Rumours of the demise of the UK’s festival boom are exaggerated if this year’s Wickerman Festival is an accurate bellwether. Despite cancellations and declining ticket sales at other festivals, organisers say some 15,000 people visited the bucolic site nestled in rolling, wooded hills near Kirkcudbright, in Galloway. That is well within expectations and felt like the right number for this compact site.
Most were here for headliners Scissor Sisters and Texas. Topping a Friday bill that included Cast and festival staples the Levellers, the New York divas performed a brace of new songs among the hits, with the enthusiastic throng lapping up their glam electro-pop.
Saturday’s line-up offered anthemic pop-rock in the shape of Kassidy and the View among others. Back with a new record and label, the Dundonian mischief-makers were greeted like long-lost friends. If not a huge development from the melodic riffing of their early success, the new songs are an opportunity for likeable bar-room poet and frontman Kyle Falconer to foreground his sure touch with telling vernacular.
The festival belonged to Texas, however. Performing their only Scottish festival date, this was an emotional homecoming for the platinum-selling Glaswegians in front of an affectionately partisan crowd.
Others were drawn by the busy slate of buzz acts at the Solus and Go North stages. In particular, former Arab Strapper Malcolm Middleton’s project Human Don’t Be Angry transfixed the packed Solus tent with his eponymous new set. Brooding waves of dark sustain and reverb washed ominously over the audience like the tolling of some buoy lost offshore in a thick sea fog.
Next door, Go North continued to recruit new talent with practised ease. Standouts included Ray-Banned hipsters Blindfolds, whose moody rockabilly channelled the Cramps and Link Wray with an authority that belied their youth, and Stanley Odd, who skilfully orchestrated the full house into one joyful bounce with their rap party jams.
Families were much in evidence too: entire be-hatted broods enjoying the diverse range of music at the many smaller stages and quirky activities such as Segway-riding, grass-sledging and a “jamming yurt”.
Herein perhaps lies another of this determinedly unpretentious festival’s strengths. Falling between the twin poles of the blockbusting commercialism of larger Scottish peers, such as T In The Park, and the understated cool of smaller boutique festivals, such as Homegame, Wickerman’s principle diet of Eighties and Nineties retreads plus smaller acts has occasionally been received with a guarded neutrality in some quarters.
But its good-natured inclusivity repays a closer look. There is much to love here musically and the resolutely cheery atmosphere make it almost impossible not to have that prized yet quicksilver quality – a good time.
Off the beaten track, eccentric festival moments such as the death metal band blasting a surprisingly well-received set in the poetry tent are to be found in colourful profusion.
Prices, too, avoid the rampant profiteering of many overnight events and security is provided with a light and genuinely helpful touch. Like that other famous greenfield festival, this idiosyncratic gathering seems to exist within its own seductively easygoing universe.
The boom may be over but Wickerman is dancing to a different beat.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west