Little did I know, but I actually won tickets! The prize was for 6 people, with reduced price accommodation for all the nights. It turned out to be quite difficult to get other people to take the spare tickets due to either not being interested in the bands or various other commitments. In the end I got two other people to join us, one of them a friend of mine from my local Animal Aid group who has been a few times before and was also happy to drive us up there as long as we were happy to contribute to petrol costs. We were lucky enough to only pay £100 each for the four nights on site.
I had no idea what accommodation we would get, or what it would be like, especially as my friend Maria was telling me that the accommodation on a previous year was really bad, but they had actually changed camp site from previous years. As it turned out, we were lucky enough to have a chalet as opposed to a caravan and it turned out to be pretty nice- it had heating in all the rooms, a shower, and a basic but workable kitchen- for us it was amazing as the only festivals we'd been to in the past have been camping- so this was real luxury! The site was at a Havens - the Hafan Y Mor site in North Wales. It took us forever to get there- probably about 7 hours- and the tiny roads in the mountains looked rather intimidating in the dark! It really felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. The site happened to be right near the beach, it was a short walk to a fantastic view of the sea (with Snowdonia in the backdrop)! and fields full of sheep right next to it!
the kitchen in the chalet
view of the sea and mountains
The actual campsite was fairly large with plenty of chalets and caravans available, but it was only a short walk for us to get to the main festival location. There were two indoor stages right opposite from each other so you could easily go from one to the other. The first stage was pretty huge with just a few bars and a chippy and Burger King at the back. The second stage was also large but there was a 'metal market' in there also with loads of stalls with lots of things, like handmade jewellery music, clothes and other bits and bobs and most of the prices were pretty reasonable too- I got some handmade earrings for £5 and also got given a African bloodstone by the lady running the stall who was a psychic wiccan. There were also more bars and just next door there was a Starbucks where they had some acoustic and signing sessions- we tried to watch one acoustic session but it was so small we couldn't get in. There was also a restaurant on site but each time we went there was no vegan food and on Sunday they didn't even have a vegetarian option. Luckily we had brought some of our own food along but we did have chips from the chip shop several times! There was also a few Spar shops so we could easily buy some groceries and basics if needed.
Anyway onto the music- from the perspective of my show this review/blog will be about the female side of the festival. I looked up all the bands before we left and made an effort to watch all the bands that I knew of which were female fronted.
Thursday night was the fancy dressed themed 'Gunslingers Ball' as we had travelled for so long we arrived quite late anyway, but there were no female fronted bands playing that day and the bands we saw were very 80's style cock rock and not very good. I was a bit worried this might mean I wouldn't enjoy the rest of the festival that much.
Friday was a different story. The first band we watched properly were Ajenda, an Irish band led by small pixie like Jen- but with an amazing rock Goddess like voice. Big riffs, melody you can dance to and a lively performance despite being on fairly early in the day.
Second female artist of the day was Dante Fox. Quite different from Ajenda, Dante Fox has more of an 80's AOR rock feel- a bit like the more commercial side of Heart. She seemed to have a few hardcore fans down the front with us but there were some hecklers- I felt like she coped well with it though- joking about being in a cold caravan, and also saying stuff like "you know I wrote these guys guitar riffs..." We got a drumstick and a copy of the setlist at the end too.
The final female fronted band and the final band of the day on Friday were Die So Fluid. Now I was vaguely familiar with the band enough to know I would like them- but watching them made me ashamed that I don't own any of their albums as I completely fell in love with their awesome slightly metal tinged hard rock and Grog's great voice. They were the absolute highlight of the weekend for me. The crowd went wild for them and it was great that was the case as they were competing with Sebastian Bach on the main stage.
Saturday we saw my second favourite of the weekend Domenica, who get an extra special shout out for having TWO girls in the band! For some reason I was expecting something along the lines of Doro- but I was totally wrong. More awesome hard rock with a tinge of grunge influence.
Second female fronted band of Saturday's line up were Spiders who are very much in the vein of 70's style rock in the same vein as Led Zeppelin. I wish I hadn't been feeling tired when they came on as their set was a bit short but really awesome and I think I could get to really like this band.
On Sunday, there was a line up change that I wasn't aware of, so sadly we only caught a small portion of the last song of The Amorettes, a Scottish all female band who sounded really great- very much like The Donnas- pure straight up rock n roll.
The final female fronted band of the weekend were Kobra and the Lotus who almost like Iron Maiden- if they had a female singer and were a bit heavier-yes they were very much metal. Funny enough they even played a cover of 'The Wicker Man'' by Iron Maiden. Even though I'm not too fond of metal myself, I found the singer incredibly likeable, she looked like she was having the best time on stage, throwing the horns right back at the crowd who loved her as much as she loved them.
There was also a performance group going around all weekend called Area 51, either on stilts with various costumes and some ladies who danced and could BREATHE FIRE!! When I saw these ladies come out in very little clothing during Bonafide, at first I thought it was all a bit rock n roll cliché but then when they started breathing fire I got a whole other level of respect for them!
Overall the festival was not as male dominated as I had expected it to be, there were rock fans of all ages and the gender divide was pretty even. The attitude was good too, there seemed to be no trouble at all and I always felt safe- even in the front row by the barrier. Some people may think it's a bit rubbish if there was no mosh pit, but for me I want to go to a gig and be able to dance without the fear of getting trod on or beaten up, everyone was having a great time dancing or head banging but it was all happy and not angry!
I suprised myself- it was the best festival I've ever been to- so well organised and friendly. All I would chane is the time of year it's on and to have vegan food available on the site. There were many other highlights like feeding the ducks in the pond, catching a Buckcherry pick and singing loudly to Ugly Kid Joe's "Everything About You" but for now I say Rock on and hopefully see you at the barrier next year Hard Rock Hell!
Majority of photos taken by Miguel :)