After having really enjoyed my first Scottish festival last year, Les Fest 3 had been in my calendar pretty much as soon as the dates were announced. Last year’s line-up for me was fantastic and with the change in venue I couldn’t wait to see how much better the organisers had made it this year. For 2014 the organisers had made the decision to change venues, with this year’s festival being held at Wiston Lodge, South Lanarkshire. For those not in the know it’s a short 45 or so minutes from Glasgow so easy train commuting. From there it’s a bus journey to the village, though to be honest, if you don’t drive you are best grabbing a lift as it’s a bit of a walk otherwise as the site is deeper into the countryside than last year.
Given that the festival was due to start at 11am on the Friday and the extortionate rail prices I opted for the overnight sleeper bus and so arrived in Glasgow well before 7am (thank God for coffee). As I mentioned it was a short train ride over to Lanark station and happily the organisers had arranged a pick up for some early festival attendees (still really appreciated). Now I said it was less than a 20 minute drive and on that drive (for those intending to go next year) just take in that view; some of the most beautify countryside I have ever seen.
Because of the early start I arrived at the festival well ahead of the first band of the day so had time to check out the site a bit, as well as check into our accommodation for the next few days. As Planetmosh were yet again descending en masse we opted to rent one of the log cabins which I have to say, though basic were a great choice. Comfy, warm, hot showers, electricity, and though the weather was warm this is Scotland and it got cold at night so three cheers to the heating!
As the first band was due to start I walked the very short walk to the main stage, which this year was housed in a giant marque tent. Though I did stop to take in the view which, again was stunning. Imagine to your left are food stalls, followed by the main stage tent, directly in front and through to your right is a very green field, which further forward is topped by a very large pond (or small lake) and all around you are trees and behind those impressive Scottish hills.
Opening the festival was Disposable, a young thrash band from Edinburgh. There wasn’t a big crowd at the main stage at this time, but it was still very early and so many had not yet arrived. However, those that had were gathered ready already to be entertained. I knew I was going to come away from this festival with a couple of new finds, but I was not expecting to find one so early on. I was genuinely impressed by Disposable, both for their songs but also the practiced nature of their playing. Their second song Existence(?) showed a nice melodic thrash sound and there was a clear appreciation from the crowd from the cheers and head nodding. Into The Water brought a harder edge with a haunting, chasing rhythm, as well as more people towards the barrier. They have just released a video for this song, so if you missed it you can go and check it out. Void is from their upcoming debut album and to me shows clear signs of progression. The intro suits the title well and the song hints at a harder edge to their future material. Overall, a very promising young band and one I would be happy to watch again.
The second band, What’s The Damage amped things up with death style vocals overlaying a more metal/rock melody and rhythm which about half way through their set sounded a bit cheeky (which is good) and worked really well together. Complete respect has to go to the sound engineers for the festival who did an absolutely bang up job. Everywhere you stood the sound was perfect; you could stand at the front by the speakers but not get deafened, or stand at the back and have the full power of the amps still hit you, or even laze outside in the sunshine – wherever you stood you could hear the bands clearly.
Incinery ramped up the volume with their straight forward, in your face style which is relentlessly heavy. Because of the good sound set up you could easily pick up each of the instruments which all blended so well together, but for me the drums stood out that little bit more. Again, though not all festival goers had arrived by this time (being only early afternoon) the crowd that was there was mostly at the front. Death May Die is from their upcoming album due out later this year and it has that perfect circle pit rhythm and speed from the first few notes. We didn’t have a pit that early in the day, but that is not to say it didn’t warrant one. I really enjoyed the guitar lines that weave themselves throughout the chorus and again for me, the drums nailed it during this song.
Dog Tired were up next and I had heard good things about this band so was keen to see what they would deliver. Well visually I can say there was just hair and beards everywhere. Musically I enjoyed the first song with the slightly dragging, death style vocals which seemed to bring the melody pace to heal in places. Their second song was much punchier with a faster more determined rhythm and additional screamer vocals thrown in for good measure. Their third was even better bringing contrastingly slow vocals that seemed to tell the crowd ‘I’ll tell you when it’s time to go mad’ (apologies I didn’t catch the song titles). Top work!
Now it is a real shame that everyone had not arrived for the next band SA-DA-KO as they were one of my favourite bands when I saw them at Bloodstock a few years ago on the New Blood Stage. I haven’t managed to catch them since and so I was seriously looking forward to this. I’ll say now that you won’t hear a bad review off me about this band as I think they’re great. I love the energy they bring, and the speed and musicality to their songs; their second was just furious and the drums especially at the start were top notch. The death vocals have a rap edge to them in parts and Jim on vocals has a commanding stance as if to say ‘fucking bring it’.
Now I’m not ashamed to say it but after very little sleep the night before and the early start I was definitely starting to flag, so I headed off for a caffeine fix before my first round of interviews. After my work was done I had to be fed and watered before heading out to watch some of the evening’s line up of bands; none of which disappointed. I will also admit to spending more time outside the main tent then in it as the sound was so good you could hear everything just as well, and coming up from London, I was enjoying the scenery and late sunshine.
One of my gripes from last year was the poor food and service as well as availability of breakfast and evening meals at the previous venue. However, this was just not the case at Wiston Lodge. There was a café inside the Lodge serving three square, home-cooked meals a day, each with various options and at very good price. By the main tent there were a couple of stalls selling food and drink, both of which seemed to go down well – especially the pizza.
Overall after my first day I had absolutely nothing to complain about; the location was stunning, the bands were great, the sound was perfect, the sun was out and you were in very good company with the other festival goers.