Tuesday 28 July 2015

Wickerman - Miaoux Miaoux, Kloe and Neon Waltz

The Phoenix Stage/Tent in association with Drowned In Sound was a welcome addition to the Wickerman Festival this year. Indie stalwarts like BMX Bandits, Aidan Moffat, Bill Ryder Jones and Emma Pollok lined up alongside the likes Kathryn Joseph - winner of the SAY Award, Alias Kid - Alan McGee's latest faves and many hotly tipped acts from around Scotland.

This blog focuses on three of them.

Miaoux Miaoux has just released his second album on Chemikal Underground, yet he remains hotly tipped. It is surely just a matter of time before he releases a breakthrough single and people suddenly discover his fantastic catalogue on Chemikal and previous self releases.

Miaoux Miaoux provided an early highlight on Saturday afternoon with Julian Corrie assisted by the incredible rhythm section of Liam Chapman on drums and Liam Graham on bass. The sound guys in the Phoenix Stage really got it spot on throughout the weekend, I think the sound for Miaoux Miaoux was noticeably better than that for his recent show at Stereo. The crowd and band responded, there was dancing throughout with Julian instructing and conducting the band to extend outro's to keep things going.

Luxury Discovery and Star Sickness from School of Velocity were exceptional while trusty fave Hey Sound! sounded sublimely funky and Stop the Clocks caused jaws to drop in admiration. This was the best I have seen Miaoux Miaoux - great sound, superb performance and a well thought out set.

After a quick stroll in the sunshine for a cider I was back at the tent for Neon Waltz who recently signed to Atlantic Records. The young band hail from Wick so are nicely removed from any local scene - showcasing their talent and taste via YouTube with some cracking covers and a show in a castle near their hometown.

The band clearly have something and go for feeling rather than trying to ram a chorus down your throat. Bring Me To Light was beautiful and young frontman Jordan Shearer looks like a cross between a young Tim Burgess and Bobby Gillespie - definitely ones to keep an eye on, loads of promise.

Early on Sunday afternoon I left my friends nursing their hangovers in the acoustic village to nip back to the Phoenix Tent to catch Kloe - a young teenage girl from Clydebank who has been creating an incredible amount of interest throughout Scotland and beyond. Indeed, this could prove to be a VERY, VERY BIG week for this young popster.

I was taken aback by Kloe's confidence as she strutted around the stage, falling to her knees to find the moment and introducing songs with humour 'this is another song about the same guy'. Kloe also displayed a knack for melodies, hooks, choruses and clever lyrics. Check out Feel and Grip on her sound cloud, both of which sounded superb. (again the sound was brilliant in the Phoenix Tent)

A song called Teenage Craze was my personal highlight, flowing superbly to big hooks at the end. It was interesting to see youngsters moving to the front of the stage during the set and the tent becoming fuller as it went on. A teenage girl writing songs about teenage life for teenagers to listen to - I don't think that has happened in a while in Britain. 

Kloe took me back to my own teenage years and a pop star from America called Debbie Gibson. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Wickerman - Hector Bizerk, Example and Optimo

As the previous blog mentioned, the Everything Flows team expanded to 4 for the weekend and on the Saturday night we were all off doing different things across the site.....

Guest blog by Reddy....

And so all back to the Optimo after party

After the eaglefaced Wickerman had fired fireworks from his fingers, and the entire structure had burnt to the deck – we adjourned to the main bar area to return to the SubClub. 

Dancing with the neon facepainted kids, the music was banging and the party vibe was in full effect – Absintine made an appearance on the dancefloor, along with Kate Bush with her cloudbursting, Prodigy took your brain to another dimension – it was the age of love for a committed number of focused dancers. Optimo knew where we were and where we wanted to be and reminded us with their final song, Lost In Music.

Earlier Example had got the packed main crowd jumping and fist pumping to his and DJ Wire’s party and indeed cheesy beats – Example ‘kickstarted’ his set with some bouncing tunes, with DJ Wire providing the dancebeats; it seemed like the party was going to continue well into the night. However with a strangely lo-key exit from the stage, the mood lowered and we all got into position to witness the Wickerman’s grand gesture.

The finest hip-hop storytelling happened before the cheese-pop of Example; Hector Bizerk rocked the Scooter tent with frontman Louie getting the crowd totally in the zone, including a flag-waving breakdancer and an artist painting out the Wickerman scene as the gig flowed along proving an additional visual to Louie’s tight rhymes and manic performance with ‘Party at A&E’ topping the bill. The set might have been cut slightly but everyone who saw Audrey and Louie will remember the all-round party-zone and especially the lowering onto their hunkers and bouncing aloft…

Photo by Gordon Reid

Sunday 26 July 2015

Wickerman Festival 2015 review

 Pic by Gordon Reid - Wickerman burning 2015

Wickerman 2015; a kaleidoscope of sunshine, fire, fireworks, friends, music and good times. What a weekend!

The Everything Flows team expanded to 4 for the weekend; expect blogs to come on Example, Optimo Espacio, Hector Bizerk, Jimmy Cliff, Neneh Cherry, BMX Bandits, The Vaselines, Miaoux Miaoux, Neon Waltz and more.

In the meantime; this is a bit of a round up of some of my own highlights that took place over the weekend;

The weather - the forecast changed dramatically in the week leading up to the festival, at one stage 2-hours of rain was forecast for the Friday night! Instead it was mainly dry with large periods of sunshine, particularly on the Saturday after some rain around noon.

The site - the Wickerman site is beautiful lush rolling green hills that lead down to a natural stage setting. There is plenty of space, yet everything is within easy walking distance, including the campsites.

The atmosphere - Positive, friendly, family friendly yet with space to party, everyone out for a good time. I even attended a wedding at noon under the Wickerman but had to run as unfortunately the heavens opened for the lucky couple. Thankfully the sun came out for them afterwards!

The fireworks were the best in the 6 visits I have enjoyed at Wickerman.

The crowd during Jimmy Cliff - pic by Gordon Reid

Jimmy Cliff - My award for performance of the weekend goes to this guy and his incredible band. They smashed it out the park with a set jammed full of classics in the glorious Wickerman sunshine leading to sunset. I Can See Clearly Now was absolutely beautiful, I don't mind admitting that I had a tear in my eye and my hands in the sky dancing and singing with friends when this was on.

Jimmy Cliff - sensational performance; pic by Gordon Reid

Stereo MC's - They came, they saw, they conquered Wickerman with an energetic set that saw singer Rob Birch cover every inch of the stage and wow the crowd with hits like Step It Up and Connected. The whole set had a real clubby feel to it and got the crowd dancing and singing. It was a particularly important set for the main stage after the unfortunate cancellation of the Sugarhill Gang who many were looking forward to. The main stage hadn't had a moment, the crowd hadn't had a chance to dance...they got one.

Rob Birch - Stereo MC's; pic by Gordon Reid

The line-up - Synergy Concerts have joined the Wickerman team as bookers and they used their skills, knowledge and experience to create a brilliant eclectic line-up that fully utilised the incredible music scene in Scotland. We had indie legends like The Vaselines and BMX Bandits, young up and coming artists like White, Neon Waltz and Kloe, top quality ska by the likes of Esperanza and The Amphetameanies and it was all ended in style by the incredible Optimo Espacio team - gotta be invited back next year?

The Amphetameanies - pic by Gordon Reid

BMX Bandits - I have to give a special mention to the BMX Bandits who headlined the Phoenix Tent last night. There cannot be many, if any, bands who can create the warmth and love that Duglas T Stewart and his friends are capable of making. I've always thought they would be perfect for Wickerman and indeed they were, playing a set spanning their full 30-years and giving older fans some long lost classics and wowing new fans who chose to end their Wickerman Festival with them. Girl At The Bus Stop was an absolute delight and Duglas rolled out Kylie's Got A Crush On Us for the first time in 20-years to the delight of those around me.

Please, please, oh please take the same bus as me

Two different generations enjoying BMX Bandits; pic by Jim Burns

Monday 20 July 2015

Wickerman Festival 2015 - non-musical activities

We are mere days from Wickerman 2015 and the excitement is building. Lots of people I know are going down for the first time, attracted by the fantastic eclectic line-up featuring the likes of the Stereo MC's, Neneh Cherry, Jimmy Cliff, BMX Bandits, Lulu, The Waterboys and Sugarhill Gang.

I've blogged about 20 artists to look out for at Wickerman HERE (before the additions of The Vaselines and Admiral Fallow).

There is a whole host of things going on at Wickerman other than music though. This year includes the addition of Maggie's Centres as the official charity partner and they will be raising awareness of their work throughout the weekend in a special tent. Lulu will be making a guest appearance there through the weekend.

Here are 10-things that you might stumble across over the course of the weekend;

1. Maggie's Centres tent
I used to work for Maggie's and I am extremely fond and passionate about the charity which helps so many people to live with, through and beyond cancer. The charity was the brainchild of Maggie Jencks and the Jencks family still have firm roots in Dumfries, so it is fitting that they are the charity partner of Wickerman. Pop into their tent for some taster sessions and a chat with the team. If you are lucky you might get in for Lulu's special performance.

2. Lots of people wearing waistcoats

Organisers are encouraging revellers to pay homage to Wickerman’s Festival Founder, Jamie Gilroy, by donning his signature look – a flamboyant Festival waistcoat. In keeping with this year’s fancy dress theme, the mini ‘gateman’ Wickerman statue, which welcomes visitors at the Festival entrance, will don a bespoke waistcoat, which was handcrafted by Edinburgh-based designer Vixy Rae. 

3. A Karaoke Taxi
I dare say that this will become extremely popular after a few drinks and there is bound to be someone who puts in a star performance.....or maybe even a star....

4. The Jimmy Carr Bar
A highlight from the last few Wickerman festivals - a must for a drink a photo opportunity as the staff serve you from straight out of Jimmy Carr's mouth.

En route to the Jimmy Barr (top right) last year

5. Granny Turismo
Now this sounds like it could be a real laugh - the first and only granny shopping trolley dance display team will be at Wickerman! Surreal fun guaranteed.

6. Grass sledging
I remember the first time I went to Wickerman and saw this and thought 'I have to try that'. For kids and adults alike, this is great fun as you hurtle down a hill towards the Wickerman.

7. Zip wire
The worlds first mobile zip wire will offer fans a birds eye view of the festival. Best not to have too much to eat and drink before going on!

8. Campervan Photo Booth
Who needs selfies when you have a retro campervan that is also a photo booth? Pile in with your friends for pics that you are sure to treasure in the future.

9. Kids stuff
There is plenty of stuff on offer for kids that will also appeal to adults but it worth remembering that children under the age of 12 get FREE admission to Wickerman.

A new Festival Circus is set to wow the crowds with a series of shows hosted in an eye catching big top. Fans can even try out some of the skills for themselves in a series of circus workshops.

For £3 per day, children can enjoy a host of fun activities in Wickerman’s dedicated Children’s Area. All admission charges will be donated towards the education of James Okeyo, an African orphan who the festival have sponsored since 2011. Storytelling sessions, singalongs, art workshops and puppet shows are just some of the highlights that will keep children (and those accompanying them) entertained.

10. The Retreat
If it all becomes a little bit too much then you might want to seek out The Retreat, where a variety of relaxing treatments will be on offer. Alongside the retreat, revellers can enjoy a series of Yoga and Qigong sessions.