Saturday :- Day two of Wildfire Festival and after a bleary eyed walk to Wiston Lodge for a handful of bacon baps, it was time to head off for a full day of bands. A major improvement this year was having the two stages side by side with literally a few yards between them which was a bonus when the heavens opened up with a vengeance on Sunday. A third stage was added for Saturday/Sunday. Under the name of Horrorfly, it hosted bands in a much heavier vein.
Sunderland born NWOBHM quartet Spartan Warrior faced a crowd probably still hungover who needed a few cobwebs blowing away and they rose to the challenge with a high energy seven song set at the eye blinkingly early time of 11.30am! Frontman David Wilkinson addressed us as the band launched into ‘Loud ‘n’ Proud’ from their last studio album Behind Closed Eyes. The punchy P.A. system made it sound huge. ‘Last Man Standing’, also from said album was a lot more gritty with heavy, staccato riffs delivered by guitarists David Wilkinson and Dan Rochester. ‘Steel ‘n’ Chains’, the first of three tracks from their 1983 classic debut album of the same name was a glorious blast from the past followed by ‘Assassin’ , a no frills number with some biting twin lead breaks and heavy bass lines from Tim Morton, another golden oldie from the 1984 album Spartan Warrior. The pace was kept up by new track ‘Court Of Clowns’, showing the band still have plenty of fire. Their set ended all too soon with another 2 debut album tracks. ‘Stormer’ hurtled along on the fast footwork of drummer James Charlton and the riffs of ‘Cold Hearted’ still remind me of ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ although David never chose to swing onstage on a vine in a loin cloth like Ted Nugent. An interview with me just after their set confirmed a new studio album is almost finished.
A sonic curve ball called Crowsaw entertained us next. Their seven song set I noted down as heavy, bluesy alternative rock, was point proven by the fiery opener ‘Dog Of Nine’. Its almost Stooges, garage rock vibe soon filled up the marquee as they took the pace down a tad with ‘The Answer’ that shifted from slow blues to heavy, Soundgarden like grooves. Backing vocals from bassist Glyn Mason and a frenetic finish got the crowd
dancing. Wiry frontman Rob Lomax does not look like a typical guitar hero but he was one of the best I saw all weekend. The Mexican jumping bean rhythms of ‘The Colours’ brought to mind Tool, featuring some fiery leads from Rob and off kilter drums by Mark Pullin. ‘Believe’ was the heaviest song here which thundered out of the P.A. system. The slow burning heavy blues of ‘Tequila Tears’ was beefed up by a finger blistering guitar solo which led into the Aerosmith like funk running through ‘Voodoo Temptation’.
A jaunt downhill to the Horrorfly stage to check out Pelugion was scuppered by proceedings being half an hour behind schedule so as we walked in, Scottish band Transcension seemed to be aurally trying to demolish the building with a wrecking ball like set of buzzsaw hardcore. All the band were a blur of movement with a furious set that included numbers from the Metallurgy album which they gave away at the end of the gig. I’m surprised lead vocalist Davy McGeehan never crashed through the floor, the way he was throwing himself around.
Blackpool based Apriori included three covers in their eight song set. It seemed a strange choice but the full marquee gave the band rapturous applause. The covers consisted of a super heavy ‘Word Up’ with lead vocalist Mouse looking like he was born to be onstage, ‘Crazy Bitch’ and set closer ‘Killing In The Name Of‘ slotted in with stand out original tracks ‘You Are The One’, a strong stadium rock number that engulfed the small stage with a huge chorus. A heavy power balled titled ‘Heart Of The City’ was dedicated to all the bands playing at Wildfire and my set highlight was the dark vibes of ‘Save Me’, bringing to mind early Alice In Chains.
Bolton based Sister Rose had earlier been recommended by Spartan Warrior during their set and it was easy to see why as set opener ‘City Of Thieves’ came rushing out of the traps delivered by one of the best vocalists of the weekend, Chris Berry. Close your eyes and you would swear Bon Scott had been reincarnated. ‘King Of Cabaret’ rocked like ‘Looks That Kill’, only with more balls. ‘Shame On You’, pardon the pun, powered along on a groove like ‘The Power And The Glory’ by Saxon, featuring a lung shredding vocal, it was dedicated to Taff, a former colleague who had recently passed away. ‘Hear What I Say’ was a nice slice of melodic hard rock. ‘You Got My Love’ was power chord heaven delivered by guitarist Clanger and their unashamedly 80’s era tinged set closed with ‘Shake Your Snake’, a double entendre ridden energetic riff heavy barnstormer.
York based hardcore metalheads RSJ seemed determined to batter everything that stood before it to death with one of the heaviest sets of the weekend. With two of the band coming on wearing Iron Monkey and Will Haven tshirts, you more or less knew what to expect. Their forty minutes was a stunning experience. It was the first time I’d seen them and I lapped up the huge slabs of riffs generated by ‘Guff’ Thomas and Dan Kentley, the discordant bass lines from Matt Gamblin, the blast beat drumming of Greg Parsons and master of ceremonies Dan Cook who shrieked and bellowed like a man possessed! Set opener ‘Giant Glenn’ crushed like early Godflesh followed by soon to be released single ‘Hit The Road Jack’, an abrasive aural assault. Other highlights were the claustrophobic ‘Gordon’s Alive’ which followed an hilarious intro of the Vision On gallery theme. Their all too brief set ended with the double whammy of ‘Nice Day Out’ and ‘Oceans’ which saw ‘Guff’ place a flight case in the middle of the crowd and proceed to throw some bone breaking shapes throughout.
Due to set clashes I missed the opening two numbers from Aberdare based Fireroad. This was my fourth time seeing them and once again, led by the ever smiling Richard Jones, they brought the house down. ‘Minute’ had a stuttering AC/DC like main intro riff which led into heavy AOR grooves with tight backing vocals. ‘Falling Down’ was all driving breezy rhythms, matching the glorious weather outside. Hairs were raised on the back of my neck from the lead vocals and Tom Petty like chords during ‘Before The Matinee’. ‘Second Hand Soldier’ is a bittersweet number driven by thundering bass lines from ‘Evsy’ and heavy twin guitar riffing from Richard and Gavin Davies but my set highlight was a heavy take on the Neil Young classic ‘Rockin In The Free World’.
The Idol Dead, Leeds based lunatics, once again completely blew me away. Only a few notes were taken as you don’t want to take your eyes off the non stop acrobatics of lead vocalist Polly and guitarist KC. The band describe themselves as glam/punk/rock but they cover a lot more bases than that. Another perfect festival band and if you have not seen them before then add ten sugars to strong
coffee, neck it, have another and you are still nowhere near The Idol Dead live experience. Everybody gets involved and those along the front barrier are fair game to have the piss ripped out of them. Every song could have been an encore, point proven by the Wildhearts tinged power pop of ‘Blackout Girl’ which saw a barefooted Polly being a human pogo stick. ‘Summer That Never Was’ and ‘Everyone Knows Your Name’ were early 70’s glam rock like classics with hooks that get you straight away. The turbo charged ‘Travelling Man’ tells a great story with poignant, personal lyrics but the fun factor bar is raised high with the adrenaline rush of ‘IDOL’ with Polly singing the refrain of “IDOL” and the crowd bellowing back “DEAD”. One of my favourite sets of the weekend!
The Deep, melodic NWOBHM rockers were an eagerly awaited band for me after reviewing their album Premonition earlier this year and wanting to hear the songs live. The title track opened up their set with high energy riffs, heavy dynamics and soaring lead vocals from Tony Coldham. Some fretboard fireworks were lit by the reserved Paul Smith on his white strat and the energetic Mick Feleppa who struck some serious rock God poses throughout. ‘The Rider’ was all pummeling rhythms dished out by drummer Fraser Powell and bassist Phil Reeve, locking in on a ‘Kill The King’ like groove. Set highlight for me was the heavy power balladry of ‘All I Want’. Its ‘Holy Diver’ like plod lead to an awesome bridge section to the chorus containing powerful backing vocals. ‘Night Stalker’ was commercially heavy that shifted into overdrive midway and their set contained two new numbers, ‘Dead Man Walking’ with some fiery lead breaks and ‘Prepare To Rock’ which it certainly did and bodes well for their next studio album.
Saturday was proving to be the strongest day for me as Massive Wagons hit the stage running with a heroes welcome from a packed out marquee and gave headliners Inglorious a hard act to follow. This was the first time I’d seen them since the latest album Welcome To The World has been released, five tracks from it were included in their eight song set and it was the heaviest I have seen them play. The band were tighter than ever fronted by the effortlessly likeable Barry Mills who covered every inch of the stage headbanging, sweating buckets and high fiving the front rows. Forty minutes flew by as they rounded off a World beating set with an emotionally heavy ‘Fight The System’ and a whirlwind ‘Red Dress’ which saw Barry carried around the marquee and outside area on the shoulders of RSJ frontman Dan Cook. Performances like this will surely catapult them into the big league!
I’ve read all the hype about tonights headliners Inglorious but heard nothing by them and I kept it that way
until I had seen them live and they certainly deserve all the praise heaped upon them. Playing numbers from their self titled debut album and two inspired covers, they elicited a fever pitch reaction from the crowd. Opening up with ‘Until I Die’ and ‘Breakaway’ the first two numbers from said album, I noted down a few Deep Purple comparisons. Strangely enough the Ritchie Blackmore connection popped up in the third song as they played a note perfect rendition of ‘I Surrender’ by Rainbow with lead vocalist Nathan James hitting the high notes with ease. Inglorious have come a long way very quickly, a point made from the stage by Nathan who thanked everyone for their support. Other highlights were the ‘Kashmir’ like dynamics in the slow burning ‘High Flying Gypsy’ featuring a combined, powerful bass guitar and drum piece from Colin Parkinson and Phil Beaver.
A brand new song ‘No Good For You’ shows future promise with its hard rock tinges and a stratospheric lead vocal. The commercial appeal of ‘You’re Mine’ should garner them rock radio airplay as should ‘Unaware’ as it is dynamically flawless. The second cover version here was a heavy take on ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’, a real high octane version of the Deep Purple classic but my set highlight was the sumptuous blues of ‘Holy Water’ with yet another beautifully executed lead vocal. After their set there were no rock star egos as all of the band came into the crowd to meet the fans. In the current climate of paying for meet and greets, this was a breath of fresh air!
Photography by KS Gig Photo[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157667630600833″ size=”z” count=”100″]