Wildfire Festival is Scotland’s only rock and Metal festival and has been running now for four years. Previously known as Les-Fest, the festival changed to its name to Wildfire in the past twelve months which is in keeping with its new home at Wiston Lodge located just outside Biggar.
Words: Johnny Main: Photos by Carlan Braid.
The festival site itself is centrally located, being less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carlisle and its situated beside the main lodge itself with the main festival arena less than ten minutes walk from the vast campsite. Along with the main arena, which is completely covered, this year saw the introduction of a partially covered second stage which gave more scope for performances as one band can be setting up on the one stage whilst another are playing on the other leading to the occasional band clashes but more bands packed into an already jam packed weekend.
This isn’t a niche festival but it is small and is growing every year and plays on the fact that Scotland has a huge fan base for rock and Metal acts so you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to have a good weekend out when an event like this is able to showcase bands from around the UK and abroad.
The campsite this year opened at 7:00am on the Friday morning and within a couple of hours it began to fill out. Parking your car next to your tent is a bonus at Wildfire, as it means you don’t have to lug everything from the car park to the camping area and back again, giving everyone more time to enjoy the weekend all the unpacking has been done.
As normal with these kind of events, there were fewer bands playing on the Friday which gave those attending early a chance to get to know the site and try some food and drink from the various vendors dotted around the main arena and ensuring that those turning up a bit later in the day don’t miss too much of the onstage action.
As the MetalTalk team arrived on site, we took the leisurely option of taking our time to set up our equipment whilst we enjoyed a refreshing couple of drinks in the sun, discussing the weekend ahead and the bands that we were most looking forward to seeing.
As the clock struck five, the first band on our list took to the stage and we headed into the main arena to catch Knock Out Kaine. Frontman Dean Foxx bounded onstage with a “How the fuck are you Wildfire?” and it’s not long before he gets the crowd enthused as they tear through ‘Set The Night On Fire’.
‘Backstreet Romeo’, which is about relationship cheating, has an acoustic guitar showing the band can do subtle as well as brash, before a cover of the Steve Earle classic, ‘Copperhead Road’ is slipped into the set. Quite why they added this in I’m not sure – don’t get me wrong, it was a very credible effort from all the band, especially Foxx, and the crowd are more than happy to sing-along, it’s juts that the band have enough original material that just as good, so why not play some of those songs?
The antithesis of this is the band’s final couple of numbers. ‘Time’ is a true tour de force for the band, and certainly deserves to be in the finale of their set, whilst ‘Little Crystal’ from the band 2012 debut album, ‘House Of Sins’, is a fine way to end the set as Foxx gives it everything one last time.
Knock Out Kaine may be making their first appearance at Wildfire, but judging by their performance, I have a sneaky suspicion that they may get a return visit next year, and fingers crossed they do and they are much higher up the bill as well.
Knock Out Kaine are:
Dean Foxx – Lead Vocals
Jimmy Bohemian – Lead Guitar
Lee Byrne – Bass Guitar
Danny Krash – Drums
Knock Out Kaine Set List:
Set The Night On Fire
Ain’t Your Kind
Fahran have appeared on the Wildfire stage before and they were well aware of the set up and, of course, they already have a big following judging by the number of people crammed against the crowd barrier before the band hit the stage. And as they made their entrance onstage, there was a rush from those enjoying the sunshine outside into the main arena to see them.
When they did get down to business, it’s a predictably tight and professional set from the Derby based quintet. Their second album, ‘Chasing Hours’ was released in August last year and they treated the audience to a set jam packed with newer material. Set opener ‘Some Kind Of Family’ has drummer JR Windsor laying down a solid beat whilst front man Matt Black worked to get the most from the audience.
Amongst these newer songs it was ‘I Heard A Joke Once’ and ‘Cased In Steel’ that provided the set highlights for me. The former especially has a razor sharp guitar riff and sees Black really stretching his voice whilst special mention must be made of the band’s set closer ‘A Thousand Nights’ too, which has a more melodic intro before the number the really kicks into gear.
Only two songs, ‘Stay Alive’ and ‘Ashes’, are taken from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut album but it’s predictably these which get the best reaction from the audience.
For those who missed the band last year, they produced another solid performance which is bound to bolster their fan base, but the question for me is, will they make it three festivals in a row by appearing next year? I would say it’s a safe bet!
Matt Black – Vocals
Jake Graham – Guitar
Chris Byrne – Guitar
Joshua Ballantyne – Bass Guitar
JR Windsor – Drums
Fahran Set List:
Some Kind Of Family
You Could Be Mine
I Heard A Joke Once
Take This City Alive
Cased In Steel
A Thousand Nights
Tysondog were formed in Newcastle back in 1983 during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM for short!) boom and were signed to Neat Records, home of the all powerful Venom. Indeed, it was none other than Venom’s bass player Cronos who produced the band’s first full-length album, ‘Beware Of The Dog’ which was followed by ‘Crimes Of Insanity’ in 1986.
As happens, of course, some bands fall by the wayside and though they were tipped for the top, Tysondog became one of the casualties. Fast forward to 2015 and not only have the band reformed, but their fan base has seen a resurgence as young fans discover them for the first time and to help continue their upward climb, the bands latest album, ‘Cry Havoc’ was released on Rocksector Records in April 2015.
So what do Tysondog 2015 have to offer? Well, that’s easy – hard and heavy Metal songs where the new material harks back to the halcyon days of the eighties and where the old material doesn’t sound dated at all.
Kicking into gear with ‘Hammerhead’ followed by ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down’ you could be forgiven for thinking the band had never given up. They are a solid and tight unit onstage and the audience don’t take long to start headbanging.
The set was compiled from tracks from all three of the band’s full length albums and there’s a good mix of old and new fans for the band’s energy to feed off. Title track of the new album, Cry Havoc’ may have been unfamiliar to some of the audience but I’m sure they’ll have shifted a few extra copies over the weekend!
It must be said though, that if this is the enthusiasm the band generate at every gig they play then hopefully they have a healthy future ahead of them, and with one more bite at the cherry, it’s clear they’re not just a nostalgia act feeding off past glories but have something new to complete against the younger bands with.
John Paul Carruthers – Vocals
Kev Wynn – Bass Guitar
Paul Burdis – Guitar
Phil Brewis – Drums
Stevie Morrison – Guitar
Tysondog Set List:
Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down
Into The Void
Taste The Hate
Without a doubt though, the evening belonged to headliners, Tygers Of Pan Tang. It was a hotly anticipated set from the band who were glimpsed during the day walking around checking out the site and by the time their stage time arrived, the packed arena was more than ready for them.
Wildfire festival organiser Dave Ritchie took to the stage to personally welcome the band on stage and what a reception they got as they finally walked on. What followed was a fifteen song set of the best Tygers tracks including five tracks from their 1980 debut album, ‘Wildcat’ right up the new material from their 2012 album, ‘Ambush’.
Like Tysondog earlier in the day there’s no doubt that Tygers Of Pan Tang are not just doing this for nostalgia reasons – they are very much a working band who have something new to offer their ever growing army of fans. ‘Gangland’ has those in front of the stage punching the air in time to the music as vocalist Jacopo Meille got settled into his role before guitarist Micky Crystal stole the limelight with the first of many great guitar solos.
‘Rock Candy’ had those down the front headbanging away furiously to the beat as did ‘Keeping Me Alive’ before Meille had some interplay with the audience during ‘Rock N’ Roll Man’. By this point in their set I’m not sure who was having the most fun to be honest, the band or the audience as the volume from the latter seemed to get louder and louder as the band’s set continued.
As the evenings curfew drew ever closer, the Tygers weren’t going to go quietly and with a double barrelled shot of ‘Raised On Rock’ and the ubiquitous ‘Love Potion Number Nine’ bringing the curtain down on their set, there was a group of fans in front of the stage who just wouldn’t let the band go.
Could they have played the same set again and got the same reaction? Probably!
The point is that this band should have been bigger in their heyday but now they too have found a new audience who continue to be as ‘Spellbound’ by the band’s performances as those back in the day, so let’s hope that they don’t think too seriously about retiring soon as they’re not ‘Running Out Of Time’ yet, where live performances are concerned.
Tygers Of Pan Tang are:
Jacopo Meille – Vocals
Robb Weir – Guitar
Micky Crystal – Guitar
Gavin Gray – Bass
Craig Ellis – Drums
Tygers Of Pan Tang Set List:
Love Don’t Stay
Paris By Air
Slave To Freedom
Rock N’ Roll Man
Keeping Me Alive
Don’t Touch Me There
Raised On Rock
Love Potion Number Nine