It was touch and go whether this years Rock & Blues Custom Show would take place at all earlier in the week due to the excess of bad weather plaguing the country. The site (which is on farmland) was swamped resulting in the ground being far too soft to accommodate cars. In the face of adversity however organisers the Outlaws pulled it off again, a swift redesign of the site and it was all systems go! The only real change being the lack of car parking space but even this wasn't a huge problem as on road parking wasn't too far from campsites.

Fortunately the weather held off for most of the weekend, only turning up to rain all the way through Scorpions headline set on the Saturday night. For many punters the Rock & Blues is part of their tradition and this all contributes to it's relaxed atmosphere, nothing was going to stop them having a good time. Due to the weather and the hasty reorganisation the custom show itself was rather depleted but they still managed to fill two marquees at short notice. There was the usual array of impressive machines including two highly impressive low riders that deservedly took first and second in their categories. The overall winner however was a stunning machine, the Lamb, the bright work in particular really standing out & to get a bike looking that good in a sea of mud takes some doing! There was also the usual suspicious 'Best Ladies' and I may be doing the fairer sex a disservice here but it always seems to be one of the prize winners in that category that stalls the bike during the presentation, anyone would think they don't ride it much!

The Rock & Blues has a reputation for pulling good headliners and they didn't let themselves down this year with Scorpions and The Levellers headlining on Saturday & Friday nights respectively. The rest of the line up was a mix of rock and metal, the most interesting on the Friday being Uniting the Elements, a three piece that deliver euro tinged metal, fronted by the impressive flame haired Dawn. They probably lack the catchiness they'd need to get a major breakthrough but having played something like 500 gigs in the last 3 years they certainly deserve their chance to shine. The Animals follow them and play a solid, tight set sprinkled with all the classics you'd expect ('House of the Rising Sun', 'We Gotta Get Outta This Place' etc). Some of the material does sound dated now (not surprising really when some of the songs are 40 years old!) but they manage to hold the interest and go down well. The Pat Savage band are just weird, Savage constantly makes cat & dog noises throughout his set of standard blues rock mixed in with covers ranging from Zappa to Hendrix. It's all rather odd, his guitar sounds as rough as his voice and they certainly don't come over like main stage performers whatever his credibility as a biker may be.

Not surprisingly the highlight on the main stage is The Levellers who prove to be one of those bands where you are surprised at how many songs of theirs you recognise even if you're not a big fan. They play an entertaining set full of classics and having played here several times now their communication with the crowd is relaxed and humorous. They get most of the crowd bouncing or dancing and everyone is in good spirits as they head off to the bar to catch AntiProduct, playing here for an unprecedented third year in a row. They've always been entertaining but tonight they rip the place apart with a show full of energy and entertainment. There's plenty of crowd participation to accompany their punk edged rock and roll and the whole band pull out all the stops, culminating in guitarist Clare setting the head of her guitar alight and blowing petrol onto it to send huge plumes of flame out over the stage. It's a good set with an excellent performance that rounds the day of in fine style.

Saturday's line up looks an interesting one on paper and it was certainly that but not always for the right reasons! Burn and Handsome Beasts deliver decent sets without either really doing enough to really impress before GMT, featuring Robin Guy, John McCoy and Bernie Torme take the stage. Collectively these guys have an impressive pedigree having played with bands ranging from the Gillan band and Ozzy Osbourne to Faith No More and Adam Ant! They clearly enjoy what they do and feed off each other constantly but despite an entertaining visual performance they don't have too many memorable songs. For every good track like 'Canonball' there is an equally unimpressive track and were it not for their humorous between song interludes they would probably have lost me half way through. They get a good reaction from a decent crowd though and set things up nicely for the Michael Schenker Group.

Michael Schenker was widely regarded as one of the most influential guitarists to come out of the 70s after hugely successful stints with Scorpions (along side brother Rudi), UFO and MSG so naturally a lot of people are excited to see him here. On the flip side he has a long history of drink related problems and many are hoping that won't affect his performance but alas it does and how! To say he is a disappointment would be an understatement, he is truly atrocious. He shuffles on stage long after the rest of the band and barely moves throughout the set, his solos are awful, out of tune and disjointed coupled with the fact that he has to kneel down to play them, often struggling to get back up! The rest of the band do their best through a set littered with UFO songs but they can't take the attention away from Schenker who seems to have totally lost any talent ( and probably respect) he once had. The compere later quips "that Michael Schumacher might be a great driver but he's a crap guitarist!" and that just about sums up one of the worst performances ever to grace the main stage.

It's left to Scorpions to save the day and they do it with some style. Tonight they are outstanding, delivering a set packed full of classics alongside tracks from the new album. The whole band clearly enjoy themselves and are thoroughly professional, no greater contrast could there be between Rudolf Schenker and his brother as he barely stops moving throughout. Klaus Meine's vocals are as strong as they have ever been and the crowd warm to them instantly. The highlight for older fans comes with the introduction of ex member Uli John Roth who joins them on stage for a four track burst of classic 70s material. 'Speedy's Coming', 'Pictured Life', 'We'll Burn the Sky' and 'Fly Me to the Rainbow' are received by rapturous applause and would have stolen the set were it not for electrifying performances of 'Dynamite' and 'Rock You Like a Hurricane'. One of the best headline sets of recent years only spoilt slightly by the band running out of time for a full encore.

All that's left is to head back up to the beer tent where the surprise of last year 'The Brew' return to deliver a stunning set of hard edged original songs mixed with covers from the late sixties. An exceptionally talented band featuring father & son on bass and drums together with an outstanding performance from the youthful lead guitarist. They get a big crowd and a huge reaction that is well deserved as they turn in a hugely entertaining and vibrant set. It's all over too quickly and brings a close to the 24th Rock & Blues that has been yet another success in spite of all the problems. With next year being the 25th anniversary there's little doubt that they will be looking to pull some big names out of the hat and they're going to have to if they are to top this years headliners!