Monday, 28 July 2014

Wickerman Festival 2014 review

The Wickerman burned and so did a fair few people in the crowd as the 2014 Wickerman Festival experienced a Heatwave on the Friday before the almost traditional short shower on Saturday evening.

I headed down on Thursday for the first time. Good weather and a weekend with mates and music seemed like the perfect recipe - it was. It seemed like loads of others had the same idea and Wickerman veterans I spoke to noted that the campsite was at least 100% busier on a Thursday than previous years.

Thursday isn't an 'official' day at Wickerman; but you can start camping then and the Greenman Inn (the bar) is open for business. We arrived and set up camp quickly so we could get in for Them Beatles who had packed out the tent. They looked sharp in black suits, white shirts and skinny black ties, belting out classic hit after hit and ending with a euphoric Twist and Shout. I wish they had played for longer. After that it was a local bands playing covers followed by a DJ until the small hours.

Elliott, Martyn and me

Scorching sunshine turned our tent into a sauna by 7am, so Elliott and I got up and headed to the Down 'n' Dirty showers and thankfully the queue wasn't that long. The facilities there were excellent and Wickerman has to be commended for their regular cleaning of toilets throughout the festival. Martyn had been out partying until around 6am! However the sunshine and the promise of a slap up breakfast got him through the day.

A walk round the site and the obligatory picture in front of the Wickerman (Highland dancing) led us to the Secret beer garden and some ice cold mojito's and a sugar boost set us up for the day.

Like many others, we plonked ourselves down in front of the main stage to enjoy the glorious sunshine. The Hosts were impressive guitar driven pop rock whilst Skinny Lister brought punk folk to the festival and got people dancing down the front. Their double bass player had a brilliant 'this machine kills dub step' message painted on and their female singer was impressively energetic, swigging from a big jug of cider.

Skinny Lister

Cider with ice was the order of the day for us! We had a nice cold drink and watched some of the Mountain Bike stunt team performing stunts beside the Solus Tent.

We caught the last 3-songs from Atom Tree in the Solus Tent - their blissful electronica was warmly received - as was the chance to shelter from the sunshine. Reports on site said that water consumption was up 100% already compared to the whole weekend in 2013.

Machines In Heaven were then on next door in the GoNorth tent. They were as tight as always and their beats drew in a crowd from the sunshine outside.

Atom Tree

After that I experienced one of my highlights of the festival. We wandered down towards the main stage but the music coming from the SoChill stage/beer garden drew us in - it was Chic's Thinking Of You. The DJ was fantastic, spinning soulful disco, song after song. People were dancing in the sun and the DJ responded to us, keeping us dancing and then coming out from behind the decks to stand and sing a long with his arms spread wide and a huge smile on his face. I discovered the DJ in question is a northern soul/disco fan called Mark Linton. I'll be looking out for him playing in Glasgow as he was brilliant.

DJ Mark Linton

We had to leave though as we certainly didn't want to miss Martha Reeves and the Vandellas on the main stage. We met up with Craig and Jennifer just in time, they were late in as Jennifer had to work in the morning. As the festival basked in temperatures of 31 degrees there was only one song with which Martha could start - Heatwave set the tone for a short and sharp set (Martha's band took longer than anyone else to line check. It is a pleasure to be in the company of artists like this - you just don't know how much longer they will be around. Martha's voice was high at times, deep and soulful at others. Nowhere To Run was delightful and Dancing In The Streets a dream, especially with Martha causing much laughter as she said 'call the popo, I ain't finished yet', as organisers tried to halt her set as she was over-running. 

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas playing Heatwave in a heatwave

Quite an act to follow? Not for Alabama 3 who produced the performance of the day for me - just perfect. Their mix of gospel, country, rock'n'roll and electro produced a party vibe that suited the festival and the weather perfectly. Their backing singer was euphoric, the band were on fire, the rhythm section was just outstanding.

Alabama 3
The sun was beginning to set as Shed 7 took to the stage and launched into their hits from the 90's. Britpop fans rejoiced as songs like Getting BetterShe Left Me On Friday, Disco Down and a superb Chasing Rainbows were played with a real passion. I think the band were quite taken aback by the reaction from the crowd. They have always had a strong fan base in Scotland and it was clearly on display down the front.

 Shed 7
I was really torn between giving Dizzee Rascal a chance to impress and heading up to see Young Fathers in the Solus Tent. I did a bit of both. Dizzee Rascal's 100 mph garage/grime/rap just isn't my cup of tea at all, although a lot of youngsters loved it.

Young Fathers had the lights turned low in the Solus Tent, creating a real mysterious vibe. Unfortunately I only caught their last 3 songs. I wish I had caught more as their power, passion, delivery and on stage presence was nothing short of mesmerising. The closing I Heard was truly exceptional. 

A long day in the sunshine caused us to grab some food and a chat before heading to the tent where we could still hear the sounds of Dizzee Rascal belting out his hits and then the pound of the dance tent until the early morning. 

It had been quite a day - my plans of spending a good amount of time wandering round the tents went out the window thanks to the glorious sunshine. However that is what being at a festival like Wickerman is all about - don't make too many plans, just go with the flow.

 Friday at Wickerman was scorching


Sunday was cooler. I think even the most hardened sun worshippers were quite happy. We had a lazy morning outside the tent talking to a lovely couple from Edinburgh who were there with their 17-month old son Roco. I am definitely thinking of taking my daughter next summer when she will be 4.

We opted for mojitos to start the day again. That all important sugar boost!

Elliott and I had caught The Tea Street Band at King Tut's when they supported Jimi Goodwin, so we went down to the main stage to catch their set. They played well and have a real clubby element to their guitar tunes.

The guy in the red jacket must have had a good Friday!

We pretty much stayed by the Main Stage again other than a few wanders. The weather was still reasonably good at this point and there were a number of bands I wanted to see.

Model Aeroplanes were one of those and they didn't disappoint. It is about 9-months since I last caught them and the progress in that time is very evident. Confident in taking to the big stage, the 4-piece played a great set of 3-minute pop songs with influences from the likes of Vampire Weekend. There is a real buzz about this band in the Scottish music scene and they lived up to it and enhanced it. Well worth checking out if you haven't already.

Model Aeroplanes

Big Country went down well with the crowd. Big guitar tunes with a Celtic edge to them drew the masses from the campsites.

The 2014 version of Big Country

The Zombies were brilliant. Musically they were pretty untouchable, extending songs into brilliant funky jams, playing a delicious cover of the Motown classic What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?, a beautiful version of Time Of The Season and closing with a crowd pleasing romp through She's Not There. I really enjoyed their set and hope to see them if they come back to Glasgow.

The Zombies

We nipped back to the tents to get jackets as the rain clouds were coming in and there was some light rain for a few hours. Nothing heavy though and it must have been one of the few times at a festival where some people were actually pleased that things were cooling down.

When we returned I had the pleasure of interviewing Del Amitri front man Justin Currie for the brilliant lads at Tenement TV. I play seven-a-side football with Justin and he kindly agreed to come in for an interview. I'll post a link when it is ready.

My sister Carla's band TeenCanteen were booked to play the GoNorth tent, so there was time to hang out with them in the VIP area before heading up the hill to to the tent and await their show. I managed to peek into the Solus Tent to watch a bit of the Amazing Snakeheads from behind the stage. The tent was rammed for them.

TeenCanteen played very well, probably the best I have seen them. The 4 girls were in excellent form, coming directly from the Indie Tracks Festival where they had played the day before. Their harmonies were exquisite and their sunshine indie pop went down well, drawing in a good crowd. You're Still Mine got a great reception whilst the closing Motown beat of Coming Up Roses and the sing song chorus ended their set with the crowd wanting more.

There was only time for a quick well done cuddle with my sister and the band as we headed back down to the main stage for Del Amitri. They kicked off in style with Always The Last To Know and Kiss This Thing Goodbye. The band were sensational when I caught them back in January at Celtic Connections and they were even better at Wickerman. Spit In The Rain was utterly gorgeous, as was Tell Her This while Move Away Jimmy Blue was one of my songs of the festival,  as was Nothing Ever Happens which caused us all to hug and sing-a-long. A real festival moment.

The Ramones-esque Drunk In A Band caused Craig and I to bounce around like loonies. Craig was celebrating his 30th birthday in great style. There was also a wedding underneath the Wickerman at one point!

Del Amitri hadn't quite finished though and romped through a surprise cover of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades, sharing the vocals among them.

Celebrating Craig's birthday in style with Del Amitri

And that was almost that. We were partied out but had time to grab a drink and head up to watch the burning of the Wickerman and the fireworks.

What a weekend; Wickerman seems to get better every year and more and more people I know are checking it out. The festival site is spacious, the atmosphere is friendly (and family friendly) and the selection of bands is eclectic and brilliant; from 60's legends through to the best bands breaking through from Scotland and beyond.

I'm just off the phone to my friend Martyn who experienced his first Wickerman at the weekend and despite being a little fragile today his first question was - are we doing it again next year?


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