Belladrum holds a special place in my (tartan) heart (sorry, I had to do it) since it is not only the first festival I ever went to, and have been coming back every year since, but is arguably my favourite one too. It not only has a great family atmosphere but is an excellent opportunity to see a mix of different up and coming bands but some more established and older acts too.
Looking at the line up the day on the Friday had to start with Kilmarnock’s Fatherson. Who attracted quite a large a large crowd despite having an early slot on the Hothouse stage. They managed to fairly get the crowd going playing a number of their well known songs and a few new ones off their upcoming album. An excellent start to the weekend.
Next up was a clash between Make Sparks on the same stage and Bwani Junction on the main stage. Giving the sun was out (I think Belladrum has had the best weather for a festival this year) I opted for the latter. The Edinburgh four-piece pulled off their trademark angular riffs and rhythms with ease in the sunlight. They mainly played stuff off their debut album but also showcased some new songs including one called Cival War. The highlight of their set for me is still Two Bridges, which some might argue has one of the best guitar breaks in Scottish music right now.
After a walk round the site i ended back up at the Hothouse stage to see half of Vukovi’s set, who unfortunately didn’t seem to have as much of a crowd as I thought they would. This didn’t stop them rocking out, making riffs clash with booming bass. Singer, Janine has a banshee scream element to her vocals but manages to keep it back just the right amount.
Over on the Go North Seedlings stage, (which mostly featured a number of the acts who had been part of Go North earlier in the year), was Cherry Fostphate, who I seem to remember seeing in Ayr once. Their brand of guitar pop went down well with the crowd in the tent.
American act, Vintage Trouble wowed the crowd at the main stage attracting a large audience and whipping them into a frenzy with their their rock and roll tinged rhythm and blues. Singer Ty Taylor certainly had some moves in him I can tell you that!
French Wives are a band I’ve heard of but never listened too that much. Having not long released their debut album on Stow Collage’s Electric Honey label I was interested to see what they were all about. I was pleasantly surprised that the Glasgow act came across as perhaps what Bombay Bicycle Club might sound like if they were Scottish.
The somewhat secret special guests on the Friday were Kassidy who have gone down a storm in previous years, having gone off the band in recently I only stayed about to watch the start of their set. The crowd there seemed to be loving them though. I went down to the Seedlings tent to catch some of Finding Albert’s set, again not knowing quite what to expect. First impressions of the energetic band were the electronic element to make me think a more electronic and dance sounding Muse (you know before they went a bit mad with power).
Not long after were Glasgow’s This Silent Forrest, a band I had heard on a couple of Podcasts previous to now. I also knew singer Graeme “Squirrel” Macdonald from the Slow Club nights at Bar Bloc. It was clear from the start that they have quite a mix of influences, and according to the groups facebook page it does range from Bruce Springsteen through Aereogramme to Frightened Rabbit (more on them later). Having two different singers made for quite a difference in their material too with, electric guitarist Jamie’s voice (and look for that matter) reminded me very much of Louis from Admiral Follow meanwhile Graeme’s was much different to this, it brought a really nice dynamic to the bands material.
Taking the Grassroots stage for the second year in a row was (fairly) local lass, Rachel Sermanni. This time backed up my her all female band, built up of three violins and a keyboard it was nice to see her trying different lineup. Attracting a large crowd she gave a good performance spanning older material along with some newer stuff. One thing I’ve noticed about after having heard her play in the past is how her material manages to sound great solo and with a band.
Out the three choices of headliner for the Friday night out of Wombats, The Buzzcocks and Willy Mason, I opted for the latter upon the recommendation of a friend. Having not heard any of his material before I was rather impressed! For one man with an electric guitar he played a great set that was a nice way to chill out after the first day. Mason seems to have a voice that can captivate an audience.
Saturday morning was a bit of a struggle to make to see some acts I wanted to see. I wanted to try and catch Alan Frew and Olympic Swimmers but by the time I got down to the site I opted for watching Johnny Cash tribute band, Jericho Hill. Now, covers bands and such are normally not a favorite of mine so I was prepared to take this with a pinch of salt however they proved to be a good tribute to the man in black playing material from his whole career and managed to get a great reaction from the festival crowd.
I managed then managed to catch half of Chris Devotion & The Expectations, I’ve heard compared with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and The Clash. I can see how too, their rabble-rousing tunes got a positive response from the audience.
Sunday night for me (and what sealed the deal for going this year) was all about Frightened Rabbit. The borders band are one of my favorites around just now and have never been disappointed any other time I have seen them. Having just signed to Atlantic records from FatCat they are becoming a pretty big band too, playing below the headliners tonight too. Playing a set of their well known material to the big crowd there was people clapping and singing along, it was great to see. One thing I’ve alway noticed about when the band play live is how well they manage to create all the layers that their and complex arrangements that their albums have in the live situation, a definite highlight.
A band featuring a good friend of mine are Roadway. They were making a live comeback after an unfortunate serious car accident featuring two of the members. The six piece band take influence from both modern and classic rock bands and have quite a distinct sound for a band based in Scotland. Seeing their two guitarists after their recovery from the crash made the performance all the more special with the crowd singing along to a lot of their songs.
Saturday night headliners and closing the festival was Travis. A band I didn’t know that well but after I heard a lot of their songs it turns out I did. They banged out what seemed like a greatest hits set with (I think) a few new songs. Overall a good set though.
I obviously didn’t take this I stole it from facebook…
If you’ve never been to Belladrum before I recommend you do since it’s brilliant little festival!