Flaming marvellous - Wickerman festival
David Pollock meets apisrant Scottish indie heroes Attic Lights, one of the plethora of quality acts at this year’s ever vibrant and varied Wickerman festival
‘We’ve played a few festivals around Scotland over the last couple of years,’ says Kevin Sherry, singer and guitarist with Glasgow up-and-comers Attic Lights, ‘and we’ve noticed that each one has a personality of its own. The Wickerman is certainly the loosest - obviously T in the Park is intense, but that also means it’s very rigid and organised, whereas Wickerman’s got that wild Pagan thing going on. And of course, they actually burn a wicker man at the end of it all!’
The established Dumfries and Galloway location for this, the seventh Wickerman, of course shows that the festival is all too conscious of the original version of The Wicker Man being filmed in the area, but it also nods to the early pagan traditions that spawned the film. ‘We had this romantic notion in our heads when we started up,’ says the event’s founder Sid Ambrose, ‘about early British tribes taking all their people on long journeys to visit far-off lands, where the host tribes would offer dancing and celebrations in return.
‘Also, I think we’re certainly the first, and possibly still only, movie-themed festival in the UK’, he continues. ‘I like the fact that we cross over so many genres in what we do. We’ve been described as the misfit of Scottish festivals, and someone specifically called us the Salvador Dali of festivals, in that they couldn’t figure out the sense in what we’re trying to do.’
That’s a pretty reductive comparison to surrealism, but you get his point. The bill for this year’s event is headed up by KT Tunstall, Gary Numan and The Fall with a similar selection of the new (Damien Dempsey, a barnload of emerging Scots acts including Attic Lights, Broken Records, De Rosa and Zoey Van Goey), the old (Sham 69, Hugh Cornwell, Neville Staple) and the eclectic (Annie Nightingale and a Hacienda Tour mini line-up) filling the rest of the programme in genre-straddling style.
‘We’re quirky,’ says Ambrose, ‘and our headliners are always genuinely a bit unexpected, such as at Gary Numan, who’s someone I’m particularly looking forward to. We do things entirely for a love of the music, rather than just the thought of product placement and possibly making a few quid.’
Wickerman’s catchment area for both fans and the ever-growing group of ‘local’ promoters who help choose their bill is wide, from Glasgow to the north of England, and even Manchester.
The north-of-the-border contingent also includes the five-strong Attic Lights, who have been honing their audible admiration for the harmonic works of The Beach Boys and Teenage Fanclub over the last four years. They do, as noted, have previous track record in the field of festivals, but with the new single ‘Bring You Down’ receiving a proper push from their label Island and the likes of Mark Radcliffe, Janice Long and Xfm making known their admiration for the group, this will be the first time – as Sherry says – they’ll have done the festival circuit as ‘a proper band that people know about.’
‘It’s looking quite frightening, actually, we have a festival every weekend in August, and we’re doing pretty much every Scottish one aside from T in the Park. We still class ourselves as music fans though and it’s like we’ve been lucky enough to blag backstage passes for these things. It’ll be interesting to see how our livers cope...’
Wickerman, East Kirkcarswell, near Dundrennan, Dumfries and Galloway,
Fri 25 & Sat 26 Jul.