REVIEW festival Ramblin' Man Fair

The Ramblin’ Man Fair, Small But Almost Perfectly Formed - Part 2

For me, one of the chief delights of this festival was the chance to discover some acts that I knew nothing about but which had something special. It might be a lead singer, a song, an attitude or musical flair. The first act I’m going to talk about here had all four in spades.

Cats in Space are a six piece band that have been around the block. A couple of its members had played with Sweet and they have all had a long time in the music business. They took to the stage at 5 o’clock on Sunday afternoon as the festival seemed to be catching its breath prior to the headliners. Their sound is pure 70's rock, but it never sounds old fashioned because of the sheer quality of the songs. The opening song was ‘Too Many Gods’ the title track of their first album. Within two choruses I was singing along, a sure sign that a band are doing something right. For an hour, potential hit after potential hit poured out with lead singer Paul Manzi having charisma to burn as he totally blew away the crowd at The Rising Stage. Within two tracks I just wondered why the hell these guys were not on the Planet Rock stage. They were significantly better than all but a handful of acts over the weekend and would have more than held their own sandwiched between Europe and Whitesnake. The song ‘Unfinished Symphony’ was the tale of a band dreaming of finding that one song that would last the rest of their lives. Perhaps Cats in Space have already found that song, but if they haven’t they’re pretty damn close. I hope they get that break that all bands need. Maybe Jeff Lynne needs an opening act for Wembley next year! Well if you’re going to dream why not dream big?

The previous day, the final band on the Rising Stage was the heavier City of Thieves. With charismatic frontman Jamie Lailey channeling Bruce Dickinson in voice and stage presence, these guys mean business. Their single, ‘Incinerator’ is a wall of noise that just tears through the audience and they just didn’t let up throughout a blistering set that took a large number of festival goers away from the main stage. Be in no doubt, these guys are going to be up on a main stage themselves before too long.

On the Prog in the Park stage, earlier that day, I came across the sublime I O Earth with their striking and supremely talented lead singer Linda Odinsen. They have a real understanding of Prog rock, but they have cleverly updated it to reach beyond that musical genre. For the first, but by no means the only time during the weekend I wondered why a band was not higher up the bill. Their 30 minutes onstage ended all too soon leaving me wanting much more.

It was deja vu the following day when Blurred Vision, a band formed by Toronto based, Iranian born brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley together with drummer Ben Riley were one of the early acts on the Prog stage. Opening track ‘No More War’ with extracts from speeches by Martin Luther King and John Lennon was a mesmerising start and their fantastic take on ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone), which became an anthem for Iranian youth a fitting finish. Their lyrics are the core of their success, but crucially they have a superb set of tunes to back them up. This band has a lot to say and they can only go from strength to strength.

Just to underline the sheer variety of acts packed in to the weekend; it was off to the Outlaw Country stage on Saturday afternoon to listen to Bob Wayne. He immediately impressed me with his tongue in cheek lyrics backed by the superb playing of his band. Between the songs he amused the crowd with his slightly off kilter humour and even started to compose a new song entitled ‘Hell Yeah’ on the spot once he worked out that the crowd were more than happy to yell that out at any excuse! The highlight of the set was ‘Don’t Get on the Dope Train!’ a genuinely funny anti-drugs song that is what ‘White Lines’ could have been if Grandmaster Flash was a redneck from the Southern states! Like Hayseed Dixie, Wayne appreciates that humour and great tunes will go a long way to bring a crowd onside even if they’re initially just killing time before Whitesnake come on.

I had a total blast during the weekend and would recommend the Ramblin’ Man Fair to anyone who loves good rock music of any genre.