Rock Of Ages Festival 2016 (Seebronn, Stuttgart, Germany) - Avantasia, Barclay James Harvest, Blue Oyster Cult, Slade, etc. PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 04 August 2016 19:29


The decision to visit the Rock Of Ages festival in Germany was affected be several factors, including the super line up of the festival (maybe better than Wacken), the travelling costs from Athens, Greece and the recent violent incidents in Germany that made my decision more difficult than usual. Although the European media focused on the risky travel in Germany, I took the risk to attend my favorite bands and find out by myself what is all about. I booked the flights, received the press accreditation and started a long trip…

 


Pic 1. Reaching the camping area

I am referring to the trip as long because the access to the festival was not so easy for someone who comes from another country and decides to visit an unknown place without any special directions except the text at the festival’s webpage. Fortunately, the directions at the website were correct and all the transportation mediums were existing and it was easy to find them. The problem is that from the airport to the festival area, you need to change  two trains, one bus and then you have to walk about 20-30 minutes depending on where you want to camp.  Approximately you need 2 hours or more to reach the camping area, which is tiring, especially when you come directly from a flight trip. I would suggest that the concert promoters should plan ahead for the booking of buses for people who want to travel in the festival area. I know many people who were really excited about the line up of the festival, but the long trip discouraged them a bit. Moreover, I met a German couple that comes from the east part of Germany and they told me that they had to change from 3 to 9 trains in order to reach the festival area!  Of course, people who were owning cars found it very easy to reach the festival area because there was friendly staff of the festival at key points on the road, so as to give them directions about the festival area. This was a good thing because the drivers knew where to park and how to reach the concert area.The camping area was a wonderful one full of green and it was surrounded by a beautiful forest, it was the ideal place to relax and have fun with the other fans. The only disadvantage was that people who did not own cars, had no other choice for food & drinks except the concert and the camping areas. All the people, mostly Germans, were really friendly with me and I have to say that their hospitality was great. You could not escape from dealing with kind people who were treating you with beer or inviting you at their tent to have some fun. It is amazing how friendly these people were, including the festival’s staff that was ready to answer any question and help you in any way. Bravo guys!!!

 

Pic 2. I arrived at the beautiful camping area!


Friday, July 29

 

Pic 3. The festival line up of the 1st day

 

The first day was welcomed with an unpleasant surprise, UFO had to cancel their show because Phil Mogg had to undergo surgery due to a hernia. Oh man, UFO was one of the reasons that I came but I respect the health issue and cannot complain more about it.

 

Pic 4. The festival just started


The next artist fortunately showed up and it was the great GRAHAM BONNET BAND. All the band seems in a great shape and especially Graham, who is moving like a lion on stage, despite his age. The rest of the line up, includes Graham’s partner in life: bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone, guitarist  Conrado Pesinato,  and former FATES WARNING and WARLORD drummer Mark Zonder. The band performed tracks from the whole career of Graham, it was a greatest hits playlist. Moreover, he started playing a track that wrote for Bee Gees but finally he decided to not play it. For those who do not know, Graham has collaborated in the past with the Bee Gees on composing level. I think that it was the perfect fit for the dynamic start of the festival that lasted 3 days. After the show of the band, I had the chance to have a short interview with them and discuss the current status of the band. The band is about to release a new album with Frontiers records, the album includes 16 tracks. Moreover, later they have plans to record their performance at the Frontiers Festival, which will result in a potential live CD/DVD.  Graham is nowadays living in the States, although he comes from the UK. He tours very often because as he says the records do not sell anymore and people in his age have to tour a lot and not only at rock music conerts. The band even plays at special events, parties, etc. when the rock tour is over. His partner in life and bassist of the band, Beth, is really admiring him and reminds him every day of how much is in love with him. They look such a lovely couple together! Beth, has also some Greek relatives and we had a funny chat by exchanging some famous Greek words that she knows. They would love to come and play in Greece, but as Gile Slavery (Warlord singer and representative of  Bonnet) told me, this depends on the financial offer. Unfortunately Greece is located in the middle of nowhere and there are no big markets beside this country, that enables the band to travel. They have to fly directly from the States and this costs a lot and does not lead to a break even for both band and the concert promoter. Up to now, Japan is the best selling market for the Graham Bonnet Band according to what all the band said.

 


Pic 5. Mr. Graham Bonnet

 

SAGA was the next band to appear at the show and from what I saw, they had many fans in the crowd. The band is playing a melodic pomp rock that is technically perfect but I do not think that their compositions really mean a lot to me. I saw the whole show, but all I can say is that they had a good sound and gave a good performance.

 

Pic 6. SAGA in action

 

AXEL RUDI PELL seemed to be very popular among the fans who has been waiting for so much time. The band played really well and the all star line up includes Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow) on drums and Johnny Gioeli (Hardline). We heard all the hits of the band and enjoyed the performance which focused on up tempo compositions, except “The Line” which was the only ballad.

 

IN EXTREMO was the headline act of the first day and maybe the most impressive show of the whole festival. They had machines spitting fire, light show and whatever else you need to have a great show. Although I do not speak German at all, I enjoyed the power of their music, the strange traditional instruments and the voice of the singer who sounds like a German version of Billy Idol. This is a show that everybody has to attend.

 

Saturday, July 30

 


Pic 7 German fans waiting for the 2nd day


The second day had no cancellations and started very early 11:00 because many bands were scheduled to appear. I did not attend the whole sets of the first bands CUCUMBER, BLACKSLASH but I appreciated their love for the classic heavy metal in the veins of Iron Maiden. Especially BLACKSLASH, had an interesting interaction with the audience and played heavy metal straight from the heart.

 

LUCIFER'S FRIEND was the next band, the famous progressive rockers including John Lawton of the Uriah Heep fame. The band played both old and new material and I think that the new stuff is not bad at all. The audience enjoyed it and John did not seem to face any issues with his voice, he was a great performer.  In general, it was a satisfying performance and I think that this lineup has a  lot to offer in terms of new material and great live performances.

 

Pic 8. Lucifer's Friend on stage

 

TREAT was another of the reasons that I travelled from Greece to Germany for this festival and the performance of the band verified my expectations. The  band made the people dance along with the music and reminded us why melodic hard rock still remains the best secret for large arenas. Although the sound had minor problems (the mic was the main reason?), the band ended their set with the hymn “World of promises” and the whole arena enjoyed the sing a long session.

 

Pic 9. Treat are taking over...

 

CHRIS THOMPSON was no stranger to the audience because they had attended the Manfred Mann's Earth Band at a previous line up of the festival.  Chris and his band offered a great performance by playing tracks from the whole career of Chris but the audience mostly enjoyed the Manfred Mann material. The weather was already hot and Chris told the audience to keep on drinking water during the whole set.  I think that I ended up paying more attention to the music than drinking water, so I had a hard time with the sun burning after the set.

 

Pic 10. Chris Thompson encourages the audience to sing

 

KEN HENSLEY & OUR PROPAGANDA was the next act and they focused mostly on Uriah Heep classics. It was not bad, but I realized that Ken is not the main singer and took over the vocals during the half of the set. The rest of the band is playing well and they are young and wild, but I realized that the classic rock bands of today only consist of the band name and the songs. You may have one original member who is not the main singer and this hurts a lot when you understand that time has passed by. In general, it was a good performance, but I think that would prefer Ken on his own or the whole band in their personal  compositions.

 

MAGNUM was the next band and I was awaiting for them patiently because I love the voice of Bob Catley. I cannot say that they fulfilled my expectations because the sound was not too good and the performance seemed to be a bit of boring, it is a shame. Maybe next time I have to catch one of the solo live performances of Bob Catley.

 

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT was the surprise of the festival because I have to say that it was the clearest sound of the whole festival. I could hear clearly all the instruments and the band enjoyed it while being on stage. They played all their known hits and the dedicated the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" at a friend of the band who passed away.

 

Pic. 11 Blue Oyster Cult gave a great show!

 

AVANTASIA was the headline act of the second and this was more than a rock concert, it was a theatrical play. There was a background that reminded us of a castle and all the members had a special role in the play. It was Tobbias in a costume as the main actor, along with Eric Martin, Bob Catley, Michael Kiske and other singers who were supporting the show. The band played material from all the periods and the sound was super great. I do not think that anyone had any complaint of this performance, it was a rock n roll theatrical play!

 

Sunday, July 31



Pic 12. Time for food before the 3rd day


Sunday was the last day of the festival and it was devoted to the families that were attending the festival. It was such a great enlightenment, to see full families in rocking costumes with kids and grandsons to attend the concert. So the last day of the festival, there were many kids friendly events and even a local traditional music band came to play. This was also an attraction for other members of the local community, who came with their kids to attend only the kids’ events.

 

FARGO was the first band that appeared on stage and they gathered a lot of people. The first track "Frontpage lover"  moved me a lot and reminded of the Greeks who went crazy after discovering this track at a local compilation. The band continued on offering old catalogue material such as the tracks  "Soul survivor ", "I’m a loser ", etc. I think that this band has a lot to offer and the old material has to be re-discovered by the new generation.

 

Pic 13. Fargo, the German classic rock band

 

EAV was the next band but it did not impress me a lot, it was mainly a group of musicians/comedians who were telling jokes about Berluskoni or singing in German and English. I cannot say that I enjoyed their performance, but I guess that they Germans liked the band because they were having fun. One of their tracks that I liked and discovered later on YouTube, was Fata Morgana. It was played in a progressive  rock style and woke me up instantly!

 

SLADE was the next band which features two original members, Dave Hill and Don Powell.  The performance was dynamic and they looked so alive on stage, live viewing a group of teenagers ready to conquer the world. The orchestration of the tracks is very hard rocking and uplifting, it was like watching  an AC DC concert. I found myself dancing with the crowd and we all realized that some classic rock bands can still play extremely well in 2016. Their set was closed with a cover of the "Born to be wild", a nice cover to close their heavy performance.

 

The sad news came up, Kim Wilde cancelled her performance due to a problem with the airport at Stuttgart. I do not think that the fans were disappointed so much, because this meant that Barclay James Harvest would play longer for the fans. I think that this was a great surprise for me, although things were a bit different than I was expecting.

 

BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST FEAT. LES HOLROYD appeared on stage in front of thousands of people who had been waiting for three days. The lineup includes five musicians on stage and the two of them are playing keyboards. It was such a good line up to hear progressive rock like played on the studio. …Almost all of the musicians performed the progressive rock of the band in a great way. I say almost, because we could not hear Les at all! First of all, the fact that the band was the unofficial headline act, did not affect the volume of the sound. Why? We all know that the headline act has the highest sound of the whole festival. Second and most important, Les’s voice was not in good level like he is having a health issue or so. It was better to hear an instrumental version of the band than Les trying to sing! Such a big disappointment, and all the people were screaming for the quality of the sound, but the problem carried on until the end of the show. Only during the last 20 minutes, I was able to hear Les singing because the rest of the show was an unlucky effort to sing. It is a shame that such a great festival was completed with a not so good performance.

 

Pic 14. Barclay James Harvest on stage

 

Summary


Stuttgart was a safe area and I did not have any risky incident, neither the locals were afraid of terroristic actions. The staff of the festival was friendly and did not cause any problem at all. The overall attendance of the festival is estimated to be between 6 to 8 thousands of people. The average age of the population was 40+ and that is why most of them came at the concert with their kids, also the festival featured events for the kids such as games, Joker appearance and a small Luna Park that was playing Greek music (another surprise). I think that the whole trip was cost worthy if you calculate the ticket cost to attend the concert of each band separately. It definitely deserves to do this trip from any place of Europe and attend this festival. However, I am expecting more foreigner friendly facilities next time, like the food menus in English or flyers with useful information in English. Thanks a lot for the precious help, to the festival authorities and especially at Joey for her help with the Graham Bonnet interview. Hello to all my new German friends, I hope to see you next year!!!

 

 

p.s. There are some photos missing from all the bands that played at the festival,  no disrespect towards them, but due to unexpected circumstances the professional camera was left back in Athens, Greece. I apologize for that…

 

Pic 15. Leaving from Seebronn, Stuttgart where the festival took place



Additional Photos



Pic 16 The way to the aftershow party

 

Pic 17. Graham Bonnet Band at the backstage area

 

Pic 18. John Lawton at the autographs session

 

Pic 19. The music market of the festival



Pic. 20 Treat at the autographs session




Written by Billy Yfantis
Photo credits: Billy Yfantis

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 August 2016 21:34
 
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