Review: Wildfire Festival – Day Two

Crowsaw set the vibe for a huge percentage of today at Wildfire. Apart from the Horrorfly stage, we were looking at a day filled with groove, bluesy undertones, and some brilliant acts. This band, from just over the Welsh border, made me think how far-spread the talent is in this year’s Wildfire Festival. It had bands from every home nation, and although we were just starting day two, it really did fly in the face of Gene Simmons and his stupid mouth. This country is producing an ever-increasing pot of talented young bands. Crowsaw may not fit in the ‘young’ category, but they slide easily into the former. Their bluesy sound edged me, and a lot of other rough-looking people, gently into the day, and for that I am forever grateful. This was a profound set from a bunch of pros who have worked many a stage. The songs were spot on, and as I said, these guys got the day off to a cracking start. Next up was a band that I was first introduced to by friends in their hometown of Blackpool. They had been raving about A’Priori for ages, so I had to check out their most recent release ‘V.E.N.O.M’ when it came out recently, and I was very impressed. I didn’t expect to see these guys live for some time, so when I saw they were on the bill for Wildfire, they were the first band I aimed a highlighter at. There was no way I was missing them. These guys are your poster boy heroes. They have that look of all the 70/80s bands that adorned my walls way back when. Leather jacket, black t-shirt, jeans and the cutie pie that is Mouse on vocals. I have to say, I loved his t-shirt… but enough of the pretty boy looks, let’s get down to the music… just like they did. These guys seriously kicked ass. The crowd got into them from the off, and everyone lapped up their own material, but it has to be said that their two covers were momentous and well judged for a festival crowd. The first of these was Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch”, and as much as I loved this, it was the stunning version of RATM’s “Killing In The Name” that blew me, and everyone else here, away. for 1pm on a Saturday afternoon the crowd went well and truly nuts! It’s just as well we were in as field in the middle of nowhere, as the volume of the sing-along was deafening. The bar had been set for the day and it was pretty bloody high after that, but Baleful Creed gave it a hell of a shot. Being another part of the Irish contingency, I reckon they may have been a little rough themselves after last night. There may have been no Guiness on sale, but I reckon they partook in some of the Wildfire branded ale. No matter how they were feeling, they didn’t let it show, and they kicked into “Gods Fear” like a bat out of hell. The crowd were more than responsive, and everyone was bouncing along to the songs. They had some brilliant songs, with, for me, the best kept to last in “Crazy Man”. We really need a PR to book all these Irish bands on one bill and tour it around the UK, as each and every one of them played a blinder this weekend. The crunchy guitars, laid back chuggage, and gritty vocals were perfect, and I look forward to their next album they are currently working on. Sister Rose were up next, and the guys from Ramsbottom (yes, there were plenty of jokes) were definitely in a Scottish mood, as the drummer, Wanger (that is dangerously close to something else) strolls out in a kilt. I also have to say that vocalist Chris Berry must have fallen into the Scottish swing of things last night too, as he looked as rough as I felt at 4am this morning. The guys dusted off the cobwebs, and proceeded to crack open the doorway to the 1980s. With songs like “King Of Cabaret”, “Shame On You”, and my favourite “Hear What You’re Saying”. They had a real Judas Priest feel, and they could have stepped up last night to fill in for Ripper Owens’ set.  They have undertones of classic UFO, and were a perfect addition to today’s roster. A well worked set from a band that started in 1978. All that hard work on stages across the country have not gone to waste, and I would go and see this band at the drop of a hat. A quick walk from one stage to the other saw Sinocense kick the tempo right up. The Belfast boys really went for it with their brand of thrash. They were here to make us wake up and take notice with some class songs, the standout for me being “Terminus”. If you like your guitars fast, your songs faster, and to walk away with a ringing in your ears, this is the band for you. With no time to recoup, it was straight into RSJ. Holy shit, this band are frenetic! It was like a runaway freight train trashing all in its wake. Lead vocalist, Dan Cook would not stand at peace for one second. He was on the barrier, the amps, and swinging from the roof. The rest of the band were no slouches either. I came away from that set thinking WTF did I just witness? I am still in some doubt, but the energy was massive and very infectious. The crowd parted, and we had pits aplenty. They ran through their 9 song set like a pack of Tasmanian Devils, in a blur, and without a break. “Fuck Off” got everyone going, and took it as close to the edge as you can get without falling into the abyss. Guys, can I get some of what you were on? I thought I was doing well to walk to the pizza stand or the bar. I needed a seat after RSJ’s set… That was what you call entertainment!

Welsh rockers Fireroad are one of those bands that you could stick on at any festival, or any bill, and they would go down the proverbial storm. Songs with instant appeal that get the heads bobbing and the arses shaking. No frills, no fancy left field mid song change, just guitars, drums, and vocals, ’nuff said really. Catchy enough to get the punters in out of the sun (it did visit us today…), and empty the bar, Fireroad batter their way through a forty minute set full of anthemic guitar driven bluesy rock with an added dash of Welsh charm. Frontman and guitarist, Richard Jones has an easy going attitude, and played with a massive grin all over his face (the same grin was still there as he was pressing the flesh later on, with a pint in his hand) and he links up well with lead guitarist Gavin Davies, who peels off riff after riff with ease. Standout track was ‘Second Hand Soldiers’, an impassioned tale of the isolation that many ex-Servicemen face after leaving, and ending up on the streets. Just one of many highlights from a weekend full of them. The Idol Dead were up next, and the five piece from Leeds made themselves contenders for marching back down the M6 with the ‘Best On The Day’ award tucked firmly in t’back pocket. Led by the whirlwind that is simply known as Polly, The Idol Dead offered up an afternoon of pumped up, infectious glam rock, with some punk thrown in to shake shit up. Think of it, if you will, as a mix of Michael Monroe, Iggy Pop, and Clinton Baptiste (the psychic from TV’s Phoenix Nights… Google him!), and you get the picture. Someone simply born to do this. It’s impossible to imagine him doing anything else but fronting a kick ass band. Wildfire run a tight ship with the two stages right next to each other. The acts need to start and finish on time to ensure that neither stage drowns out the other, so it’s slightly surreal to hear Polly shouting at guitarist KC, who is manning the merchandise stand, that he needs to get his arse on stage, as they have to start NOW! One of two guitarists, KC is easily recognisable, as he’s the one wearing black skinny trousers ripped open to reveal that he’s wearing some fetching black stockings & suspenders! The other guitarist, Tim is playing it safe with his attire. Completing The Idol Dead are the rhythm team of Dan (bass), and Nish, who particularly impresses with his incredible drum work. A fantastic set followed, chock full of frantic punk/glam inspired rock ‘n’ roll, which proved yet again that it’s mainly European bands that can do poppier punk without it sounding watered down and insipid. We liked it that much, we parted with our beer money for some albums and march. As if you needed any more reason to check them out… Scots foregoing beer to buy some swag!
Cairo Son were waiting to start as soon as The Idol Dead finished. Sadly, their set is peppered with equipment malfunctions, as guitarist and vocalist Magdy struggles with his gear, but thankfully not enough to spoil a lot of people’s first encounter with the London-based trio. Grunge mixed with stoner and blues, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden meet Kyuss and Black Sabbath, with a little piece of early Led Zeppelin thrown in. That sums up what you can expect from Cairo Son. The quality of the playing shines through any equipment problems, and no matter how frustrated Magdy gets, he sticks with it and pulls it off. He cuts quite a figure with his long hair and his Gibson. His voice has great emotion and range, which is where the Soundgarden comparisons come in… Cornell without the high-pitched gymnastics. With a new album to push, most of the set is naturally culled from ‘Storm Clouds’. ‘Lost In The Shadow’, ’Lion In A Cage’, and the epic title track, all impress. The other guys in the band, bassist Rico, and drummer Dave, keep it simple but effective, however special mention needs to go to Dave who, despite playing on a shared kit, just totally killed it, and reminded me of a young Bill Ward in all the early Black Sabbath footage out there… stunning. Adversity didn’t win on the day, and I’m happy to report that Cairo Son played a blinder, resulting in winning many new fans. Every festival needs a NWOBHM-tinged band to remind us of the time when Britain ruled the Metal world, and millions of frustrated teenagers pulled on the denim and leather for the first time. Londoners The Deep were the band to provide a trip down memory lane at Wildfire. Incredibly, the Saxon­-esque twin guitar sound does not sound dated one little bit, and the front few rows are having a blast headbanging and throwing the horns. Vocalist, Tony Coldham has a voice that reminds me of Ian Gillan at times. That same powerful, worldly range that makes you stick your head out from the bar to see what’s going on. The debut album ‘Premonition’, whilst steeped in NWOBHM characteristics, is relevant enough to sound fresh some thirty odd years after we at last had a scene to call our own. Many, many smiling faces during The Deep’s set. After a few recent line­up changes Hellbound Hearts seem to have settled into life as a trio with new drummer Lee onboard, and are racing full steam ahead with new album ‘Film Noir’ ready to be unleashed January 2017. A hard act to pigeonhole, as one minute they sound like Bullet For My Valentine, then perhaps a bit of The Wildhearts with some Metallica thrown in for good measure, but ultimately the Yorkshire trio play it loud and fast, with guitarist and vocalist, Danny calling the shots. They brought their own cheerleaders with them who were making themselves heard down the front with fellow Yorkshireman, Polly from The Idol Dead leading the chants. They suffered, in places, from a muggy sound, but that soon sorted itself out, and the remainder of the set was loud and clear. ’Nancy’s House’ was a standout track that changes tack between a catchy as hell chorus and slamming riffs, where Danny got a chance to show off his licks. With the album finally on the horizon, it looks like the plan is gig, gig, and gig again, in order to build up some momentum for a band that shows great promise. Anyone that caught the recent multi band Off Yer Rocka tour will testify that Northern Irish outfit Screaming Eagles are one of the most exciting bands currently treading the boards. Judging by how packed the smaller of the two stages/marquees was for these guys then, it’s fair to assume that many were familiar with their brand of AC/DC inspired rock ‘n’ roll. Screaming Eagles are the real deal… hard playing, hard drinking, rowdy fuckers, that could blow away many bigger, more established acts, given half a chance. Vocalist, Chris Fry was a joy to behold. A devilish glint in his eye as he swigged his Buckfast. Way more of a loveable rogue than the likes of Russell Brand, Fry is a cross between Bon Scott, Jim Morrison, and George Best, and comes across as everyone’s best mate. The music is guitar driven boogie, and sole guitarist Adrian McAleenan handles his role with ease and makes it look simple as he peels off riff after riff. ’Ready For The Fall’, ’Screaming Eagles’, ’Save Me’, and ‘Bow Down To The Blues’ were all impressive, and the crowd lapped it up. The guy in front of me turned to his mate and shouts..”See, I fucking told you they were awesome !”. The set ran over its allotted time, someone at the side of the stage frantically waved their arms to get the band to stop, but they continued to play until finally Fry cut it short, resulting in some boos from the crowd. In turn though, this resulted in a nice reference to The Simpsons from Fry, and yes Chris, we were saying “Boo­urns”. One of the most enjoyable bands that you will witness on a live stage, it really is as simple as that.
The biggest crowd of the day belonged to Carnforth’s finest, ­Massive Wagons. Everyone that came in from the beer tent was rewarded with the finest set of the day… perhaps the weekend? The five-piece played hard hitting anthemic rock n’ roll, full of harmonies and hooks, none more evident than on opener ‘Tokyo’, a delicious slice of commercial rock that would sound massive blasted out of a stack of Marshall’s in arenas worldwide. Vocalist, Baz Mills was as energetic as ever, and it didn’t take long for his bowler hat to fly off as he covered every inch of the stage within the first few bars. His rapid fire vocals make him stand out from the majority of vocalists around today, as does his typically British sense of humour.The order of the day was traditional British rock n’ roll, with hints of Mott The Hoople and early Def Leppard (especially the guitars on ‘Red Dress’). Refreshingly bullshit-free, and how can anyone not like a band with a flying V?! Tonight was one of those gigs where we got the feeling that we were witnessing something special. A band coming of age after relentless miles on the motorways to play in dives the length and breadth of the country. They were playing to the biggest crowd of the day, and they knew it.
Songs that encourage involuntary movement from head to toe. Songs that encourage drunken singing from the audience, and puts smiles on the faces of everyone there. Now isn’t that what music is all about, eh ? As the band finished ‘Fight The System’ and began closing track, ‘Red Dress’,Mills called Dan from RSJ over to the side of the stage and climbed on his shoulders for a jaunt through the crowd! Thank god for radio mics, as the pair wandered right through the crowd and out into the bar area! There was a proper ‘Carry On…’ moment, when they were coming back in, and Mills twats his head on the roof, and yelps “Fooking nearly killed me there!” A classic way to end an incredible evening. Don’t miss Massive Wagons on Ginger Wildheart’s impending solo tour in July. I actually felt sorry for the band that had to follow not only Massive Wagons, but Screaming Eagles before them. These two bands had the place buzzing, and it couldn’t have been easy for Essex lads Forever Never to match that intensity, but these guys are no slouches either, having opened for Theory Of A Deadman in decent sized venues earlier this year. A mixture of metal and rock with some rap thrown in ,Rage Against The Machine influences creep in, especially on the crushing bass and drums, but then new single/video ‘We Won’t Save The World’ crashed in, and threw any comparisons out the window. Vocalist, Renny Carroll changes tack throughout the song, changing from traditional rock, to pop, to ragga, as the guitars just totally slammed. Special mention needs to go their cover of John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’, which started a mass sing­a­long that made everyone forget about the midges for about three minutes. With a new EP imminent, and a tour planned for later in the year, the future looks rosy for Forever Never. Rounding off the day were current rock media favourites, ­Inglorious. Tipped for greater things by everyone that comes into contact with them (including Brian May), the band have been described as “The future of rock ‘n’ roll” by Planet Rock Radio. High praise indeed for a fledgling band that have only released the one album, and if statements like these put any pressure on the band then it didn’t show. Highly polished, and very confident on stage, the band are fronted by Nathan James, and I struggled for some time to think who he reminded me of before it hit me. With his mane of hair and striking appearance, he is the lion from the Wizard Of Oz !.. put ‘em up, put ‘em up! Joking aside, the guy sings like his life depended on it. A very theatrical and powerful voice that I could picture leading the line on Broadway before taking the stage at Madison Square Garden for a sold out show. The Americans would love this guy. The band are no slouches either, with each member playing the life out of their respective instrument. The guitar work of Andreas Eriksson and Wil Taylor was crisp and precise, with some spellbinding solos, whereas the engine room team of bassist Colin Parkinson and drummer Phil Beaver provided a fat bluesy sound that shook the foundations. Most of the set is culled from their self titled debut album, released earlier in the year, and a great deal of the crowd knew the words and sang along, but Mr James joked to the others “If you don’t know the words then please don’t try and sing along as it puts me off !” He’s a very confident frontman but without any of the cockiness at all. ’High Flying Gypsy’, and ‘Unaware’ were particular highlights, as were both of the cover versions that they played, the Rainbow chestnut ‘I Surrender’ was played at a frantic pace, and James joked that they are playing it since Blackmore won’t be playing it that night in Birmingham. He also introduced ‘Lay Down Stay Down’ as one of his favourite Deep Purple tracks of all time, and he handled both the David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes vocal parts with great aplomb. One other comment from James to note is that album number two is in the works. He revealed that the band will be writing with Doug Aldrich on some material for it, so keep your peepers opened for more on that. With only one album’s worth of material it was always going to be a shortish set, but it’s fair to say that no­ one left disappointed, and the talk at the bar straight after was of how good it was to have such a strong British classic rock band coming through the ranks. In all honesty, the same could be said of the entire weekend at Wildfire. So many outstanding, young British and Irish bands from across the spectrum of rock and metal that the future looks very bright indeed. Gene who ?
Unfortunately, due to being a man down, we did not get the chance to fully cover the Horrorfly Stage as we would have liked. We did manage to get down on a couple of occasions today, and the time spent there showed us that if you wanted your face melted off in blistering metal, it was the place to be. It was really well organised and totally interactive, as the bands were right in your face. You will see from the photos, the crowd was having a blast, and they managed to get some excellent bands on show. I know plenty of people who set up camp there, and every one of them loved it, as did the bands I spoke to. We will ensure this is rectified next year, as this was a great offering alongside the main stages.

Full Wildfire Festival, day 2 Flickr album HERE

Review: Dave Stott/ Ritchie Birnie Images: Ritchie Birnie  

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