The Wizard festival drew us in this year, with the word of mouth on the festival, along with a strong line up, creating a buzz that proved irresistible.
This was our first time at The Wizard and so with a buzz of excitement, and with e the tones of Celtallica in the background, we set off. We were impressed. The simple parking and one way system, accompanied with the closeness to the site created a hassle free entrance and a secure but polite security check.
Last year experiences of the muddy first day had obviously scarred some, but this year Friday was bright and rain free, life was good.
The site had a simple lay out lacking the eccentricities, some might say complexities, of Belladrum or recent changes to Rockness There were three music stages of which two were tents a line of eateries with a good social space in between scattered with benches and tables, at one corner a few stalls and the Wee Wizards tent with associated inflatables and carnival rides.
We did spend time getting used to the price of the lanyard, at a despicable 45p, it is absolutely disgusting how little they charge.
The main stage was nestled in the tradition show ground arena which had a couple of benefits, it did appeared that the compacted ground resisted the muddiness of other festivals and then there were the stands that allowed the opportunity for respite, from the weather and from standing, quite a luxury indeed.
The Banshee tent saw our first visit of the day and a Fife double bill in Crayons and Tango in the Attic. We were glad to see Crayons and that their precocious pretensions held strong however it was the second Fife band that really stole our attention. Tango in the Attic provided a strong contrast, despite struggling with the sounds system in the tent (they were not the only ones). The up beat summer tunes, boasting a well recognised similarity to Vampire Weekend provided the perfect start to our festival.
Jon Fratelli and his band saw our first trip to the main stage, and we were disarmed by the cleaner styling (haircut and a shave!) of Jon, this did not affect the overall tone of the lad anthems. The hits flew in , as did the beer, with a spattering of new material, resulting in a set leaving us with a real need to book our tickets for their Ironworks appearance( details here).
It was at this point that we had a date with a fairy, no really. Story telling beckoned for invernessGiGs JR, it seemed only fair. Despite being the only child there, the fairy took her time to tell the story with amazing passion and enthusiasm. (Pauline’s website is here ). It did highlight the commitment of the festival to retain it’s child friendly status. Other activities included light house building (complete with light house crèche) and circus skills.
Carrying on the momentum the the Fratteli, GUN’s appearance proved somewhat of a surprise (as the appearance the week before at B-Fest had been). With a big stonking rock sound, amazingly contemporary considering their hiatus. There was a real sense that the latest episode of GUN’s history will bring much more success.
Now at invernessGiGs we have real issues with The Magic Numbers, whose blandness we never really understood, a decent main stage audience gathered, we avoided.
We sought solace in the Banshee Stage, where there was a shift from the predominant indie basis to the local Johnny Cash tribute that Hard Cash & The Folsom Four. The tent was busy and the audience was keen to show it’s appreciation.
Headliners for the night were The Stranglers: composed, professional and ultimately entertainers bring a smile to the crowd on asking “Does any one know where we are, because we don’t have a clue”. Tongue in cheek maybe, maybe not. The hit laced set bounced from song to song as the band have from genre to genre.
A great way to end the evening, but we still had one stop left… a return to the Banshee to see our good friends, Rhythmnreel. A smaller than expected crowd were bouncing away conducted , with as much control as the pied piper had over his rats. These guys work hard and if they say bounce you say how high.
On reflection of the day as a whole, we made a few observations as we made our way to bed:
- Trying to figure out what separates The Wizard from Belladrum took a bit of doing but our reckoning is that The Wizard is a music festival with music at it’s core and we reckon that the organisers do their very best to get the best acts they can for the three stages. Whereas Belladrum is a music festival with the festival, and it’s varied nuances, being at it’s heart.
- The site was either very spaced out or the festival felt very quiet on the Friday, we wondered what it would have been like if it had a settling in night, similar to most other festivals.
- The Wizard could do little more to cater for families and the little ‘uns.
With an anxiety about the weather we looked forward to Saturday.