Last weekend Harry Mulligan took in the sights and sounds of the family friendly festival that is Wickerman, this year curated by Synergy. Anon, Harry will get onto the music, but he begins his review by mulling on the festivals unique approach to drugs – including alcohol. All photos © Pat McGuire 2015 | PMG Photography.
Wickerman is an entirely different proposition from Scotland’s other Festival, and that much was self-evident from the get go. Pulling into an area for Press, Production and Artists I was politely asked to get out of the car by a team-handed-crew from Police Scotland. It evoked a few feelings and deep calming breaths, but as the experience progressed it was turned out to be worthwhile in the end! A lighthearted conversation was had while a dog handler put his wee Spaniel through its paces, going through the car, leaving our softly arching eyebrows and side-way glances right there on the sidelines.
A conversation was had about the relationship between a corporate alcohol sponsor and a major promoter, the prominence of the role of a leading Scottish beer, the recent scourge of Legal Highs, the Law of Supply and Demand, and a conclusion was reached as to how all these factors contributed to what is rotten culture that had eroded any potential to have a good festival up there in Strathallan anyway.
This was followed up once inside the venue in Dumfries, by the author meeting with the colleagues of the officer from the Substance Misuse Team, where they were at pains to point out, rightly, that Wickerman provided a Voluntary Service by folk who care whereby punters can go and have a breather test to ascertain their blood alcohol levels, avoiding drunken Rubber-man (and woman) Syndrome, driving charges, and more importantly, misery and mayhem when to all. This seemed like a great initiative, and overall set the tone for a responsible, chilled out hippy vibe that is child friendly, family oriented, and fun. Is it Rock ‘n’ Roll? Who cares, it’s 2015, we’ve moved on!
The Van T’s
The Van T’s were the first act I caught; they are a very slick all female unit with big tunes, pop more than punk with a sexy edge, and a drummer who not only had the chops, but was cosmetic with it. These are the artistic pop progeny of Babes in Toyland, and in all honesty, they deserved to be on later in the day. However, someone at every festival has to play the early slots, and unfortunately the Van T’s were it today, and of course there is always something about hot rock chicks that always makes one want to experience them in the dark !!!
Alias Kid (Interview to follow)
Pegged the new Oasis in the Redtop Press recently, Alias Kid rocked up like Manchester gunslingers, piling out of their now broken down van, spitting nails like a lean, mean touring machine. They were fizzing lively from a summer that has seen their eponymous freshman LP, Revolt to Revolt, reflect the lads that were encountered that morning, living in the slipstream of Shaun & Kermit et. al. of Black Grape. This was an entirely different entity to the one that trod the boards of Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh some months back. Alan McGee’s Creation Management Artists have had the alchemising ‘treatment’ of producer Paul Quinn’s (Teenage Fanclub) pre-pro magic applied and Revolt to Revolt the result.
When they started their set, the Pheonix Stage tent was barren but for the knowing few. By the end of it, nary another skull could be squeezed in.
Throughout, Maz and Sean would joke from the stage: ‘This one is our new single!’ and the other: ‘Just kidding!’ or: ‘No really, this one is REALLY our new single!’ How many wondered I, realized that they were making the tacit statement to the disparaging, cynical voices in the music consuming world here at home that: ‘Yeah, you bet your ‘kin arse we have the tunes!’ and, do you know what? …there ARE half dozen singles on the album! ‘She’s got a Durty Soul’, however, once the radio-pluggers get a hold of it, will almost certainly, resonate with the rest of The Planet! This Is not hype, Alias Kid could very well be the New Messiahs of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Great Britain!
Can I get a witness?
What introduction does this colossus need? A teenager when the scrubby mitts of my spotty youth grasped the weed littered cover of ‘The Harder They Come’, expertly taxed from my older brother’s collection. That was a youth in which Bob Marley had played a part, kicking soccer balls from the stage at Delta Park in Orego before his untimely death, as had Peter Tosh and later, Horace Andy, especially with Massive Attack, awesomeness personified, especially Skylarking, but never live, Jimmy Cliff, till now.
Right down the Hum when he took to the Stage, he is as fit as a butchers dog, pushing eighty if he’s a day, he flew about the stage like a guitar tech on crystal meth, emanating sheer Joy through a performance that was rudely littered with hit after hit. It was fitting that the Sunshine bathed the Scots crowd as he took several generations through ‘Hello Sunshine’, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’, and the era defining ‘Harder They Come’. This is when realizing that the folks at Synergy who curated Wickerman had done a job that was much appreciated.
Be Charlotte* (Interview to follow)
- Create Yours
- Apparently ( Believe I)
- The Power
- Too Late
A quick dash up to the XFM Stage for Be Charlotte is had, having missed her Set at T in The Park due to poor crowd fluidity, despite interviewing her and Louie, her new manager and front man from Hector Bizerk. Sometimes it cannot be emphasized enough that this has been one of the Artists from 2015 that should unequivocally and wholeheartedly be recommended from the highest platform from which to sing their praises. No one in their right mind should miss her if she is anywhere near them playing; she has an internal light that is switched on, one that emanates outwardly from the stage, exuding charisma in spades, and a pitch perfect, angelic voice, and a dare I say it, a spirituality precocious in one so young.
‘I’m not a baby anymore!’ she sings to us. She’s not, and as ‘Bring it back to the Start’ contagiously has the crowd bopping from foot to foot, someone turns to her father stood there, and quietly whispers to him: ‘You must be Proud!’ It’s not a question, it’s a statement. There is a musical inventiveness that may not have been seen since Talking Heads, and the B52’s et al burst onto the scene back in the eighties. Backstage after her set, watching in wonder, bemused and chuffed for her as label bosses swarmed around her like flies on shite, offering her deals.
I ‘kin LOVE Showbiz!
So many high points in one Festival! Party at A & E, the second Rap-in, is the post modern spoken word narrative of life in Glasgow, and as he tells us ‘Nobody seen nuthin!’ Similarly, ‘Welcome to Nowhere’ with its funky, tasty beat, and Skin & Bone, a thoroughly dynamic, complete composition demonstrate the band in their musical complexity and completeness, and most importantly, in their originality, an originality that is nakedly missing in modern music in 2015.
The heart is in the mouth for the third or fourth time in one day as an epic ‘Christopher Columbus’ grabs with a haunted vocal by Audrey Tait on the chorus. Hector Bizerk aren’t only on the cutting edge of Hip Hop, not just here in Blighty, but globally, USA included,and this is the very gory bleeding edge of rhythmic, cadence and drum led music. It is filthily reeking with its own robust authenticity, and when the premise that: ‘What can a poor boy do, but play in a rock and roll band?’ has been made a mockery of by the grossly Diva like antics of the Kanye Wests of the world, that fuck for Hector Bizerk. Keeping it Real is at the core here, it’s the ethos of Louie Lowis’ raps, it is deeply arousing, rendering the metaphorical penis erect at a time when homogeneous indie music is as mundane as listening to a ticking clock.
Break dancers and flag-waving acolytes litter the stage, denoting and giving expression to the grassroots foundation that has been meticulously built here, this IS the New Scene that is not so much evolving, but has already evolved here in Scotland. This not a scene attempting to insinuate itself upon a pre-existing scene, this is the First Water of the New Scottish Renaissance in Music! Take that to the Bank Peeps!
BMX Bandits (Interview with Duglas T Stewart to follow)
What does it mean to be a BMX Bandit? It has been said that:
“It means being a nuclear submarine floating through chocolate syrup, skies of spinach, raisin suppositories chihauha infinityof plaid covered waistcoats with sunglasses and slow motion, its sort of like pathos with suburban integrity and really nice melodies!” Anon
Having caught a couple of numbers from The Sonics and the transient reminiscences that accompanied that about watching the Kingsmen and a plethora of Oregon bands doing Louie Louie, from the Photo Pit, the intrepid Mulligan dragged himself out of there to head to the Phoenix Stage for the BMX Bandits. Latest member Chloe Phillip caught my eye, at first looking, perhaps, theatrically demure in a Lolita stage dress. Duglas T. Stewart has a great presence and occupies that space with a completeness. He exudes a sense of humour in his gesticulations, facial expressions and naturally embeds a dramaturgy into the lyrical content of BMX Bandit material so that it really does come to resemble performance art. Standing in the photo pit, time and space expand and contract in nano seconds, confusing itself with some sort of musical déjà vu, and was momentarily teleported into a long ago performance of Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage.
What the funk?
Strange things happen when mixed up in the Music of The Spheres, and despite an internal pull back towards The Sonics (see photo, right) show going on concurrently, this befuddled author soon relaxed into permitting the BMX Bandits to entertain one and end the last day of Wickerman 2015, with the exception of torching the old boy himself the only remaining. Jim Mculloch from The Soup Dragons was identified on guitar, Gabriel Teleman (bass, acoustic, mandolins), from The Pearlfishers, Jamie Gash, (Pearlfishers also, and The Leapords – Lloyd Cole’s touring band in ’14), and FindlayMacDonald on Keys and acoustic.
Little Hands, an ode to new love, propinquity and the Lolita theme sets the tone, and all middle aged geezers are in for a penny in for a pound. Three songs in, and the band’s Magnum Opus, Serious Drugs resonates with all its still relevant immediacy having been described previously as ‘warm, cuddly and embracing‘, it not only still is, but seems totally congruent with a festival which has been much the same. The Daniel Johnson cover, ‘Do You Really Love me?’ evokes Candy Floss images in this fairground environ, and the dedication of ‘Girl at The Bustop’ to the unwell Dan Treacy from the Creation labelmates, The Television Personalities brings a lump to the throat. ‘Kylie’s Got a Crush ‘ is wonderfully sung on the choruses by the BMX newbie, Chloe, and the Set finishes with tongue in cheek E102.
Afterwards, the person solicited to do so, sneaks up in the dark to throw the firelighters under the ominous Wickerman effigy who has been conspicuously overseeing the events of the past two days which had juxtaposed the experience of this festival with that other festival in Scotland, and a quickly overcome shudder was suppressed at the memory of it as all the dearly departing wander towards their cars for the tired but satisfied drive towards home…
All words by Harry Mulligan whose Louder Than War author’s archive is here.