||WET WEATHER AT WISTON MUST MEAN THE LAST DAY OF WILDFIRE FESTIVAL 2016
Vardis. Red eye heels...
As the final day of the festival broke there was a lull in the air as the MetalTalk team once again made our way once more to the main arena late in the morning. Like the Saturday there were three stages on the go during the afternoon so an element of juggling was again required in order to catch as many of the bands as possible. No mean feat when you've been drinking pretty much solidly for three days but hey, we're professionals, right?
On the Infernus stage things kicked off on time with a performance from north east of England based Black Nevada. Describing themselves as an "alternative rock band" who take their inspiration from acts like You Me At Six, Deaf Havana and Mallory Knox, the band put on a great energetic performance with frontman Jordan Bailey doing a good job of keeping the crowd entertained with his polite demeanour whilst drummer Sarah Davies may have been small in stature but she certainly had the power to provide a solid backing for the band, especially on the intro to 'Behind These Walls' early in their set. 4/5
The next band I caught were Avenford who were on the official advertising running up to the festival but (strangely) didn't appear on any of the running orders during the weekend, so it was more by chance than design that I actually caught their set. Hailing from London, this four piece made the most of the inclement weather outside and put in a solid performance for those sheltering from the rain. Peter Szehoffner was having fun keeping the mood light on stage and encouraging the crowd to get involved whilst frontman Arpie Gamson put in a good vocal performance. Not being familiar with them before their set I'm glad I caught them and will be investigating their music more over the coming weeks. 3/5
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Leicester based Hell's Addiction were up next with their own brand of classic no-bullshit rock n' roll songs that take influence from bands like AC/DC, Guns 'n Roses and Mötley Crüe. Fronted by Ben Sargent the band were an ideal tonic for those who had partied hard the night before and their classic rock sound drew a respectable audience. Drawing on their back catalogue, these boys grasped the opportunity to gain some new fans with their first Scottish show and did themselves proud and I'll certainly be checking out their new album 'Broken' which is due for release next week. 4/5
It was only a week ago that I'd first caught sight of the Stone Broken live experience when they played their debut Scottish headlining performance with a gig at the Hard Rock Café in Glasgow (reviewed here). Since their debut album 'All In Time' came out earlier this year, the band have been on a roller coaster ride as their career has really taken off. Regular gigs all over the UK to promote the album have been met with large audiences with some headline gigs and others being big support gigs which have only served to enhanced Stone Broken's live reputation.
Stone Broken. Don't fix it...
This festival set was no exception as the band seamlessly took the audience through the best songs they have to offer. Frontman Rich Moss sings well and kept the audience involved whilst drummer Robyn Haycock couldn't keep the smile from her face and I have the feeling the these guys, along with Massive Wagons and Inglorious, will be the next big thing from the UK to take over Europe and, possibly, the rest of the world! 5/5
NWOBHM legends Vardis originally disbanded in 1986 and then reformed in 2014 since when they have been steadily rebuilding their fan base as a new generation of fans get to see them live. Not having played Scotland for over thirty years, this was one more band ticked off my dwindling "To See" list and I wasn't at all disappointed by what I saw. Of course, this isn't just some nostalgia trip for the band as they have a new album, 'Red Eye' recently released and so the set is made up of new tracks like 'Jolly Roger' and the title track of course, as well as a generous amount of classic tracks from their back catalogue.
Frontman Steve Zodiac kept the audience enraptured with his performance despite suffering a few technical problems with his guitar. "Nothing feeds back like a dirty old Telecaster," he says to laughter all round whilst new bass player Martin Connolly fitted into his role seamlessly. For me Vardis delivered on all levels so let's hope they get a second chance at their career and produce more new and exciting material. 5/5
Headlining the Infernus stage were Colour Of Noise who I came across at Hard Rock Hell last November. Featuring the supreme vocal talents of Matt Mitchell along with the exceptional guitar skills of (one time Little Angels axeman) Bruce John Dickinson this quintet released their debut self-titled debut album at the back end of last year via a successful Pledge campaign and have been building on the success of the album and the buzz created from their live shows. Although they hit the stage some thirty minutes late, the faithful had stayed to see them and the band had a modest turnout as the rain battered down outside the tent.
Highlights of their set included 'Can You Hear Me' and 'Lucky Number 7' with Mitchell working hard not only with his performance but also to keep the crowd entertained – not always an easy thing to do when it's late at night after a miserable wet day stuck in the middle of a field! I've said it before and I'll say it again - this band just may be on the cusp of their career but they certainly have the drive, enthusiasm and most importantly the songs to make it a success. 4/5
It may have been quiet outside the arena but the final day's main stage/Incendium offerings kicked off on a loud and heavy note with Canterbury's best, those rising stars Wretched Soul. As with the previous day, the early start and late night partying had meant that a large number of festival goers were still coming to in their tents or were out for the count so the band were playing to a substantially smaller but far more dedicated crowd that they may have expected. They laid into their set with typical ferocity as frontman Chris Simmons engaged with the audience as guitarist Steve Clifford headbanged away. The tile track of their latest album 'Veronica' went down well and the fact that they pretty much sold out of merchandise after their set tells you all you need to know about them. Too early on stage? Possibly. Set the right tone to kick start a Sunday morning? Absolutely! 4/5
Travelling down from Dundee for the event were Excellent Cadavar, a band who were formed in 2008 and who I have seen on stage a number of times, including a set at the 2013 edition of the festival, where they impressed me greatly. Plugging their latest release, their self-titled EP released in late 2015, the band have lost none of their fire and have honed their live skills to become a solid unit. Sure, frontman Andrew Downie may have been feeling the effects of partying the night before, by his own submission, but he still put in a great performance. 'Bio-Addiction' was amongst their best received tracks with guitarist Dew Cochrane laying down an incredible solo. If you like your music a bit more extreme then Wretched Soul and Excellent Cadavar should be on your list - a truly great couple of bands. 4/5
Lancashire based Sky Valley Mistress arrived onsite during a break in the clouds and it didn't seem long before they were climbing on stage for their set as an expectant audience filed in to see them. Enthusiasm wasn't really brimming from vocalist Kayley Davies who seemed to be going through the motions somewhat and as a real downpour coincided with their performance they had a captive crowd to work off, but they just didn't seem to capitalise on it. 'Cat Call' was a highlight of their set for me, but on the other hand a version of Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' slowed down just felt laboured and you felt like the band's hearts weren't quite in their performance. 3/5
Kane'd on the other hand used their set to give the punters exactly what they paid for - an inventive and entertaining performance. The band describe themselves as a "hard hitting alternative Indie rock band" and they stormed the stage for their debut appearance at the festival. These Welsh wonders pulled out all the stops in a terrific display of vocals from Steph, Stacey and Chez who sounded blended in a glorious sound and the audience responded by giving them a huge welcome. This band are great entertainers and they were just the tonic to brighten up a miserable Sunday afternoon and get the festival goers smiling again. 4/5
Formed in Portsmouth around 2008, Dendera are a band who are taking the Metal scene by storm since the release of their debut album, 'The Killing Floor' back in 2013, but their set here was my first chance to catch the band live. Frontman Ashley Edison gave his performance everything he's got whilst the engine room of bass player Bradley Edison and Andy Finch on drums really gel the rest of the band's sound together. It's a great (if short) performance and the reception at the end shows that the band certainly have a strong following north of the border, so let's hope we see them back up here again soon. 4/5
Thirteen Stars. Lucky for some...
Thirteen Stars are based on the West Coast of Cumbria and once again brought their Southern Rock with a bit of bluesy/country swing back to Wildfire once more after a successful debut set in 2015. Promoted from the Sunday mid-afternoon slot to act as Special Guests to the headliners is a bit of an achievement for the most seasoned of bands but Thirteen Stars took to the stage whilst Stone Broken were still playing on the other stage so quite a large section of the audience missed the start of their set. Frontman Matt "Hoss" Thompson is an amiable chap who easily gelled with the crowd and the band's cover of The Black Crowes 'Remedy' went down well and he played a great slide solo on 'Ophelia'. They also rolled out a brand new song, 'Rebel Without A Cause', which confirms their new material is sounding just as strong as the tracks on their debut album, 'The White Raven'. 4/5
Final headliners on the Incendium stage were Dorje who were drafted in after the original headline act unfortunately dropped out of the festival. Not familiar with their work previously, it's all part of the festival experience to see bands you'd not seen before but for me, although Dorje put on a good solid performance I just felt that something was lacking. The audience wasn't as big as the previous day for Inglorious, unsurprisingly I guess given Inglorious' high profile, but Dorje put in a good performance nonetheless in front of an energetic audience.
Drawing from their relatively small back catalogue, consisting of a couple of EPs as far as I can make out, Dorje made the best of their stage time with frontman Rob Chapman's singing voice in top form whilst drummer Ben Minal kept things tight at the back. Having recently completed a UK tour they certainly have a strong following and it's safe to say that they had a good reception at Wildfire as they left the stage for the final time. Sure, some of the audience may have been put off because of the weather and others were just too tired after a long weekend but those who stuck it out were treated to a fine end to the festival. 3/5
We spoke to festival go-ers all weekend and the general consensus seemed to be that the festival is good but it's a day too long - three full days of bands takes a lot of dedication and Dorje ended up paying the price this year as the final headliners and the festival ended on a whimper and when it should have been a bang.
Wildfire might be five years old but the organisers have had more than their fair share of issues this year. This isn't the same scale as Download or Hellfest and two days is ample for any small festival and with a reduced number of days less acts in turn need to be booked allowing for a better quality of performance all round which in turn leads to less headaches for the organisers.
Johnny with MetalTalk Wildfire competition winner Martin Coker
Photos by Carlan Braid, Main Stage Photography