Live review: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival: Friday, 3/8/12

The sun is shining on Belladrum in what seems to be Scotland’s soggiest summer, I’d like to think the big yellow man is doffing his cap to Belladrum’s loyalty to its original mission; become and remain a small, fun-filled, family-friendly festival.

Approaching its tenth year, the event held in the Italian Gardens near Inverness, is one of the few British festivals that can confidently sell-out.

Rather than capitalise on its popularity, it has remained petite and unique, with variety at its core: dance workshops, art installations, stand-up comedy, fashion shows, children’s storytelling… whether you want pop music, a piss-up or a palm reading – it really is all here.

Perhaps the most admirable aspect of the festival is the respect it shows local acts.

Acts from the Highlands and Islands are playing the kind of slots and stages that music of their calibre deserves.

One of these acts is Red Kites, a rock band who formed from Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music, who gather a significant sized crowd to the main stage early in the day.

It is clear that many of frontman Moteh Parrot’s lyrics resonate with the audience and it is unsurprising considering he was raised locally.

Beyond that, the musicianship is fantastic, particularly the lead guitar which has a very classic sound but with really inventive moments too.

The band describe themselves as “an indie rock sound with folk and heavier elements” but with the lyrical quality and interesting guitar solos, I would say that they can’t be listened to in the passive way that many other indie bands can.

Set highlights include the emotional ‘Beat in Time’ and the more upbeat ‘Plans’, which inspires a mosh pit at the front!

“The whole festival has a great friendly atmosphere,” exclaims Moteh, “we were pleasantly surprised at the big crowd… the main stage was amazing to play – we have never played a big outdoor stage like that, and it was a great experience.”

To catch them in more intimate venues, see them during their Scottish tour at Pivo Pivo on Sunday.

Following Red Kites on the main stage is Bwani Junction, who play a fun set full of Vampire Weekend tinged indie, their skippy sweet sound just masking their deflated faces as some of the crowd move on.

Passing on Belladrum’s ‘secret guests’ Kassidy in favour of a lunch break, I happen across a band called Juan Zelada.

Somehow, they are making the busy Black Isle Grassroots Tent move soulfully “that’s a standard audience reaction for us!” laughs guitarist Luke Higgins.

The stage is full of musicians, with personality packed Juan moving around his keyboard constantly as they cover Muse’s ‘Hysteria’ and Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ simultaneously… and sexily… I’ve definitely forgotten about lunch.

After signing a lot of autographs, Juan seems happy “I really loved it, it was a cool, warm atmosphere -there was a good roar at the end so it was worth the trip up here.”

He explains more about the band: “we’ve been described as blues, soul and good times; I played keys for Bryn Christopher, we supported Amy Winehouse, then we decided to go our own way.

“We went into some amazing, mental studios, where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody, all unsigned, so that was good… our drummer’s got contacts up his own anus!”

The band – now signed and playlisted on Radio 2 – will be playing Tut’s on November 23.

Elsewhere, The South (The Beautiful South to you and me) disregard the fact it’s a family festival and everyone delights in bellowing that marrying her is a terrible idea and definitely doing something to someone else instead would be a great time.

Foy Vance – sounding more Ben Howard than Ben Howard – plays beautifully to a rather empty Hothouse tent.

The Hothouse tent looks empty throughout the day; a symptom of it being located far away from other stages, blending in more with the campsite than the arena.

A stage at the festival which isn’t suffering – but is probably the cause of many a camper’s next-day-sufferings – is the Mother’s Ruin stage.

Curated by fashion/party brand We Own and open until 2am, the dilapidated bothy has grown arms and legs in the form of a scaffolding structures and speakers courtesy of Edinburgh’s Elektrikal Soundsystem.

Even while headline sets are played elsewhere, it is rammed with revellers for We Own resident djs Jakk_it and Saizme.

“We were very nervous when our set was approaching” admits one half of the duo, Saizme, “I tend to like the more uplifting, mellower side of what we play and Tim prefers the raw, darker side of dance.

“The blend of music touches the majority of the crowd more than your average dj/duo would. It does cause a few disagreements.”

Saizme continues: “but feeling the buzz from the crowd we just go so into it, (that was) maybe the most fun thing anyone could ever do, playing music for people to dance to… everything about it is so happy.”

You could say the same for Belladrum Tartan Heart festival today; everything about it is so happy.

Words: Leonie Colmar


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