Scotland’s only 3 day annual, outdoor/indoor Rock and Metal festival took place between 27th & 29th June 2014 at Wiston Lodge. Les-Fest had moved for it’s 3rd event to a new location and was situated in the lovely countryside to the foot of Tinto Hill, next to a small lake. The main campsite is less than 5 minutes walk from the main area and stalls. The bands and press were also camping not far from the marquee tent with a bar and main stage. There was also the Cack Blabbath acoustic stage inside the lodge itself on days 2 & 3. I’ve got to say that aside from Steelhouse this has got to be a perfect setting for a festival! We arrived later than expected and already the bands had started, but at a festival this size we could hear the music as we struggled to set up our knackered gazebo!
Friday’s bands were on the heavier thrashier side of Metal and not exactly being to our musical taste we didn’t see much of them. But the good thing was we could stand outside the stage area chatting to friends near the food stalls and still hear some big sounds and great guitar shredding. One band we did see for the first time, was the very talented musicians that make up Martyr De Mona. Riff heavy melodic anthemic grungy metal done splendidly that held my attention and a slightly gob smacked face for the whole set! They are playing a few more festivals and shows promoting their cracking new album ‘Impera’. The night was finished off in splendid style as we talked about the meaning of life (underground rock music!), sex and booze with our fellow DJs and press friend David Tongue from Noise Level Critical and his lovely wife Elaine.
Saturday morning gave us sunshine again and my first ever shower at an outdoor festival! Yes, the showers and toilet facilities were excellent and clean. Straight into the music today with a great stoner rock set from Bacchus Baracus, with the unusual (surprisingly it works so well) sight of a drummer vocalist. Next up the classic heavy metal sounds of Vantage Point which were pretty damn good. Twelve Gauge had stepped in at the last minute and were a bloody good choice as a replacement! Fellow TBFM DJs had recommended them and I thoroughly enjoyed their set in the already boiling tent! A band we’d never seen before, Fahran, were the first band of the weekend to completely blow us away with their melodic heavy metal. A fantastic all round performance, the band had great stage presence and the music and ability to go with it. The whole sound was huge and fantastic, I could see them taking easily to the big stages and festivals, with a modern sound mixed in with past classic rock.
Earlier in the day we had been rushing between the stages and managed to catch the excellent Jon Davie from GutterGodz doing a fabulous acoustic show. That week he had also supported the mighty Nicke Borg of Backyard Babies. Also on the Acoustic stage we were treated to a mighty fine performance from Bad Touch – ‘exquisite’ is possibly the word I’m looking for and they even managed to pull off a Led Zeppelin cover. Having witnessed Steel Threads on numerous occasion we new we would be suitably entertained by these two gifted musicians Neil Wardleworth & Laura Wilcockson, the latter who did a rare song covering White Stripes brilliantly on main vocals. This delightful duo mix up original songs and sounds with outrageous power folk covers of AC/DC and Motorhead. After some band interviews I rushed over to catch most of House Of X, featuring ex UFO members. They played their own originals and had me happily bopping around, singing and dancing to old UFO classics, ending of course with ‘Doctor Doctor’, a great way to finish the night!
We knew Sunday was going to be non stop watching and reviewing the bands because what a magnificent line up! First up and way too early for a ‘couple of oldies’ were the excellent Defy All Reason, and it didn’t take long for them to get me bouncing along to some awesome tunes, including a slight reworking to their breathtaking killer power ballad ‘Behind Those Eyes’ and a beefed up version of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ which worked a treat. I didn’t know what to expect with The King Lot, but was pleasantly surprised by their grungy distorted sound, with plenty of feedback on the guitar. It was time to get sleazy with GutterGodz, who are a bit more laid back rather than in your face type trashy punk band. The songs were delivered with a certain amount of verve and panache and although I’m not the biggest fan of watching 3 pieces, they kept me engrossed from start to finish. Throw in the odd cockrocking anthem and Mr & Mrs Rox left the tent for a little break with smiles on our faces!
Having chatted at length to the wonderful Holly Bolus from Little Mammoth, we had a sneaky feeling that we were in for a treat during the Spill Sixteen set. But first off we were blown away by the bands staggeringly good performance, made more stunning by the fact that it was only the drummer Karlos’s second gig. The band was on top form and the humour and fun of the show spilled out into the audience. This was topped even more so by a couple of duet songs featuring the memorising vocal talent of Holly Bolus.
Captain Horizon toned things down a bit with a more indie rock approach to rock music, taking off at times into prog rock type atmospheric tuneful anthems. Back to the cock rocking good time tunes of Fireroad, who kept up the quality of what was turning out to be a fantastic day. If I do have one tiny complaint about the festival, it was too damn hot in the tent! That meant I was heading outdoors more than I wanted to for much needed fresh air.
Slightly bluesier but just as good were Voodoo Vegas with energetic front man and splendid groovy tunes. I gave into the fact that I was going have to miss Pat McManus on the acoustic stage, as I really wanted to see all the bands on the main stage. So no sneaking out of the tent during Bad Touch’s exemplary set – always great to see a band with a charismatic front man like ‘Stevie’. The Burning Crows then stormed onto stage and entertained us with their good time rock n roll. The Wild Lies sounded good, but unfortunately I didn’t see much of them, as a little food break was needed before the onslaught of the last evening’s bands.
Now the next two bands I could quite happily watch every weekend and never be bored: BISH BASH BOSH in your face from the off, the magnificent Massive Wagons were outstanding as always. The band that takes me back to my youth, when I strayed into the dark, yet scintillating world of Heavy Metal, the Wagon’s emulate all the best bands of the 70s & 80s. Powerful pounding monumental rock and imposing stage presence played to perfection from a band who’s second album ‘Fight The System’ is set to blow us all away. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the impressive Falling Red and they never disappoint, with their energetic music and live performances. From cock rocking earlier songs to a more mature modern sound that resounds from ‘Empire Of The Damned’. The title track is now the stand out track for me live, an epic tune. Unfortunately they couldn’t finish off their set with their signature anthem, but nothing was going to spoil a fantastic day’s music. Summing up a tremendous weekend is difficult, so many things made it great from the company to the surroundings and of course the music. Maybe the little things that had nothing to do with the music made this such a wonderful event, friendly staff, a relaxed atmosphere, ongoing cleaning and litter picking throughout the weekend, it all added up to a 10/10 festival that we heartily recommend. Congratulations and thanks to bands, the organisers Dave Ritchie, Fede Valls, Lewis Ritchie & crew for an awesome weekend!
Pictures courtesy of Ian & Rachel Gilchrist