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Gig Report: HRH C.R.O.W.S. - Sunday

Day two of HRH C.R.O.W.S. was a pretty different day in many ways. For me the day flowed by at a much quicker pace. I think that's because most of the bands had a much more high-energy and looser feel to them. Also I think the crowd was a lot better overall so the general atmosphere was better. Like I said in the last blog there wasn't a weak band all weekend and this Sunday line up was a pure force of nature. Once again, there were a few bands, and artists, that I was already familiar with and also I discovered some incredible acts alongside them as well. This is the true magic of a festival like this. There's so much variety even within this small niche, which makes finding something new, fun and accessible at the same time. Also I had to buy my ticket for next year right there and then, it just felt right especially with the announcement of next year's line up.

I started my day on the "Unplugged" stage, which was a little exclusive performance for the Royalty only ticket holders. These were some short acoustic sets that really show off the artist's ability to keep their music simple and pure. I've always said "when it comes to showing soul in to song-writing, the simpler it is, the better it is". First up on the stage was two members of, Stonewire. They delivered a solid performance and were streaming it live for their Facebook fans. I was truly blown away the soulful and beautiful songs filled the room and you could really feel the passion they had for their music. Vocalist, Sky Hunter delivered an incredible performance. She has one of those voices that really hits you and her stage presence screams, pay attention to me. They had a great command of the stage and connected with the fans, with their down to earth personalities. Whilst on stage they performed a new song, "Raindance". It's so new they'd only just finished writing the lyrics recently. The crowd ate it up and were ready for their main stage set later on. Definitely a solid band with a fantastic sense of presence, amazing vocals and the backing vocals and guitar just added depth. Sadly I had to miss their full band performance as I watching other things but I'm glad I spent this time with them.

I'd heard a lot about, Elles Bailey even before coming to the festival. She's been pegged to me as someone that I needed to listen to. Well, her reputation certainly precedes her. Although I only saw this short set, she won me over in a heartbeat. She just owned the stage and the crowd cheered and hollered at all of the right moments. Her voice was beautiful to listen to, just this smooth and well toned voice that has so much character to it. She connected with the crowd in a wonderful way, having a laugh as she shared personal stories that explained the meaning behind her songs. She had so much charisma and came across in as genuine, you couldn't help but love the set. The highlight of the Unplugged stage came when  Zack Logan joined her on stage to sing John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery", which was a wonderful moment of the weekend. Their vocals were a great match and harmonised really well. Speaking of which, Zack Logan took to the stage next. This was a no nonsense, straight forward country set and Zack was excellent in this intimate environment. I genuinely wanted to listen to more with every second. His music had a very sincere quality to it, songs like "Raised By Wolves" & "Analee" were particular favourites of mine. His fingers moved up and down the frets in a hypnotic fashion and he produced many enjoyable melodies. He seemed genuinely humbled by the UK crowd and came across as a nice person to be around. It was a great way to start the day before everything kicked into gear with the hard rock.

Heading downstairs to main-stage, Gorilla Riot were just starting up. Overall, it was a pretty good set, a little slow to start but it picked up over time. The set was filled with good riffs and lots of solid guitar, bass and drum work. Once the room filled out a bit and there was a little more atmosphere in the room they really kicked into high gear. A decent mix of old and new songs with the band in full rock 'n' roll mode was a good way to keep the energy in the room. Although they didn't give much in terms of crowd interaction, they made up for that by pumping out song after song and not giving the audience much time to catch their collective breath. A solid opener that didn't hold back and showed the Sheffield crowd what they're all about. After which, I went back to second stage, to catch the very end of the set from The Nile Deltas. A pretty fun band with lots of energy and hype. Working that crunchy southern rock tone they had the smaller crowd rocking away. I can only describe their sound as kind of that old trucker style southern music with lots of chugging guitar and bass. In all honesty, it sounds like a good band to drive along to. Their energy was just infectious and the crowd created an excellent atmosphere as they met the performers in their energy beat for beat. A corking band that delivers on the riffs and tone and I hope I get to see them again. Next time... the whole set.

I stuck around second stage for, Thirteen Stars and what a show they put on. Genuinely, this was one of my favourite sets all weekend long. The swinging bluesy tone coupled with the sweeping melodies, the songs are just ones that just stick with you. The band had excellent stage presence and a created a great atmosphere for the crowd, welcoming to fans and new-comers alike. Adding to that the had a playful sense of humour that I enjoyed, with comedic banter and whitey retorts to the crowd. It's really the little things that make for a great set. Their music was excellent, a nice blend of southern rock and outlaw country. If you're into your soulful sounding, rock tunes then you really should check them out. Their set-list seemed to be mostly filled with tracks off of their album "The White Raven", as it was the album they brought up the most. They also played a new song dedicated to the memory of Tom Petty called "Running So Long" which sounded nice and definitely earned the cheers of the crowd. All in all, I absolutely loved this set. Great riffs and solid solos with a wonderful personality and charisma. These guys won me over with a excellent set.

Wondering back downstairs to main-stage where, Western Sand were just kicking off. That heavy, chugging sound returns again this weekend and although the crowd was a little thin  to start the atmosphere was still there. Yes, the crowd did pick up and get bigger throughout. They really have this big sound that's easy to listen to and they play with so much passion, it's hard not to get swept up in it. They had a solid mix of old and newer songs, all of which all packed a punch. Lead vocalist, Tyler Haines looked like he was having the time of he life. You couldn't wipe that grin off of his face to save your life, which is great to see in performers. The thick toned riffs kept coming out, as the set had a decent mix of old and new material. The solo's were wild and the bass and drum work kept the pace of the set steady. Giving that massive stadium rock sound to the academy size venue. A brilliant set, not at all hampered by Tyler's guitar strap coming off towards the end. Yes, it's been a while since I've last seen them live and I hope I don't have to wait as long to see them again.

After a bit of a break, next to hit the stage was the American blues rocker, Jared James Nichols. Man, the guy just has that 'it' factor. He is a superstar and his fans love him, well... according to the screams from the crowd as he got on stage. Nichols was just a force of nature in his set, blasting out song after song, riff after riff and solo after solo. The audience ate up every single moment of the show boating and groovy fun from all three members of the band. I really like Jared's approach to playing, it feels like a boy whose just got home from school and all he wants to do is shred his guitar. As he finger-picks and head-bangs away. Backing him up, his bassist, Greg Cash and his drummer, Dennis Holm were more than capable of keeping pace as Jared became a madman on guitar. Greg and Dennis getting their own bass and drum solo in, respectively. Songs like, "End of Time" got a big pop from the crowd as people were singing and moshing along. Ending on cover of "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain and you have a recipe for one hell of a set. Jared blew the roof off of the place and the day was nowhere near close to finished.

So, all through the weekend I'd been seeing their t-shirts and other merch and now it was finally time for Broken Witt Rebels. An interesting band to say the least and they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Honestly, the live production was fabulous with every member coming through crystal clear with a powerful vocal performance from vocalist, Danny Core. I will say, that I wasn't crazy with the synth-drums mixed in with the live drums, it just didn't work for me. Yet that was only a small part of the show but I still thought it was worth mentioning. The band felt more rhythm and melody focused rather than the riff and solo style that we've heard for most of the weekend. Which was a nice change and it sounded really pleasant to the ear. Don't get me wrong they still had their fair share of riffs and solos, but it didn't feel as much of a priority to them. Their music filled the venue with bright and fun tunes. They also had their slow moments that had a great sense of atmosphere. They conducted themselves very well and came across like true showmen. A very good show indeed with lots of good melodies to keep you singing.

Finally we were finishing the day and the final act was no slouch either, capping off and excellent weekend was The Devon Allman Project, bringing his fine blend of slick guitar solos and southern rock charm to the weekend. Co-opting some Caribbean funk and sweeping rhythm n blues to add flavour to the set. Like his father Gregg Allman, Devon is fun and smooth on the guitar and makes it look truly effortless. Mixing a classic set list with some modern tunes, the whole band just had an awesome stage presence that everyone could recognise. A few songs in Devon introduce special guest for the crowd, in the form of the excellent Mr Duane Betts. Between the two of them they have the repertoire and talent to make one hell of a show. The set-list was a great mix of classic and modern tunes from both Devon and Duane, in one package that is really digestible. They were accompanied by a backing band of super talented musicians who created a rich and full sound that worked so well to close off this amazing weekend.

This was a great weekend of proper outlaw rock. I can't say this enough but I loved all of the music from the weekend. From the smaller bands just breaking out to the seasoned veterans and everything in between, the festival was filled a diverse array of great southern rock and outlaw country. I felt that the division of stages was good for the amount of talent and there wasn't too much in the way of clashes. Hard Rock Hell have once again launched a weekend that is inclusive, fun and filled with great music. I've already decided that I'm going next year and with the line up they've got, I would urge you to join me.

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