost without a big stage and show.
23:00 Convinced that the venues on site are only empty because everyone has gone into town. We rather fool heartedly decide to take a trip into "Sunny Minehead".
00:00 Frost bitten and bearing of kebabs we return deluded and resigned to our sleeping bags (would you sleep in the beds provided?).
Saturday 10th November
08:00 It's an early rise and off to "Tesco" for hangover cures and much needed loo roll, then it's back to the site for some tasteless grub (commonly known as Brunch).
12:00 After a quick shower it's time for the first can of the day, Special Vat now becoming the official sponsors of our weekend.
14:00 "New Generation Superstars" have just played a Battle of the Bands, and somehow I manage to miss them. Sorry guys. I instead end up watching a band called "Redline" that really don't realise the nineties have occurred.
15:30 So, after much delay, a band I'm actually eager to see. Namely "GMT".
Bernie Torme having been a bit of a hero of mine back in the day, to see him playing again was always going to be a treat. Ripping out tunes from his illustrious past like "Wild West" along with newer stuff from "GMT's" excellent debut "Bitter and Twisted" such as "Cannonball", their 60-minute set simply sped by. That is until Bernie and Co were joined by his ex-Desperado's bandmate, "Dee Snider" for a rip ride finale of "Emaheevul". Fantastic stuff indeed.
17:00 Trying to recover from the shock of seeing "Dee Snider" in a venue the size of a local Barfly we regrouped to attend Zodiac Mindwarp's signing session (with again what seemed like 5 other people). This time I got my CD signed and had a very brief chat, with "Cobalt" and the "Tattooed Beat Messiah" himself.
19:00 With "GMT" due to sign we hung around like teenage kids at the backstage door eager to tell Mr Torme just how good his performance had been. We chat and joke with "Robin Guy" about his time with Welsh glamsters "RagDollz", discuss the finer points of "John McCoy's" guitar collection before pressing flesh with the great man himself. I'm not often star struck, but meeting someone whose picture you had on your wall, as a teenager is never easy. "GMT" are top blokes to a man. I would strongly recommend you check them out.
20:00 It's back to the live bands and "Saxon" are plying their metal like no one else in the UK can, "Motorcycle Man" being one of the first songs I ever got Head Bangers Neck to, it's all now sadly lost on me, and the hour simply drags.
22:00 Finally my other reason for attending and "Twisted Sister" explodes in a ball of glitter and glam. Their "Slade like" qualities allow for the insertion of some (superb) Xmas songs into the nights proceedings that really set the crowd alight. So alongside "I Am I'm Me" the seasonal "Silver Bells" actually worked extremely well. With showman supreme "Dee Snider" at the helm this ship will never steer off course, as classic after classic ends with "SMF". This set was worth the admission price alone. And that's why we all keep coming back for more.
00:00 As the hall seems to half empty its left to "UFO" to try and follow "Twisted Fucking Sister", of course this is never going to happen. With four original members plugging away, it doesn't help that latest guitarist "Vinnie Moore" holds not one ounce of the musical charisma of the other members. The whole thing is colder than the Severn wind that ripped through us the night before and the thoughts of a repeat kebab mission seems so much more attractive.
02:00 Fast descending into a scene from a battle field, the main arena is only a quarter full by the time "Tesla" take the stage. I haven't seen them since the "Mechanical Resonance" tour so for my entry fee I'm making sure I'm staying awake. So I'm glad the effort is worth it when Comin Atcha Live" is delivered with much gusto and vigour. It must be something in their blood but 20 years on these guys still look a lot like they did last time I saw them.
03:30 I finally hit the hay after a mammoth session.
08:30 - 14:00 I belatedly say goodbye to our weekend retreat, and after another tasteless brunch dare to make the journey back home.
So, the weekend really was a fantastic journey after all. Admittedly the bands, I wanted to see were a bit thin on the ground. But I met some fantastic people from all over the world and had a blast catching up with some old friends.
"Hard Rock Hell"
we hear will be back next year, I'm looking forward to it already.
by Johnny H.