LIVE: Wilkestock Festival 2018 – Saturday & Sunday

By Yasmin Brown

With a weekend of perfect weather in sight, the cutest festival décor known to man, and a line-up of artists ranging from the totally unknown to Radio 1 favourites, Wilkestock’s 11th year was always destined to be three days of pure joy.

The Punktastic team are pleased to report that the festival lived up to all expectations, providing a weekend of great music, charity fundraising, glitter, and a lot of laughs.

Idle Frets kicked off Saturday on what was becoming the notoriously sweaty Bella Stage, offering relaxed, indie vibes to a sparse crowd lining the walls of the room. The raspy vocals of lead singer Ben Davies were strong and, as with many of the lesser known bands over the weekend, they deserved more than the few lost souls that came and went throughout the set. Despite the relaxed nature of the band’s music, Davies took a moment to wipe his sweaty forehead on his bandmate’s sleeve, highlighting just how uncomfortably warm the environment was. Overall, Idle Frets played well considering the circumstances, and with any luck, those that did turn up and enjoy the set will spread the word of this band’s talent.

Written In Ink were the next victims of the sweltering heat that the Bella Stage had to offer; a funky, female-led band that seemed to be trying a little too hard to be cool. The brooding front woman presented herself as the nonchalant, too-cool-for-school type chick, making it feel disingenuous at times – that aside, however, their funky sound brought in more spectators and saw many singing along despite their lack of media exposure. Ending with a saxophone solo, it’s clear that this band is talented – particularly considering that they’re just starting out – and with influences such as Led Zeppelin, they may find themselves filling a gap in the industry that many haven’t even realised is there.

If there’s one phrase that can encompass everything that Sea Girls are, it’s ‘Too Much Fun’. Whether we’re talking about their popular single or just the look on their faces when they play live shows, it’s impossible to not find yourself slowly but surely go from tapping your toe, to jumping to your feet and dancing freely. Back at the main stage, like many other before them, the band had to content with a mainly sedentary crowd, but this didn’t deter them from taking full advantage of their opportunity and putting on a great show. Considering the lack of people by the stage, it would have been easy to take it as sarcasm when front man Henry stated, “I love this festival, I love the mosh pit down here. It’s beautiful”, but it was said will total sincerity prior to him leaping down from the stage and taking the show into the crowd during ‘Adored’. Undoubtedly the best band of the day the set ended with guitarist Rory losing his mind for the last few moments of the set, going out with a bang.

Eliza and the Bear have seemingly been everywhere this summer, but there’s nowhere that their music fit in better than on the Wilkestock main stage. As their psychedelic pop-rock filled the field, the crowd started to build up, with more people dancing along as the set went on following encouragement from front man James Kellegher. As the first band of the evening, their feel-good, easy going vibe was perfect, and with various covers including Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘September’, festival goers were really starting to get amped up – with even a girl on crutches joyfully hobbling through her pain by the end of the set.

While Eliza and the Bear were undoubtedly a lot of fun, it was Sarpa Salpa who unexpectedly stole the show on Saturday. Despite being late on, their improvised banter kept the crowd sweet before kicking off the set, and continued throughout. Considering the warmth of the day, Sarpa Salpa’s summery sound was perfectly suited to the overall bright and joyful atmosphere that swept over the fields. The combination of a strong bass, decent turn out, crowd interaction and excitable dancing from band members and audience alike made for an excellent thirty minutes. Even when the guitarist’s string broke prior to the final song of the set the band kept the momentum going, encouraging us to yell out jokes to fill the silence. This is a band that, despite their low profile, know how to perform and how to entertain a crowd, even if they’re currently unknown.

The Fratellis were clearly the most anticipated band of the day, with the main stage filling up properly for the first time that weekend. It felt like a different venue, as those who braved the pit closer towards the front were packed tightly together as they sung along with the Glaswegian three-piece. From the very beginning, audience members were clambering on their friends’ shoulders, and there was ample drunken singing and dancing in the pit. Despite the lack of crowd interaction, which came across as pompous at times, there didn’t seem to be a single person in attendance who wasn’t having the time of their lives, particularly during their best known track ‘Chelsea Dagger’. The Fratellis’ only mistake was not leaving this song for last, as the crowd started to dwindle as soon as it ended, leaving them to play the closing song to a much smaller crowd.

Closing the night with thrashing vigour was Asylums, a band that play with the same fervour regardless of where they are playing, or who they’re playing to. The crowd started off small, with more curious wanderers filtering in as the set progressed. Front man Luke Branch isn’t one to let a small stage deter him from going wild, having crowd surfed in a pub at Camden Rocks earlier in the year, and the tiny Bella Stage was no exception. This is a band that are clearly making and playing music just because they love it, and they don’t need an audience to have a good time. As such, whether you were there intentionally, or just passing through inquisitively, it was the perfect place to rock out and end your evening.

Sunday offered a chance to recover from the madness of Friday and Saturday, with hay barrels now in disarray, ready to be consumed by whichever animals took residence in the field after the festival’s departure. With many of the artists being new or as yet undiscovered, it was a great opportunity to find new music to love before heading home for that much needed hot shower.

Crystal Tides’ indie-rock goodness offered sing-a-long opportunities throughout, with the band teaching those unfamiliar with their music easily remembered lines and thriving on the interaction. They took the time to introduce themselves, which many bands failed to do, ensuring that anyone who connected with them could easily look them up following the set, and their back and forth banter with audience members made them both memorable and likeable. It was a relaxed environment, with a decent turn out considering their current undiscovered status, and if you closed your eyes for just a moment it was easy to imagine driving along those vast, open roads in the summer, with your best friend riding shotgun and Crystal Tides providing the soundtrack. The band left the small stage after announcing that their new single ‘Lifeline’ is now online for our listening pleasure and received relentless cheering long after their departure.

Five-piece Leader followed, filling the tiny stage and finding themselves playing to a mostly seated audience. Had the energy picked up, their music would have been quite easy to dance along to, but as it was, the crowd remained unenthusiastic throughout. After a while, each song started to blend into the next, although you could feel the passion oozing out of the lead singer as he connected with every word he sung. Based on their performance, it’s safe to say that Leader have the potential to be great should they take more time to perfect their live performance and write more diverse music that will give listeners no choice but to dance along.

The Punktastic team’s weekend ended with Riviera – a group of young boys dressed like they’d come straight from the 90s. After tripping over the first song, the band quickly recovered, moving on to the next – a heavier song that shows promise. For a group of young songwriters, Riviera are quite incredible, and their future looks incredibly promising, providing they start to believe that they’re as good as they proved themselves to be. Confidence and experience will undoubtedly push their careers to a whole new level.