Top Tip - if you ever get slightly lost driving to a festival and you see a car with a large toy monkey hanging out of the passenger window waving at passers by, then follow that monkey car, it works a treat. Pulling on to the Wickerman site, behind the said monkey car, the sun was shinning the birds were singing and the was definite festival vibe in the air. This being The ninth Wickerman festival it takes over a third of Jamie Gilroy's farm, set in the in the middle of the lush Dumfries and Galloway countryside, for three weeks a year. The festival welcomes families, and features two main stages, as well as a dance area, acoustic and reggae tents, a campsite, trade stalls, alternative area, bars, and food stalls along with two huge marquees, an outdoor funk stage, chill out space and bar.
Overlooking all of this was the magnificent Wickerman this year in the pose of an Archer as copied by many festival goers taking photographs beneath the huge work of Art.
After parking up in a field with grass so green it hurt your eyes I wandered across the site to the press office. Passing the Scooter Tent the unmistakable sounds of Counterfeit Clash filled the air. A quick detour and it was like being back in a dodgy venue in Derby in 1979 in front of Joe and his band. However Counterfeit clash could do with a bit of a punk make over - it just does not cut it when dressed in M&S's best and OMG the lead singer has a beard. Poor Joe what would he make of that.
The rest of the afternoon was mostly spent in front of the Summerisle main stage. With an impressive line up consisting of Little Comets, I blame Coco, Goldie lookin' Chain, Tony Christie, The Future Heads, Teenage Fan Club and The Charlatans. Also managing to fit in Ed Ten Pole Tudor in the Scooter tent and Django Django at the Solus Emerging Scottish Talent Tent.
After a great set by the Little Comets, I Blame Coco were next on stage with Coco Sumner wearing her trademark short pants. I was hoping after her appearance at the Evolution festival in Newcastle (with a bad case of blotchy leg) someone would have bought her some longer pants or jeans. However her performance was superb although after a gig in Glasgow the previous night, her voice was a little lacking the usual silky tones.
The Highlight of the Afternoon was Tony Christie, stepping out onto the stage bathed in brilliant sunshine. He was dressed impeccably wearing a grey suit and a white shirt that Persil would have been proud of. Top crowed pleaser was "Can't Take my Eyes off you" with the crowed taking over the chorus of "I Love You Baby". As I left to catch Ed Tudor Pole I heard "I Did What I Did For Maria" that accompany me nicely on my way up to the scooter tent.
At this point I have to say that whereas at a couple of previous festivals people were relieving themselves anywhere and everywhere, Wickerman was different and none of that was evident here. Although I did see someone attempt to have a pee against a fence but he got short shrift form a couple of other festival goers that had children with them - hooray for people power! There was also none of the drink till you drop mentality here. Of course there where a few people weaving about the place but very few comatose youngsters that seem to plague some of the other popular festivals.
As an ex punk rocker albeit without the safety pins through nose, I was looking forward to the Buzzcocks and judging by the crowd piling into the Scooter tent many other festival goers had the same thought. The Scooter tent is a relatively small space and it left many fans outside such was the pull for these guys, this was a shame because the gig was pure classic Buzzcocks and it generated a truly fantastic atmosphere. I think the organisers need to have a bigger space for such festival favourites as they may not want to disappoint quite so many fans next time round!
The Charlatans rounded off the evening in grand style with a top headline set. Tim Burges was in great voice and fine fettle although as usual his face was mostly obscured with combination of microphone and a large mop black of hair. Is he trying to make life difficult for us photo guys?
Saturday broke with a rather overcast sky and after a large portion of porridge from the Stoats porridge bar I set off to explore the festival site some more. Wickerman is billed as a family festival and there is certainly a mountain of activities for the wee ones as well as for us larger kids. The large safe children's area provided clowns, story telling, puppet shows and kite making it was most impressive and if noise levels where anything to go by then the kids where having a ball of a time. There was even an ice rink down at the Headphone arena complete with a small blizzard, just to remind folks they where still in Scotland I guess. For the larger kids there was a mountain biking track, mountain boarding and grass sledging. So lots to keep everyone happy and their minds off the ever darkening sky.
Back to the music - More from Jim kicked off the afternoon providing a much needed shot of music adrenalin. A mix of a great horn section and ska - punk - rock influences gave an immediate wake up call and soon had the ever-expanding crowd dancing while enjoying the music. As the weather closed in I headed off to the Scooter tent for the colourful and entertaining Meteltek. As they lacked the funding "to be barbaric warlords and just focused on destroying shit music using plasma cannons" they put industrial sized party poppers to good use showering the crowd with colourful confetti. With the trademark orange lightening striped Erik Tricity on vocals, Dr Mayhem, with the electrically charged gas mask (you have to see it ) on guitar and Lord Thrapston Flagellator with scary mannequin mask on bass, the band is quite a sight to behold and combined with some excellent metal sounds and lyrics they are a definite must see.
As the main stage was engulfed in a soggy scotch mist Scottish festival favourites The Saw Doctors performed their socks off as the rather damp crowd sang and danced along to their fav songs whilst decked out in various waterproof attire.
Following a break after the release their last album 'Proof of Youth', The Go! Team stepped up to fill the shoes of Codeine Velvet Club who have had to cancel their appearance on the main Summerisle Stage. Brighton based sextet the Go team burst on to the stage fronted by the pocket sized laydee MC NInja. They hit the stage running and did not stop for the full set. Slamming together sounds of early electro and hip hop soundtracks to produce a visually stunning and exhilarating performance that left us nearly too breathless to run up to the Scooter tent to catch The Undertones.
Although without Fergal the Undertone songs still sound fantastic, especially “Teenage Kicks” and “Perfect Cousin”, the bands energy and enthusiasm just washed over the fans who did not miss a beat as they danced and sang along and not a drop of spit or gozz in sight thank god. As we staggered down to the main stage Birmingham's Ocean Colour Scene were just sauntering out on to the stage. Always cool and relaxed with Simon Fowler perfecting his scowl at the crowd routine as opposed to Steve Cradock on Guitar who could not stop smiling, they produced a memorable performance and stole the show as ever. I'm sure Simon Fowler did produce a faint smile at one point and seemed to be enjoying himself but then again it’s hard to tell.
As Ocean Colour Scene left the stage the crowd moved en-masse over to the Wickerman himself who had been watching over proceedings for the last couple of days. With a combination of thick mist and floodlight he was eerily light up with full dramatic effect. Then at the appointed hour the lights went out and the amazing piece of art that was the Wickerman was set alight. Slowly at first the flames spread up the body but soon the whole ‘Man of Wicker’ was sending a mass off flames and sparks high into the night air, with the firework display exploding in the background it made for an awesome display. When the Wickerman's head exploded in flames and crashed to the ground in a fireball, it seemed to be the right cue to head back to the main stage where the modern techno pioneers 808 State DJs where already raising the tempo with their acid house dance music extravaganzas, an extravaganza that would carry on well into the night.
Wickerman 2010 ended all too soon but it was well worth the visit, roll on next year!
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