The majority of bands have played. People are still reeling from the sheer excellence of Oliver/Dawson Saxon and much like the day before, people are off to a sluggish start with the exception of a knowing group gathered at the Moshville Times stage to see Monkey Puzzle. For me, the Sunday was a chance to see two stellar acts and finally catch one whose EP I’ve been listening to for quite some time…
Droll Man have the honour of kicking off the last day and present the listener with a smorgasbord of sounds which merge into their own unique sound. It’s Southern, hard, bluesy, grimy with just a hint of metal. Because of this, they make a chilled but heavy start to the day as the stoner and grunge influences bubble to the fore.
As an 80s sleaze throwback, Heartbreak Remedy look the part. Then they kick off their set and it proves the first impression is correct. With their impressive swagger, the three-piece fill the stage as if transported straight for the Sunset Strip thirty years ago, minus the Ozone layer-damaging hair and oodles more groove. Stepping things up from the previous act, the shift in gear makes for a great way of upping the ante to wake everyone up, rather than throwing them in at the deep end.
People sit outside soaking up the sunshine whilst inside Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters bring catchy hard rock. The titular Beth would be quick to draw comparisons to Halestorm. There’s the similar throaty vocals but musically, the pop sheen of Halestorm has been scrubbed off with sandpaper. It gives it that intentional rough around the edges sound and with her solid band, they keep everyone in the tent entertained.
For months, people asked me for recommendations. One of which was Aaron Buchanan, the other being Anchor Lane. Buchanan was great but Anchor Lane brought it to a whole new level. Tighter and more polished than ever before, the young four-piece, despite the early start, are intent on leaving their mark with their modern hard rock sound. And they do it. Without even breaking a sweat. With guitarists Conor Gaffney and Jack Nicol taking wanders into the audience and massive singalong anthems, they make sure the crowd are involved.
Meanwhile, bassist Matthew Ward and drummer Scott Hanlon lock in to create some thick, massive grooves. With their New Beginning EP given an outing, there’s also songs like “Eclipse”, “Gone Cold” and slow burner “Take Some Time” complete with a foray into Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”. They’re set to support Mason Hill in August so if you’re going, ensure you’re there in time to see the best band of Wildfire 2017.
Fragile Things features another Heaven’s Basement frontman. Opting for a bluesier angle, they still manage to keep things upbeat. With the melody and raw vocals of Richie Hevanz along with Mark Hanlon’s early Slash’s Snakepit riffs, the songs are loaded with emotion. The band are loose onstage compared to the full efforts found online which gives an impression of a more straight-laced outfit. With the set comprised of songs you’d expect to hear in an arena, the hooks and professionalism of the band only furthers that idea.
Dead Label brings the heavy between two more chilled bands. Rolling through their set with the ferocity of an inter-city train, you look past the gentlemen plying their trade of groove metal to the demonic drummer that is Claire Percival. Very much an up to date style in terms of metal, it’s a welcome sound to the ears, the trio’s bonkers set is endearing as they win over a new set of fans, myself included.
The Bad Flowers bring their muscular blues hard rock to Wiston and having been a fan for some time, they’re worth the wait. Once described to me as a “shit version of Oasis” (that doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?), it sounds more like Bad Company on steroids. There’s a seriously heavy interpretation of “Voodoo Child”, a stunning rendition of “City Lights” from the EP and from the upcoming album: “Thunderchild”. It’s got as much balls on it as the Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds track of the same name.
More a band you’d expect to see in the pages of publications aimed at a teen audience, Making Monsters go out of their way to endear themselves to a completely different demographic. Given that I like rock in pretty much all forms, this foray into something more alternative is a great change of pace.
Piston ensure they enthral with their dirty and gritty hard rock. It’s the sort you’ll be headbanging along with for the entire set and the five-piece work seamlessly as a unit to deliver a gargantuan sound. The hairy bunch (actually, that’s like most bands here) refuse to ease up on the pedal and I’ve still got a crick in my neck from their short but sweet set…
The bluesy and funky Late Night Legacy aren’t letting the lacklustre crowd stop them from pulling out all the stops. Definitely contenders for being the band who had the most smoke from the machines, it hides the band and the fact they didn’t draw a great number in. However, when I’m not being choked, bass man Kyle Metcalf is channelling Flea to the point you expect the man himself to show up. There’s a blues undertone to the funk rhythms and ultimately lends itself to being one of the most fun sets. Maybe less smoke next time, though!
Bad Touch make their welcome return to Wildfire after having dropped out last year to record their second album. Firing out songs like “My Mother Told Me”, “Heartbreaker Soulshaker” and “99%”, it’s been a pleasure to watch the progress this band has made over the years. Featuring the welcome return of original guitarist Rob Glendinning, the blues rockers are at the top of their game, the chemistry between him and fellow guitarist Daniel Seekings rising to tangible levels and the tent is bouncing with joy. Before introducing the last song of the set, singer Stevie Westwood sums up the entire weekend, declaring “Wildfire is not a festival but a family” and it’s a perfect cap to the best set I’ve seen them deliver since they supported Snakecharmer a couple of years back.
Chrome Molly mix things up by giving their NWOBHM sound a Southern feel. Having close to four decades of experience, it’s no surprise the five-piece turn in a thrilling and polished set. With a slightly different angle on a very familiar sound, it’s great to be taken into unfamiliar territory as a band who have consistently turned out great albums makes Wildfire theirs for the early evening.
Whilst some of the Moshville Times crew performed the Macarena on our stage [this never happened; you can’t prove it – Mosh], Thirteen Stars get a bit more sensible with their Southern-infused hard rock. Having been one of last year’s myriad standout acts, there’s a real buzz and understandably so. They’ve raised the bar since last time, upping the quality of their performance and they get the crowd worked into a frenzy with ease.
One of the few iconic names to appear on this year’s bill, Tygers of Pan Tang don’t fail to entertain their crowd. Having evolved with the times, they’re not a throwback by any means. If you like your rock hard and heavy with attitude to boot, you’ll have a ball with this lot. With no airs or graces, they set out to make sure both they and their captive audience have a good time. Something they manage to do effortlessly.
Those Damn Crows are maybe slightly more melodic and less hairy but it seems they’re picking up where Black Spiders left off. It’s well put together, uncompromising, take-no-prisoners hard rock. Standout track and set-closer “Who Said Rock and Roll’s Dead” has the audience chanting it verbatim in no time at all and it’s pretty much the sentiment behind the entire festival. If someone wants to show this place to a certain someone who recently tried to trademark rock and metal’s most famous gesture, that’d be great.
Forever Still bring a melodic hard rock sound for the last time of the weekend. Complete with the soaring vocals you’d come to expect, the downtuned guitars are played with skill whilst the drums are battered to within an inch of their lives. As the weekend is drawing to its close, the band work for their warm response as they push themselves to the utter limit.
Dan Baird and Homemade Sin close out Wildfire 2017’s Incendium Stage and the good time Southern boogie entertains myself and everyone around me. The wistful atmosphere that’s taken hold as everything begins to wind down is forgotten as most of the room is literally dancing, friends and strangers alike. Whilst Baird’s attitude at soundcheck may not have been the most impressive, he and his band make up for it when they take to the stage. It’s the sort of set which forces a smile to your face as you nod along and in its own way, you never want it to end.
As people have dropped off towards the end of the night, those who stayed got to witness something you don’t get at just any gig, or indeed, any festival. Not everyone knew who Dan Baird was going in, but he left quite the impression on the festival and I’m sure when the familiar faces reconvene next year, it’ll be talked about and telling those who missed it what fun was had.
Check out Carly’s full set from the day…