Not my tent
Another Loopallu has come and gone and with it the festival season comes to a close. Well as far as I know anyway. I won’t be going to anymore this year. It’s a cracking big wee festival, couple of thousand people in a campsite with one stage, a beer tent and a few other bits and bobs with some gorgeous scenery and the lovely town of Ullapool surrounding it. Biggest advantage over other festivals? Because it’s in a campsite there are actual proper toilets instead of portaloos. So if the thought of festival toilets is what puts you off the others you won’t have any worries with this one. And it’s family friendly, loads of kids. Talked with one couple who had an adorable 18 month old girl who was attending her 4th festival. Loves them apparently.
A wee fairy and a baby with ear protectors. Adorabubble.
As I like to do let’s get the thanks out of the way first. Thank you very much to the organisers for throwing another great, friendly festival. There were a couple of line up choices that were surprisingly (to me) excellent and the whole thing was very well run. Thanks to the staff in the beer tent who were very friendly and quick with supplying the booze. Thanks to the vendors for keeping us fed, even if some of the prices were a bit festivally, and of course to the bands. Who I’ll talk about now seeing as that’s what I do.
Official photgrapher polar bear
After one more very special thanks to my mum. 1)For the lift which meant I could bring heaps of stuff, well a duvet, without worrying about carrying it all and 2)for being the official A Slice of Fried Gold photographer for the fest. I COULD have gotten her pit access BUT we only have a wee digital camera. Got well in to it at times and the pictures are no bad at all. As you will see throughout (and have done already)
So things start off a wee bit differently at Loopallu with the Ullapool Pipe Band marching in to kick off proceedings. I believe the band is all kids from the local academy who had some very serious faces for people who got an afternoon off school. All smiles at the end on their way out though so probably just because they were concentrating. It’s a nice touch and people from further afield certainly enjoyed it. Plenty of cheers for them too.
Then the line up started with Brown Bear and the Bandits, a three piece folk band from Largs. Personally I think the leading man looks a wee bit more like a lion than a bear with a mighty mane of hair but that’s just me. They have a lady drummer which makes a change and damned fine she is too. For a drummer, not for a lady drummer. Girls can do anything boys can after all. They’re all very talented with some pumping good folk rock music. Plenty of technical twiddly bits on both guitar and bass. And the singer has an unique voice and style, a bit woo! and shouty! They’ve been on the goNorth circuit and quite rightly too. Went for a wee bit of banter, I will be mentioning the banter, but wasn’t fully in to it. Starting a festival is DAMNED hard though. It was a cracking start to proceedings and I loved every minute.
Next on the stage were Blindfolds. I didn’t expect the image that was presented before me, a mob of 50’s greasers hitting the stage. I get what they are going for, it goes along with the sound, but…I fully expect that they were hanging outside a shop after the set hassling the shop keeper. They look a bit silly really rather than cool and the “aright well, how’s it goin but?” accents really don’t fit. IF you’re going to stick with the low budget 50’s rebel movie look I’d go ahead and work on some accents to go along with it. Go the whole hog, maybe ham it up a bit and you’ll be kitch. ANYWAY I thought they SOUNDED great, some dark sounding rock music. The sound is straight from that period in the late 70’s/early 80’s when there was a moody 50’s sounding revival. The kind of stuff that Tarantino soundtracks tend to include. It was a little strange hearing it while the sun was up but that’s not their doing. Great listening for driving around a city at 2 in the morning when trouble might be brewing. Didn’t impress our photographer though. The next two bands that I’m going to talk about certainly DID.
In the beer tent between main stage acts there is a band each day to keep people entertained and the energy going. On Friday the hardest working band in Ullapool was Rythmnreel. They are a neo trad band, covers and originals, with LOTS of energy. I didn’t have the same issues getting in this year as I did LAST time (and a cash bar killed off any left over beer token frustration) but it was certainly packed in there. Lot’s of people were dancing and whooping it up at various points throughout the day. Great atmosphere and I hope they managed to shift many a CD.
Anders…McG…Ward? Two of them anyway.
FOUR of them. Just. Not sure which ones.
And the other one. Amazing voice on this guy.
Next in the main tent were Anderson, Mcginty, Webster, Ward and Fisher. A band who’s name I delight in saying any time I can as I’m proud of being able to rattle it off from memory. I was talking to someone from their neck of the woods and discovered the reason for their name. They’re a bit of a super group, everyone is in at least one other band I think, and they don’t really have a front man so they just used their surnames as a band name. Nice, no egos. And no lack of talent. They’re essentially a folk rock band with a bit of an Americana influence to them and they all swap around the instruments. And the singing. I thought for the first few numbers that everyone bar the drummer was a multiple instrumentalist, then he whipped out a trumpet. So they ALL are, and they are all very talented on whatever they happen to pick up. Changing the singer gives a variety to the sound right away, but various styles from folk rock to low down dirty Bayou jazzy tinged stuff were all presented to us. They clearly enjoy what they’re doing, respect each other a lot and have the range to be both mellow and jaunty. It was a fantastic set, my favourite of the Friday and one of the highlights of the weekend. The crowd, rather size-able one too, loved it and they came up a lot during talks with randoms. Here’s hoping for some great success for these guys as AMWWF certainly deserve it. Plus I’ve learned the long assed name now.
I didn’t see everything on either day btw, guys got to eat and that. While I heard that Manran were excellent they aren’t my bag so they were Friday’s casualty. There were a couple of Saturday but I won’t mention who I skipped.
So next for me were Kassidy. Ever present if you’ve been to multiple festivals this year and a regular act for Loopallu. To begin with it was just four guys on guitar with a foot drum and some harmonised signing. Plenty of energy to it, I thought it sounded pretty damned good. They were joined by a bassist and drummer after the first few numbers. They’re a good looking bunch of guys but I’m pretty sure they really really know it. Particularly the lead singer, who also does this yelping thing FAR too often. That’s pretty much all the complaining I have to do though and being up your own ass is hardly new for bands that are rather popular. They did look like they were having a good time, got a bit of banter going with the crowd, and I enjoy they’re stuff. Pretty much as I’ve described already, sometimes with a country twinge to it. The hour long set was maybe a bit TOO long for me though BUT that could just have been down to pain. It’s a bigger factor on the Saturday but I’ve got bad knees. Standing up for the best part of 6 hours at this point really starts to take it’s toll on me. I do try and factor that in on my judgement of acts though. In fact an indicator that I’m having a really good time is that I don’t notice the pain. I did, so drop the really. Still, fine band, enjoyable music, crowd loved it, won’t complain when they are probably there again next year.
Needed a slightly longer sit down than the turn over afforded so I was slightly late for Friday headliners The Fratellis. I was met with a plenty solid wall of ROCK on entering the tent though. A bit twangy, loads of bass guitar and solid drumming with a bit of a big band motif to it. A minor country vibe to them occasionally as well. You’ve probably heard the Fratellis before, I don’t need to explain what they sound like to you. Didn’t really realise that they had keyboard in the act, can’t say I really noticed it and being a bit far back I didn’t spot the guy for the first 20 minutes. Listened hard and…nothing. Would probably notice if it was missing though. Certainly missed something that was missing, any banter at all. In between tracks it was “thank you, this is track name” and that’s IT. Some great rock music though but at a certain point I found myself waiting for Chelsea Dagger. NO intro for that bar a BIG MASSIVE drum solo and then straight in. The crowd went completely mental, loads of doo da doo ing from us. None from the band and they didn’t milk it any or draw it out a bit. I can understand a desire to get that reaction from loads of tracks, and the crowd were loving them, but it seemed a wee bit dismissive to the song that made them headliners really. They finished the set on a truly impressive full on rocking solo from everyone, creating a big wall of mad glorious noise and I enjoyed the hell out of the set but it would have been nice if they’d talked to the audience. At all. Bit awkward. Good end to the day though.
Did I say end? No it wasn’t, Loopallu has a fringe.
Can’t get you in the paper so this’ll have to do
I had planned on trying to hit all the bars to check them out but that’s not really feasible at all. Fired up to the Caley Bar first to catch Inverness locals Iain McLaughlin and the Outsiders. To start with it was a bit annoying. Not the music, getting served. Understandably it’s really busy in the pubs right when things are kicking off. For some reason one of the servers was literally serving two feet of bar and refused to leave that area leaving the rest to two others. She did get over that eventually and left the magic pillars barrier, but had quite the attitude at the start of the night. I know it’s tough working in a busy bar but that’s no need for a bad attitude. Anyway I eventually got a beer and went for a sit on a window ledge to listen to some music. When I got in it was Iain on his todd doing some loop stuff. Very cool, hadn’t heard him doing it before. He was shortly joined by the Outsiders and they played a set of their dark, melodic, quite hauntingly beautiful music. He’s got quite an unique voice and the boys all play their instruments very well. It was plugged, no idea why the flier billed an acoustic set. Anyway I accidentally ended up staying for the whole thing, tired legs + a seat + good music, which slightly messed up the “let’s check out all the fringe” idea.
I did make one more act though, Elephant Sessions in the Ferry Boat Inn. It’s an itty bitty pub reminiscent of The Market Bar in Inverness. The name rang a bell and I couldn’t remember why until I saw Greg Barry crammed in the corner behind his drum kit. They are an excellent wee ceilidh band. In addition to more traditional fair they did a couple of hip hop and rap tunes. The pub was pretty rammed and everyone was lapping it all up and heeuching away. They were convinced to keep playing past where they were supposed to and it was a damned fine end to the day. If you get the chance, not sure when you will as everyone is off in college, get along to a gig as they’re great craic.
Then I went back to shiver myself to sleep in my tent. Bit of a chilly night, not too terrible. Very lucky with the weather for this one though. Wee bit of rain today, just a shower or two really, and that was it. Very clear nights though, hence the shivers.
Saturday can be found here