Sniff, it’s all over…
Man am I tired. And slightly hungover. But I’ll soldier on and get this thing done, everyone has earned it and I can’t complain about having to write some words when they all worked so damned hard.
Let’s get the thanks out of the way first. This’ll be a long un, it’s a whole days worth of music to review after all, and the thank you bits should always go at the start anyway. So thanks to Richard, Deb and everyone else who organised the thing. Thanks to the lovely bar staff for working their butts off to get everyone nicely hammered. Lovely in all respects btw, nice folks and it’s a rather attractive distillery as it turns out. Special shout out to Imogen for recommending Yellowhammer to me which resulted in me being very hammered, and for being my dance partner for strip the willow later on. Also a big thanks to Hanna(h?) for stopping and giving me a lift on my walk back to Tore. I might have died before making it that far! And to everyone who did something musical to entertain us. And the food guys. And….anyone I’ve missed. Also I only have that one photo up there so if anyone wants me to include some of there’s give me a shout and I’ll spread them through the article.
I do have two bad points before we get back to the niceness, though one is a bit inevitable and the other has nothing to do with Jocktoberfest. The loos got pretty minging by the Saturday evening. This happens at pretty much every festival and the only way around it would be to have 100 portaloos, which would be HORRENDOUSLY expensive. I will say that next time you should probably put more than 2 in the camp site though as they weren’t enough for the number of people. The OTHER complaint is for tent manufacturers. Why the hell does the bag that a tent goes in have to be JUST big enough to fit every atom of tent with no free space whatsoever? Fair enough if I was on some kind of expedition where space was at a premium, but make the damned bag a bit more forgiving dammit. Slightly bigger bag wouldn’t weigh anymore really and would make hungover packing of a tent a less annoying experience. Am I right? What do you mean “shut up and talk about the festival, this is already going to be huge without you going on about tents”? Alright, I will then.
SO I arrived fairly late on the Friday. Entertainment was provided, food was on the go and the bar was open. Nice to have the smaller crowd catered for on the first night. What I heard was a great cover band called The Revs, followed by DJ Ross Smith playing some proper old school music. And I mean old school, 50’s and 60’s mainly, he played Surfing Bird for me. It was the perfect music for the preliminaries of a festival like this and a fun night after work and the walk from Tore.
Anyway, on to Saturday. Essentially it was a two stage set up. The main open air barn one, bails to sit on and straw scattered about that the kids loved to pile up and throw around, and some music in the corner of the bar in between main stage acts. I have to apologise in advance to some of the folks in the bar as I wasn’t able to catch everyone. I started out fully intending to, locals after all, but failed. I didn’t catch everyone on the main stage either (even a small fest would really need two people to fully comprehensively review. And hey I’m a punter too so I have to do other stuff now and again like talk to mates and that). From now on this is all about the music.
First up was Todd Cook, a fella with a guitar and a didgeridoo from Australia. He’d come up from Edinburgh and brought a mate along, Cameron Phair, to play the cajon and sing a bit. Todd has a throaty passionate voice and plays a mean folky guitar. Before each song he told us the origin which I always find enjoyable, nice to know what you are listening to. Apparently Australia has a lot of natural disasters to go along with damned near everything wanting to poison or eat you. He ended up at the festival because a bar he worked in served Black Isle Brewery stuff, he loved it and visited on a trip up here, found out about the fest and got himself on the bill. So all you musicians should probably get sampling some craft beers as you never know what could end up happening. It was a nice, relaxed kick off to the day. Tricky slot being on first at a festival as people are still slowly filtering down. The crowd had started picking up during his set though and everything went smoothly. Quality start to a quality day.
After Todd I took a wander over to the bar and local two piece All Hat No Cat were playing. First time hearing Adrian and Lucy, also had the name back to front in my head which is why I was commenting on you actually HAVING a hat, sorry for being an idiot. Right off the bat they have a toe in with me because Adrian looks a fair bit like Spider Robinson who I’ve been reading a lot of lately. That aside they are a combo of guitar and flute, very nice sounding, playing old school folk music like it’s meant to be played. One track makes it very obvious WHY they would be here though, it’s an ode to the Black Isle Brewery. Listing a couple of beers and sucking up to the sponsors is a sure fire way in 😉 I don’t genuinely think there is any nepotism going on though as they are a talented pair. Surprised I haven’t heard them in The Greenhouse yet, you two need to get along there some time as you’d fit right in. Assuming you haven’t already that is.
Check the funky guitars! (picture by Lisa Allison)
Back to the big stage for The Merrylees. We stay in the past for these guys though as their sound is straight out of…well I want to say 50’s because they are plugged but… hmm. I’ve called what they play doom rock for some reason in my notes. Now that SOUNDS like some form of death metal, but the word rock there is important. They’re a bit rockabilly too. And a wee bit Zutons. Thankfully for me they did a cover that I can use to point your ears the right way. Ghost Riders In The Sky. That kinda thing, with a big band thumping drum beat. Gorgeous looking electric guitars, that The Shadows type guitar riffs. If it had been later in the evening people would have been swing dancing away at the front to some of their numbers. A unique sound, at least for round here, and a very talented bunch of young guys. Catch them if you can, might even be on a Tarantino soundtrack some day.
Bar time. Possibly for a Yellowhammer, I didn’t keep track of that but I know I had many, definitely for some Megan Blyth. I haven’t seen Megan play in ages so a few of the tunes were new to me, which is nice. Short sets in here too, around 20 minutes. While it has been a while I have seen Megan play quite a few times now. In fact she was the first act of my musical year when she supported Rachel Sermanni. Over the intervening 7 months I’ve heard her develop and grow as an artist. She was pretty great then, she’s pretty damned great now. And I’m glad to see that she appears to be over her fiddly tuning syndrome, very happy to see that. The bar guys ended up playing a couple of sets each, or at least some of them did. Megan was one so if you didn’t hear her around lunch time you may have after the Whisky’s set. There’s one EP out there now, another in the works, go get one.
First gap occurs here, sorry Galipaygos I had a couple of things I had to take care of and I heard you quite recently. I did see the very start, and could hear most of the set from afar. Pretty sure they nailed it, would be surprised if they didn’t as they’re an experienced bunch of guys. Also have no idea who was in the bar next, sorry.
Next on stage were Easy Tigers, nice wee mellow rock band. They describe themselves as “nice” and that’s pretty fitting if you ask me. Melodic and twiddly guitar, some nice mid afternoon listening sat on some hay having a beer. The perfect accompaniment really. Sorry I don’t really have much more to say. Solid, lovely wee band.
The Amazing Esperi (picture by Lisa Allison)
Missed the bar again, and then my life changed a bit. I am well aware that pretty much every review I’ve written so far has been positive. That’s not about to change, but this will probably get a bit gushing really. The people I was sat next to agreed with me though so it’s not a lone opinion. From talking to some people after I think it’s about 50/50 on opinion. The people who weren’t really paying that much attention thought it was some nice background festival music (everyone is entitled to their opinions of course, who am I to judge). The people who WERE were blown away. Going in I referred to Esperi as being a bit like RM Hubbert, impressive guitar and a nice voice with a few other bits and bobs. It’s fitting, he’s recorded with Hubby I think, but then there was the show. Esperi is a one man project, that man actually being Chris Lee-Marr, so there is extensive use of loops. We’ve all seen some loop action, I tend to enjoy it and find it a bit impressive. You’ve never seen THIS level of loop action though. It’s a bit trippy to watch as he’ll play a little bit of something, the music or vocals keep going and he picks up something else. Musically he’s a very impressive and multi instrument talented. The thing that got us all though was you had no idea what he was going to pull out next. Aside from the standard guitar, drums and voice there was….well damned near everything. Didn’t take note of it all but he used a bow on a bass guitar which makes it sounds like a bass cello to me, possibly just a stand up bass. He also used a bow on a normal guitar which produces a really unique sound, loud and kinda trippy. There was a socket wrench being twisted at one point, a melodica (that’s a keyboard that you blow in to), xylophones, one of those whirly tube toys that you spin around your head to make a noise (got a cheer for that one), some kind of kids toy, and more but I didn’t write down everything or know what it was called. It was some excellent music and a god damned SHOW to go along with it. the end of my notes say “Should be illegal to be this talented”. I’m glad it’s not or I wouldn’t have had that experience.
Sorry to all the other acts that you won’t get ^ that level of review, everything I heard was great but that surprised and blew me away.
Moving on, Iain Mclaughlin was up in the bar. It was Iain on his todd without any Outsiders, but he’s great like that anyway. I only heard a wee bit, solid set from Iain, but I had a bit of an Esperi hangover and wanted to go and chat with him for a bit. I also missed Miniature Dinosaurs, though what I heard in the background was great. I’ll be able to see them properly at Loopallu anyway.
Got back just in time for the last track of half of Sara Bills and the Hasbeens. Just Sara and Colin, who I knew before I knew he was a musician and have wanted to catch playing for a few months now god dammit. Still the bit I caught was really good so I’ll make an extra effort to catch a whole set at the next opportunity.
Wow, we’re at 2000 words already. Fair chance that things will be getting a bit briefer now anyway as I was getting steadily more drunk.
Another local band that I’ve wanted to catch for ages, and finally HAVE now, on the main stage. The Mystic Shoes. A stand up bass, box drum and acoustic guitar. The majority of the set was covers done in a funky country style, a wee bit like Hayseed Dixie but not all metal stuff. They did do Ace of Spades in fine fashion though. A couple of original tunes as well. A proper talented bunch of guys, sounded brilliant and I love hearing songs interpreted in another style. They claim to be the best party band in the Highlands and Islands. Can’t really argue with that. A combination of great playing and good craic, that’ll do me nicely.
Only caught a tiny bit of the bar, Steve Eaglesham who only recently landed on my radar. He plays some proper bluesy folk music, really good stuff. I’m assuming that him landing on my radar means I’ll be catching him again soon and I’m really looking forward to that. There’s a bit of a blank block here really, sorry to We See Lights but I had some catching up to do with some people I hadn’t seen in a while. What I heard sounded really good though. Another near miss at the bar as well, James Mackenzie, but he was on later and i caught that. I’ll save comments for a few paragraphs down the road.
I took a break from the beers at this point as they were starting to have quite an effect, nice work Black Isle Brewery! Don’t need beer for Toby Michael’s Rolling Damned though. He likes his theatrics does Toby, but it was a normal entrance for this one. Just yer man with his acoustic guitar to start off, with an excellent cover of Bat Out Of Hell. There were some antics later on though when Toby left the stage and was bombarded with hay from all sides. I’d say it was the kids that did it but I may have chucked a handful or three. It was an excellent set from the guys and the crowd lapped it up.
Washington Irving were next up on the big stage. I’ve had their, I think it’s an EP, on my phone for a while now as they were at Brew at the Bog earlier in the year. Didn’t catch them there, glad I caught them now. Essentially they’re a bit like a ceilidh indie rock band, traditional Scottish sound hybrid-ed with indie rock music. Lots of energy and there was quite a bit of spiny dancing going on in the crowd who were lapping it up big time. Basically the festival hit the high energy happy crowd point around about the Mystic Shoes and it continued on.
They were followed by local legends The Whisky River Band. I’ve seen the Whiskys play a few times now, they’re always really good. This was the BEST that I have ever seen them play. And I know it wasn’t the beer talking as I’ve seen them drunk before. Solid as always with the crowd firmly on their side. I was down the front so can’t honestly say that it was the case everywhere, but down there it was a bunch of Whisky River Fans (copywrite me, just made it up). I feel pretty safe in saying that after that set there’s a fair chance that the entire crowd were converts. If they aren’t then they are clearly deaf.
Alas, and I’ve apologised to the guys, I missed the Lafontaines due to having a lengthy conversation with a young man. It was a good conversation though so that’s fine. It did put me in the right place to catch James Mackenzie‘s second set though. Now I’ve reviewed James before, when he supported Roddy Woomble. No one has really seen that review as it wasn’t published and I hadn’t started the site yet. In it I only really had one complaint, not really a complaint but negative comment, and that’s that James’ voice was a bit too powerful for a solo guy and would benefit from the band set up that he also plays with. I think there may have been a bit of echo in that case as I didn’t find that here. What it was was a guy with a guitar solidly on his game, even if there were a few people down the front trying to put him off a bit (hehe, sorry man. Ashley’s fault.). Truly impressive stuff, could be that he toned himself down a bit. Whatever it is that was different between then and now it fixed the one minor grumble. Not that I didn’t like him before mind, got his CD and that.
And then, you’ll be glad to hear as we near 3k, events were brought to a close by Hoodja. Hoodja are a ceilidh band. A damned fine ceilidh band. By the point everyone was a couple of sheets to the wind really so there was a lot of jumping about and dancing. So Hoodja got a strip the willow going, Orcadian style. If you don’t know what strip the willow is it’s where you get about 10 people, possibly 8, and dance up the line spinning your partner and then other peoples. It’s good fun. Orcadian strip the willow is that on steroids. A line as long as the space can give you, keep playing until someone dies. I’m pretty sure children have been conceived and born during the truly epic ones. The first one was relatively small, I was drawn in after spotting a couple of the staff. How they still had the energy after serving us punters for 12 hours I don’t know. There was a later, larger one too but by that point I wouldn’t have managed it. Hoodja continued past where there set would have ended to keep everyone entertained and having a good time, fair play to them for putting in the OT. To give you an idea, here’s my last note:
“Gave up befire they did causre iu was hannered”. Yup, good beer that.
So assuming anyone is still reading this far down I’ll sum up. Go to Jocktoberfest next year. Dunno who the line up will be obviously, but it doesn’t matter. Everything this year was cracking so they know they’re stuff. The atmosphere was tremendous, friendly crowd, loads of kids, heaps of dogs, damned good craic. I’ll see you there in 12 months assuming my liver has grown back. Said it at the start but I’ll say it again, thanks everyone involved in throwing it. A thousand times thanks.