United Kingdom | 11 August 2009
The 23rd Bulldog Bash is a festival in its prime, one still able to rock your socks off, writes Helen Giles.
Overall - 8/10
This year’s Hell’s Angel’s festival undoubtedly provided mind-blowing music and fantastic entertainment to create what has to be the best biker event in the world. Over 23,000 people attended the event hosted in the isolated countryside of Stratford-upon-Avon, which wasn’t kept quiet for long! The screeching of the drag racing motorbikes combined with the distorted guitar riffs coming from both of the music tents was enough to deafen anyone.
Visitors of the festival fried in the unusual August afternoon heat, which proved to be a nice change from the torrential rain the night before, creating a swamp-like setting for the gathering.
A lot of the visitors at the event only seemed to attend the Saturday of the festival and what a day to attend. It was without a doubt that Motorhead’s comeback would be the ultimate highlight of the weekend, packing the entire main tent which, until an hour before they were due to perform, was surprisingly empty. The racing on the drag strip even got into the record books, with some terrifyingly fast speeds on the racetrack, putting everyone in high spirits and ready for celebration. Not even the presence of the police could dampen the mood of visitors.
Getting there and back - 4/10
The road route to the event is very straightforward and the site is easy to find with the help of sat nav or a route planner. Considering that a lot of the people attending would be travelling by road on motorcycles, there were no signs to navigate the riders to the event and the only indication that you were nearby were the “Police – SLOW” and “Beware – Bikers” signs, about half a mile from the venue.
Unless those wanting to attend own a car or motorcycle, it would be pretty impossible to get to this site. The closest train station is approximately three miles away, with no organised shuttle buses and no coach or bus stations nearby. This was causing problems for the youngsters as they had no other choice than to wait to be picked up or do the long trek to the train station with their belongings.
The site - 8/10
The site itself seemed very small, too small to hold so many people. But looks can be deceiving; as the venue seemed to have everything compacted into this tiny space. Stalls provided everything you could possibly for the weekend, as well as local businesses selling their products.
The two tents hosted more than great music – wrestling and exotic dancers were among some of the entertainment that was performed in the Main tent, and the Dance/Area 81 rock tent continued to entertain the bike enthusiasts until the early hours of the morning (and probably the people trying to sleep in the campsite next door!). The drag strip provided us with amazing stunts from the likes of Terry Grant and The Starboys (stunt motorcycle riders), as well as a few new records from the drag racing.
It is also safe to say that after Thursday’s torrential rain, the ground resembled a swamp for the rest of the weekend, with mud creeping in through the music tents and causing a few minor problems. Although the mud was in massive amounts, it didn’t seem to bother anyone and even added to the fun of the weekend.
Atmosphere - 9/10
For a first-timer attending the Bulldog Bash, the prospect can seem a bit daunting, what with the reputation of the Hell’s Angels that famously organise this annual event. But I don’t think there could have been a more welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Some bikers had even travelled from all over the world to attend this reunion of old friends and new recruits to the different biker groups – it was almost like a biker’s holiday!
It was also so relaxed that people didn’t seem to care that a lot of the entertainment over the weekend was delayed. It did annoy a lot of people that the police would be attending this event, after trying to stop the go-ahead, but it was like they weren’t even present and the Bulldog’s own brilliant security made everyone feel more comfortable and at ease.
There were also plenty of activities to keep the children entertained, such as the quad-biking and massive inflatable slides along with face painting. The wrestling on the Sunday proved to be a big hit with the youngsters, with them shouting at the contenders and getting involved.
Motorhead - 9/10
“We are Motorhead, and we play rock and f***ing roll!” And that is exactly what the world’s greatest rock band did. The sea of leather-clad bikers in the crowd went hysterical to classic hits such as ‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘In The Name Of Tragedy’. The drummer astounded the crowd with 10-minute drum solos that made your jaw drop and there is not much else to say about the ever charismatic Lemmy and the crew, just that they were the perfect band to end this fantastic weekend.
Never The Bride - 9/10
This five-piece rock band looked like your average, old rock and roll band and at first didn’t stick out from the rest of the performances that evening. That is, until singer Nikki Lambourn opened her mouth, displaying the most fantastic female rock vocals that have been heard in years, up there with the great Janis Joplin. The band behind her kept the music simple and uncomplicated, complementing Lambourn’s vocals. It definitely had to be one of the surprise highlights of the weekend.
Metallica UK - 8/10
This tribute to one of the greatest metal bands of all time certainly did a brilliant job at portraying their classic work. The fast-paced, distorted tones of the electric guitars blew the crowd away, along with their lengthy guitar solos and heavy, bassy drum patterns. Iconic songs such as ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Master Of Puppets’ were performed, that got the crowd on their feet and screaming along. The band themselves even managed to make these cover sounds sound unique, keeping the sound up to date and proving to the Bulldog audience what fantastic musicians they are.
Nico’s Alchemy - 8/10
The passion and the emotion that could be seen in the guitarist’s performance as he eased the audience into the set was absolutely breathtaking. You could definitely hear influences of blues and soul in the musicians creations, although it was clear that they were heavily rock and roll orientated. As they blast into ‘It’s Enough’, the crowd are on their feet sharing the band’s emotion and jumping to the heavy backbeats from the kick drum. The band was definitely incomparable to any other band seen before, although at times the stage presence of the band did come across as slightly cheesy.
The Quails - 8/10
The organisers of the Bulldog Bash are definitely full of surprises, as this indie five-piece didn’t seem to fit in with the other bands on the Saturday line-up at all. Saying that, The Quails provided a nice break from the screaming heavy metal and gave the crowd something slightly mellower. It is uncanny how the singer’s vocals sounded almost identical to the vocalist from the Kooks, and how their set was heavily influenced by bands such as The Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand. The songs played had catchy hook lines that stuck in your head for days to come. It is a shame, as I thought the band was fantastic, but they just didn’t fit in with the line up of that night. Definitely a band that would fit into place at something like V Festival.
You could get everything you could possibly need from the stalls; you needn’t have brought anything with you!
The prices of the food and drink (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were set at reasonable rates, especially the bar prices as they seemed to be cheaper than a pub!
There were not enough rubbish bins around the venue; therefore rubbish was being thrown everywhere, making the place look untidy and attracting swarms of wasps that proved very annoying over the weekend.
By Helen Giles
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