We’ve been backing Wildfire Festival for a number of years now and it’s always been a highlight in the calendar. Hell, festival organiser, Dave Ritchie, was good enough to give us our own stage last year. But it was over on Dave’s where something special was happening. Gaining the honour of opening the day and indeed, the weekend was a relatively new band called Black King Cobra and in the intervening months, I’ve seen them more times than I can count, always better than the last time.
So, with Wildfire Rekindled, it was only appropriate that with the strides they’ve taken in these past few months, Black King Cobra’s first ever headlining gig was this night. Featuring four bands for the princely sum of £7, even if there was only one band on the bill, it’d be a steal. Much like the festival itself, there’s a great atmosphere in Audio with people coming out to support the festival and tonight’s headliners. Before we get there, though, Landslides have the unenviable task of opening proceedings. With an electronic slant, the altrock fourpiece have a good energy to them and they’re well put together. However, it’s met with polite claps and whilst proving how varied tonight’s bill is, is just a touch bland and uninspired.
Darkness Divine hit the stage with unbridled force, grabbing the crowd by the scruff of their neck and pulling them along for the ride, regardless of if they volunteered. Full of energy, the five piece blend melodic elements of metal with thrash and technical ability to enrapture the crowd. They make the most of their time, they’re out to impress, something they manage with ease and there’s several counts of people remarking upon their great set afterwards. Making full use of the stage and filling the room with their pent-up hook-filled metal, there’s no surprise they’re currently doing well in Glasgow’s Metal 2 the Masses competition for a place at this year’s Bloodstock.
Sauza Kings mix things up again with their brand of hard rock with elements of sleaze and a good dose of fuzz to bring it all together. Whilst not as heavy as their predecessors, the change gains roars of approval. As tight as the bands before them, they ensure they’re not messing around, aiming to make their mark on the night and make their first night in Glasgow one to remember. With Mark Burdett and Steve Calvert trading riffs combining flashy techniques with skill, their set passes in a blur and it’s no wonder they’re already on the bill for this year’s Wildfire.
With guitarist Ross Clark and bassist Johnny Keel decked out in boiler suits, they work with drummer Steve Todd, Black King Cobra jam their usual intro of “Jacques Your Body” before frontman Callum Moran joins his brothers. Mouthing the phrase “fuck me sideways” at the reaction and the packed-out venue, the four of them launch into “Blood Rush”. Brimming with confidence and all the energy they can muster, from the beginning of their set, it’s concrete proof of why they deserve to be headlining gigs.
Meanwhile, songs like “Rusted” and “Ball and Chain” show the variation the groove rock outfit can manipulate but still have their own signature sound. With fuzzy gritty riffs against cleaner ones on “Ruin of Youth” and “Mr Dependable”, they work within their core influences to bring a broad spectrum of sounds. Even songs not found on their EP like “Harvest Moon” and “Shiver”, if you’ve seen the band enough times feel like old friends. As Clark bounces across the stage with the energy of the Duracell bunny, Keel brings meaty basslines, battering the shit out of his bass and locking in with Todd’s solid drumming, making the most of his kit without overdoing it. Moran’s voice has never sounded better and as individuals and as a band – at the risk of me repeating myself every time I see this bad – they’ve never been better. Commanding their crowd with ease, they’re as excited to be on the stage as the rest of the room.
However, the elephant in the room is addressed for tonight is a bittersweet one. Keel’s first headliner with Black King Cobra will be his last gig with the band on the account of becoming a father. Whilst it’s sad he’s leaving (and his successor will have big shoes to fill), it’s for a great reason and he can’t stop grinning when he shouts it onstage. Congratulations abound and the last few songs bring the night to its end. The funked-up number “Wrack N’ Ruin” and “Quake” leave the night on a high before Moran departs to allow one last jam between the men with instruments and it’s the closest thing to an encore for the night.
With the reaction and the turnout, it shows that if the quality is there, people will come out and if you put in the hard work, it will pay off. Grabbing the opportunity before them with both hands, it was a momentous night for the band and one no-one will be forgetting any time soon. Having consistently upped their game over the months, four musicians never deserved it like they did. As send-offs for a founding member go, it doesn’t get much better than that.