Stonedead festival may not be that familiar to you. However, believe me, it soon will be. A small festival based at Newark showgrounds in the East of England its origins have roots in a different era. Growing up as a young rock fan in the eighties and nineties the highlight of my year was the traditional annual pilgrimage to attend the Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donington. Several other festival attendees of those events got together and decided to put on their own event in line with the very ethos that was at the heart of the legendary Monsters but without the capitalist monetization of modern-day festivals.
From such an overly ambitious dream Stonedead was formed. Due to varying circumstances, I was unable to attend in previous years. However, this year I managed to finally get sufficiently organised to pack up my old Monsters of Rock T-Shirts and camping gear and travel down. Arriving just before lunchtime on Friday initially what impressed us at the outset was the genuine friendly nature of all the staff volunteers we met, as we sorted out passes and directions, and who gave us advice. The early arrival also allowed us to have a full orientation of the site itself including the media area, and arena.
The smaller capacity of the event allowed quick and easy movement between the main stage, camping, and all the facilities. This immediately stood out against all other festivals I had personally attended over the years where you nearly have to embark on a pre-festival fitness regime in order to be fit enough to survive it with all the subsequent walking around. Stonedead is billed as a one-day event in line with those original Monsters events. This allows the organisers to have that as a primary focus and objective and to subsequently devote all their energies and limited resources to ensure that their customers have the best day out possible. However, in recent years they have added a Friday night gathering or a pre-show party as a thank-you for people that have booked early camping. This year in the Friday event we had three bands – Revival Black, Massive and Black Spiders to get the rock and roll ball rolling.
I don’t have enough time here to highlight all the problems that the organisers had to battle against and overcome with last year’s event. Suffice it to say that with a positive focus, drive, and direction they survived to continue and improve the festival making it even better than in previous years. Many of the festival goers that I spoke to said that the event has grown from strength to strength every year it’s been in existence. It’s a testament to the very nature at the heart of the event that the festival goers can call the organisers personal friends. Compare that to other large corporate events where the event organisers remain aloof from their customers as they are driven purely by finance, targets, and profits.
The only element of doubt with a UK summer festival out of the hands of the organisers is the weather itself. Fortunately, however, the gods were smiling, and we experienced sunny and dry conditions over the entire weekend. Another praiseworthy feature of the event was the actual media area itself. Many festivals tend to fall short in looking after their media representatives over the course of the event. Suffice it to say that in a wide and varied supply of food and drinks Stonedead organisers came up trumps in satisfying and sustaining us over the course of the event weekend.
The musical line-up was a perfect balanced mix of the old and the new. Established rock legends like Michael Schenker and Adrian Vandenberg shared the same stage as rising stars like Those Damn Crows, Stone Broken, and These Wicked Rivers. The stage sound was excellent, people were friendly, great well priced selection of food and drink outlets and the weather was ideal. The addition of the signing tent also allowed me to tick a personal box of achievement. It allowed me to finally meet guitar legend Adrian Vandenberg – a man who I had previously interviewed three times but never actually met face-face. My weekend was just topped with his own personal graciousness as he chatted with me a Whitesnake obsessive fan and signed some items.
My only concluding criticism is that it’s too far away from next year’s event. It should be held more frequently. Stonedead festival symbolises everything that I have loved about the rock music genre since the eighties. Long may it continue and I definitely will be returning next year.
All photos by Izzy Clayton