Following the successful three-day event earlier in the year, the organisers of Station 18 Festival took a punt on a smaller autumn showcase, bridging the gap between the end of the summer festivals and the start of the winter tours that are now building up across the country.
A brave move, but looking back, one that, whilst it may not have been financially rewarding, provided what music does best: warm memories, new discoveries, and a feeling that with rock music, the world is a better place, even if it was just for 36 hours.
Ahead of his coverage, MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings sat down with Gary Spiller to find out more about the festival.
Gary tells me that Station 18 came about through the burgeoning NWOCR realm. “Kelly (Mrs Spiller) and I had been travelling up and down the country for a few years following various bands like Those Damn Crows and Scarlet Rebels, and there was a realisation that a ‘scene’ was beginning to take shape.
“Upon invitation, in early 2020, we became business partners with Midnight Tornado – an events promotion based in Swansea – and began putting on gigs with them at Hangar 18, Swansea and Fuel Club, Cardiff”.
The seeds were sown, and the idea grew into putting on a three-day festival over a Bank Holiday weekend. “There was one stipulation we insisted on,” says Gary, “and that was we wanted to buck the trend and offer something a bit different with local bands given opportunities, plus not ploughing the furrows other festivals were doing lineup-wise.”
The first Station 18 event took place in May 2022. “Only 18 months ago, but it honestly feels a lot longer,” Gary says. “The lineup was born over a period of months with Hollowstar, Chez Kaine and The Treatment headlining. Hangar 18, Swansea, was the hosting venue and continues to be so. We can’t thank venue owner, sound tech and all-round nice guy Matt Jones and his team enough.
“Across the three days there, we had 20 bands play from Ethyrfield to Kinstrife via South Of Salem. We can safely say it was a lineup which all the team organising were proud of. We had the Welsh elements with the likes of Pearler, Cancel The Transmission and Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters, along with some tasty diversions such as 50 Year Storm and Black Lakes.”
So, a positive event in 2023 was completed, and in the middle of an elongated house move, what the hell possessed Gary and Kelly to throw in another mini-festival in October?
That’s a good question,” Gary says. “Kelly and I went into this May’s festival with the firm mindset that the weekend would be our last gig promotion for a while. Our media work with Metal Planet Music was escalating beyond our wildest imaginations, and with some behind-the-scenes cracks appearing, we had informed Midnight Tornado, several months prior, of our decision to focus entirely upon the media side of things.
“Things didn’t quite pan out that way, though, as throughout the course of that weekend, it began to dawn on us that something special had been created. Our friends in the crowd, on stage, in the photo pit, and quite literally everywhere we went, kept encouraging us to change our minds and rethink things.
“We even had an on-stage marriage proposal with Dawn accepting Martin’s proposal. Two good friends of ours beaming from ear to ear. It kind of nibbles away at you!
“So, with the last notes of main event Sunday headliners Bad Touch still reverberating, I began talking, and before very long, a new team is assembling with the blessing of Matt Jones (Hangar 18). Just the wife Kelly to convince! All, of course, was good, and our mini-October festival was born with a business partnership between Matt, Kelly, and me taking the helm.”
With October now put to bed, what are the plans for the big one in 2024? “Whereas we dived headfirst into the weekend just gone, we’re feeling more prepared looking towards 2024. We’ve got a fantastic team around us and a cracking framework to go forward with.
“Given the logistical challenges of Friday with the M4 proving a less than agreeable beast, we’ve opted for a more local feel to the Friday lineup. Three bands are already booked, and more are soon to be announced. We’re now making approaches for our headline acts for both Saturday and Sunday, as I speak, which are genuinely exciting if we can pull it off.
“We’re also putting together a competition of sorts for the opening slots on Saturday and Sunday. We feel it’s so very important that the ethos of presenting local bands the opportunity to play continues. We had local bands Edit The Tide, Idle Minds and Modern Rogues, all suggestions from within our team were well received this weekend, and it’s a genuine buzz to witness.”
So finally, we need to know about mascot Keef. “Ha! Keef, our mascot. The beaver with a Heavy Metal fever! We busted him out of jail just before the first festival back in 2022. Got him on a private jet to an airstrip close to us and hunkered him down in our shed before unleashing him on an unsuspecting public!
“Seriously though, I wanted a festival mascot and something a bit off the cuff. Anyone who knows me will acknowledge my mind is a strange place. The idea was put on the back burner, awaiting the creative spark I so needed.
“This came down at the end of one of the days at Love Rocks as I noted a good mate of ours bouncing from table to table beavering away. So, in a moment, I had the mascot’s name and species.
“I’ve got to thank Sam Bolderson (Haxan) for completely understanding my thoughts and designing Keef! And, of course, our good friend Keith for allowing our mascot to share his fine name.”
Station 18 Festival returns from Friday, 3 May to Sunday, 5 May 2024. Some early bird tickets remain.