What it lacks in line-up, it makes up in style
Malcolm Middleton - The Wickerman Festival 2012

Any party where you can start the chant of “BURN HIM! BURN HIM!” and thousands of people join you in unison, well… that sounds like the type of party we want to go to.

Such was the way at Scotland’s Wickerman Festival, a two day knees up that culminates in the ceremonial burning of a huge wicker man effigy – sadly, The Equaliser (Edward Woodward) is not encased inside, nor is Nic Cage. Oh well, never mind...

Pre-festival, the first thing you notice about The Wickerman Festival is that the line-up isn’t really on a par in relation to its bigger cousins in the UK or similar sized festivals elsewhere in Europe. That’s just an opinion, you understand, but Scissor Sisters, Cast and Texas aren’t really up there in terms of crowd-pullers. Thank God for places like The Solus Tent for bringing us the best musical memories from the weekend. But to be honest, Wickerman isn’t always about what bands are playing. The greatest asset this festival has is the atmosphere itself.

From the Main Stage to the Solus Tent, and every other stage in between, the whole place emanates a certain kind of joy that events like T in the Park can only dream of. It’s well laid out, has plenty of room to roam and explore (and lay down when required), and the prices for food, drink and even tickets don’t leave you feeling like you’ve just been mugged. This value for money and relaxed, friendly atmosphere is perhaps why a large part of the crowd seems to be made up of families, and there’s loads for the wee ones to get involved in.

Musical highlights begin with Blue Sky Archives on the GoNorth stage, whose perfect melodies and delivery remind us of The Sundays’ best bits, before crescendos of guitars build us up, then break us down, giving the whole thing a delicious dynamic. On the main stage, it’s a rejuvenated BIS who are enjoying the sunshine, and their delightfully DIY pop is a jittery joy, angular and abrasive enough to shake the brain as well as the ass.

Saturday, the sunshine continued, and the mood was kept buoyant by the likes of Martin John Henry, whose lyrical gifts have attracted Chemikal Underground’s attention and led to reformation of his band, De Rosa.

Dundee’s The View on the Main Stage are a rowdy disappointment due to wavering sound levels from far back, but those at the front seem to be having a whale of a time, with older hits like ‘Same Jeans’ mingling with tracks from the new album, ‘Cheeky For A Reason’.

The biggest delight of the entire festival comes in the form of Scotland’s ginger whinger Malcolm Middleton, who brings his Human Don’t Be Angry project to the Solus Tent. While it’s largely instrumental, it still drifts and shifts with a certain moody timbre that’s as engrossing as anything he’s done to date. With Martin John Henry and band making up the rest of the set-up, the hypnotic layers of guitar and effects draw the crowd in, rewarding them with a dark vision that stands head and shoulders above anything the main stages have had to offer.

Words by Mark Millar
Photo by Chay Woodman
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