Wickerman Festival – East Kirkcarswell, Dumfries & Galloway – July 2014
SB & DS head off on their next roadtrip – heading down to SW Scotland to the Wickerman Festival, here’s Dark Secrets review of the weekend.
Wickerman is a much larger festival than our last, kicking off on the Thursday evening with a Beatles tribute act in the main bar tent and dance tents on the go until the wee small hours.
We left it a bit late to find a B&B but not too late to decide to try out one of the Belltents (complete with fairy lights up the central pole) in the Luxury camping area – in what turned out to be the first camping trip in many years for me. Handily located close to one of the entrances and a car park, it was pretty convenient for tired photographers, after a long day lugging heavy gear about.
We arrived on the Thursday evening, got ourselves wristbanded and made up the beds in the tent ready to collapse onto later, before heading into the venue for a look around. The Wickerman was looking pretty spectacular I have to say, dancing a reel on his wee hill. As it got darker, floodlights lit him from below and I did see some folk peering up his kilt (to see if he was a true Scot, I can only presume).
Things were going full swing in the bar as we wandered down the field, with Beatles hits being blasted out by Them Beatles to the packed tent. We opted for a quiet amble about and a fish supper from one of the vans.
Ok, some orientation: the site was well laid out, roughly square-shaped and divided into quadrants.
At the top right (looking north) was the main stage, set at the bottom of a wee hill and so giving an almost amphitheatre type effect for those who would later be watching from there.
At the top left (at the top of the hill)were a series of tents – Scooter, Solus & GoNorth, all adjacent to each other and the Acoustic Village was set off adjacent to the kids area which was just north of to the funfair on the bottom left. Between the Scooter & Solus tents was a stunt mountain biking area.
Bottom right, downhill from the funfair/kids area was the Bass Camp dance tent bit and some funfair overspill.
Between the top left & right was the food stand loop, in the middle was the trade stand loop and between the bottom left & right was the Retreat zone.
As we both had photo passes, we’d made our plans before we arrived. SB was going to be mostly up the hill moving between the tents and I would be down the hill covering the Main Stage, for the main part.
Friday dawned dry, warm and sunny. Truth be told, probably too warm and too sunny as it turned out, with lots of lobsters sitting out in the sun by mid-afternoon. Personally, I was feeling like a puddle of goo by teatime. However, the ice-cream vendors were very happy as they were doing a roaring trade.
You can see our full album of pictures from Wickerman ’14 on flickr here.
I’m not going to mention all the bands or various things I saw over the next two days, otherwise you’ll still be reading this when the snow starts to fall. I’ll save you that and just mention some of the things that caught my eye and ear.
Opening up for Wickerman on the Main Stage were The Mermaids – two sisters from Galloway, who won the West Sound Radio ‘One to Watch’ competition for 2014.
Skinny Lister produced a really lively set and got the (every growing) crowd moving. I loved the Double Bass sporting the phrase ‘This Machine Kills Dubster’ and I would have like a swig of whatever the female on stage was drinking from the jug – it was starting to heat up out there.
I had a wander later on during this set for a quick look at the wall adjacent to the main stage, where kids were helping decorate a giant mural. Walking amongst the crowd, all I could see were people jigging, swinging and clapping along. A really entertaining band that I hope I’ll see again.
Wandering up the hill to stretch my legs, I encounter the Police Rave Unit. A roving ‘police raid vehicle’ surrounded by on foot ‘coppers’ with a roof that lifts up to reveal the DJ’s inside. They popped up at various points around the venue over the next couple of days and went down really well.
There was an empty slot during the afternoon and rumour turned out to be fact, as Prides were announced. I’d enjoyed them at Brew at the Bog and was glad to have another chance to see them. Three guys who were introduced by Ally McCrae as making music to get you singing along even if you don’t know the words and yes, they did just that (apologies to anyone in earshot of my ‘ee ay ee, ee ay ee oh oh’s during The Seeds You Sow).
Martha Reeves may not be as young as she was but she has some energy. OK, her voice might be a bit wobblier than it used to be, but she can still belt out the classics – kicking off her set with the most appropriate, as it turned out, Heatwave. The photo pit was chockablock for Martha (I counted around 45 people waiting to go in, with a few more arriving after that – mad).
A dash up the hill to catch the last song by LAW (SB has been raving about her and Young Fathers for months now) and the first few songs of Vladmir, who we’d first caught at GoNorth a couple of months back before running back down for Shed Seven. Rick Witter jumped off the stage and onto the pit wall for some audience interaction about 2 songs in however, getting back on the very high stage was a slight hiccup in his plans. I enjoyed this set – fast and interesting, lots going on, but such a busy pit it was a pain to shoot.
Then it was time for the headliner – Dizzee Rascal – fast and furious, with a light show to die for. It was madness in the pit and such a buzz. I went up the hill a bit after the pit session was over to shoot some crowd and wide shots of the stage. Maybe not my type of music but the crowd loved it and I must admit it was a breathtaking spectacle with confetti cannons, green lasers and explosions.
I met up with DS and, after dropping off the camera gear and having a much-needed and well deserved shower & clothing change, we headed off into the venue area again for some food, a wander through the dance tents, a look in at the Reggae Tent and a visit to the Acoustic Village for Esperanza. I was dead on my feet by now though and after the set had finished, staggered back to the tent to faceplant onto the bed and disappear into sweet oblivion (wearing earplugs to drown out the very audible dance camp bass).
Saturday was thankfully cooler, if not downright chilly by evening once the rain had set in. After an overly busy Friday we revised plans slightly over breakfast and forced a few breaks in the schedule to give us some time to recharge and to get together to eat and discuss the day so far. We even sat and had some ice-cream while enjoying Model Aeroplanes and Baby Strange in the afternoon.
Main stage kicked off the day with The Cut Throat Razors – a 10 piece pop based ska/soul/jazz band who feature a face (Ali Hendry) that I’ve seen quite a few times this summer playing her trumpet, most notably with Randolph’s Leap. They were the winners of the Sunday Herald Best Unsigned Band Competition 2014, for this much prized slot.
I missed Siobhan Wilson (or Ella the Bird as she was known at Wickerman) at GoNorth, so made a point of popping up the hill to have a listen – wow, what a voice. Ella the Nightingale might be more appropriate. I also managed to catch Scary People who, as they seem to be getting some good press recently, I wanted to take a look and enjoyed them enough to go have another look when they played The Tunnels in Aberdeen the next weekend. They show promise – I will keep my eye on them.
After ice-creams in the hazy sunshine it was back to the main stage for Big Country, who have found a new lead singer since I last saw them. He seems to have slotted in a treat and wins my ‘tightest trousers of the day’ competition. The crowd were going mad for this ever popular band and the band were loving it, having a great time onstage judging by their huge grins.
Things mellowed down for The Zombies, who have been going for longer than I have been on the planet. They did all their old hits, along with some surprise covers, such as the Argent track – Hold Your Head Up.
Another TBC slot was filled with British Sea Power – and somewhat appropriately the heavens opened as we photographers were waiting for them to come on stage. Cold and soaking, I did my job and then dashed off to the car to get my coat, unfortunately missing most of their set. Oh well, next time…
The Feeling were probably my highlight of this day – they were great to shoot. I had spotted some fans with a banner stating ‘The Feeling – The Greatest Show on Earth’, who had staked out their spot – front and centre – before The Zombies had even come on. The crowd were amazing, singing and waving so I went up onto the top deck of the press bus for some packed out crowd shots about half way through their set, then I headed off into the crowd to soak up the atmosphere.
The headline act – Del Amitri – were welcomed ecstatically, but the crowd were just there to party by then anyway. Playing their old favourites, at one point Justin Currie asked if we were having a good time. After a somewhat incoherent reply from the crowd, he muttered ‘just keep playing the hits, Justin’ – a laugh out loud moment for me.
Of course, the end of the second day brings the thing we were all waiting for – the time the Wickerman meets his doom. SB (who had been shooting a mad Hector Bizerk session) & I met up, and went off to the car to get a tripod, as I fancied trying shooting something new to me – fireworks.
Deciding not to go with all of the other photographers to the designated photo spot, I had picked out a place earlier in the day up by the food vans to set up. It would have been nice had some guy not decided to use the fence right next to me as a pissoir, but sometimes you can’t have everything.
After what seemed like a very long wait, the lights went out and plunged the area into darkness, during which time lasers were played over the body of the sculpture by some of those waiting. Then flaming torches were carried across the field. As the flames began licking under his kilt, the fireworks began and it was a pretty good display, I have to say, with the requisite number of oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
Once they were over, we joined a huge queue for our, by now almost ritual, pre-bedtime fish and chips (in our defence, they were pretty special and we made plans to seek out the same van at Belladrum). Then we sat, eating, at the top of the hill, listening to the Utah Saints DJ set.
Not at all a bad way to end the evening. We will be back…
Words by Dark Secret.
You can see our full album of pictures from Wickerman ’14 on flickr here.
Wickerman Festival Website