The musings of Frankie Boy on Belladrum, part one…..
Everything was packed for my day at Belladrum. With my eclectic range of props to help me piece together my day, from a retro dictaphone, through good old fashioned notepad and pen to what I thought was the ultimate timesaver on my iPhone, a dictation app. What a genius idea, notes to page almost instantaneously, brilliant at home but alas, as it only tells me out in the field, it couldn’t detect an internet connection. Oh well, back to basics.
I took the early afternoon to mix both music with activities for the kids. First stop was the Grassroots Stage and for local hero and veteran of Rockness main stage, James Mackenzie with his supporting Aquascene. James, although admitting to suffering some nerves, produced a solid set, and judging by the numbers in the tent surely picked up some new followers.
On then to my son’s choice, the Water Bubbles, £6 for 5 minutes of him scurrying about like a hamster in a ball on water, well 5 minutes plus 35 minutes of queuing. From there we made tracks to see one of my tips of Belladrum this year, Benjamin Francis Leftwich. A very vocal crowd had gathered to lend him support, well in excess of the numbers he experienced at Eden Court, and sent me away with a happy feeling as I next went for various trips to the bouncy castles interspersed with glimpses of Dry the River, and the goings on in the Venus Flytrap Stage. Shame the lanyard doesn’t include the line-up for the stage, but apparently the booklet does. (I stuck with the lanyard, a booklet seemed like too much faffing about).
In amongst my wanderings I had the opportunity to speak to a number of festival goers on their experiences up until that point. As usual they were overwhelmingly positive with the main exception being the lengthy queues for campers to get in on the Thursday afternoon, a matter that I thought would have been addressed following a similar débâcle last year.
On a personal note, the site has been stretched to good effect with Jock the Reaper pushing the Hothouse down the hill, and at the other side of the site the walled garden providing a home for the Heilan’ Fields. The Hen House Stage is a little lost over there, and I was asked more than once where it was. Word, however, will get round, especially word of the particularly clean toilets in that area!
By late afternoon, the focus was beginning to shift to the appearance of Ed Sheeran at the Hot House stage. Ed, with his hit “The A-Team” riding high in the charts, was always going to receive a lot of attention, especially from the young teenage element at Bella. This though lead to Bella having its Daft Punk moment, with as many, if not more, outside the tent (and mostly without a view of the stage) as Ed performed.
As anticipated, by the high pitched screams between songs, the teens had made their way in early leaving the more casual festival goer on the fringes. There was reaction later from those that I spoke to that he should have been on the main stage, knowing that he would be a significant draw.
The day rolled on and Inverness’s very own The Boosts banged out an energetic, if all too short set, at the Seedlings stage to those assembled. One of the few bands whose tunes are so memorable that they stick with you instantaneously and you don’t want to shake them off.
The only advantage of the short set was that I could catch a little more of the Phantom Band than expected. As the day wore on, the pace picked up as I raced between Seedlings, Grassroots and the Hot House, with a brief peek at the main stage to get my fill of the musical talent on show. The Seedlings gave me the dark splendour of The Little Mill of Happiness and the Grassroots had Mercury Prize nominated Anna Calvi putting on a barnstorming passion filled performance.
So headline time. A brief glimpse of Texas as the numbers swelled at the Garden Stage before heading down to the Hot House to catch the first of two performances over the weekend by Unicorn Kid. A clever move by the organisers to keep Echo and the Bunnymen and Texas apart, as it gave a mix of headliners to suit all and also allowed those of a certain vintage to see both the Bunnymen and Texas. For Unicorn Kid, the youthful audience were bunched up tightly at the front as they bounced in unison throughout his effervescent set. Any energy anyone had left was undoubtedly now sapped.