Let’s get the negativity out of the way first. It’s a common belief that a Wickerman weekend under canvas is the best you can get. In that case, T in the Park’s campsite must be like the 7th circle of Hades.
Having abandoned the tent and kipping in the car I’m awoken – just about – by a sun trying to break through the haze. Temperatures may not break yesterday’s, but for Wicker’s revellers, things may get a little uncomfortable.
For the similarly destroyed, Adopted by Holograph are ideal for easing the weary festival-goer into the day. An original take on gypsy jazz with some fine tunes as well as a deconstructed cover of Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgetable’. Though, most curiously, if you check out their history you find that half the band were in early noughties post-rock act Cannon, while prime mover David Philp served time in Uncle John & Whitelock (more of whom later, as it happens).
However, the tent next door takes a different approach for their wake up call. Thin Privilege. Following the lead of Solus alumni Rungs and DeSalvo, their modus operandi seems to be survival of the fittest, as anyone left standing after their sonic assault is declared fit to carry on. Utilising two basses, we note that the one stage right is already down to two strings, although his compadre has five to make up for it. Oh, there are no guitars. Not that you’d know, trying to stem the flow of blood from ones ears being the more of a concern for the length of their set as the singer stalks the stage while bassist #1 growls and self-flagellates. Turns out that the foursome are formed from Hunt/Gather types as well as current members of Salò/Billy Ray Osiris, which offers a clue to their sound, but nothing on what they actually deliver.
What follows isn’t an anti-climax as such, just… well, a bit more calm. Even Tuff Love’s much touted slacker lo-fi pop, or Scary People’s nicely-constructed Dundonian angst can’t really compete in terms of forming a lasting mental image.
Irvine-based Culann offer something slightly different – deserving of the term ‘epic’, their proggy sound teeters at the ledge marked ‘OTT’ before righting itself and making for a very promising listen.
Model Aeroplanes are yet another band from Dundee, but this one are on the main stage. The three-piece are jiggy and poppy and, well, very very young, but grab the chance presented them with an exuberant set.
Hmm, from youth to… The Lurkers. For the uninitiated, they were second division punks with a couple of minor hits, but seem to have undergone come sort of critical renaissance. Launching into early-ish b-side ‘Pills’, they still have the original anger, and a little bit of politics as singer Arturo Bassick tells us to vote ‘Yes’ and get out while we can. With drummer Esso long gone the now-trio have Bassick’s nephew on drums and his “grandad” and comedy foil on guitar – “once he’d made his first million from punk rock he had a lot of work done” he says of guitarist Dave Kemp (possibly, the band’s lineup is nothing if not ‘flexible’). Introducing ‘Come And Reminisce If You Think You’re Old Enough’, he continues “Who’s a Buzzcock’s fan?” (as expected, nods and cheers). “Who’s bought any of their last 5 albums?” (…tumbleweed) before encapsulating the band and possibly the Scooter tent itself with the lyric “Haven’t bought a record since ‘79”. (Such is the length of the Scooter sets that we’re able to come back later and hear their two best tunes – ‘Ain’t Got a Clue’ and ‘Shadow’).
ForeignFox are our first Dunfermline act of the weekend and blast away any remaining cobwebs nicely – a good blend of post-rock atmospherics and more chorus-driven epicness.
But, back in time we go once again, the 20 yards between Solus and Scooter tents spanning several decades. This time, a real guilty pleasure in The Counterfeit Clash – yes, a tribute act, but a exceptional one at that – close your eyes and you could be back in 1978 (or ’76, or ’82, as they run through the back catalogue). The instrumentation is spot on, but it’s the vocals of both ‘Strummer’ and ‘Jones’ that make them somehow compelling as even casual observers could spend ages here just waiting to see what they play next – though I muse: if it was a DJ playing ‘The Best Of…’ would it have the same effect?
Speaking of nostalgia trips, The Members are next up and have a hard act to follow, only having three hits of their own – as it happens, the sane number of remaining members from the ‘classic’ lineup, abetted by 999’s Nick Cash on vocals. ‘Offshore Banking Business’ is in truth a bit of a mish-mash, but we’re able to duck out and return just in time for the final two tunes – The Hits, ‘Solitary Confinement’ and finale ‘Sound Of The Suburbs’ which is preceded by an entertaining ramble from Cash involving a celestial bus, piloted by Joe Strummer and heading for Wickerman.
Out of the tent and down the slope, we can hear the strains of Counterfeit Big Country just in time for ‘Harvest Home’, my personal favourite. It seems that their ever-changing lineup no longer includes The Alarm’s Mike Peters, but either way, they still have out two of four original members, which given the band’s back story, maybe isn’t that bad a ratio.
So we travel through time again… alighting somewhere in the USA circa 1986 for Deathcats. “Hey, T in the Park” drawls singer James McGarragle by way of introduction, all baseball cap and matching US accent and J Mascis sounds. To be fair, ‘I Wish It Was Summer’ is more 1976, missing only a “1 2 3 4” at the start, but whatever the influence, whenever the era, the racket they make is hugely entertaining.
The biggest problem for me with two Scottish tents operating in tandem is bands actually standing out from one another (and I’m betting that some of the photos will have the wrong captions on them!). However, We Came From Wolves just about nail it in a sea of similar-ish bands with ‘Bastard Son’ having that vital spark of originality, while ‘Paradise Place’s drum-based onslaught manages to be much more in-yer-face than on record while preserving the tune’s considerable melody.
My personal run of catching the song by bands continues. Which is a surprise given that Colin Blunstone announces that they’ll be playing a short set, and just one song from ‘Odyssey and Oracle’ despite touting its place in Rolling Stone’s top 100 albums. ‘Time of The Season’ is therefore the only concession to the purists, though of course it’s well known as soundtracking a cider advert. There’s also a clodhopping take on ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’ and a version of ‘Hold Your Head Up’ preceded by an explanation on its connection to the band trumped only for length by an extravagant keyboard solo. I skedaddle before we get anything from the Alan Parsons Project. Still, Blunstone still has a good set of pipes mind, and that’s another one ticked off. 😉
Want angry? Anti Pasti apparently, read the shirt, still hate Thatcher. It’s a new lineup we’re told and new material as well, but I do catch ‘6 Guns’, as close to a hit as they ever got.
Back across to catch Schnarff Schnarff rocking goNorth tent, are another band with a decent single out, but whose ragged, gutsy indie sounds come across even better live. A pattern emerges. Wicker is all about the live experience. And as it’s a festival, perhaps no great surprise.
A quick visit to catch a tune from the Cockney Rejects – ‘Flares & Slippers’ rather than ‘The Greatest Cockney Rip Off’, and Stinky Turner and brother Mick, understandably, aren’t the teenagers who fought in the streets and played Top of the Pops back in the day. However, despite clearly loving the reception from the gathered Wicker punk hordes, they still sound pretty pissed off about, well, everything.
According to Tony Wilson, music comes in thirteen year cycles. And using the power of science, we can see that 2001 saw the formation of Uncle John and Whitelock. That’s not to say that the Amazing Snakeheads aren’t bringing something new to the party, but… sadly, if The Primevals formed seven years too late, otherwise we could have followed the Factory Records’ boss theory all the way from Alex Harvey, but given that the Snakeheads draw from the same sources as all three of these bands, well, what’s not to like?
My run on The Hits comes to a close. British Sea Power are in the drizzle, the crowds watch on from the beer tents apart from the diehards – it’s not even that wet, just everyone clearly has been spoiled by the temperatures dropping below 20 for the first time in the weekend. The band seem lacklustre, the song choices aren’t exactly festival fare – ‘Loving Animals’ and ‘A Light Above Descending’ downbeat, before mournful trumpet puts a dampener on things literally. What’s required is the great snaking guitar lines the band are famous for, but even ‘No Lucifer’ with its whispered chorus doesn’t quite fit the bill while ‘Waving Flags’ can only muster a couple of soggy Saltires. There’s also a complete lack of the usual theatre of shrubbery, wartime effects and woodland creatures, until eventually the bears appear for ‘Remember Me’ and, while not quite bringing the sun back, at least gives us a finale fitting of what has been another memorable Wickerman.