The day always starts very early at the fest and I got to the Arena at 11.45 am in time to check the first band Nitroville at 12pm sharp. To my surprise and actual delight, the free stage or Orange Amp stage was built outside the main Arena foyer. This was a welcome change as the early comers get to see the early bands with a proper outdoor festival feel.
The lady fronted Nitroville were pretty solid. I actually thought they were going to be a bit better than they ended up being. When I heard them on youtube I thought they were going to be more up my street than they ended up being if you catch my drift.
After they finished I milled around for a while and waited for Killit. I really enjoyed this band. They had great heavy riffs and decent song writing. Really really good rocking stuff and a cool chick guitarist. Good solid, rocking metal all round.
Meanwhile inside the Indigo, two bands had already played. namely Pete Spiby and The Beats Alls and The Picturebooks. Like...who??? Can't see every band so these guys got the heave ho.
My first visit inside the Indigo resulted in catching about 2 song from rousing rock 'n rollers Triggerfinger who it turns out are from Belgium of all places. They were like a heavy rock 'n roll band from the two songs I heard. Not bad and a few people dancing including a group of three ladies doing flower power style dancing. Nice!
There was a technical issue with one of the amps so Anchor Lane got held up until they borrowed an amp from one of the other bands. Finally the very young looking Scots started up with their heavily bluesed up fuzz rock. Not bad at all, though it's not really my style. Nice grooves and plenty of funky riffs.
Next I went inside for a ponder at the many stalls and then back out for Dirty Thrills. They were easily the sexiest and grooviest rock band of the day. The singer had some suave moves and their riffing and bluesy style was totally in keeping with the other bands. Quite fun indeed.
A quick visit inside the Indigo to catch around three songs from alt rockers Warrior Soul followed although their material sounded very samey. Not my thing at all. It has energy but lacks hooks from what I heard.
Another trip outside to watch Daxx and Roxane who followed in the style of all the bands in the Orange Amp Stage being very rock n' roll and in the AC/DC mould. Quite good but very derivative. Still fun to watch with a beer in your hand and nodding along.
Finally it was time to fill up the belly with a burger and fries at exorbitant O2 prices.
After a belly full of grub it was time to check out the UK's premier Nickelback copy band, namely Stone Broken. They were OK but Not that great to be honest. I enjoy them on record though and they'll have better live days for sure.
After that It was time for the proceedings to end outside the main hall with the stoner groove machine Orange Goblin laying waste. Never really been into this band but they have some nice grooves going and a raucous front man in Ben Ward. That guy is a big bear of a man and commands the stage and the crowd to get going. I guess they are used to a more energetic crowd but don't forget Stone Free is an old man's fest in the main. We don't get 'going' so to speak! The Goblin were pretty decent though again their material suffers from being samey live with no discernible difference song to song. Anyway good energy by the Goblin lads.
Time to look at the stalls a little more as I missed the final act on the outside stage. A chap by the name of Aaron Buchanan. He actually sounded quite good from what I heard on youtube but I missed him live.
Next up were Buckcherry inside the main arena. Second time seeing these guys. Not bad but not a band that makes me wanna jump around and go ape. Guns n Roses lite is the theme pretty much. Not bad but it's all about the two main bands for me, though I've heard worse than Buckcherry of course. Plus the arena was pretty empty for them which I'm sure disappointed them a little.
Next up were thrash titans Megadeth. Everyone who knows me, knows Megadeth is a huge deal for me and I've seen them double figures by now since when I first saw them back in '95. I was looking forward to their set and boy did they not disappoint. Some of the recent videos that I saw of live performances were slightly iffy but all my fears were unjustified. Dave and the boys were on shit hot form from the word go.
Hanger 18 is such a fantastic opener and gets the crowd quickly pumped it's such an old favourite. A great tempo and a great chorus and superb solos by both Dave and Kiko. Then we launch straight into the pounder from Dystopia, The Threat Is Real and before long we go into full thrash mode with Rattlehead for the old school headbangers.
Dave hasn't said a single word from the stage as of yet. Heads are down and guitars are being thrashed like there's no tomorrow. And so it continues with the headbang-alicious Wake Up Dead. Slightly slower but so anthemic with a big singalong for the crowd. Especially the superb stomping riffs at the end. "You die! Wake up dead! You die! Wake up dead!"
Finally we slow it down with the classic In My Darkest Hour. The slow building classic is just as good as ever it must be said and builds into an inferno of a thrash classic. Megafans have been loving that for decades. I should add whilst Dave won't win any awards at all for his vocals they were actually ok for someone who can't technically sing. The band was tight as hell as you'd suspect.
Special mention for Dirk on the drums. The guy fits in Megadeth like a glove and to me sounds like a better fit that Chris Adler.
Finally Dave spoke after IMDH and introduced the next song by saying they haven't played it in 18 years. So we weer wondering what it could be...hmmm. Bloody hell it's The friggin' Conjuring! Dave said he's never gonna play this song live ever again 'cause of it's satanic lyrics but maybe Junior persuaded him or he finally listened to fan clamour for the tune. I must admit it's actually not a huge fave of mine but it was so bloody cool to hear it live. I even remembered the lyrics enough to sing a long to most of it. Of all the Satan influenced Megasongs I would have preferred Bad Omen or Good Mourning/Black Friday but The Conjuring was a great and huge surprise.
The next songs in the set or all must haves really. I guess Sweating Bullets can be dropped but people still love it as do I. The next two were just mandatory tracks which I doubt have ever not been played by Dave and co. Namely Take No Prisoners and the mammoth Tornado of Souls. The performance on that was incendiary. Awesome solos by Kiko. Guy's already a mega-legend
Hangar 18 mk2 followed aka Dystopia which was great followed by fan fave Symphony of Destruction to change the pace a little. I love Symphony even though I've heard it a gazillion times. Dropping in This Was My Life or Countdown to Extinction here would have been nice but next time eh lads.
Mechanix followed which personally I am not a huge fan of. This was a very thrash-centric leaning set and I guess Mechanix fitted well. I wouldn't have minded to hear say something more melodic from Youthanasia. You know drop Reckoning Day in there or something to really throw a curve ball at us. But the set like I said was geared purely at ripping your head off with full on Megathrash.
The main set ended with the anthem Peace Sells with full crowd singalong. As usual the song was introduced by Junior playing the opening bass riff to great acclaim from the packed floor. Dave admonished the crowd for doing a half hearted chorus first time round so the second time people gave it their all for the chorus hehe.
Off they went and of course the one and only set closer Holy Wars followed. So friggin' tight as Dave says this is Holy wars and all hell pretty much breaks loose. Great and only way to end a killer set. Best Megadeth line up since the classic RIP no doubt and band still sounds hot as hell.
The Threat Is Real
Wake Up Dead
In My Darkest Hour
Take No Prisoners
Tornado of Souls
Symphony of Destruction
Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
Finally a bit later than the advertised stage the German legends and Stalwarts, Scorpions took their spots and launched into the big single off their most recent album, Going Out With A Bang. This is my first and almost certainly last time seeing the Scorps. I'll happily admit I actually don't know a lot of the old Scorps classics apart from the odd well known classic of course. But the thing is when you hear a Scorps song it sort of feels like a long lost old friend so you welcome it without much persuasion.
Their set continued with both regular songs and also a medley of songs. Notable stand outs to me were Steamrock Fever and The Zoo.
I also enjoyed the newish song We Built This House. I love that song. Their most famous song soon followed. get your lighters or phones out people it's Wind of Change. It's still a wonderfully whimsical song and people still love it. I'll say a few words about the band. They are all experts at their craft after doing this for decades. Klaus is 70 now and has quite a fair bit of his power it has to be said and he does look quite fragile on stage, but he's still got a great high pitched tone to his singing although his accent is a bit iffy sometimes hehe!
Special mention for Mikkey Dee. He's a real powerhouse drummer and I can't help thinking he could still be drumming in a far harder edged band than Scorpions. His drum solo was immense. Apparently he persuaded Klaus to have a go at doing a Motorhead and they have a decent bash at doing Overkill but the vocals lack the roughness and power required in my opinion.
Last two songs were huge sing along affairs being Blackout and Big City Nights. The singing and dancing got a bit more energetic let's say hehe!
The band went off and returned for the encore of Still Loving You the ballad with full sing along by the crowd and then the band's most famous and final song of the night Rock You Like A Hurricane. I think literally everyone was singing the chorus on that one as the Stone Free Fest came to a close.
Final thoughts - As usual a seriously fun day of music. Megadeth took the honours but it was good to see ancient rockers Scorpions before they keel over! Keep rocking Klaus and co!
I went to the aftershow party and that was a lot of fun. This cover band called Shot through The Heart played 80s rock covers and it was a really fun way to end the night with another hour of music. You buy a beer, put your fist up and sing Bon Jovi, Kiss, Motley crue and Journey songs like a proper rocker. Not that I had any voice left by then!
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
Is There Anybody There?
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy's Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
(with Ingo Powitzer)
Follow Your Heart / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Tease Me Please Me
(by Mikkey Dee)
Big City Nights
Still Loving You
(followed by a capella snippet of "Holiday")
Rock You Like a Hurricane