Ramblin’ Man Fair, held tucked under the North Downs in picturesque Mote Park, Maidstone, is now in its fifth year and after a rocky (no pun intended) start (original owners of the RMF brand, Team Rock went bust in 2016), the festival has gone from strength to strength.
The festival has a prominent demographic (rock fans who could bring the kids, but could also leave them at home) and it caters to the faithful very well. Previous headliners have included ZZ Top, Greg Allman and the Scorpions and this year, The Darkness, Black Stone Cherry and Foreigner take top spots on the premier Planet Rock stage.
For 2019, the Friday afternoon lineup was greatly expanded with The Lazys, Chris Barrass Band, FM and The Wildhearts forming the undercard before The Darkness came out. I would have liked to see all five but alas paying the mortgage meant that as well as several thousand cars on the M25 travelling at single digit speeds, the first four bands were in the rear-view mirror by the time I eventually arrived on site. In fact, I got there just as Ginger Wildheart crashed out his final power chord. My review of The Wildhearts based on what I saw: everyone loved them!
The Darkness receive some heat from people who take their music too seriously (and that includes a small but vocal contingent in the RMF fanbase), which is a shame because being a bit po-faced about them means missing out on a very entertaining night out. Justin Hawkins never gives less than 100% and is one of the most naturally gifted all round frontmen I’ve ever seen.
He can sing, he can play and he is a consummate raconteur. There was a great moment tonight when he took a swig from a bottle of water and then proceeded to do a mock ‘infomercial’ based on the experience: “Strathmore Water, still or sparkling, always refreshing. Drink it from the bottle or from a glass”. He finished the bottle and tossed it off the stage. “Don’t litter, especially you young ones. This will be your planet soon”.
The supporting cast (guitarist and Justin’s brother Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Rufus ‘Tiger’ (and son of Roger) Taylor) are far more than just a backing group. This is a band that can really play and through the joking, the back-kicking guitar picks into the crowd and the inevitable exposure of the word ‘Lowestoft’ tattooed across Justin’s midriff, they knock out some serious hard rocking music. They play Gibson Les Paul’s, they stand in front of Marshall 4×12’s. They’re a proper rock band!
As one might expect, they close with the song that everyone knows: I Believe In A Thing Called Love and fireworks crackle overhead. Based on the very warm reception the band received, it’s safe to say that the Friday night ramblers do too.
Live Review & Photography by Simon Reed who has the following website www.musicalpictures.co.uk