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Call Of The Wild Festival 2023

Artist: Call Of The World

Venue: Lincolnshire Showground

Date: 26-28 May 2023


Even though not every band was my cup of tea, this time I still came away refreshed, with renewed faith in human nature.

 

Friday


Having travelled on an early train from London, I arrived at the media centre at about 11.30am to hear strains of Mercia wafting across Lincolnshire showground. They sounded like good, commercial, straightforward, Hard Rock with catchy choruses. I never got to see them, as by the time I collected my media pass they had come off stage, but it sounded like a very good start.


Next up were Scottish band The Reinforcements, heavier with more modern Nu-Metal influences (although they have pink neon lights on their bass), they are working the crowd and get a pretty full barrier full going, no mean feat this early in the game. They had an audience punching above their weight with applause and reaction.


Leader Of Down are a band with vintage origins. They tell the crowd that they started this band with Wurzel of Motörhead and play a track that Wurzel wrote back in eighties, ‘Midnight In London’. Although their singer has a short Mohican, looking quite cosmopolitan and current, their sound is NWOBHM combined with fifties Rock ‘n’ Roll: in tracks like ‘Holloway Motel’ with great lead guitar breaks they don’t sound unlike Wrathchild. However, speedy track ‘Hitman’ from their latest album has the feel of an AC/DC vocal with a speedier delivery, like a male version of Girlschool’s ‘Race With The Devil’.


Mikey Ball And The Company, with a Grateful Dead looking drummer, have two sides to them: a sort of Ricky Warwick And The Fighting Hearts chirpy contemporary Rock and a groovy Southern Rock influence. When they get going, they even have a bit of a ‘Freebird’ vibe.


Ashen Reach from Merseyside have melodic interludes, but are the heaviest band on the bill so far, straying into the occasional death growl. They’re a friendly bunch from Merseyside, know how to work the crowd for participation, and they attract everyone from the four corners of the field to get the biggest crowd so far today. They’re not too far away from a scouse System Of A Down and appear to have a growing following, including Caz from Midlands Metalheads who is wearing their t-shirt and says they are her favourite band. Their guitarist with a long cascade of ginger dreads can do a mean screaming guitar solo in a Classic Rock vein.


Wars from the Midlands are very loud and shouty with death growls, but their guitarist does sing melodically at interludes. His voice was so good I thought it was a backing tape at first, but it was all him, so while it was overall, maybe a bit too heavy for me, there were bits that would also satisfy a Classic Rock fan.


Anti-Clone are ironically named, given their similarity to Slipknot. Once again, it’s all very growly, but their weird scarecrow/fetish lunatic/bastard son of Joker masks make good visual stuff, which makes them a good band to have on the bill as something different. They are keen to get the party started: “We have two more fuckin’ songs and then you can get more drunk.”


Marc Valentine was up next with his solo stuff, ever youthful trim figure and his elastic peripatetic legs, for a slice of Soho Rock ‘n’ Roll. Whilst his own stuff is a tiny bit more Indie, he throws in a Last Great Dreamers song ‘Which Side Are You On?’ into the set. Interestingly, since they haven’t played together for a while, he calls them his other band, as if they are still a going concern. Continental Lovers were in the audience and danced along enthusiastically. Cartwheeling his arms, Valentine seemed well and happy. With tracks like the first single off his debut solo album ‘Last Train Tonight’ and ‘Swiss Laundrette’ he brought welcome Pop Punk melodies. Joking that “After bingo in Skegness last night we wrote this new song called ‘Strange Weather’”; he is a charismatic frontman. I could have listened to a lot more. Alunah was dressed to kill in a leopard tracksuit and had a strong, excellent voice. The material was a slightly Goth in style vocal over a Rock base. “We are from Birmingham Sabbath country.” She looks great and sounds great. However, I found it more of an experience rather than individual memorable songs. She also comes across as a bit detached from the audience, sadly by the end, therefore, quite a few had drifted away.


Carry The Crown were like a Millennial boy band. The singer has got a great voice which sounds just like you imagine it would in the studio. They are local, mostly from Lincoln, with the singer, a Yorkshireman. They joke about being one of the lightest bands on the bill. “Our heaviest song is heavy like a pillow.” They are guitar based, but are really Pop not Rock. They were popular with the audience.


Troy Redfern with his slide guitar Southern Inspired Classic Rock looked amazing . I like him best at his most raw, old Black Blues sounding, such as the single ‘Fever’ and ‘Waiting For Your Love’. During last track ‘Sanctify’ he really punches his resonator to get almost Progressive space-age effects.


Ginger appeared with the Sinners with their easy going Rock ‘n’ Roll show. I would say they seem more relaxed and cohesive, no doubt after more performances together, and there is a more organic feel to their performance. They get a singalong with the crowd started early and deliver excellent quality harmonies in Quo’s ‘Dirty Water’. ‘Six Years Gone’ gave us more 12-bar Blues. Ginger is his familiar self with the crowd. “I don’t have a tuner. I don’t give a fuck, so I hope no one else does”. Ginger’s dog Maggie made an appearance and, rather gorgeously, came to the front when people called her name. “If I’d known it was that easy I’d have worn a dog collar, I still could if you give me a couple of minutes.” With material that’s becoming more familiar and finishing with ‘Not The Staying Kind’, the Georgia Satellites style ‘Arms Of Love’ and the single ‘Footprints In The Sand’, Ginger looked happy and relaxed, with the tension I have sometimes seen as he got onstage with the Wildhearts, completely absent. A man who has found his equilibrium? Looked like it to me.


It started to get dark as Kris Barras burst onto the stage, starting off with ‘Hail Mary’ and ‘Dead Horses’ he is determined to make this headline slot work with everything he’s got. To “demonstrate his fantastic band” they did an extended version of Led Zep’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ with the occasional Deep Purple stanza. His accomplished Bluesy solos were there, full of tone and feeling, but I think, with a headline set time slot, he also had the time and scope to put the guitar down and demonstrate his ability to be a good frontman, using his greater mobility, hands-free to work the crowd. During the highlight of the show ‘Parade’ he jumped into the crowd and walking right to the back of the field, separating them into two groups for a sing off. He has brought his own set of fans tonight familiar with his material appreciative of his talents and made a worthy headliner.


Saturday


Shadow Smile from Sheffield kicked off bright and early with ‘Signed In Blood’, the title track of their new album. Contemporary Metal with the occasional death growl and influence of popular charts, nevertheless the singer has a completely powerful siren of a voice which he could probably turn to any genre, including the best of Classic Rock. They worked the early crowd well, summoning a good number for the opening slot.


The Continental Lovers cut a dashing spectacle with the singer in a top hat and pink velvet jacket in the hot sun, but he looked fabulous. All the better to show off their particular brand of Soho influenced Glam Punk Rock. Speedy, energetic delivery and simple melodies make them an early crowd pleaser and they keep a good amount of people watching close to the stage. I was not sure about the acapella version of the pop song ‘Fill Me Up’ which is a bit dodgy, but luckily it blends quickly into an original. They are my tribe and a younger band who speaks my language, which I welcomed as more death growl bands filled up the line-up. During their set I was attached by a velociraptor, yeah you read that right - I am not the only dinosaur haunting the grounds today (there are lifesize dinosaur costumes and glove puppets amusing the crowd, especially the children). The band do a really good cover of the New York Dolls’ ‘Stole My Baby’ cover. It’s roasting hot, but incredibly the pink velvet jacket stayed on for the full set, with the frontman looking cool as a cucumber throughout.


Beth Blade has some great pipes and she let it rip, striking in a red spandex jump suit. She encouraged the crowd “to wake up those in bed drunk, so they know you are ready to rock.” She chooses the strong ‘Tonight I’m With You’ to open. ‘I Ain’t Got Nothin (If I Ain’t Got Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ keeps up the momentum, with an audience singalong, and some perfect Rock ‘n’ Roll solos. They ended with ‘Jack And Coke’ dedicated to Lemmy. They leave me thinking they are the perfect festival package. Designed to appeal to everyone while still being exceptional.


Another powerful female is up next with Circus 66, this time grounded more in Symphonic Metal bands like Nightwish. She sounds good and I’ve seen her before and know she can sing, but today for some reason she is occasionally off key, at least at the start. She comes on with a stuffed large green snake evoking symbolism of the Fall, religion, eternity, sin, danger and all that good stuff. She walks around the audience with a radio mike and that bit sounded great, maybe she got over her initial wobbles by then.


Then it’s time for no frills with the New Generation Superstars. Fast, time defying, never changing, it’s exactly what it says on the tin, Punky Rock ‘n’ Roll infused fare. They announce they have finished their new album which has taken two years, so there’s new material on the way, but with their old, but great classics they are their usual good time Rock selves.


It’s the first time I have seen Star Circus fronted by Dave Winkler, and they have more bite live, than on record. With their superb quality guitar solos and flawless performance I can see them destined for the main stage in future. With someone doubling on keyboards and rhythm guitar they pack a punch on the Trailblazer stage. With good traditional guitar-based Rock skills and everyone in the band a good singer, easily handling complex harmonies, they seem wise beyond their years musicianship-wise. They play something new, announced as the first track on the second album, which seems to be heavier. At times they are getting on for a Deep Purple vibe in heaviness and that’s the way I like it.


Fresh from the Monsters Of Rock Cruise and their London show, Lizzy DeVine’s voice is extra raw today. “My voice is shot, but I don’t give a fuck, we’ll turn this into a Black Metal show.” But they bring their energy and edgy vibe and this is one of my favourite bands this weekend, right up my alley. Before ‘Jeannie’s Got A Problem’ he declares “I might not be able to shout as cool as I usually do, but you guys can be the Rock ‘n’ Roll stars.” When he speaks you could see he was losing his voice, but the show was still great, full of blistering solos and hi-energy. “You guys are fucking amazing. It’s the weekend suffering. We have a song called that so let’s do it”. There were also a few technical issues. “It’s a fuckin nightmare, but we still enjoy playing Rock ‘n’ Roll.” And that was the point, the crowd still loved it.


Rich Ragany was there with his balladry, him on acoustic and Mik Gaffney on electric guitar. Their female rhythm guitarist did a great job and looked stunning in a black catsuit with two bolts of lightning in a V to her crotch. It’s dinner time when numbers usually thin out, but they made a good fist of it.


Shiraz Lane did everything right in terms of stagecraft, and succeeded in whipping up quite a crowd, even teaching the crowd, “go fuck yourself” in Finnish. Their singer is brilliant at engaging with fans and has a very charming manner, asking the crowd to sing, but the sound mix was too heavily bass-orientated and his vocals were not high enough in the mix. With heavier songs the mix just sounded muddy. This did get better with a change of mike, and when we could hear the vocals, it was a good performance, it’s just a shame it was not able to be fixed sooner. Nevertheless they were full of fire in their belly and were back to the enthusiasm of some of their original performances I saw from them years ago. There was a woman in the crowd wildly headbanging enough to put a sixties person on acid to shame. ‘Be My Baby’ causes widespread dancing, especially amongst groups of women. They finished with a verbal tribute to Tina Turner and left the stage to a recording of her track ‘Simply The Best’.


Kickin Valentina continued the high energy vibe. Singer DK Revelle with his slightly Rap Metal influence works hard to whip up the crowd and their set is full of their old and new favourites, including new unreleased songs “Takin’ A Ride’ and ‘Fireback’ (the latter which seems heavier and more Metal that their first album). We do go back to the ‘Imaginary Creatures’ album, though, and they do a rousing version of my favourite song ‘Turns Me On’. They also do the title track of the last album ‘The Revenge Of Rock’. They finish with crowd pleaser ‘Get Ready’ with Revelle on the barrier and four kids onstage (including the Festival organiser Raz White’s son) doing the horns and pumping their arms, including one little girl with a mini guitar. The kids stay onstage for the ‘Burning Love’ Elvis cover. The presence of the kids underlines the fact that this band have become part of the heart of this festival, coming over from Atlanta every year, and as they put it themselves watching kids grow up and feeling part of the family.


John Swale, the compère, alternates between a pretty boy Hanoi Rocks look with a Spanish style black hat, bare chest and a waist coat to a full-on Pink Glam Rock mane of a wig as his alter ego “Mother Wolf”. He’s a bit of a poetry connoisseur on the quiet, evident with his play on words and his art of great sounding bullshit designed to focus the energy on the stage. When he gets the crowd to shout loud, he praises them self referentially “that was quite good even for a wolf such as myself.” He appears onstage largely to introduce the headliners.


Terrorvision are the ultimate down to earth party band. The singer always reminds me of a guy that doesn’t look flashy at first sight, but then, with his joyful dancing gets all the chicks – irrepressible, cheesy dancing, done so well, it brings out the party animal in other people. Self-effacing, “We are Terrorvision from Bradford” they do great versions of ‘Tequila’ and ‘Alice What’s The Matter’ early on, but although ‘Whales And Dolphins’ gets a big billing; “we wrote this song before everyone else started saving the planet... about our favourite mammals... can you guess them and sing the chorus”, it gets a bit lost as the audience is left to try to sing every chorus line after two days of partying. Additionally, the version of ‘Josephine’ at the end was altered so much, it took away some of the nostalgia. Many bands try to do something different, when, of course, audiences come to some degree for an excellent version of the same. Thanking the crowd for being a “Shit Hot Little Festival” they bent to his every whim with full armed sways and well intentioned, if not, entirely accurate, singing. A great party end to a day that swept by in a good way.


Sunday


Opened by LaVire, we began with noisy energetic Nu-Metal, a little off key at times. Nevertheless, their singer looked confident and owned the stage. A bit of death growling crept into the final track which contrasted and offset the melodic aspects and I found myself swaying to the hypnotic trance like rhythm.


The Dead Writers’ frontman reminds me of Phil Lewis in looks, although his style is more Hanoi Rocks/louche seventies poet in a natty Spanish style hat with pheasant feathers. They are pretty humble, thanking the crowd and referring to themselves as a “baby band” selling a physical CD for the first time. They played their most well known single ‘Lisa’ with their frontman sat down at the keyboard, and it’s pretty catchy, if a little Poppy for my taste. Their set flies by. “It’s been short but sweet, thank you for coming early.” For final track ‘She’s All The Animals’ he took his hat off and got more animated for this more Rocky track, skipping across the stage. Just as he gets going, he has to go. He actually did a pretty great Rockstar split kick jump at the end. I much preferred the Rockier end. If he took his hat off and let it rip earlier I would have enjoyed it even more.


Sweet Electric, the band from Germany “with some dickhead at the front from Australia”, as Brad Marr from Massive introduced himself with this new band. He brought his down to earth, full on, totally LSD approach, bashing the cowbell with an exaggerated cartwheel/whip the horse motion tearing around the stage. Introduced with “this is a drinking song”, ‘Somewhere In The Middle’ owes a lot to English Glam Rock. ‘Hard Times’ is more traditional AC/DC derived Metal. It’s meat and potatoes Rock, not unlike Massive. Marr is such a big personality, of course, he will overshadow probably any band he is in.


This House We Built are more AOR and were introduced as one of Danny Vaughn of Tyketto’s favourites. They’re down to earth from Yorkshire “This song’s about meeting someone and having that buzz in yer underpants” and they introduce a song about drinking ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ which sounds a little dark. Truth is, they never really got going for me.


Apriori (meaning knowledge) are a three piece, all about big riffs, a bit progressive, with keyboards which are used in a novel fashion like a bass, they sound like a melange of Deep Purple and other big seventies stadium bands. More than one person said they were the best band on the bill, so they certainly made an impact.


Fury are a diverse band with a big trucker guy vocalist (who can sing like a choirboy in a soaring AOR ballad, although their usual fare is more straightforward Rock tunes), a super proficient Goth chick bassist, a traditional white male shredder and a second lead singer, a young black girl totally into her Rock (bringing an R ‘n’ B/Soul background too). They are clearly singing from their hymn sheet. “Sexism exists in the music scene and in society and it’s up to us to stamp it out.” They are difficult to put in a box, which is usually a good thing originality-wise. In general, I would say they are Hard Rock with a fifties Rock ‘n’ Roll streak, determined to be themselves and have a good time - belonging to no one tribe, maybe that will give them wide appeal.


Pryma are definitely coming from the Goth Horror Rock stable, offering death growls against Rock riffs. Their singer came on in two large curly black plastic ram horns giving her a cosplay appearance and leather harnesses on her legs (that unfortunately fell off after a first few songs tripping her up and leaving her in a tangle around her feet that she had to employ some effort to get out of. She recovers well...) They are not melodic enough for me, but they do have a sense of occasion, letting off a fire extinguisher/dry ice device into crowd as a finale.


The Karma Effect reminded me of the Black Crowes with a hippy seventies Rock ‘n’ Roll vibe. They offer some pretty good flowing organic guitar solos and their singer has a strong voice. They can play their instruments, but none of their songs stuck with me.


King Kraken, featuring a very large man in a khaki kilt, have a trashy sound with lots of death growls. They command a fairly decent sized audience considering it is dinner time and they are competing against the Those Damn Crows signing which has a very long queue. At their lightest they are like Stone Temple Pilots or heavy Grunge.


Sister are a Gothic Glam Horror band from Sweden with painted white faces, satanic robes and lyrics like ‘666’ and ‘Psychothriller’. The singer thought for a minute that he had played here before, but realised midsentence that he meant London, it’s a comedy moment, which he recovers from quite well, telling the crowd that they are much better than London (of course). Melodic is not in their dictionary, but they are quite entertaining to watch and I like their song ‘Would You Love A Creature’ that was featured in ‘Peacemaker’. Their audience dwindles, as it becomes clear they are more of a Gothic Death Growl band, and it is the graveyard hour (see what I did there) at COTW, better known as dinner time. To be fair to them they are probably too Gothy for this Classic Rock crowd. Black Spiders have evolved. I remember them as being quite Black Sabbath-like and Doomy and they seem to have shifted to be more Garage-y which probably suits their personality a bit more, with an entertaining charismatic drummer with coloured lights on his drums. The new material is more meat and potatoes, and one track ‘Balls’ is fast like Motörhead. They make an attempt to engage the crowd with a Phil Campbell like entreaty to give them the finger and shout “fuck you Black Spiders”.


John Swale makes his funniest joke of the festival “Is it a bird? No it’s The Black Crows…” as his intro to the final headliner. Those Damn Crows are growing to fill their very big boots in a very modest and talented way. They are getting so they could probably take themselves far in any genre, as they demonstrate excellent performance of well-crafted songs from crowd pleasers like ‘Who Said Rock Is Dead’ to singer songwriter classics like ‘Blink Of An Eye.’ Stood on very wobbly high PA at one point, there is only one spotlight and it follows their frontman everywhere (unfortunately most of the time the rest of the band is in darkness which is a shame). They exhibit true musicianship, with an army of fans singing the choruses and backing vocal “woahs”. They mention it’s a top 3 record before doing ‘Takedown’, reminding us they are a band who’ve made it through talent and hard work and it’s lovely to see them reap the benefits.


Call of The Wild is becoming more diverse. Glam/Sleaze bands this year were merely one element of the Festival, instead of being the predominant theme. This is perhaps inevitable as the Festival has to wash its face and that probably means over time offering a broader roster of bands. One thing has stayed the same, however, the lovely family atmosphere and laid-back approach where no one is a “jobsworth” ordering the crowd around on a power trip that happens at some of the bigger festivals. As a consequence, even though not every band was my cup of tea, this time I still came away refreshed, with renewed faith in human nature, from a Festival where I felt safe and, dare I say it, felt the love.

 

Review & Photos: Dawn Osborne

 
 

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