Live Review: Steelhouse Festival 2023 – Saturday

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

Weather wise Saturday was the best of the three days. Whilst it was still wet and windy at times the festival did have plenty of actual sunshine which everyone made the most of as the arena was packed out all day. I started my day with Austin Gold who eased me in with their relaxed southern rock vibes. A rock band that has hammond organ in their sound always gets a thumbs up from me and the hammond mixed in beautifully with some great guitar riffs and the melodic yet nicely understated vocals from David James Smith. Austin Gold weren’t the most dynamic band of the day but a great way to start the day off and ease myself into the groove of things whilst suffering with a bit of a hangover.

Blues Pills had unfortunately had to cancel their appearance at the festival and Black Spiders had been drawn in as a last minute replacement but I was more interested in some lunch back at the campsite but returned to the arena for Belgian hard rockers Black Mirrors. This was hard rock with a more 90’s alternative sound and frontwoman Marcella Di Troia and the rest of the band ensured that the crowd was rocked to the core with her powerhouse vocals and music that had a bit of a harder edge to it than the majority of the bands on the bill. Played with bags of energy and overflowing with enthusiasm, Black Mirrors left a definite impression on the crowd and not even the faux pas of referring to the crowd as England could turn the Welsh crowd against these impressive Brussels rockers.

A band that came with plenty of hype and enthusiasm were Canadian rockers The Damn Truth. Their image was very vintage and with maybe just a hint of Spinal Tap but the band immediately proved that they are anything but a parody act with a colossal set of psychedelic infused hard rock which threw the crowd back to the late 60’s and early 70’s. As well as bags of psychedelia the band flirted with retro rock, soul, blues and even a bit of classic pop in there and all held together with some fantastic guitar riffs and the jaw dropping vocals of Lee-la Baum whose stage presence was simply incredible. A fully enthralling rock experience that wowed the Steelhouse crowd and ensured the band were one of the most popular of the weekend.

The first of a Welsh duo of bands of the evening were Merthyr rockers Florence Black. Despite being born and bred Welsh, they are a band that I was wholly unfamiliar with although I knew of their reputation as a hard and heavy band. For a three piece, Florence Black had a dense and intense sound which borrowed as much from metal as well as hard rock and ensured they were one of the meatiest sounding bands of the weekend. Being a local band from only a few valleys over, the band were welcomed as local heroes by the Steelhouse crowd and the band duly rewarded the adulation with a solid set of music that was full of fat groove laden riffs and a pummelling rhythm section. A cover of the Budgie classic Breadfan went down a storm and got the crowd ready for the bands to follow.

One thing you noticed whilst wandering around the Steelhouse site over the weekend was the sheer amount of Those Damn Crows t-shirts and hoodies being worn. They were a band I knew by reputation but had never seen or listened to before despite being another band hailing from South Wales. To say that Those Damn Crows are on a stratospheric rise would be a severe understatement as the band are probably the most popular rock band in Wales right now with a rabid and devoted following.

Despite being one down from the headliners, the band pretty much played a headline show with all of the bells and whistles such as flames and pyro and an impressive amount of lighting. The band are essentially a hard rock band but veer between a heavier sound and very mainstream degrees of catchiness and accessibility. It’s clear to see why they are so popular as they brought an absolute scorcher of a rock show to Steelhouse and the crowd lapped up every second of it singing along to every word and at times being louder than frontman Shane Greenhall.

From crunchy rockers to big sing-a-longs and the obligatory ballad, Those Damn Crows owned every moment on the stage and whilst it might not have been a headline set it certainly felt like one. It would have made sense to me to have Those Damn Crows headline the Friday night of the festival such is the following that the band have right now and they are only going to get bigger. Their music might not be much to my tastes but there is no denying that a show from Those Damn Crows (and especially one on home turf) is a sight to behold.

Bringing things to a raucous close on the Saturday night were Aussie hellraisers Airbourne. Whilst Those Damn Crows performed a hell of a rock show, Airbourne just raised everything to eleven and absolutely blew a crater in the side of the mountain not only from the sheer volume of the show but the absolutely blistering performance, fuck you attitude and bag loads of rock & roll debauchery.

Joel O’Keeffe is a total madman of a frontman from the sheer amounts of energy he has on stage to his on stage (and off stage) antics. He leaped and bounced around all the while playing his guitar and never missing a note. Bassist Justin Sweet and guitarist Jarrad Morrice were equally as animated sprinting the stage from side to side and leaping around whilst equally never missing a note whilst drummer Ryan O’Keeffe battered his kit to oblivion. A well rounded set was taken from the bands five albums with highlights being relentless opener ‘Ready To Rock’, the anthemic ‘Back In The Game’, the darker tinged ‘Bottom Of The Well’ and band staple ‘Runnin’ Wild’. ‘Girls In Black’ was another highlight which saw Joel being carried around in the crowd and smashing full beer cans open on his head.

The bands love of Motörhead was shown throughout the set from the band and Lemmy being namechecked multiple times to a full on dedication in ‘It’s All For Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which saw Lemmy’s bar being brought out and Joel pouring multiple Jack Daniels and Cokes strong enough to bring down an elephant and handing them out to the crowd. Similarly later on a tray of beers were brought out and Joel was tossing them out to the crowd spraying everyone with beer in the process. AIrbourne are pure Aussie rock & roll excess and their show is an absolutely glorious thing to behold. This was pure rock & roll debauchery and myself and the rest of the Steelhouse crowd loved every second of it. The definite highlight of the weekend.

Photo Credit: Darren Griffiths

Photo credits: Darren Griffiths

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