The first addition of Rock The Coast took place across 2 days in June at Marenostrum Castle Park, Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain. Making the most of the great weather at this time of year. There is a wonderful back- drop of the Mediterranean Sea on one side, and Sohail Castle stands on top of the hill within the park on the other side.

Rock the coast - castle view
View of Sohail Castle at the top of the hill which has one of the stages inside

The Park is on the west side of Fuengirola, a tourist destination with long sandy beaches, many restaurants, bars and hotels. The area is serviced by Malaga airport which is a 30 min train ride away from Fuengirola. The festival park can be reached with a pleasant stroll down the promenade, with the centre of town being at most 2km away and shopping mall and bars just yards away. There are plenty of places to stop and eat or drink on the way to the festival. There is also camping available however I did not use this and stayed in a hotel.

Within the park, there were two main stages next to each other and bands alternating between these two, and a further stage within Sohail Castle. The main stages both had standing room and a grandstand which held approximately 2000 people. The main stages could also be viewed from the hill to left of the grandstand giving a great view.

The official opening of the festival was on the Thursday, with one band Wardruna playing the Castle Stage in the evening. Access to this was via a separate ticket from the main festival ticket at a slightly extra cost. The main two days ran from 2.15pm until 2am with the park opening each day at 1.30pm. Drinks and food could be bought using a pre-paid chip on the entry wristband. You could use cash for merchandise.

Rock The Coast – Day 1

First up were Arkona who take on Folk/Pagan metal and came across very well. They impressed more live than on album, drawing an enthusiastic early afternoon crowd.

Blaze Bailey came next playing an Iron Maiden cover set from his tenure in the band, featuring classics such as Sign of the Cross and The Clansman. A mid-afternoon sing-along ensued.

Wintersun took the tea time slot and belted out a set list of tracks marking the 15th Anniversary of their first album ‘Wintersun’, a hard to define style covering a myriad of different genres. Whatever it is it was excellent.

Rock the Coast - Wintersun
Wintersun on the main stage, marking the 15th Anniversary of their first album.

U.D.O. followed playing a lively set that went down well with the crowd, leaving the way for Tarja who as always showcases her incredible vocals during a set which feels as though it should be played in the dark or within a theatre, rather than on a hot sunny evening on the coast.

The highlight of my day then hit the stage; UFO, and they don’t disappoint. Phil Mogg hasn’t lost anything and Vinnie Moore is an excellent guitarist. They play a full hour and a quarter of classic tracks drawing heavily from 70’s material. This tour marks their final outing and their 50th Anniversary. The end of a belting set is highlighted by ‘Lights Out’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Rock Bottom’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’. It’s hard not to be sad that this might be the final time I get to see them.

The headliner tonight are Scorpions, on their seemingly never ending Crazy World Tour. They as always are incredibly professional and proficient at what they do, reproducing a set list of terrific songs from their extensive back-catalogue. Unfortunately having seen this tour 3 times previously it loses some of its impact and a greater change up of songs would help, but I guess when you hit a winning formula it makes sense to continue. The crowd certainly enjoyed it and I can see why.

Rock the Coast - Scorpions
Scorpions headlining the first night at Rock The Coast 2019

I headed up the hill at this point to watch Angel Witch in the castle, however the sound quality spoiled this set and I returned to catch the end of Europe and the inevitable ‘Final Countdown’. I stayed for the start of Carcass who were doing the midnight shift and enjoyed the start however my partner had had enough so had to leave in the knowledge I’d get to see them at Graspop in a weeks’ time.

Rock The Coast – Day 2

The second day started with Freedom Call playing their brand of uplifting Power Metal. An initially small crowd were wowed with some tremendous singalong anthems which could get any party started and the rapidly growing crowd reflected this. A perfect start to a second day in the sun.

Rock the Coast - Freedom Call
Freedom Call opening a sunny day 2 on the main stage

The enigmatic Von Hertzen Brothers followed, playing their classic/prog rock mix. Though technically excellent, sometimes the intricacies and nuances of their music doesn’t always engage a crowd who has never seen them before and this afternoon was one such occasion. A strangely selected set list didn’t help.

Such problems didn’t affect Angelus Apatrida, a Spanish band playing straight up Thrash/Heavy Metal. No problems here with crowd engagement or nuances, this was straight up, balls out metal which the crowd loved. A very enjoyable set came to close all too quickly.

The mighty Dark Tranquillity then hit the stage giving us Melodic Death Metal, Finish style. Unfortunately for the band and the vast crowd, we had the first occurrence of poor sound quality on the main stage, though this didn’t dampen the crowd or the bands enthusiasm for an ear pounding set.

Rock the Coast - Dark Tranquility
Melodic Death Metal at it’s best – Dark Tranquillity

As a complete contrast, but equally enjoyable, Magnum came on stage and we had keyboard and melodies to the fore. A very pleasant set drawn from over 40yrs of song writing, and played in the early evening with a beautiful backdrop as the sun went down and glinted off the sea.

As dusk arrived, so did the main event, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow took to the stage to ‘Over the Rainbow’ and proceeded to play absolutely classic rocks songs for the next 90mins. With the excellent Ronnie Romero on vocals, this was a set of the finest Rainbow and Deep Purple tracks displaying Mr Blackmore’s incredible talent. From ‘Since you Been Gone’ to ‘Stargazer’ to’ Black Night’ to ‘All Night Long’ it was a joy to watch and without doubt the highlight of the festival for me. They could have carried on all night but alas it ended all too soon as Rainbow finished with ‘Smoke on the Water’.

The fun however wasn’t over, and that’s exactly what you get with The Darkness, and the lads from Ipswich, led by the entertaining Justin Hawkins didn’t disappoint. A set leaning heavily on their first album, the excellent Permission to Land was played to a reduced but enthusiastic crowd and left us leaving the main festival park with a smile on our faces.

rock the coast - view from the hill
From the hill, you can take a seat and get a great view of the bands on the main stages

Overall an excellent festival and decent set-up for the first year. The only minus points for the festival was the lack and variance of food outlets. A few food trucks dotted about the place was insufficient and the only thing as far as organisation I could criticise.

The great weather and location make this a festival I’ll definitely consider next year. The fact that there is plentiful accommodation and restaurants/bars within walking distance is a huge plus. The actual Festival Park is really picturesque and sitting up on the hill watching from a distance was wonderful. You can even make a short holiday out of it like we did and enjoy some beach time too.

Review by Steve Hulse (Swindon, UK)