Live Review: Steelhouse Festival 2023 – Friday

Live Review: Steelhouse Festival 2023 - Friday
Words: Richard Oliver
Photos: Darren Griffiths

The new wave of classic rock is sweeping across the continent right now with a new era of bands performing hard rock the old school way and ensuring that this genre is anything but stale. There are many festivals across the UK that champion this hard rocking movement but one festival that absolutely champions it along with the backing of Planet Rock radio is the mighty Steelhouse Festival. Taking place on top of a mountain in the Gwent valleys it is officially the UK’s highest festival (in altitude terms not the substances that the attendees are consuming) and is surrounded by gorgeous views of the green Welsh countryside. As it takes place on top of a mountain, the weather conditions are unpredictable to say the least with nearly every weather condition being thrown at those in attendance but the wind, rain and mud did not dampen spirits and everyone there was determined to have the absolute best time possible regardless of the conditions.

I myself up unto this point was a Steelhouse virgin. Many of my friends attend without fail every year and always extol the virtues of what a fantastic festival that Steelhouse is. Being as the festival is only around a half hour drive from my current residence, I thought this is the year that I should try and attend. Musically it is a lot lighter than I generally pump down my ears being more of a metal fan and having tastes on the extreme side of the genre but I do know a good deal of classic rock and enjoy it. There were a handful of bands on the line up that I was very familiar with, a good deal of bands I had heard of but never listened to as well as a good chunk of bands who were complete unknowns to me. So with a new festival to attend and lots of new music to hear, this would prove to be a weekend of discovery for me.

It was a bit blustery and a bit rainy but the anticipation and enthusiasm from the festival crowd shone brighter than the sun as a hefty queue formed at the entrance to the arena in anticipation of it opening mid afternoon. Opening up the stage was former Revival Black frontman Dan Byrne with his solo band who got the festival off to a vibrant start with a set of melodic hard rock tunes. His melodic and anthemic songs got things off to a great start and went down a storm with the excited crowd. Great hard rock songs and his fantastic vocals ensured that Steelhouse got off to a strong start.

Jordan Red followed and was completely unknown to me before this festival. They were another band playing melodic hard rock which sounded suitably contemporary but with an 80’s anthemic feel to it and with a little twist of metal in there as when those groove filled riffs dropped they were pretty damn heavy. The vocals from frontman Dan Leigh were suitably slick but powerful and the band put in a powerful performance which got big cheers and plenty of applause from the Steelhouse masses.

Another band who were completely unknown to me were The Karma Effect but they are now a band very much on my radar as they performed one of the finest sets of the weekend. Self-described as “a 21st century take on a classic 70’s rock & roll sound”, the band had an undeniably vintage look and sound with bluesy rock & roll mixing in elements of soul and a little bit of funky goodness. Big riffs and big melodies plus plenty of delicious hammond organ ensured that my eyes could not leave the stage and my head was involuntarily nodding for the duration of their set. The Karma Effect seriously impressed and are definitely a band to keep a close watch on.

I stuck around for a couple of songs from When Rivers Meet but soon realised the blues & roots rock band were not really to my liking and so I instead headed back to camp for a much needed meal break to soak up some of the Tudor Brewery beers that had been consumed. I returned to the arena for the evening's headliners and Steelhouse regulars Kris Barras Band. An artist I knew by name but had never heard before, the arena was absolutely rammed for the former MMA fighter and his band. It was a solid set of melodic and anthemic hard rock tunes and whilst he is undeniably great at what he does, I felt that there was a lack of a stage presence and an atmosphere. I don’t know whether it was nerves but the performance felt by the numbers. The setlist was a bit of a mixed bag as well with the bands own material interspersed with covers from artists ranging from Led Zeppelin to Lewis Capaldi. Even though I didn’t take much from this set, the crowd definitely did with rapturous cheers and applause. Personally I think there was a band who played later on in the festival who should have had the Friday headlining slot but I’ll come to that in good time.

Photo Credit: Darren Griffiths

Photo credits: Darren Griffiths

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