Live Review: Call of the Wild Festival 26th – 28th May 2023



The calls to the wilds of Lincolnshire were loud and inviting so my bank holiday weekend plans were set, I was off to the Lincolnshire Showground for my first Call of the Wild Festival!

From my arrival to my departure, all event staff were helpful, friendly and welcoming. From the security, to the bar staff and the superb cleaning team. The facilities were fabulous and there was thankfully nothing wild about the camping. There was plenty of space in the field which was full of respectful, amenable and joyous festival goers. 

After parking up and a quick dash to the main arena, I was able to catch Mercia, who at the early hour of 11am were festival ready for sure! Before ending with Forever, they wished a crowd member Happy Birthday, and put smiles on all of the faces of the crowd. They were definitely worthy of my super early departure from Kent that morning.

As I needed to pitch my tent and set up camp, I missed a few of the bands that followed, as I did at various stages of the weekend, mostly due to catching up with friends, as is often the way at festivals, especially early on in the year. Apologies to those artists that do not get a mention.

Upon returning to the arena ready for Ashen Reach, a school field trip to the festival was underway and by the reactions from these teenagers, a fair few new fans were made and it was great to hear ERB single of the month Ghosts close the set.

The set up at COTW was two alternating and adjoining stages with a third stage attached to the bar, so it was very easy to pitch a spot and swivel between the 2 arena stages, and then time your trip to the bar to coincide with the performances on the third stage. This is the theory! There are of course many distractions at a festival including trade stalls which I also spent a fair amount of time frequenting.

The next arena band for me was Wars on the Southall Lawless stage, named in remembrance of two musicians; Nick “Ringo” Southall and Mikey Lawless who lost their brave battles against Cancer. They delivered a high energy feisty set with political messaging, before it was time for a refill and the opening act on the Trailblazer stage. At ERB we had hosted a video premiere for Indya so I was curious to check out her live performance. She delivered a confident and powerful set in a sequinned tassel jacket which I was convinced lit up, until I met her after the set and discovered it was the stage lights creating that illusion! She flirted with the audience on I Wanna Be The One, before playing Wasted and asking the crowd “Are you there yet!?”

Back outside for Carry The Crown and there was fabulous audience interaction especially with the contingent in the ‘shit shirts’ that have become a feature for some. As the sun was setting behind the stage, singer Martin James jumped into the crowd and sang and interacted with the children which was very well received. Lords of Ruin grabbed a full crowd at the third stage as the metal representatives of the day, and got the crowd nodding in unison.

Time for the headliners Kris Barras Band. Highlights were opener Hail Mary and crowd participation favourite My Parade. Kris delivered a polished performance including amusing  heckling with the crowd, and a mesmerising laser light show. A fabulous ending to the day and as the daylight turns to dusk, the temperature falls dramatically and my unpreparedness for the first festival day of the year catches me out! 

It seems like an early start for Sheffield’s Shadow Smile as they hit the stage at 11am. Before long the audience is clapping along hoping to rouse the campsite from its slumber. The guitarist even did an attention grabbing stint on top of the speaker stand. A poignant tribute is made to Tina Sherwood as the band played Dearly Departed and there is time for a quick check of the well-being of the crowd which confirmed that just one audience member had a hangover…unlikely!

A change of pace and style up next on the adjacent stage as the four Continental Lovers bring their brand of dirty rock n’ roll with the occasional interruptions from a T-Rex. Yes the wild in Call of The Wild was definitely of the Jurassic kind. A nice touch was an entertainment company bringing in an adult and baby T-Rex, and to see them just appear over the shoulder of an unsuspecting festival go-er was hilarious although had that been me I would have probably needed the first aid tent!

Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters kept the energy levels up and started the set with my absolute favourite – Tonight I’m With You and Beth looked resplendent in a vivid red catsuit. Beth also had made a dedication but this time for Tina Turner as she belted out a verse of Proud Mary in her honour.  The quote of the weekend also goes to Beth who upon trying to get the crowd more involved stated “The only excuse for not clapping is if you haven’t got any hands. If you haven’t got any hands you can stamp your feet and if you haven’t got any feet you can Woohoo!”

The female fronted bands continued on the adjacent stage as Annabel (and Circus 66) appeared with a turquoise sequinned snake around her neck. The crowd responded really well to Monster, new single A Little Piece of Magic and the final song Jekyll and Hyde. Speed was of the essence for New Generation Superstars. “We can’t fuckin’ talk we’ve only got 30 minutes!” AJ declared as they had the crowd bouncing or nodding, depending on energy levels, and tried to cram as many songs as possible in to their allotted half an hour.

A trip to rehydrate at the bar attached to the Trailblazer stage bore rich rewards as I discovered stage openers UNTIL 9. In a very busy and hot tent with toddlers in ear defenders and a festival goer in a feather boa amongst the crowd, I witnessed a band that had been played by fellow ERB presenters but that had totally passed me by. The vocal talents of Paul ‘Pudge’ Johnson were superb, switching from growling to melodic vocals seamlessly. My absolute favourite track was Pigs and after closer Gallows, the crowd were chanting for an encore.

Alas an encore was not in the schedule but next up on the Southall Lawless stage was the high energy Cambridge band The Hot One Two. How guitarist Kev Baker managed to spin round so many times in the heat and not fall over is beyond me, but it made for entertaining watching. Back at the tent stage, Ransom informed the crowd “I’ll never be no gender offender, this is a song about unity”, track Gender Offender this was closely followed by Colour Blind to reinforce the inclusive messaging. A great old school rock performance.

Desperate Measures from New Zealand took over in the arena declaring “This one’s for Boris Johnson, he took all the money!” Another dedication followed, this time for both Tina Turner and the late Algy Ward, former bass player for The Damned and Tank. Then from London to Lincolshire for Star Circus who were straight out of the starting blocks on the Trailblazer stage with Love Is The Enemy.  A great well received set by this fresh sounding band.

Things got decidedly heavier as I headed back outside for Solitary. Playing Unidentfied they declared “We played this in Germany last week and we had the whole crowd bouncing up and down, but I don’t know if you’re older than them!” Today’s crowd jeered back but then proceeded to form an extremely polite and short lived circle pit!

The Cruel Intentions attracted a decent sized crowd and also had the lowest slung guitar of the festival, thus far. “I’ve caught a bug and I might not be able to sing properly tonight but we still look fucking awesome” declares the vocalist Lizzy DeVine, before adding “This next song is about a girl with much bigger problems than mine. This is Genie’s Got a Problem.” At this point an inflatable T-Rex appears in the audience, the poor relation to the bought in version, but a valiant effort in this heat.

Rich Ragany and the Digressions up the wardrobe stakes with the outfit of the weekend going to guitarist Kit Swing in a lightning emblazoned catsuit with matching earrings and guitar straps. She was almost upstaged by the short-lived battle of the T-Rexs that almost turned the showground in to a scene from Jurassic Park.

A fiesty set followed from Sour Tusk whose drummer was hitting the drums with such ferocity that adjustments were needed for the kit. “We like to drink and that’s why there’s so many drinks on stage!”  They declared. This seems like the perfect place to mention the adjacent watering hole and the superb service provided by the team from the Waterloo Bar in Blackpool that ran the facility for the weekend. If the Lemmy’s Bar featuring his Murder One rig wasn’t enough, the staff could not have been more helpful and considerate. They even purchased blackcurrant to add to the cider when the dark fruit cider ran out.

From cider to shiraz and specifically Shiraz Lane who brought the glamour to the Kilmister Stage just as the sun was setting. Delivering a superb cover of Layla (Derek and the Dominos) and Savage Garden’s To The Moon & Back to an adoring enthused crowd. This was a tough act to follow and it seemed that technical issues delayed the start of East Anglia’s Elimination but when they hit the stage, they hit it hard and heavy!

The buzz around Kickin Valentina’s appearance was clearly evident in the size of the crowd. Those that had been loitering and lounging earlier in the day were now up against the barrier to watch this Atlanta band. A special appearance on stage from five children from the audience passed without mention, but that didn’t seem to bother the youngsters. Once the kids had been relocated back to the arena, D.K. Revelle delivered a great rendition of Elvis’ Burning Love.

The second day came to a high kicking, full stage covering, tigger-bouncing end, courtesy of the effervescent Tony Wright and Terrovision. Those of us of a certain age were extremely nostalgic listening to Whales and Dolphins and all the other hits of the 90s, and crowd members were frequently heard declaring their surprise at knowing so many of the tracks. It was a fabulous ending to a beautiful day and the crowd left for their beds grinning from ear to ear.

“Bring your breakfasts down the front!” declares Chloe from LaVire as she goes straight in to Welcome To The Freak Show.  As she sips beer and bounces around the stage and is non stop smiling and loving life. Impressive guttural vocals at times and an extremely impressive performance for any time of day, let alone 11:15 am.

Dead Writers from London treated us to their latest single Lisa accompanied by frontman Paul Shine on the keyboard, plus yet to be recorded track ‘Beautiful Mess’. “This feels like a Sunday service”, he declares! After the gold tambourine on the right hand stage, it is time for the gold jacket of Brad Marr and Sweet Electric on the left side. He has an outlandish attitude to match as he sings at warp speed.  A large crowd has gathered to watch this band and a sample cover of LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem brings smiles to the crowd to match that of drummer Nico. Brad then plays the cowbell in a Pete Townsend windmill style before running in to the crowd and up on to the adjoining stage to the bemusement of This House We Built who were setting up.

This House We Built have a tough act to follow for sure but they tackle it with gusto. “This is about meeting people and having that buzz in your pants” says front man Scott before delivering a superb performance of my favourite track Walk The Line.  Having watched other bands almost kick over the monitors, Scott had very resourcefully brought a stool with him that he had found back stage and he used many times for posing / resting his foot in-between the infectious bursts of energy that see him darting all over the stage. A solid performance.

Much anticipation awaited youngsters Tailgunner. Having fired their guitarist for racial slurs just days before the festival, Rhea Thompson learnt the set in three days and delivered a polished set on her neon green Jackson guitar. The cross wind over the showground seemed to have been perfectly orchestrated to provide the frontline with an 80s stage fan effect and coupled with the matching hi-tops and socks, the image was nailed! The finale cover of Painkiller by Judas Priest brought the set to a grand ending.The winds of Lincolnshire also were in effect on the adjacent stage for A’priori as the 3 piece with a keyboard unusually tilted towards the audience played a fab set including Wasted Years.

Opening the Sunday Trailblazer session was Manchester’s We Three Kings. The narrative style singing and superb voice of Rich made this band another one of my top discoveries of the weekend. It was so pleasing to discover so many bands that I had not seen before, from a line up with a refreshing variety compared to some of the other festivals in the UK. Brand new song The Edge of Death was one of the highlights for sure.

A band I have seen a few times was Fury, but yet again they were superb. Julian’s vocals were sublime on Upon The Lonesome Tide with an orchestral backing track, before being  joined by Nyah Ifill. I felt like I was on the deck of the Titanic, such was the drama that it created. The coordinated band dancing at the end of the set was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend, special mention to Becky (Baldwin) and Nyah for the twisting and shouting! The inflatable T-Rex was back to check out Pryma, maybe it was the megaphone that got the message to him loud and clear to enjoy Freaky Fright Night?

The Karma Effect grabbed the early evening sun set behind the Kilmister stage and treated the responsive crowd to See You Again – a sneak preview from album two which is soon to be released. Seb Emmin’s piano playing at the start of Stand gave me goosebumps, as Henry Gottelier dedicated the track to “all the people supporting new wave of classic rock music and keeping the scene alive.” The next couple of bands were Wildfire performing to a packed out Trailblazer stage and King Kraken who brought their own tentacles to the arena stage. The green kilt of singer Mark Donoghue matching nicely.

Sister from Sweden were next on, wearing white facepaint, a fox stole, a bloodstained shirt, a jacket with a RIP 2020 patch and a studded cape. The growling and screeching of Sick preceded a challenge to “prove you are better than London!” heckled by frontman Jamie Anderson.

The Trailblazer stage was packed for The Outlaw Orchestra and I was just able to squeeze in at the back. Whilst bouncing insults off each other, Banjo Pete takes a moment to describe singer Dave – “We call him glovebox, as he’s full of shit and you can’t shut him up!” before he launches in to crowd favourite Too Much Willie Nelson. They close the short and very sweet set with See You in Hell. 

Having had already seen two dinosaurs, a snake, a kraken, and a fox, it was time to add Black Spiders and crows in to the mix. The penultimate band of the festival brought a light up drum kit and encouraged the crowd to chant “Fuck You Black Spiders”, hopefully the kids that were still present had their ear defenders firmly on!

So to the largest crowd for the weekend, and one that had started to fill up the front of the stage many hours before they took to the stage was for Those Damn Crows. Two band members were seen in the onsite tattoo parlour getting new artwork just hours before the set but this certainly did not impact the performance. As the temperatures dropped, the spirits lifted as the Welsh favourites took to the stage and delivered a superb set full of fan favourites and a visit to the top of the speaker stack for frontman Shane Greenhall.

The truly stupendous weekend was topped off with an after show party in the Lemmy’s Bar tent with tunes provided by the Sisters of Spin – Caz Parker and Tina Culbertson, a trombone and wonderful company. Many thanks to Jon Hardcastle, Raz White, Mark ‘Tosh’ Davies, Lee Byrne, Dave O’Hara and the rest of the crew for all their hard work.

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