Words by Mosh, Ross Green, Ryan Callander and Gary Cooper. Photos by Gary Cooper (the posh ones that aren’t up yet!), Ross Green (Mason Hill) and Mosh. Edited together by Mosh.
Mosh: Another year, another Wildfire – the second and so far the largest (after being the smaller Les-Fest up the road before relocating in 2015). Once again head honcho Dave Ritchie risked life, limb and high blood pressure putting on a great line-up of bands from all over the UK and beyond. And things almost went to plan!
The biggest bit of bad news was the non-appearance of Friday night’s headliner Tim “Ripper” Owens who got as far as Glasgow Airport before Border Control decided there was an issue with his paperwork (he probably smiled in his passport or something criminal like that) and bounced him back out to the Netherlands. This didn’t stop the party from going on, though, and from what I could tell the stage times were adjusted slightly to allow A Joker’s Rage to effectively headline with Tom Russell and Ted Rock (of the Rock Radio Glasgow bid) spinning the discs into the early hours afterwards.
Weather over the weekend was variable, but with all the stages being covered (two tents, one indoors) this didn’t affect matters too much – “worst” case it meant that more people crammed inside to see the bands during the rain rather than lolling about in the sunshine outdoors! Other than stage times being a little bit of guesswork at times – it would have been nice to have even a piece of paper pinned up to announce stage / time changes – organisation was top notch. Sound, also, was on the whole superb with the engineers getting several shout-outs from the bands.
I wish I’d had more spare cash this month as the merch was ridiculously cheap as well with EPs going for £1 and t-shirts for as little as £6 from some acts. If you want to dress yourself for the coming months, this has to be cheaper than any of the outlet stores!
Ross: It’s been a couple of years since I was at Wildfire (back when it was known as Les-Fest) but I’ve always remembered it’s in a beautiful spot. Being one of the closest to the site as the crow flies, I’m directed by the pleasant members of staff to park my car halfway down the field used as the camp site. Yes, you get to park right next to your car. During the day and even at night, it’s a relatively chilled space but there’s always going to be a portion of the visitors intent on partying into the wee hours of the morning (I was one on the Friday night – not seeing bed until 5am on Saturday).
Without further ado, here’s the rundown of the bands we managed to catch on the Friday…
It can’t be the easiest thing opening a festival, but 48Hours did a great job. A nice, simple slice of heavy rock with great vocal melodies. At the time they played there were maybe fifty people in the tent, but they couldn’t have asked for a better response from this early audience. Applause, cheers and shouts greeted the end of each track and deservedly so.
Turbyne kicked things up a notch on the heavy scale with their melodic progressive sound. Garnering the same audience as 48Hours, they demonstrated that Wildfire is all about variety and received the same plaudits as the previous band as they christened the second stage at the 2016 event.
A band I’ve not caught before, though I have met them, Nest of Vipers are regulars on the circuit and I can see why they get re-booked time and again. Hell, they seem to be at Bannerman’s as often as Gary, our resident photographer! They’re loud, they’re groovy and the crowd reacted well to frontwoman Hannah’s “Scream for me, Wildfire!” cries. Ending with “Viper Strike” they left the audience wanting more.
A group we featured as Band of the Day back in April and who had played a gig the night before with openers 48Hours, Dead Dollar Days are a tight three-piece with some good rhythms. They’ve got a good sense of humour and really know how to put a catchy riff together. New single “Deadman’s Prayer” was featured and is a great introduction to the band.
This is a band who really looked the part. Singer Dox Docherty was clad in all the denim and studs you could ever wish to see in a band than pump out high-tempo rock and roll with a huge dose of fun. From what I gather, this was a “comeback” gig for the band, but I’m not sure how long their layoff was. In honesty, you’d not have thought they’d been out of action for any length of time – Rusted Hero simply weren’t rusty. I have a feeling they’re going to be chucking themselves onto a lot of lineups over the coming months – keep your eyes open!
Mosh: Vice were the first band to really scream “METAAAAALLL!!!” rather than “ROCK!” this year, and did a wonderful job of channeling the likes of Manowar and Judas Priest. They’d warmed up the night before with Nest of Vipers and Apriori (both on the Wildfire bill) at Bannerman’s and this had obviously got their juices flowing. Hair flying, fists pumping and the first (though small!) pit of the festival.
Ross: The first order of the weekend for me is Vice delivering a great blend of speed, thrash and power metal into a nice, tidy package. At one point, lead singer Tom Atkinson takes time to introduce the band’s “big ballad” before launching into the vicious gut punch of “Rise”. The bass from Simon Robertshaw is the most prevalent part and as a fan of good bass work, I’m drawn to it. At no point is it ever heavy-handed and the band set a high bar for the weekend, being one of the stand-outs of the weekend. And that’s just the first band!
Another band we’ve featured… twice! Banshee are the reinvented Life on Standby – same musicians, new ethos, new name. I saw them under their previous moniker supporting the excellent Eva Plays Dead almost a year ago. At the time I thought they were OK, but a little generic. Their decision to step back, rethink and try again has absolutely, definitely paid off. This new creature is wild, sexy and very enjoyable to watch. They really should have been playing to a bigger crowd and I have a feeling that, given time, they will be. The only criticism I will throw their way is that frontwoman Erin took a little while to really seem like she had warmed up – vocally she was superb from the get-go, but audience interaction took a couple of songs. “Say My Name” is a great little release and needs to be checked out.
Holy crap – no prisoners were taken! The most violent 3-person pit of all time went crazy to the absolutely mental flurry of death/thrash being blasted out. Thanks to Reign of Fury’s Tom Baker for covering bass on the day. It would have been a crying shame for these guys to have not appeared otherwise. They certainly set the bar for the heavier acts on the Friday – definitely a band worth watching out for.
Mosh: A band who only released their debut album hours before appearing at Wildfire, they certainly didn’t come across as comparative newbies. With their easy hooks, they had a load of clapping hands and boogying women down the front pretty much by the time they’d got halfway through the first song. Simple hook-filled rock and incredibly enjoyable for it. Sadly, I missed a fair bit of their set as I had an interview to do elsewhere but what I saw definitely impressed.
Ross: Gasoline Outlaws are one of the few bands to feature at Wiston this weekend from across the Irish Sea. Their modern brand of rock brings in a sizeable crowd and a warm reception to accompany it. Despite their country of origin, there’s some Southern rock twangs included alongside massive grooves. Given the length of their set (like every band), they take time out to thank fans, advertise their music and merchandise is for sale onsite and introduce a few of the songs, alongside taking things down a notch with a ballad, complete with acoustic guitar.
Orangefall were the first band to confuse us all by being on at the “wrong” time as it seems that Chasing Dragons didn’t show. Checking afterwards (the data signal on site made this pretty challenging!) it turns out that bassist Murf had been rushed to hospital with acute kidney pain a couple of days earlier. At the time of writing, there are no further updates on their facebook page and we wish him all the best. Orangefall took things in their stride and featured the second keyboard of the day (Turbyne beat them to the plaudit for first), but Orangefall’s keyboardist is also a guitarist which demonstrates the skill of the band members, and also gives a bit of extra depth to the sound.Their melodic rock core contained more than just a sliver of groove making them very easy to listen to. Their new album came out at the start of the year and would be a great listen for those who enjoyed their set today.
When a band walks on stage wearing classic thrash band t-shirts (Slayer, Sabbat, Sacred Reich) then there’s really no surprise when they turn the metronome up to “tear face off” and rip everyone in the audience a new one. Solitary have been going for over twenty years and that experience shows in a band who ruled the crowd with an iron fist, clad in a leather glove with spikes on the knuckles. Heads were banged, fists were pumped and a stupid amount of old-fashioned thrashing fun was had. Here’s hoping they make it a hat-trick with another appearance next year. In the meantime, if you’re located nearby, they’re playing in Burnley on July 23rd.
Ross and I both agree on one disappointing fact about The King Lot: why are they not bloody huge? They’re talented, write brilliant songs and have the stage presence to rival that of some of the best acts you’ll ever see. Relaxed, humble and funny they really make the act of playing live music seem like a joy and this attitude flows over the barrier into the audience. As the set began, I was tempted to request (by shouting, obviously) “play Black Out In The Red Room” as the last time I saw them they were playing as support to and actually as Love/Hate during Jizzy Pearl’s most recent visit to these shores. However, they ruined by potential joke by only going and playing the bloody song with one of Mason Hill’s guitarists to back them up. You just can’t help loving this band after seeing them live. Will someone please sign them with a stupidly generous deal?
Despite dressing in scary schlock horror costumes, DoOM are one of the nicest bunches of guys you could ever meet. Tongue firmly in cheek, they plough through material that would suit Alice Cooper if he went a bit heavier with his sound. They swing their guitars around in sync like KISS, but with more severed body parts on stage. Bad puns and other “jokes” litter the set and it all goes together so damn well. Yes, they’re a “joke” band in some sense, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be professional and DoOm are both fun and incredibly well-practiced. I said in my Band of the Day feature some time ago that I really wanted to see these guys live and they did not disappoint now that I’ve finally caught them. Their next appearance is at SophieFest in Coventry in July, another great band on the bill for a great cause. I’m actually wearing their t-shirt as I type this up!
There’s one band that seems to have drawn a lot of people to Wildfire be it for the day or weekend. You can’t go far without seeing their name emblazoned on a black t-shirt: Mason Hill. I’ve championed these guys since I first saw them over a year ago and I’ve watched them get better and better with every performance. Before the five-piece are onstage, the tent is already fit to bursting with people, drawing in the largest crowd of the weekend. What the local lads did next was nothing short of incendiary, receiving roars of approval from start to finish. Hammering through their four song EP and a couple of older numbers, they also treated us to a fantastic cover of “Mississippi Queen”. “Where I Belong” had the crowd singing along and the band refusing to wipe their well-earned grins from their faces. There’s obviously a lot of graft going into things behind the scenes for the hard rock outfit as it was even tighter than when they opened for Toseland (and they showed the headliners how to put on a show).
Die No More are another band this weekend to receive a wealth of support via t-shirts and patches on denim cut-offs. Their no-nonsense thrash metal is a welcome addition to the weekend judging by the crowd they garnered. For me, it sounded a bit like mid-90s Metallica; a little safe and a little restrained from their full potential. Listening back to them, they’re less sloppy than the comparison (I’m not the first to claim Kirk Hammett is sloppy) and I’m not instantly wanting to switch it off (like I would with their inspiration).
Headliners as a result of Ripper’s absence, A Joker’s Rage took the elevated status in their stride and played a fantastic hour of incredibly entertaining music – not just some banging tunes, but hugely fun into the bargain. With one album out (Black Sheep from last year) and another due by the end of 2016, the band padded the show out with a couple of covers which went down very well indeed. Covers are always a good way to get a crowd unfamiliar with your own music involved in your live show and A Joker’s Rage know how to pick them. Apparently only learned by the band a few days before the performance, Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” was rather apt given the change in line-up and had the crowd belting out the vocals. I urge the band to record this!
Alongside this was the already-released “California Love” track originally by 2PAC (and featured as our Classic Cover earlier today). Interviewing several bands the next day, this was something that many of them mentioned about the set which was universally raved about. To get an audience going is one thing, to add your musical peers to that – and with the praise I heard from them – is the icing on the cake.
So day one done and dusted with just the late night partying (courtesy of Rock Radio Glasgow), and a morning full of hangovers to follow…