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Monday, 27 July 2015

Wickerman 2015 - Part One

Festivals by their nature are hit and miss with the entertainment provided.
Not because they are apt to look to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but simply because a crowd of thousands of people with different tastes can’t be kept happy all the time.
For every stage that is visited that provides the hit there will always be one that delivers a personal miss.
It’s expected, and it doesn't mean the miss isn't entertaining, but rather that it fails to be to the individuals liking.
It’s nothing more or less than that, and when you stumble across that act that doesn’t work for you then the search continues for something that does, and a well balanced festival will provide it.

This however wasn't my experience of Wickerman 2015 though.
Instead it was a whirlwind of quality that often left me reeling.
Acts after act defied the odds and resolutely failed to disappoint.
Musically I didn't experience a singular downside at all.
When asked to name a favourite moment I can’t.
It’s not possible.
Each time I thought I had witnessed the jewel in the performance crown another act would mirror the experience.
From Hector Bizerk to The Sonics the Scooter tent relentlessly hit the spot.
From Julian Cope to The Waterboys the main stage was firing on all cylinders.
If there was any criticism to be levelled at the organizers then it would be that I didn’t have time to check out the other tents and stages with the exception of a hit and run on the acoustic tent to catch Little Fire.

One thing that was highlighted by Esperanza, Halfrican and Hector Bizerk was that we are not short of home grown talent.
It would be entirely possible to have not just a stage, but a festival, dedicated to Scottish acts and it would be a shock and awe assault on those who claim that we fall short of delivering acts ready to take on the world

Garage rockers Halfrican – who were in the Scooter tent - on vinyl sound like a collaboration between The Ramones and Jesus and Mary Chain looking to deliver a grungy surf rock release, but live it’s cleaner, clearer, less lo-fi and more power pop in the delivery.
I'm not even sure what I prefer between the two.
The dirt, or the sheen?
Both are equally attractive propositions, but the latter was probably more suited to the festival environment where they had the opportunity to attract people in with a bit of aural honey rather than a more abrasive set that would have left some on the ropes wondering what had hit them.

Then there was Hector Bezerk who initially raised some concerns among the punk rock aficionados as they were seen to be an odd fit for the stage, but their set was probably the most punk rock of all as they pushed at the boundaries of hip hop.
The journey from frontman Louie when solo spitting out Glaswegian accented rhymes to the initial sound of Hector Bizerk to the current one is a fast paced delight.
Here is an act that are not only redefining hip hop, but are now at the point of their evolution that they would not appear out of place if they took to the pyramid stage at Glastonbury to fill a prime time spot.
What we are seeing is evolution in action speeded up.
As they expand ever further into dabbling in other genres they are laying down the foundations to be a very important band.
If there is one act that it would be said that you must catch now if you want to be ahead of the curve then this is that act.

Esperanza are in many ways the polar opposite to Hector Bizerk as they are not looking to reinvent the wheel.
Instead they are honing the ska sound to sharp perfection.
They are becoming the lean mean skanking machine that others aim for but often fall short of having the stamina to nail as soundly as they do.
The turn out in the tent was an unsigned bands dream come true and the capacity crowd were taken through their paces exhaustively.
Again there is no reason at all why the band is not gracing larger stages.
Even with a Commonwealth games appearance tucked under their collective belts there is far more on offer than that one hit and run moment into the wider publics consciousness.
If there was another wave of 2-tone/ska to rise then Esperanza would be on the crest of it.
Undoubtedly if anyone is looking for a band that can guarantee to get a festival crowd on their feet to dance then they needn’t look any further.
If they aren’t on the main stage in 2016 then someone will have dropped the ball.
I would have had them signing a contract when they were seconds off the stage and still on a high from the performance and well deserved reception.

Moving on from the Scottish acts it’s fair to say that others on the bill at Wickerman were out to ensure that they weren’t left in the shade.
I’ve been a long time admirer of TV Smith and consider him as an unsung hero.
That being the case I was looking forward to his set and again it was a sublime experience.
Passionately eloquent he is the punk rock Dylan.
Bob, not Thomas.
From the start of his set to the end he relentlessly powered through a solid half hour of his back catalogue and kept the older fans happy by giving some focus to The Adverts period with his acoustic renditions of the 1977 double header of Gary Gilmours Eyes and Bored Teenagers drawing attention to how flaccidly bland the mainstream music scene currently is.
It’s not that there’s a dearth of talent.
It’s that there’s a dearth of investment in it.
In an ideal world TV Smith would be the elder statesman of rock.
A man with a message that is relevant to us all, and the ability to put it across with no quarter given.
What’s not to like?

The Ramonas are becoming a Wickerman mainstay.
While the festival isn't known for gravitating towards promoting tribute bands they are the exception to the rule.
Maybe there’s a throwback to the days that Claire of AntiProduct played as The Ramonas was originally her baby.
Who knows, but with the timeless sound of onetwofrefo bursting out it’s a call to arms for some aging punks to recommit to the gabba-gabba-hey.
I would have been in my element, but Julian Cope was on the main stage and over previous years our stars have failed to align on the solstice and our paths had not crossed so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to get to grips with the shamanistic madness on offer
Okay, it’s true that there were more bemused looks on the faces of those facing the main stage than rapt adulation, but this was Julian Cope, a man whose dalliance with hallucinogenics is well recorded.
If you play knock knock on the door of perception it’s Julian that will answer and as I had no expectations other than his set was going to be an ‘experience’ there was no preconceived idea of what was required for it to tick all the boxes.
It turns out that all that is required to enjoy Saint Julian is an ability to let go.
Just to allow yourself to live in the moment and if you can do that then it all makes sense.
Maybe not in hindsight, but within the moment it all works.
Every quip, every random verbal segue, every song approached can scream on paper that it shouldn't work, but it does.
His whole appearance at Wickerman on the main stage begs the question of who thought this was a good idea, but thankfully someone did.
While some may thank the gods that there is only one Julian Cope there are those of us who are very pleased that there is actually one as who needs tow anyway?
Here we have a unique artist, one who is willing to explore the fringes and come back bearing gifts from lands were angels fear to tread.

Insanity never tasted so good. 

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