On a sunny Friday afternoon, I navigated the country lanes of between Stevenage and Hertford in Hertfordshire to get to a small site for the 12th Wilkestock Festival. Wilkestock is very quirky and unique with all profits going to charity. Namely, Bloodwise Leukaemia Research (Beating Blood Cancer) and Keswick Mountain Rescue. I pitched up my tent in the campsite directly behind the main stage, listening to local bands Cova and Lyoness who were playing on the main stage.
It is true what the organisers say, in that most areas you need to get to are a few minutes walk away, so it was not long before I was in the main arena. It is a natural amphitheatre with the stage at the bottom of the slope, allowing great views wherever you are.
If you want to chill with a drink you can either sit on a recycled leather sofa, an empty jacuzzi, speedboat or even the cockpit of a helicopter. I grabbed a beverage, in a returnable hard plastic pint pot, to reduce single use plastic, having, first, exchanged cash for beer tokens and sat down to listen to Only the Poets, an indie pop band from Reading. This was a gentle lead in to the festival, and the stand out number was Ceasefire.
I had decided to alternate mainly between the Main Stage and the Bella Stage. This was a tented dark warm space where the more powerful and raw bands were playing, and I was to find out later that after the main stage had ended, Bella, would be the stage where epic performances into the early hours would take place.
Paul Lyme was managing this stage, as well as grabbing the excellent images in this review for RockShot, so he had his work cut out for the weekend. The first act I caught there were The Estevans, an alt indie band from Guildford, whose young raw energy were typical of the bands that were to play on this stage.
I had been looking forward to seeing The Snuts on the main stage. The West Lothian band play “anthemic indie” songs. It was obvious from the start that Jack Cochrane was not a big fan of the sofas. As during the first number he said “Fuckin’ clap your hands even if you are sitting on a couch”. Their set was full of banging alternative tunes including one about ‘The deadliest city in the world’ …Glasgow.
Jack Cochrane interacts with the crowd throughout with his very mischievous banter and I really enjoyed their set and would recommend catching The Snuts live.
I had seen Fatherson at Truck Festival and was looking forward to seeing them again. Another Scottish band from Kilmarnock, their brand of rock music is infectious. As before Making Waves was still my favourite number on their setlist. And as was to be the case throughout this festival, there were not that many people around for the penultimate act, which was a shame as Fatherson delivered an accomplished set and Ross Leighton was on top form.
The real coup for Wilkestock was securing the exclusive UK outdoor festival appearance of “veteran” indie rockers, We Are Scientists. Keith Murray and Chris Cain, were hilarious with their trademark on stage banter. As an autumnal chill descended the assembled revellers prised themselves off of the sofas and congregated at the front of the stage to grab a piece of the action.
Keith Murray danced all over the stage throughout the set, which showcased most of their seven albums. When We Are Scientists left the stage, the crowd waited for a good five minutes hoping for an encore. It was obvious that an encore was not coming when technicians started unplugging equipment, so it was off to the Bella Stage where the night was still young.
We had caught up with JW Paris earlier in the day and look out for an interview with them at Wilkestock on RockShot Mag. The London based three piece, have supported the likes of Pretty Vicious, The Amazons and Yonaka. They are also pretty cool lads who want to do their thing on stage. The Bella Stage were going to experience “their thing” next, taking us up to the witching hour.
The area came alive with the heavy riffs of That’s Why, a new track still to be released. JW Paris started as they meant to continue full of energy, and very loud, in the heat of the tented stage. They showed their cheeky side when Aaron Forde said “Thank you We Are Scientists for supporting us tonight”.
They played with real feeling on the punky Radio. The lyrics seemed to resonate with the crowd, given the type of acts that were playing this festival. “I can’t stand what I hear on the radio, I just want to hear what I play on my stereo”. There were some new songs in their setlist with That’s Why, Favourite Thing and Royalty. These show real evolution in their sound and are well worth checking out when they are officially released.
JW Paris’ set was full of energy, swagger and they enjoyed it as much as the crowd did, so catch them if they are playing near you.
Nothing prepared me for what was to follow. Fiende Fatale had been recommended to me by Paul, and he said that Matt Magee was one of the best frontmen he had seen. He was not wrong Matt took to the stage covered in glitter with bright red lipstick and nails. The manic swaying and moshing in the crowd started with the song Mr Smith with the band “barking like a dog, woof, woof, woof!”
Swaggering about the stage like a menacing Iggy Pop, Matt whipped up the crowd. His lipstick was now smudged all over his face and he sarcastically stated his “Love for Donald Trump and his sound principles”, before the band launched into 2020Vision.
During 2020Vision, and I do not know how, Matt sustained a head injury. At first I thought he had applied stage blood for effect, but stage blood doesn’t pump out of your head. There was concern for Matt, with various t shirts being used as bandana bandages.
He was not going to leave the stage though, as he powered through the set list. The rest of the band were tight and Fiende Fatale are an act that come into their own live and I recall the famous image of Sid Vicious covered in blood at the Dallas Longhorn Ballroom.
Well Fiende Fatale made the Sex Pistols look like amateurs!
Just before 1am, the mood mellowed a bit by PEANESS, a three piece indie pop band from Chester. This was a welcome breather from the carnage we had previously experienced. There were obviously people in the crowd who were from Chester as when they said the next song was about Chester a loud ‘Oh Bloody Hell!’ was exclaimed. PEANESS had some witty banter with the crowd and played nice indie pop numbers
I met the last act, Swedish Death Candy, back stage at the Bella. They are truly international with guitarist, Francesco Codardo and drummer Marco Ninni hailing from Italy, Jiwoon Whang the bassist from South Korea and guitarist and vocalist Louis Perry from the UK.
They were very quiet and were enjoying an impromptu picnic before taking to the stage, which did not include the rank Swedish Liquorice that they took their name from. I noticed an inordinate amount of peddles on the boards being assembled on stage. I did not know what to expect when they took to the stage, the tent full of smoke and strobes freezing the crowd. What we were going to experience was exquisite psych rock.
Jiwoon Whang is mesmerising and plays bass like Jimi Hendrix played guitar. He was ignoring the rule, that bassists stand in the background looking disinterested and it was a joy to watch. They made full use of all the FX pedals and Louis Perry was tugging at his tremolo bar for all that it was worth. The result was a multi layered cacophony of sound. Like previous bands we were treated to new songs as Swedish Death Candy played Interstellar Love Machine from their soon to be released album, Are You Nervous. See this band if you can!
At 3am I wondered back to my tent hoping that Saturday could match Friday, and wondering what strange madness the Bella Stage would serve up, after hours tomorrow.
Live Review by Tony Creek & Photography by Paul Lyme at Wilkestock Festival 30th August 2019.