Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Wickerman Review - Friday
Wickerman hooooooo! If the size and commercialism of T in the Park turns you off, and the dance-heavy line up of RockNess doesn't inspire you, then you may very well find a festival home at Scotland's 'alternative festival', which at the weekend celebrated it's 12th year in the fields of East Kirkcarswell Farm, Dundrennan.
Taking in the experience for Scottish Fiction in what was our maiden trip to Wickerman, myself and freelance photographer Chris Rocks set off from Glasgow in the basking sunshine, weaving our way through the simply stunning Scottish landscapes that bless Dumfries and Galloway. The scenery is one of the things that Wickerman has in it's favour, and with blue skies, rolling hills and lush greenery as far as the eye could see, it's no exaggeration to say the festival rivals RockNess for some of the best views on offer for festival goers.
Past noon, and with our car park, tent pitched, wristband acquired and first beer cracked, and having sadly already missed some great talent in the forms of Lidh, Behold The Old Bear, Young Philadelphia, Siobhan Wilson and Pinact, it's time to put some music into this music festival review.
Ain't no better way of doing that than with the slacker-garage rock pull of the irresistible Honeyblood. With Shona on drummers, and Stina rocking the guitar and vocals, the duo emit an effortlessly cool look and sound. 'Super Rat' grinds round the tent, fresh with the venom and ire it was written with, almost as if each airing it gets is like poking at an open sore. It's that passion though, that paints Honeyblood as the real deal. Other stand out tracks include 'Choker', which peels back the sound to expose girl-pop influences and 'Killer Bangs', a feral grunge number. Forthcoming single 'Bud' proves unsurprisingly popular with the crowed, who are complemented in their "great taste in music", a reference to answers given to the question 'who are you all going to see later'? For everyone who has made the choice to check out Honeyblood, the same complement applies.
As Honeyblood finish in the Solus Tent, neighbouring goNORTH Festival Tour Tent offer up the fuzzy alt-rock of Plastic Animals. As one of five bands playing Wickerman, who have previously played a Scottish Fiction Presents: Aye Tunes vs, Peenko gig, I'm already a huge fan of their atmospheric sound. The band seem to evolve and progress each time I see them and front man Mario grows in confidence, although much of the obligatory 'banter' is left to bassist Dave. Shoe-gaze number 'Piznek' delights with dreamy cloud grasping vocals, whilst the newer songs show the band haven't lost the ability to knock out a splendid drone.
A quick nip for some tender hog roast and a jaunt back to the campsite lets us take in some of the other attractions on display at the festival. Topping the list has to be a 14ft Jimmy Carr head, aptly named the 'Jimmy Barr'. For those not wishing to buy alcoholic beverages from a comedians mouth, there's also laser tag, yoga, Segway's, hill-sledging, bike tracks, and much more. Walking around you really do feel the friendly atmosphere that Wickerman prides itself on. It's at this point I should give an honorary mention to our campsite neighbourhood watch, and drinking buddies, Chloe, Holly, Susanna, Ruiri and Johnny. Top company for us to spend the weekend with, cheers guys!
Never one to miss an Admiral Fallow performance, I sauntered back inside the arena down to the mainstage. It's great that a festival like Wickerman gives Admiral Fallow the 'mainstage' billing, which they have been building up for over the last three years. An opening brace 'Beetle In The Box' and 'The Paper Trench' lift the crowd into a party mood, which continues with the Bar Bloc inspired 'Guest Of The Government', a truly wonderful pop anthem, which is greeted with enthusiasm by the early evening audience. There's room also for some more tender moments, courtesy of Louis' haunting vocals, and Sarah's wavering flute moments. Old favourite, 'Old Balloons' pumps and builds into an explosion of drums and woodwind, followed by set highlight 'Squealing Pigs', both tracks reminding any newer fans, just how good the band's first album was. A sarcastic self-poking 'sunglasses' jibe at himself, and a tumbling bassist amidst the uproar on stage, prove that despite moving up stage sizes, Admiral Fallow are having no less fun as their star rises.
Sometimes it's hard to review the same bands twice in quick succession. Having seen Hector Bizerk play T in the Park only a fortnight ago, you might imagine I'd struggle to say anything new. However with a frontman as energetic, charming, and on top of his game as Louie, there's no chance of any two Hector set's being the same. Kicking off with 'Burst Love' before seguing into a rendition Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' which morphs fiendishly into 'Orchastrate'. As drum maestro Audrey churns out drum fill after drum fill, Louie bounds from end to end of the stage, Hector Bizerk flag in hand soaking up the chants of 'Hector, Hector' and feeding right back off that energy. With the crowd firmly in camp Bizerk, there's room for a little tete-a-tete singalong during, what should be a new single, 'Welcome To Nowhere'. Take a second to hear through the energy and enthusiasm of the delivery and there's real insight and social commentary present in Louie's rhymes, the kind that we need back in music during these times of right leaning social policies. With machine gun style quick fire delivery, 'Bury The Hatchet' keeps the momentum high. The future of Scottish hip-hop is on stage. Wickerman, and their earlier T in the Park set, were ground zero.
Over on the Summerisle Stage it's Chic time baby! Never one to let a good time pass, Chic frontman, and all round legend Nile Rodgers was on top form. The band worked their way through a formidable repertoire of hits, including 'Everybody Dance', 'I Want Your Love', 'Le Freak' and 'Good Times', the latter two bringing the set to a close and the crowd to the point of audio orgasm. Across the sea of revellers gathered at the Summerisle Stage, there's not a hip that isn't swaying, a foot that isn't tapping, or a booty that isn't engaging in some disco shakin'. Young, old and everyone in between are in full party mood, and with Rodgers able to call on his bag of 'hits for other people' there's also space for Bowie's 'Let's Dance', and Sister Sledge's 'We Are Family'. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festival, and based on this performance could have easily headlined without any problems or anyone feeling short changed.
Speaking of headliners, Primal Scream fresh of the back of latest album 'More Light' opened with the saxophone driven track '2013' from that album. A bold choice, given that many of the crowd gathered are in no mood for any "this is off our new record" chat. The sun has been shining, the drinks have been flowing, all this indie rock party needs now is the acid house riffs of early '90's Primal Scream. Eager to oblige 'Moving On Up' gets an early airing, before the darker, more raucous 'Swastika Eyes'. From there on in though, the Scream's set feels like a bit of a chore, both for the band who appear to go through the motions a bit, and the fans who, to coin a phrase, "wanna have a good time". It's not that Primal Scream were particulary bad, but following Chic, who I think really surprised a lot of the young members of the crowd, Primal Scream less well known songs are a bit, well stodgy. 'Country Girl' provides a much needed injection of fun, and as the night draws to an end 'Loaded' gives everyone what they wanted. A full blown 9 minute '90's trance memory, as I bounce up and down on a closed up well, it's time to get get loaded and have a good time.
Right if you'll excuse me, I have some hills to roll down. Coming next... Saturday's review.