The dust has settled on the summer festival season, and one of the highlights of 2015 was Scotland’s Wildfire Festival, now settled into it’s new home at Wiston Lodge near Biggar.
A cracking weekend of rain, sunshine, metal and rock.
And we’re all still buzzing from this weekend’s events. The sense of occasion starts, as always, the moment you arrive in the car-park and are greeted with the familiar faces that haunt the camp. Day one follows the usual festival pattern… Drive to the campsite; pitch up and crack open a can… As bands and fans start to descend on the stunning setting in the Scottish Hills, we all have the same things on our minds…
1. Is that Pizza shop still here?
2. Where’s the bar?
So the stages were set, the L’arpie ladies from RACPA had pitched up and the CackBlabbath banner emblazoned the back of our stage. Time for some music.
Friday was a blast. Only the main stage was running but if anyone was expecting to be eased into things gently then they were in for a disappointment. Festival head honcho Dave, as always, likes to shake things up a bit and with legends like Holocaust on the bill and the mighty Tygers Of Pan Tang headlining 2015 was off to a cracking start. Everyone was keen to prepare for the apparently inevitable “Wildfire Saturday Hungover” status updates.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, with alas barely a trace of a hangover. Team CB assembled, like the avengers, at 1100 hours resplendent in our nice new tie dye uniforms which we were keen to show off… Same old us. As we wandered about aimlessly, taking in all the new additions to Wildfire including a rather impressive merch market we spotted our CackBlabbath stage headliners, and old friends, Dakesis among the throng and as usual the lovely Gemma was keen to share styling tips and drinking tactics with us.
Wildfire has one of the best atmospheres you could hope for at a festival. It was really cool chatting to bands, and just generally schmoozing with the rock and metal fans that were out and about. People with an ego problem just don’t fit in there at all.
But we had work to do… Whilst over on the main stage, Dave had put together one of his strongest Saturday line-ups, we where keen to watch our stars on the CB Stage. In particular we where genuinely blown away by Pteroglyph, a new band to some of us here. Headed up by Ex Mishkin man Jimmy MacGregor, this was exactly what was needed to gather the troops and sure enough they filled the tent and surrounding areas.
Shame about the “forgetting how Master Of Puppets goes” thing Jimmy !!
Next up, and a band on my “looking forward to list”, were the lovely Mason Hill. It was a different vibe from some of the more thrashy and harder bands that graced both stages, and this was a set which was deservedly well received.
Nowt wrong wi’ a bit o’ thrash though. Die No More where next in line to make sure everyone was awake and lively, and the piledriving Cumbrian 4-piece were a revelation. The day’s events on our stage were topped off with a great big helping of I.C.O.N and at the end of the first day of the new look Wildfire second stage I think we could safely say that it was a huge success.
With a cleverly mixed blend of bands alternating between the two stages it was clear that the crowds had the best of both worlds. Main stage might have been bigger, but ours had more room to jump about and dance in! In between times, we managed to catch the awesome Max Raptor ripping it up in a pop-punk stylee. OK, maybe one of us was forced and dragged to go see these punks, and although they deserved a bigger crowd (where had everyone gone ??) , the folk that did join them in the main tent had a ball. It was hard not to watch them and feel alive.
Lord Volture got one of thee best receptions and when I asked about, most people where telling me that this was perhaps the best of the day. Another band that generated a HUGE crowd was Lawnmower Deth, some* might even say they should have been headliners!
*us, we said that.
Less said about the actual headliners Ten the better, talk about killing the vibe.
Saturday night came and went… The beer was flowing, the rain was pouring yet this did not stop camp Wildfire from rocking out hard. There was even rumors of rogue gazebos larking about the place.. Nothing like some good old Scottish weather to make camping “interesting”.
Sunday morning dawned bright and only slightly damp. Team CB regrouped for round two of main stage vs CackBlabbath stage. All morning it was very clear that if you went purely by t-shirt numbers there where two bands fans had flocked to see. While the main stage had hard rockers Estrella over onthe CB STAGE we had the fantastic Dog Tired as part of a beauty and the beast double bill of them and Brummie’s finest Dakesis at the top of our running order.
Nuff said really.
Things kicked off with Corrupt The System, and by god they were good at blowing away the early morning cobwebs. Saw ’em, liked ’em, bought the t-shirt. This was proper heavy metal, loud, thunderous with amazing vocals.
With a few running order changes being made here and there for various reasons at the last minute, it got a bit confusing at times with more than one “who is this” situations. Silverjet and Balls Deep were early delights on the main stage, but the highlight was definitely Hellion Rising. The tent was packed for these guys and they were loving it. Not only did they look the part but they had their finger on the pulse, knowing exactly how to win us Scots over…. Drink Irn-bru whilst on stage. It’s a dead cert.
Over on our stage, some of us were in our element. Thirteen Stars delivered some much needed “Southern boogie” and their catchy melodies and a chilled out set was a tonic as the last day of Wildfire went from strength to strength. Quick nip up to the main stage for Spiritus next. Now they’re not everyone’s “thing”, in fact one of us had to be physically man-handled into the tent but fair play though, they were awesome. They also provided one of the most touching (and surreal) moments of the weekend, when a wee girl from the crowd was picked to come up on stage. “You can Highland dance?”. As soon as the beat kicked in, she was jigging away, in perfect time to the music. Definitely one you had to be there to see. These lads know how to work the crowd, which was jam packed, and it was topped off when frontman Ryan promised to do a selfie marathon with everyone.
Wonder if he did actually manage this rather tall order?
Once we managed to get out and gather our thoughts, it was time to head back over to the CB stage for something (else) we’d been looking forward to.
No need to be down front for them. Just stand up the back and you’ll still catch a glimpse of their windmills of hair and curls. My ears took a bluddey good bashing as they belted out the highlights from their debut album, and they brought the second stage crowd to life with the obligatory moshin down at the barrier.
Who could top that off…
Oh wait, how’s about some Dog Tired to keep the metal momentum going. This was the perfect band to follow on form Disposable, two crowd favourites back to back flying the flag for no bullshit, plain and simple “heavy fucking metal”
Bringing events on the CB stage to a close were a band we know well, but we’re not sure how many other of the Wildfire faithful did. Dakesis were a long way from their Birmingham stronghold and there were some inevitable rumblings about us having them as headliners.
But as our top bloke said, it’s our stage so we can do what we want, Gotta be honest here, I was a bit dubious about a band like Dakesis being thrown into the mix after the Dog Tired and Disposable lads. My skepticism was soon banished when crowds started to gather and to be honest I couldn’t believe the reception they got. I was totally mesmerised by the bands power, over-the-top-delivery and overall performance. When we caught Gemma later, she was delighted with the response, but she was keen to share that “if it where just Iain in the tent, we’d still be very happy” !!!
This for me summed up Dakesis. Power metal may not be everyone’s cup of tea but at the heart of it, they are passionate about the music and the fans and love doing what they do, whether it’s to 1 person or 1000. They made a lot of new friends at Wildfire, even the bloke who asked us what idiot would put them on above Dog Tired.
That would be us then !
After the CB stage finished, it was time to gather our thoughts, hit the beer tent and get ready for the big finish. As we chatted away to friends and party goers, it was clear that even though Wildfire was coming to an end, there was an electricity in the air with Diamond Head Coldspell’s imminent stage appearance.
Of course before that it was Estrella time, and as one of us made our way to the photo pit the other had the surreal experience of watching the band from the back while holding a loony Labradoodle and a grumpy Lhasa Apso in check. The main stage tent was rammed full of people and, as per, the ladies all flocked to front/centre. Even my wee pooch wanted in on the action, with what appeared to be air fist (well paw) pumps and head banging (although that could have been a sneaky attempt to claim a discarded chip).
Speaking from first-hand experience, Wildfire’s family and pet-friendly approach means it is very high up in my estimations as far as smaller festivals go. A lot say it, but Wildfire truly live the “for all ages” ethos. Unfortunately they didn’t have a t-shirt small enough for a very special lil’ rocker, baby Alice who was a mere 12 weeks old and mostly totally oblivious to the rock’n’roll party going on all around her.
Not all the visitors at Wildfire are friendly though, and if we learned one important lesson at this year’s event it was to stay clear of the big pond though… it’s home to those unwanted festival goers, the famous Wildfire midgies.
Oh, and one last question… Has anyone seen my hat?