As though putting on an annual classic rock festival at the top of a Welsh mountain wasn’t genius enough, the guys at Steelhouse have hit upon the brilliant idea of hosting an away day four months after everyone has come down from the musical and literal high of Aberbeeg, Ebbw Vale. Cleverly, this gives the audience a chance to catch up on some of the excellent bands who may have been a little further down on the festival billing, and make some announcements about Steelhouse Festival 2024 – check out their socials for info on Bernie (Marsden) Fest Friday.
First up, and nearly stealing the show, were London’s The Karma Effect. Henry Gottelier’s rock god vocals filled the Tramshed, effortlessly soaring at extreme highs without ever showing signs of strain. Probably the band most ‘70s rock’ in style, The Karma Effect write songs with memorable, melodic choruses, blistering guitar solos and full, five-piece arrangements. This is a band well worth following for album releases and live work: seriously impressive.
Dan Byrne was introduced by Steelhouse’s own Mikey Evans, who told the audience just how much he believes in the now-defunct Revival Black frontman. If Dave Grohl is, as many claim, the nicest guy in rock then Dan Byrne is definitely the sweetest. There’s no denying that he has the vocal chops to front any band and his songs and style are solid, but it is Byrne’s personality that wins over the audience.
Songs from his new EP are performed with gratitude and his love for his Welsh fans is shown throughout. But what is more striking is the love shown to him by his excellent, and distinctly more senior, band. At the end of the Revival Black song Hemispheres, the entire band pointed at Byrne in the centre, applauding and showing their belief in their frontman; anyone who can command that sort of respect and support by simply being a nice guy is going to go far.
The exceptional slide guitar shredder Troy Redfern took to the stage next with a different lineup from his performance in Steelhouse. Keira Kenworthy was a welcome addition on bass – not only laying down some excellent low end grooves but also providing some sweet high-end harmonies – while Redfern himself was as impressive as ever: open-tuning slide work, tempo-shifting longform jams and charismatic stage presence. His set is perhaps better suited to the open-air atmosphere of a festival set, or a longer headline slot, but his raw talent and well-honed performance were well displayed.
Headliner Kira Mac certainly had a lot to live up to after three such impressive acts. After braving the worst of the weather at last July’s festival it was great to hear Rhiannon Kira Hill’s voice without the wind whipping it away: her joyful stage persona is infectious, full of smiles and northern charm. With a rise to a new high, in terms of gig bookings and Spotify streams, the band perform with the pleasure of friends who can’t quite believe where they are and what they’re doing. But with tracks as strong as Mississippi Swinging and Dead Man Walking being bellowed out by the audience it’s no wonder they are where they are. With now only three musicians backing Rhi’s vocals, the band actually sound tighter and rawer than before and produced a set that brought the whole, rock-loving audience together in vibe and voice.
Steelhouse Away Day IV, Tramshed, Cardiff, Fri 10 Nov
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES photos DARREN GRIFFITHS