There was one event that somehow Team CB had never quite managed to fit into the summer festival schedule for one reason or another. Well we made an extra special effort in 2014 to get ourselves along to the Classic Grand in Glasgow for the 5th installment of the Highway To Hell.
For those of you who don’t know about HTH, it’s a competition which sees a load of bands playing over two days for the chance to win a slot at Hard Rock Hell or Hammerfest, with the winners receiving the extra bonus of a worldwide recording contract.
It’s a prize worth having then.
The format for the gig is fairly straightforward, bands get 20 minutes to blast out three of their own songs and one cover version, and the fans in attendance vote for their favourite. Nice and simple, even the drunkest metalhead could manage it…
The Hard Rock Hell family are a close knit one, and it’s always great to go to a gig where pretty much everyone knows everyone else, even if in this case we weren’t familiar with (Journo-speak for “never heard of”) most of the bands on the bill. It’s nice to go into something like this blind though, sets you up for some awesome surprises.
So the stage times were set, the bands were ready and the alcohol was flowing.
Let’s do this…
The 5th cycle of Highway To Hell was kicked off by Beautiful Strangers who had made the epic journey to Glasgow from South Wales (as had a good many of their competition on the bill, what is it with Wales and great bands at the moment ?). The opening slot at these things is always a challenging one, especially as people get progressively more drunk as the night goes on and forget who to vote for. The Midnight Dogs were next up, and if there was a prize for the band who looked most happy to be there then it was them. As HTH virgins we weren’t quite sure what the standard of bands would be like, but even two bands in it was obvious this was going to be a close competition.
After a couple of good opening bands, it was down to deadaudiosaints to kick things up a gear or two. Each band on the bill had to play one cover version, and deadaudiosaints grabbed the opportunity to throw in a bit of Lady Gaga. Cue lots of drunken shape throwing on the dancefloor.
Hellion Rising had brought a load of folk up from Newcastle with them, and the atmosphere during their set was just about the most mental that it got all night. This is a band that undeniably have that elusive “something” about them, and it was clear that they were going to take some beating in the popular vote.
The young ladies of Lyxx certainly grabbed everyone’s attention, not least with one of the more inspired cover versions of the weekend. In a room full of, erm, slightly more mature rock and metal fans you can’t go far wrong with a bona fide classic, and their raucous blast through We’re Not Gonna Take It that went down an absolute storm.
But the less said about the horse stealing incident that happened later on the better…
At the end of the night we had a tough decision to make about who our band of the day was. I mean it was obviously going to be deadaudiosaints for us, but that was until we encountered the awesome good old Thrash from Die No More who we’d heard a lot of good things about. As it turned out these were entirely deserved and I fear that the high incidence of neck injuries at HTHV was largely down to these guys.
The evening’s competition was finished off by The Deadhearts and Black Star Bullet,
The live music wasn’t finished though, at HTH a secret guest slot brings the days proceedings to a close, and we had no complaints when The Amorettes arrived on stage to beat whatever energy was left out of the mostly very drunk crowd. We last saw these ladies at Bloodstock, but here we get them in their natural element and it was just brilliant.
I know they aren’t actually part of the competition, but The Amorettes were the band of the day for us.
Hard and Heavy, what’s not to love ?
The Sunday started in a fuzz of hangovers, recaps of what had gone on the night before and tales of a stolen plastic horse. HTH will forevermore be known as the year of said imitation equine. I have no idea where it came from, or where it ended up but just about everyone had their photo taken with it at some point or another.
The job of blowing away the brainfog went to Geordies Great Man Theory, who we missed because of aforementioned hangovers, and trying to find a parking space in central Glasgow because some idiot (me) had decided it was a good idea to drive in. Luckily we were there in time to catch rockers The Starling Radicals who got our day off to the best possible start. Tight, melodic and very Welsh, add these guys to your “must see” list.
A lot of the bands we’d seen over the course of the weekend were ideally suited to playing Hard Rock Hell, but there was no one yet from the more br00tal end of the metal spectrum, well that was until the intense barrage that is The 8th Bridge hit the stage. This is a band for anyone in the market for some classic heavy riffs delivered with oodles of power and passion, You know that “if band A and band B had a baby it would sound like this” cliche ? Well if Band A = Metallica and Band B = Pantera then you get the idea.
If they’d covered Walk they’d probably have won 🙂
Something a bit different to the angry man metal next, Heartbreak Remedy knew exactly how to win the hearts and minds of the HTH faithful. Come on stage, open with Born To Be Wild, get the whole crowd singing along.
The only Scottish band to make it through to the Classic Grand were The King Lot who were, for us, one of the bands of the day. Quite how they didn’t make it into the top 5 at the end we’re not entirely sure as this is undoubtedly a band who have what it takes to go further, much further but I guess it just shows how good the competition was.
Next up there was a big gap in proceedings, so it was time to head off for some food and see how Scotland did against some wee team called Germany in the football.
And the answer to that was.. predictably.
After a couple of hours respite we were back under starters orders again for one of the most talked about names of the weekend. A lot of people seemed to have been waiting for this one, but can I just say first…
FOR GOD’S SAKE WALES GIVE SOMEONE ELSE A CHANCE.
Sorry, where were we, oh yeah. Next up were (unsurprisingly) another Welsh outfit, Texas Flood. We thought they were really bloody good, but never had them down as potential winners of the competition.
*Spoiler alert*… we were wrong.
As Arkham Dispatch were a no show the honour of bringing the 5th cycle of HTH to a close fell to the facepainted glam-rock of Bad Behaviour who, for us, fell into the trap that had ensnared a lot of bands over the weekend. A couple of inspired cover versions had stuck in the mind but a lot of bands played it safe, and that’s what Bad Behaviour did with their take on Alice Cooper’s He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask).
With the competiton closed and the votes being counted we stuck around down the front for tonight’s secret session. In all honestly we’d expected Attica Rage as they’re the HRH house band but instead we got an hour in the company of local heroes Afterlife. The crowd loved it, but at the start the band didn’t seem to be having the happiest time of it on stage. If Bassist Steve Reilly’s looks could kill, then somewhere in Glasgow whoever was responsible for the on stage sound is in hospital having a bass guitar removed.
Sounded fine from out the front though.
And so to the results, and in traditional CackBlabbath.com style we were almost entirely wrong in our predictions. We had deadaudiosaints, Die No More, Heartbreak Remedy and The King Lot as our pick of the bunch, but really the quality on display meant that there were a load of bands deserving the HRH / Hammerfest slots. In joint 3rd place were the only Saturday band to feature Hellion Rising along with Hammerfest bound The 8th Bridge. Our band of the day Heartbreak Remedy were in a well deserved second place in the public vote.
And the winners, and Highway To Hell champions 2014 (as voted by the people who were there) were Texas Flood.