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Johnny Main

johnny main

wildfire festival
A Joker's Rage. Resplendent...

Scotland's annual Rock and Metal weekend, Wildfire Festival, has trodden a rocky road leading up to this year's event, with a last minute crowd-funding campaign snatching it from almost certain cancellation barely a month before its scheduled date and it's fair to say that everyone, not least the bands scheduled to play and those behind the festival, had an extra impetus to make the weekend the very best that it could be.

Once again held at Wiston Lodge by the side of a lake, the stages were only a short walk from the ample campsite which had been relocated this year and opened on time and in glorious weather, with everyone hoping the sunshine would last well into the weekend. A selection of vendors had also turned up early with the wood fired pizza and burger van (the latter courtesy of not to mention the bar furnished by Sulwath Brewery (who provide excellent brews, by the way!) tempting those who had been organised enough to turn up early.

As in previous years, three stages were planned with the main stage going under the Incendium banner (meaning "fire" – did you see what they did there?) whilst there was a smaller stage, Infernus, (no relation to the Norwegian black metal musician and Satanist of the same name, just to be clear) was placed out towards the lake area. A third stage, Horrorfly (named after a local music promotions company) was indoors and wouldn't see any live action until the Saturday and Sunday, but more about that later.

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With over seventy bands playing over the three days, it was quite a tall order for even the most seasoned festival-goer to try and catch all the bands and with a well advertised no clash guarantee for the Incendium and Infernus stages, your hardy MetalTalkers did their best to try and see as many of the bands as possible whilst still managing to prop up the bar, socialise with the bands and punters as well as devouring the odd cheeseburger or four!

Before the bands even started though, the main topic of conversation seemed to be a lack of headliner announcement after the Friday night headliner Tim "Ripper" Owens was forced to withdraw after experiencing visa issues at Glasgow Airport only the day before meaning he couldn't gain entry to the country which left everyone wondering who would take his place on the first day. If you're not familiar with the story, you can read about it right here.

As it happened, no-one was substituted at the last minute and with another band withdrawing late in the day there was an element of confusion as some bands changed stages at the last minute and, as happens with some festivals, not everything ran to time.

This year, it was up to Kent based three piece rockers 48 Hours to get things underway on the Incendium stage at around 11:30am on the Friday morning. This was 48 Hours' first time at the event and having heard good things about them prior to the event, I have to say that they certainly live up to their reputation. Sure it's always difficult being first on at the festival when lots of punters are still travelling to the site or are on site pitching their tents, so it was never going to be a capacity crowd this early, but 48 Hours did an admirable job under the circumstances. 4/5

Next up on the same stage were Nest Of Vipers, another band making their Wildfire debut, and they certainly impressed. Hailing from just down the road in Edinburgh, I've been trying to catch these guys live for sometime and now that I've finally seen them, I recommend that you don't pass up the chance to see them if they are playing a venue near you. Vocalist Hannah Jones has an electric personality, connecting with the crowd well and possessing a stunning voice, despite her relatively small stature, whilst the rest of the band were absolutely on form throughout their short but very impressive set. 5/5

wildfire festival
Gasoline Outlaws. Incendiary...

Meanwhile, things were also getting underway on the Infernus stage with Dumfries based Turbyne first up to tread the boards just after midday. This was Turbyne's first time at the event and they've recently reformed so it was good to see the boys have lost none of their passion since I last saw them a few years ago as they entertained the burgeoning crowd. A solid and entertaining set from them, with the twin vocals of Keith Fleming and Gary Gillespie mixing well in their upbeat set of original numbers, so let's hope this is they trigger they need to carry on. 4/5

They were followed by Dead Dollar Days, a rock trio from London who were formed in 2015 and joined the list of acts making their Wildfire debut this year. Fronted by vocalist Bo Hawkins, the band pulled a small but enthusiastic crowd with their straight ahead brand of rock. Plugging their debut self-titled EP, the band shifted through their set at a fair pace giving Hawkins a chance to show how good his vocals can really be. For a band I'd not been aware of before the festival, they're certainly on my radar now and I'll be looking forward to catching them live again. 4/5

We enjoyed listening to the set from Bury based four piece Vice after heading out into the sunshine and the band sounded like they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Frontman Tom Atkinson put in a good vocal performance and after their set they were clearly a hit with the other festival go-ers as we heard the chatter as they left the tent for the sunshine after the performance. 4/5

wildfire festival
Divine Chaos. The eyes have it...

Next up for us were Slough based thrash Metallers Divine Chaos who are fronted by Benny F - a man with particularly scary eyes but who knows how to keep a crowd energised. Likewise guitarists Chris O'Toole and Gilmour put on a good show with various tracks from the band's latest album. Judging by the number of band shirts that could be seen over the weekend as a whole, they seem to have gone down rather well. 3/5

Back on the main stage, where 'No Rules, No Laws, No Regrets' was the mantra and the debut album title of Northern Irish quartet Gasoline Outlaws who were next up on the Incendium stage and they powered through their set. Frontman Matt Fitzsimons gave an impressive vocal performance whilst guitarist Adam Parkin displayed some guitar finesse. Their set may have been on the short side this time around, but tracks like a cover of Electric Mary's 'Let Me Out' sitting alongside original material like 'Nothing On Me' made for a thoroughly enjoyable performance. 4/5

We moved back over to the Infernus stage where I was surprised to see Orangefall who were scheduled to be on the bigger stage but at the last minute had moved stages after another band dropped out. The crowd didn't seem fazed at all by the switch round and they put in an impressive set with frontman Jason Morgan drawing the best from the South Wales melodic hard rockers. 3/5

wildfire festival
Mason Hill. Trajecting...

Some old hands at Wildfire in the shape of Mason Hill followed, but with the sun still shining we took the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the music as I've seen the band a number of times before so knew they were an excellent live act. Guitarist James Bird has a truly extraordinary talent which he showcased during his solos whilst frontman Scott Allan Taylor gave a commanding performance. These boys already have an impressive CV and if they continue on their current trajectory they are going to be massive, so remember that if you see the name Mason Hill, make sure that you don't miss them. 5/5

Next up on the Incendium stage by local heroes The King Lot who I last saw supporting the Wildfire Saturday night headliners Inglorious in Glasgow earlier this year. The King Lot have been building a solid reputation with their live shows which have taken them all over the UK and it was good to see them making a welcome return to Wildfire. Their previous Wildfire appearance in 2014 saw them hitting the stage late on the Sunday morning and their position this year much further up the bill proves that they're a force to be reckoned with.

wildfire festival
The King Lot. Sironic...

The band appeared on stage to a wailing siren that grabbed everyone's attention and the tent filled out as they dished out classic track after classic track from their debut self-titled album. They even invited Mason Hill's Mathew Ward on stage to guest during a rip-roaring version of the Love/Hate classic 'Blackout In The Red Room'. The King Lot are another band who are a huge live draw, and another band I never tire of seeing live. 5/5

It was always going to be hard to beat The King Lot but Preston based Solitary, a band I first bumped into at Wildfire 2015, were more than up for the task and I was once again genuinely impressed by their thrash Metal sound. Thrash has always been a favourite genre of mine and their performance this year surpassed last year's outstanding showing. Highlights of their set included 'Architects Of Shame' which produced the first proper mosh pit of the weekend, and it looks like these guys are picking up a solid following judging by the crowd watching them. 4/5

On the main stage, it was up to Demons Of Old Metal to rouse the audience into action once again, and they filled the tent with one helluva a show. It was another new band for me and I wasn't disappointed with their set one iota. Formed at the end of 2010 by four veterans of the UK metal circuit whose mission it was to create a truly unique band, it's certainly a job well done as far as I'm concerned.

Playing to a near capacity tent, the band struck out with great tracks like '100 Year Crime Spree', Chaos Is My Name' and set closer Murdercycle' and their high level of musicianship set against a horror themed image, which was ideal for Wildfire, saw everyone present really enjoying the spectacle from the elusive frontman Tombstone Cowboy, who barely had his mask off all weekend. As the band finished up, they proved they were capable of filling the void left by Ripper Owens and I'm looking forward to my next encounter with them already. 4/5

wildfire festival
Die No More. Octanic...

The same goes for Cumbrian metal titans Die No More who I caught up with during their set on the Infernus stage. They proved such a draw last year that their return this year was almost a certainty and once again the band didn't hold back as they gave their performance absolutely everything. Frontman Marc Farquhar is a genial chap and importantly has the talent to pull of his central role without any hint of nerves at all whilst their songs are well executed and catchy enough to keep the large crowd entertained.

Marc interacted with guitarist Kev Smith whilst all the while Martyn Simpson pounded his bass guitar and the stage as he wandered up and down. I've no doubt that this is another band who were on the wrong stage this year and a higher placing on the main stage would have been better, but at least they got a slot at this year's event. Who knows where their career will take them in the next couple of years, but it can only be upwards if they continue with high octane performances like the one here. 5/5

wildfire festival
A Joker's Rage. Clowning around...

It was up to A Jokers Rage to close down things for the evening and they did so in fine style with a captivating performance from a band who are one of the fastest growing rock and metal bands in the North of England. Their fans have no qualms about travelling far and wide to see them, and on the basis of this performance it's clear to see why!

Resplendent in their clown make-up the band battered through tracks from their 'BlackSheep' EP making the most of their set time. Frontman (and self-proclaimed chief clown) Zakky Boy Taylor drained every ounce of passion from the audience whilst guitarist Adam 'Twiggy' Guanton made the best of his guitar solos to entertain the crowd. A worthy act to finish the first day of the festival and another band I'll be following with a keen eye. 4/5

A Jokers Rage, Die No More, Mason Hill and The King Lot pictures - (c) Dave Jamieson 2016 by kind permission
All other pictures by Carlan Braid, Main Stage Photography



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