“This is amazing,” gasped KT Tunstall as she looked out over the sun-hit field rolling down towards her early on Friday evening.
Wickerman Festival - East Kirkcarswell Farm, near Kirkcudbright
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The idyllic scene was a far cry from the one she had witnessed five years beforehand on her last visit to the Wickerman Festival, as a perpetual and suffocating drizzle had pattered down the entire weekend.
As one of Scotland’s leading boutique festivals, Wickerman is perfectly gauged to allow all-ages enjoyment, but you really need the weather to go with that. A drink-and-get-through-it attitude works if you’re 18 years old and rain-battered at T in the Park, but not if you’ve brought the kids and the camping gear for a weekend away.
So divine intervention can partly be thanked for such a successful event this year, with a festive atmosphere spreading around the small site through Friday’s warm sun and Saturday’s merciful leaving it to the very last until the first heavy drops of rain began to fall. Tunstall was the first of the half-dozen real marquee names on the bill, following the rousing folk-tinged indie sound of Admiral Fallow and a roster which creditably programmed in a great deal of diversity through themed tents, from punk to reggae to bass music and goNorth’s well-chosen selection of new Scottish bands.
While the Fife singer’s set was about as mellow as the lazy mood required, interspersing more reflective acoustic material from her new album Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon with perennial crowdpleasers like Suddenly I See, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (rather oddly segued into a kazoo-led version of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army) and a fitting cover of Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, the rest of the evening’s big artists couldn’t have been more different. A typically heads-down rock show from Primal Scream closed the bill, but before them Nile Rodgers’s reconvened Chic were one of the hits of the weekend.
“In case you’re wondering ‘why are they playing that?’” said the white-suited, dreadlock-wearing disco auteur of a set which included Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out, Sister Sledge’s We Are Family and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, “it’s because I made it in the first place.” It may have been an education to those who were unaware of the breadth of Rodgers’s catalogue as a producer, but alongside an array of Chic hits it was a great party first and foremost.
Another recently-revived legend of the 1980s also threatened to steal Saturday’s bill, with Kevin Rowland’s Dexys producing an astonishing, theatrical strut through classics like Geno, I Love You (Listen to This) and the mighty Come On Eileen.
That each of the bigger bands worked in their own way was a testament to the quality of the programming, although perhaps the one low were Coventry’s The Enemy, a mob of angry young indie-punks who belonged in a lairier environment, their strange selection of James’ Sit Down as a cover only compounding the feeling.
More pleasing were Glasgow’s young finest, the dazzling Casual Sex and the raucous electro of Roman Nose, playing at the same time in small, packed-out tents, and the strangely unifying headline set from Amy Macdonald, a woman who has gone from wistful troubadour to deserved festival headliner without breaking stride.