Now in its 22nd year, the Rock and Blues Custom Bike Show has a reputation for being the most friendly biker festival on the scene, as well as having played host to some big name bands over the years. That this years event happened at all was due in no small part to the organisers (Outlaws MCC) resilience in the face of extremely adverse weather conditions that plagued the site in the preceding days. Fortunately by the time most of the festival goers arrived the weather had abated somewhat, it had however left its legacy in the form of deep mud that severely hampered the usually very slick camping organisation. This meant long delays getting into the site and then having to cram cars in bumper to bumper, making a quick getaway impossible. To be fair though the stewards remained remarkably cheerful throughout and the unique atmosphere of the Rock and Blues meant everybody took it in their stride.

Due to the problems getting on site unfortunately the first few bands were missed and when we arrived in front of the stage another band had cancelled, which left an easy night's work! Frank Morino and Mahogany Rush were a real blast from the past, Morino is probably one of the most underrated guitarists of modern times, despite the fact that rumours abounded back in the early 70's that he took on Hendrix's spirit! It's easy to see why such rumours started, Morino is one mean guitarist, effortlessly running up and down the fretboard and producing all manner of solos. The music is mainly blues rock, not exactly my cup of tea but having seen numerous artists attempt it here over the years it has to be said that Mahogany Rush produce by far the best performance I've seen of this genre. The crowd is appreciative, if not ecstatic and the band really appear to enjoy themselves.

Headliners for Friday night are the legendary Blackfoot, back in the 80's these guys were at the top of their game culminating in a stunning live album ('Highway Song Live') recorded at a sell out show in Scotland. A few line up changes, a few pounds and many years bring us to where Blackfoot are today and thankfully they still know how to put on a good show. The guitar work is exceedingly tight and they give a good overall impression. Ultimately though it's a little disappointing, sure there are the highlights, all the old classics I wanted to hear were played ('Fly Away', 'Dry County', 'Every Man Should Know') but the rest of the set was somewhat mediocre and merely accentuated why the aforementioned songs stood out. Highlight of the set was definitely 'Highway Song', in true southern style this song has one of the great rock endings (a la Lynrd Skynrd), building to a crescendo of flailing guitars. Blackfoot still have much to offer but maybe tastes have moved on too much for them to really be a major player.

Saturday thankfully saw the weather stay clear and as the bands didn't start until 4.30pm there was plenty of time to check out the various other attractions on offer. Let's not forget that this is primarily a custom bike show so it was off to the judging tents to take in the usual array of outrageous bikes alongside lovingly restored classics. This year there seemed to be somewhat light on custom paint jobs and choppers but what really took the eye was the quality of the trikes on display. I'm not the biggest trike fan but some of the entries this weekend were simply stunning and I'd love to see the Chevy that claims to do over 200mph in action! Splitting the viewing area into three tents made for a rather disjointed viewing and the mud meant some of the always impressive bright work was splattered! Overall though the standard of entries was as high as ever; it never fails to amaze me how much effort goes into building, polishing and constantly customizing these bikes.

Well once the formality of the bikes was out of the way it was on to the serious business of the bikini contest! A rather disappointing affair this year with only four entrants and it has to be said that if the fetching young lady presenting the prizes had entered she would have won! Have no fear however as the always well supported beer belly contest followed and as usual provided hilarious entertainment. Being won for the third year in a row by a worthy champion (whose name I forget) with an enormous girth, his acceptance speech was highly entertaining "I'd like to thank my trainer, Stella Artois ... " - a triumphant performance.

Now for some reason the prize giving for the custom show was delayed and after waiting for nearly an hour we had to make the decision to leave in order to watch the bands that had already started playing before the presentation began. First up were Soar Patrol, all the way from Scotland they are now Rock and Blues regulars and they always go down a storm. Four drummers and one piper they always succeed in getting the crowd going with their traditional tunes and amusing between song banter.

Next up are Rise To Addiction, a fairly new band that play a hybrid of rock/metal. They are a decent band although they come over a bit too nu metal in places and ultimately lack the killer hook to really engage the listener. Despite that though they go down very well and the later relaxtion on the message boards seems highly favourable.
It's at about this time of day that the now obligatory 'things on sticks' make their appearance, this year we get, Basil Brush, a rat, a heron and a dalek with tits, all gaffa taped onto sticks that are hoisted in the air throughout the day! God help us next year.

Anti-Product take the stage to some bemusement, the singer having his face painted and accompanied by not unattractive young ladies with guitars, two of whom sport the largest platforms in the known universe but certainly know how to play. They proceed to give a thoroughly entertaining performance, which starts rather shambolically when the singer jumps off the stage only to discover that it's higher than he thinks and subsequently struggles to get back on it! Musically they lean towards punk and they have some good songs without ever really impressing, great to watch though and they pull off a good performance. They also win over many friends by doing plenty of PR work in the merchandise tent afterwards, fair play. As did Captain Sensible of The Damned who after very dodgy sound to begin with, play an excellent set and get by far the biggest reaction of the weekend. Interestingly they don't play any newer songs today but nobody's complaining as they rip through classics such as 'New Rose', 'Neat Neat Neat', 'Melody Lee', 'Love Song', 'Smash It Up' and their biggest hit 'Eloise'. Sensible is as amusing as ever, dressed in some weird cow outfit, Vanian looks a little reserved but his vocals shine through reminding us why the Damned were so unique in the first place. Good stuff.

Now Thunder have never really done it for me, a little too obvious and predictable, but to give them their dues they don't pretend to be anything other than what they are and what they do, they do very well. The years haven't been too kind to Thunder but it hasn't affected their sound and tonight the crowd love it, they go down an absolute storm and really look as though they're loving every minute of it. Last band of the evening are The Australian Pink Floyd who play a straight two hour set. Opinion is very much divided on this band, on the plus side they really do look the part with a big light show and three backing singers. Musically they are pretty much note perfect but therein lies part of the problem; it's almost too good and with virtually no in-between song banter you might as well stay at home and put the record on! Yes they are impressive but at the end of the day they are a covers band and no matter how much you want it to be Floyd up there, it isn't. After an hour I get a little bored and go off to shoot air rifles, play horse racing in the arcade, eat excellent Thai food and get more beer. I return for 'Run Like Hell' and observe an excellent crowd reaction, which the band clearly deserve but for me they fail to hold interest.

All that remains is the always entertaining wet t-shirt competition, this year hilariously judged by an Australian outlaw who does his best to cajole the contestants into 'getting it on' with little success.
Then it's on to the beer tent for another few hours of partying, with good people, good beer and good fun. Crowd numbers seemed well down this year, no doubt due to the weather, but those that were here had as good a time as ever. Good bands, good people, good fun and still probably the cheapest weekend festival of this calibre on offer. Get yourself down here next year, you can't fail to have a good time!