Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, 9/8/14

An advantage of having an evening heavy line-up is being able to explore the hidden aspects of the festival that make it unique; past many of the stages, stalls and portaloos lies the Walled Garden: host to hot tubs, vintage markets, fortune tellers and other curiosities.

The largest curiosity being the Burke and Hare Theatre where I see Scottish poetry, men on stilts and my old art teacher sitting reading upstairs in the corner of a giant heart, is he an installation … or just having a quiet Belladrum moment? Who knows, it’s art!

In the steampunk surroundings, I also see two performances by contemporary dancer Kathryn Spence, the first performance ia improvising to the compere’s Tenori “improvising with the Tenori was great fun! I would move in response to him, and he would play in response to me,” Spence explains.

“The second performance was set to Four Tet, I spent ages contemplating what my solo should be ‘about’, but I decided to just move to music I love, the best thing was that some people have asked me how they can get into contemporary dance; if I can inspire someone to have a boogie, I’m a happy lady.”

To me – no expert – it was spellbinding, to others in the ‘ooh’-ing  and ‘ah’-ing audience it was good enough for the Belladrum seal of approval – a congratulatory pint! Considering Spence’s stage presence and penchant for dancing to electronic music I think she’d be a great feature on the stone walls and scaffold of the Mother’s Ruin stage.

Next, after a hangover ridding risotto, we head to Danny MacAskill’s Drop and Roll Tour, performing three times in the day, Danny and two other pro riders (Duncan and Ali) have a huge audience from start to finish.

They clamber over a purpose built set – though probably not Danny’s favourite place to ride, I’d imagine the Playboy mansion retains that crown – displaying their trials bike prowess, after introductions, the three riders compete to jump the highest; the competition aspect is a definite crowd winner.

One bugbear, a bugbear that is nothing to do with the riding itself, is that the voiceover introduces and jokes about Ali being the English rider, it’s understandable in terms of heightening the competition and giving the audience some old-school-sport-drama but I spoke to Ali later and he agreed heartily that it is annoying; it clashed with the festival’s stance on the independence debate; don’t mention the referendum, but single someone out for their nationality, hmm.

After missing up and coming North of Scotland bands Neon Waltz and Cryptic Keys (sorry!) the first band I see are Tijuana Bibles in the GoNorth Seedlings tent, there’s a healthy smattering of people but I can think of many at the festival who would love Tijuana Bibles’ music – perhaps Belladrum need to work on a way to let people know more about what to expect from bands they’ve not heard before.

Tijuana Bibles performing style is absolutely cocksure, which suits their sound perfectly, they remind me at times of Kasabian’s more 70’s rock confidence as guitars and tambourines are thrown down; ‘Crucifixion’ is snarling and brilliant.

On the Mainstage thousands suffer a pretty boring set from Reef for the dangling carrot of ‘Place Your Hands’, at points people consider leaving, while rumours spread that they played it already and we missed it.

Belladrum dangles another carrot down, a rare purple carrot, in the form of a mini Holi colour festival, ok, we’ll stay as the opening chords to that 90s classic strike up, powdered paint puffs up to the sky and it’s a short but perfect festival moment.

In the Black Isle tent, fresh from supporting Bombay Bicycle Club, is singer songwriter Rae Morris, after stumbling across her last year in the Seedlings tent Lewis and Sam decided to check her out again “she managed to turn the (usually rowdy) Black Isle tent into a pretty haunting space! She played ‘Skin’ but ‘Don’t Go’ was my favourite, she deserved a bigger audience.”

“She was ace,” agrees Elliot, “it was great to hear her alone with the piano, no band or electronic sounds in the background.”

Headlining tonight are Razorlight, though, frankly, by the attitude of some of the teenyboppers in the crowd it could be any band playing Razorlight hits and they wouldn’t care less, the last time I saw Razorlight was Mainstage at T in the Park at the height of Borrell–dom, now, in 2014, the bare chest and white skinny jeans have been replaced with a loose, dark folky number (the guitarist on the other hand has a kilt on).

Where Razorlight was once written in caps across the stage with lightbulbs, it’s more modest now and in a sweepy wee font, Borrell stays a lot more still but the songs are no less catchy and no less fun as the band open with a snappy ‘In the Morning’ to chants of “Razorlight! Razorlight! Razorlight!”

They fire through ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Rip it Up’ – they pretty much play a greatest hits set, at the end fireworks fly and a pipe band in full regalia play Flower of Scotland.

In the Hothouse tent I just catch the end of Band of Skulls, who are easily the coolest people on site, the judder and swish of ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ is a brilliant way to end the weekend; now, away with you Band of Skulls – we need this tent for the Headphone Disco!

More Photos

Words: Leonie Colmar
Photos: Charlotte Hornby

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