At "Hard Rock Hell" last year, as with this year, I promptly booked my tickets for next time. It’s a must for rock fans: round-the-clock live Music and lovely, family-style accommodation. This isn’t V, it’s middle-aged men wearing biker gear with office jobs to go back to on Monday.

On HRH’s first night, I got hit on by some sinister Welshmen. The penultimate act announced their last song after they outstayed their welcome. I was waiting for Hayseed Dixie. After their “last song,” they played a tribute to their dead friend (fair enough) but then played yet another!

No wonder they’re Last in Line; anyone behind them would never reach the front. Hayseed Dixie have a unique sound: country versions of classics. Where else will you find an AC/DC cover involving a violin and a fiddle?

Next morning, I was hungover. I wanted to be at Soft Rock Heaven listening to Little River Band but beer got me back in the HRH spirit. Warrior Soul made my hair stand up. “Payback is a Bitch,” hell of a song. Their lead singer danced awkwardly around the stage like Jagger meets Gob’s chicken dance. He kept giving us the finger. Treat us a bit nicer please, we’re paying you. At the end, he said “Thank you and goodnight!” It was 4pm.

Next was Bonfire (sort of Night Ranger meets Boston, very 80s).

I went to Stage 2 (simultaneous acts is half good half bad: HRH get double the acts and there’s alternatives, but if you like both, you’re stuck). The Last Vegas were on (they predate the Douglas/De Niro comedy) and their frontman has a raw, metal-suited voice. Their wardrobe didn’t match (one looked like a misplaced Celtics fan), but they have passion, emotion, expression – it’s pure music.

Ricky Warwick on Friday night

After “Finest Hour,” I wanted kick some ass. Phil Dunphy doppelganger drummer didn’t fit the band image but he was great. I went to Stage 2 for Welcome Back Delta, a bunch of middle-aged men who reminded me of Foregone Conclusion until they started playing and proved me wrong. Next was Dorje. Their brilliant guitarist moved his fingers like Slash.

Bright Curse do heavy rock but in a nice mellow way, not hitting you over the head with it, bluesy or Sinatra-ish infused with rock.

Saturday morning, I felt dead but beer fixed that again. On-site restaurant Mash and Barrel was a nice place to drink and discuss pension savings before Cherry Grind (like an 80s glam rock band given a Nirvana-type grunge twist, an interesting postmodern sound, but classic rock), who had an amazing guitar solo. Shame Mojo Sinners’ fantastic guitarist gets drowned out by his two needlessly loud bandmates. His chords are smooth but quick and his voice is like a mix of Lennon and Steven Tyler - it was mesmerising. (He was also the only band member wearing a poppy.) He should leave Mojo Sinners for a Big Four band because he’s being held back.

Festival highlight: Bernie Marsden

I actually didn’t expect much but I was wrong. Bernie’s hilarious, joking about switching his own guitars when the Whitesnake roadies used to run out and do it for him. His rock is original, smooth, energetic. His bassist and drummer get on with it, they don’t try to show off or look cool like every other bassist and drummer. Bernie could see the fans’ love for “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” so he stood aside and let them sing it. Most rock stars love the sound of their own voice too much to do that. His smile told me the fans are more important to him than money or fame.

Bernie ended on 'Here I Go Again'

Now he’s a solo act looking ahead, there was added poignancy.

Everyone sang along, showing the influence and legacy he’s had in rock. Afterwards everyone wanted an encore so he dedicated a song to Gary Moore before leaving as the festival’s best act.

Saturday night HRH line-up after Bernie stole the show was disappointing

No one could top him. Phil Campbell’s set was mostly Motörhead but it was like Motörhead Lite. Everyone cheered out of respect for Lemmy, but without him it’s nowhere near as good.