Now in it’s 5th year, Wildfire Festival returns to Wiston Lodge, South Lanarkshire, Scotland on June 24-26. The ever expanding metal and rock festival caught our eye as no less than three of our home-grown acts will be on the bill, Hellbound Hearts, A Joker’s Rage and RSJ. We took the opportunity to talk to festival owner David Ritchie to find out more.
There are a few York bands on the Wildfire bill including RSJ, Hellbound Hearts and A Joker’s Rage. How do you think York rates on the national rock/metal scene?
What a question (laughs)! To be honest, and because I don’t want to alienate half the country, the scene right across the UK is pretty strong at the moment. I don’t consciously pick bands from certain areas, but the festival has a good geographical spread from across the UK and Ireland. For me it is, and always has been, about good, new and emerging talent. That said there were a couple of other strong contenders for Wildfire from the York area that I could not manage to tie down this year, so you are certainly doing something right in this area and the 3 bands we have are all top notch.
Interestingly, A Joker’s Rage weren’t originally on the bill. What made you add them?
I actually picked them up, as I do with most acts, by seeing them live a couple of weeks ago. I was at a great little festival in Carlisle called Rockmantic and they were on the bill there. They had the whole room bouncing and that was good enough for me.
You’ve secured a UK exclusive performance from Tim Ripper Owens. How excited are you about that?
This is a major coup for a festival of our size and stature. People forget that as well as playing with Yngwie (Malmsteen) and Iced Earth, for the 7 years or so he was with Judas Priest, he cut two full albums. If you are a real die hard Priest fan, not only will you get essentially a greatest hits package, but he can legitimately bring other great songs from Demolition and Jugulator, which Rob and the boys will never ever perform. It will be a great show. I am thrilled.
With such a great line-up, who are you most looking forward to playing?
The reality is that I do not get much of a chance to see many bands over the weekend. I am trying to get more help and support to allow me to actually enjoy myself and it is coming along nicely. But I will try to ensure we can shut down the production office around 8 and let everyone go away and enjoy themselves. For me though I hope to catch all the headliners, hopefully some Massive Wagons, Die No More, Stone Broken, The Deep and I will no doubt sneak off in the afternoon to catch Cairo Son, another band recently booked from London and based on a great live performance. The reality is though, that every band here will be on their “A game” and all should be unmissable.
Last year, the festival was known as Les-Fest Wildfire, what was behind dropping Les-Fest from name?
I live in the village of Lesmahagow in Scotland, so when the event started in 2012 it was the Lesmahagow Music Festival Les-Fest. The name had, let’s say, interesting connotations and in 2012 there was no long term plan. But as the festival has grown and developed, I had a team meeting and it was decided a re-brand was necessary. So I have slowly morphed the name and now it will simply be known as Wildfire Festival.
This is the 5th Les-Fest/Wildfire. How has the festival evolved over the years?
It has been a journey for sure. In 5 years we have tripled the numbers, doubled the bands and moved from a 2 acre site to a 53 acre site. It has been a massive learning curve and indeed every year we still work to improve and bring a better all round experience. The one thing that I am immensely proud of is that the people who have been with us from the start come back every year and, as they return, they bring new friends who then continue that process, so we have grown, I guess, organically. That is why I think we have the best fans in the country. We have long term plans to continue the event so as long as people keep supporting Wildfire it will grow and develop.
What does Wildfire have that no other festival can boast?
I like to sell this as “The Family Festival” and it truly is. If you can picture yourself sitting on a warm summer’s day in stunning Scottish countryside with the sun on your back next to a small lake and some great rock and metal music playing away, that is the kind of experience you will get. We provide great, clean facilities, good food and drink at normal prices, have some wonderful vendors and merchandise and overall everyone is just incredibly friendly. Kids can run around in a very safe envrionment and still get the opportunity to see and hear great live music, which I think is important. Children need to know that music is a real thing and not a reality TV show. It is the best party you will attend all year. Heck I usually end up buying everyone a drink too!
Who would be your ideal headliners for Wildfire 2017?
Funnily enough, and we are always planning way ahead, I would like to be in a position where we could have something like, Tremonti, Rival Sons, Anthrax, Europe, Black Stone Cherry, that kind of thing or similar to that. A good mix of rock and metal, new and a bit older. We are not quite there yet, but there is no reason why we should not be able to book artists of that ilk. That said my main objective has always been about new talent, something that the majors do not seem to be interested in. I am guessing another good tag line for our event could be “Come to Wildfire Festival and find your new favourite band.”
Any last words for the fans?
People that know me, know that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I get pretty emotional when the whole thing kicks off every year and although it may sound clichéd, it is not. It really is their festival. They support it. They pay the money. They come along and make the whole weekend happen. I don’t think I could ever put into words what these people mean to me. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them. But can I finish by saying one thing please. A friend made a comment to me last year that this could really be billed as “Dave’s Metal Party” and nothing could be further from the truth. I could not do this without the help and support of my family and close friends. Without people like Leftie the stage manager, Isabel and Craig, Colin, Dougie, Angela, Gordon and many more there could be no party. I salute them all, outstanding people.
Wildfire Festival takes place at Wiston Lodge, South Lanarkshire, Scotland on Friday 24 to Sunday 26 June.