The Wickerman Festival: Dundrennan, Scotland – live review.

The Wickerman Festival,
Dundrennan, Scotland
20-21 July 2012

The Wickerman Festival In Scotland’s one of the best independent music and arts festival in the UK, especially as this year it featured none other than Louder Than War’s own Goldblade. Joe Whyte was also in attendance & has fed back this report.

Deciding fairly late on in the day that some paganism, pop, punk and pear cider was on the menu, I threw the brood in the car and headed the 100 or so miles to Dumfries and Galloway for the 11th Wickerman Festival.

The Wickerman is without doubt one of the family friendliest, best organised and downright good-value festivals on the ever-increasing circuit. Fortune shone on the 20,000 hardy souls as did good weather for the best part of the weekend.

Looking at the line-up though, I was slightly less than enthused.

The Wickerman’s original ethos of punky-reggae-ska-leftfield-choices has faded over the years to be replaced with more mainstream headliners. However, there seemed to be enough decent music on the other stages to pique my interest.

Heading in at teatime on the Friday, we’d missed a few acts already.

Getting through the (for once) fairly friendly security, we head to the main stage.

Glasgow music has been plagued through the years with an irritating brand of tweeness. The low water mark for me were 90’s cuties, Bis.

Now with live drums and bass, I was however, pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. John Disco’s scything guitar lends their rather good fun vibe a slightly sinister hint and Manda Rin’s piping vocals gave them an almost B52’s air. Their self-effacing humour went down well with the crowd who seemed to enjoy their good-time, disco-infused tunes.

To the Scooter Tent for the ever-reliable Goldblade.

Although they started with a huge marquee with only 15 people in it as they took the stage, within 2 songs the streamlined 4-piece (and with a stand-in drummer) had created a seething, sweaty rock and roll party.

Back on the main stage, The Levellers were doing their fiddly-widdly folky thing. I’ve never been a fan but was surprised at how many songs I recognised. The crowd down front were giving it plenty and they seem like the perfect festival band.

I caught a very brief blast of Peter And The Test Tube Babies back at the Scooter Tent and their maximum power high speed punk blur was getting a good reception.

There are bands I don’t like and bands I don’t really care about, but I actively despise everything about The Scissor Sisters. Catching half an hour of them didn’t change my mind. Their novelty take on 70’s disco was appalling. The slightly-pissed middle-aged-pink-stetson brigade seemed to like them, however.

Saturday saw the sun continue to shine and we made it back to the arena in time for Horndog Brass Band who must have made everyone’s hangover worse with their honking and parping.

Big Fat Panda‘s soul-infused ska had the party back underway and their stonking cover of Al Wilson’s The Snake was a highlight. Great stuff from the Scots collective.

John Wean (pronounced Wayne for you non-Glaswegians out there) are a very promising new band. Four gangly youths with a neat line in Bunnymen-esque telecaster mangling, they look like one to watch. Sharp songwriting, kitchen-sink-drama lyrics and anthemic choruses. New single New York Doesn’t Love You Like I Do is out now and should do well.

I missed Fat Goth but am reliably informed they were one of the highlights of the weekend.

Newton Faulkner’s acoustic anthems were perfect for the sunny day and his mainstage performance got a hugely positive response. He did a sweet version of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, too.

I only saw a glimpse of up-and-comers Kassidy and their lacklustre indie-rock did little to enthuse. May need to see some more to give a more balanced view.

The View are one of those fairly big bands that I’ve never given much thought to. Appearing onstage to a huge reception, their Benefit Agency rock prompted a flurry of bottle chucking from the Buckfast massive who follow them. A healthy dose of their new album was a brave move at a festival and I found myself enjoying the energetic racket. Same Jeans and Superstar Tradesman had the desired effect of sending the partisan crowd tonto. Incidentally, I’m Scottish and I have no idea what Kyle Falconer was saying between songs, so gawd help anyone from down South.

Chris Devotion And The Expectations are a new-ish Glasgow band who deserves to be huge. Drawing from Nuggets-era garage, The Ramones, MC5 and The Replacements, their set was a festival highlight for me.

Despite having only released their debut album (Amalgamation And Capital) their set sounds like a greatest hits already. Every song is a hook-laden, 2-minute, powerpop Molotov cocktail. Devotion’s arch lyrics are spat out in a snotty yelp crossed with a crooner’s baritone. For those of you old enough, they remind me of the bastard children of James King And The Lone Wolves. Yip, that good.

Stanley Odd are a Scots hip-hop collective who use live drums and guitar to augment their samples and keys. Rapper Dave’s rapier-sharp rhymes and clever social commentary have me chuckling. Sample lyric “you know it’s a double dip recession, first tenner eckies in a generation”. They seem puzzled with the ecstatic reception they get. They’d better get used to it.

New single Get Out Ma Head Space is available free on their website.

Saturday headliners Texas have, it seems, been around forever. I remember seeing them in a Glasgow pub about a gazillion years ago. They rarely tour these days and this is a bit of a coup for Wickerman. Again, I’m amazed at how many songs from their Ikea pop-soul set I’m familiar with. Sharlene Spiteri has the crowd mesmerized and it’s difficult to dislike them.

Ally MacErlaine’s slide guitar intro to I Don’t Need A Lover is timeless and, despite not being this old punk’s cup of tea, Texas are an astute festival closer.
The Wickerman is torched, the fireworks go off and that’s it bar the dance tent for the hardy campers for another year.

All words Joe Whyte. More articles by Joe can be found here.

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Joe Whyte is guitarist with punk rockin' Johnny Cash tribute Jericho Hill and reformed 70's punks Reaction. He has formerly played with End Result, Reverend Snakehips Country Messiahs, God-Fearing Atheists and many, many other failed attempts at rock notoriety. Joe also writes for Vive Le Rock and Louder Than War magazine. He lives in Glasgow and in his other less glamorous life works in mental health.


  1. Haven’t been since 2004. Even The View wouldn’t have had a look-in then, never mind Texas or Scissor Sisters. In fact, I can honestly barely think of 2 acts worse than Texas and Newton Faulkner. The scooter and dance tent are the only things holding this festival up above the seriously mundane.

  2. Mundane? Chris Devotion, my stage, The Solus Tent, I gave John Robb the nod about this band ages. Nice review Joe btw.

  3. Of course John Disco who gets a mention above for his sterling efforts in Bis has now moved on to be a regular in Glasgow longtime punk/ska outfit The Amphetameanies.


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