you won't get better value than The Wickerman Festival

The Wickerman Festival 2011 review

published: Tue 2nd Aug 2011

around the festival site (4)

Friday 22nd to Saturday 23rd July 2011
Kirkcarswell Farm nr. Kirkcudbright, Galloway, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£90 with camping and parking
last updated: Wed 13th Jul 2011

Having been at most Scottish summer festivals during the last 20 years, Wickerman has somehow escaped my attention. Maybee it's a misplace sense of geography in that Galloway sounds further than it is from the central belt, or a fear of large burning effigies.

around the festival site (4)
After a easy cruise down the M74 the arrival onto the site is easier than most I've experienced. The five minute walk from car park to pitch in the Quiet Camping area was a doodle compared to previous festival experiences (remember the uphill hike to Connect anyone). The site was well organised and well designed. The food stalls were varied, maybe not up to the same standard as health T but you certainly won't be lost for choice. I stand by my claim that the burger I had, supplied by a local Dumfries butcher was in the top 10 of my life. Aside from the music there is loads to do for kids and adults. From crazy golf, to mountain biking, grass sledging to Laser Tag with guns, and a dedicated children's activity area you have no excuse to get bored at this festival.

As for variety of music, I would openly state that you should (unlike postings on eFestivals) have no complaints for your hundred quid ticket. The stages are varied and have everything from emerging talent, to mainstream. You won't get better value any where.

This is a great festival to come to as a family. It's self contained, effectively in one large field as safe an environment as you would get for kids to experience a real music festival.

The main gripes I've heard relate to poor training and briefing for the security guards being over zealous in their confiscation policy. Pouring out baby's milk and children's juice may be 'to the letter of the rules' but come on Wickerman give them some discretion. It's little things like this that people remember.

Sound Of Guns
The festival main stage 'Summerisle' got things moving early doors on Friday as Liverpool's Sound Of Guns got the place rocking with a strong afternoon set featuring hits such as 'Alcratraz' and 'Elementary of Youth' introducing the festival to their anthemic swagger. Several members of Dundee's The View are spotted near the front emphasising this is a rock band for rockers. Sound of Guns then blasted out a few lines from The View's hit 'Sunday' as a tribute.

One of the highlights of this festival is the strength and depth away from the main stage. I spend the afternoon checking out some new music in the Go North Festival Tour Tent and the Solus Emerging Scottish Talent tent. In addition the two acoustic stages in the Acoustic village gives the festival real choice in a wide range of jazz, folk and world music sounds. You could spend your weekend in this acoustic area listening to great music and go no where near to the main stages.

Root System
My introduction to the big top Scooter tent comes early on Friday evening with Fife's Root System bringing their Ska sound to a large crowd of devotees, with 'Keep on Dancin' and 'Everybody Loves Ska' getting the crowd going.

While the Scooter tent has been jumping most of the afternoon with Wickermen die hard's the main stage atmosphere seems strangely chilled. The sight of a newborn baby having his nappy changed less than 20 meters from the front barrier gives an indication of the intensity of this festival while the Noisettes play through their set. The relaxed atmosphere in the confines of the main stage is in total contrast to the crammed conditions of most mainstream festivals. As Shingai screamed out the lyrics "Go baby, go baby go" hundreds of youngsters seemed to be amassed around the front barrier while their parents and older siblings seemed stretched out and chilled out on the surrounding amphitheatre slopes.

Blending up and coming acts at a festival with established bands and music legends is a tricky act to pull off. For me 2011 Wickerman had mixed success on the Friday night. No disputing that Echo and the Bunnymen were music gods in their day but for me the set was too much through the motions, lacking in genuine enthusiasm and 'stayed'. The most fun I had was when McCulloch shouted on mike that "get rid of the reverb it's shite". Aside from that the atmosphere was flat and uninspired as they ran through their set. Maybe it was the lashing rain that gave the evening a downer but this set just did not get going. On the other hand I feel genuinely sorry for James. The first half of their set was marred by really poor sound with the speaker system breaking for milliseconds at a time to give a broken distorted sound. Still like true professionals they made up for it and kept going, lifting the crowd with a crescendo towards the end of the set featuring the all time favourites of 'Sometimes' and 'Sit Down'.

around the festival site (1)
Back at the Scooter tent The Damned bring Friday night to a close. The set played to a large crowd many of whom have probably come to the festival to see this band are not disappointed. These aging punks still retain the ability to get the crowd driven to as frenzy. 'Smash It Up' gets the oldest mosh pit of the Scottish festival season fired up. Although many of the participants have grey hair their 'moshing' puts the modern youthful participants to shame. The only anomaly for me is the appearance of Dave Vanian. Where as the rest of the band looked like aging punks Vanian had the appearance in tux and prime white shirt had the of an older fatherly version of a Spandu Ballet member. Still his slap stick intermission to stick gafa tape over Raymond Burns mouth as he performed a interlude of 'Happy Happy Talk' in a throw back to Captain Sensible days had the crowd in stitches.

After 'surviving' a night in the 'quiet' campsite that was anything but quiet I reflected on just how 'lucky' I was when a friend who camped with their kids near to boom town as they were told wrongly by security that quiet camping was full and had to be pre booked. (This is another of my small points I was talking about earlier - Poor briefing of the guards? You need to pre book the quiet camping car park but not the actual camp site. Take it from me there was space in the quiet site on late Friday afternoon) That family spent two uncomfortable nights enduring sonic shockwave's from boomtowns baselines battering into their blow up mattress and reverberating through their tent. If you want to avoid a baseline tsunami, get to the site early and pitch your tent at the far end of Quiet Camping......
review by: Greg Forbes

photos by: Carol Keith / Greg & Rachel Forbes

Friday 22nd to Saturday 23rd July 2011
Kirkcarswell Farm nr. Kirkcudbright, Galloway, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£90 with camping and parking
last updated: Wed 13th Jul 2011

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