Day 2 of Loopallu and there were no signs of turning down the tempo.
The day started pleasantly with Glasgow based band Fake Major taking to the stage. The band consists of two lovely young men, Fergus and McGinty, and their guitars. Their relaxed set was probably just what the crowd was needing (I imagine the majority were still groggy and hungover from Friday’s festivities) and songs such as ‘Little Researcher’ went down a treat. Fresh from their appearance at Strathpeffer based festival AmaSing, the boys were on top form.
Booted, suited and quifftastic The New Piccadillys swept on board and prowled the stage menacing the crowd with their intense stares and shiny guitars. A throwback to when rock ‘n’ roll was the work of the devil – lock up your sons & daughters – they have nonetheless taken some of the very best ingredients and baked a whole new kind of pie. Reworking some rock and roll classics they have added a Piccadilly twist of punk to produce an intense, pacey, energetic, bone-shaker of a performance that the crowd loved. If the Beatles played punk . . . can’t wait to catch these guys again. Next up Lawrence Fox in something of a programming blip. He has a deep resonant melodic voice, he has a real good likeable presence on stage and every song has a meaning and a story. But the energy in the room went out with the tide.
Hauling the tide back in were Moulettes, who are, it has to be said, utterly unique. Loopallu was the last festival stop after over 40 appearances this year and they ended in style. The band is made up of some incredibly multi-talented musicians and they encompass a variety of interesting genres and sounds. They describe their music as dispensing modern folk music that incorporates elements of prog-rock, indie, classical, jazz and on top of that they bring some powerful and haunting vocals to the table.
With having a Brighton background a hint of punk which was oh-so popular in Brighton in the late 70’s is never far away. The classical training of the band incorporates vast amounts of talent which is poured into creating a quirky and unconventional sound. Unfortunately many of the Moulettes songs normally include a bassoon, however an important bit of the instrument was left behind and we can only guess what the full sound might have been like. What the performance lacked in basoon, it was made up for in originality and energy and just a hint of burlesque.
Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble returned to Loopallu in fine form. His distinctive voice and lyrical craft are sure to please any crowd and he seemed genuinely touched by the positive reaction. Roddy paid tribute to the late great Michael Marra by singing a heartfelt rendition of Neil Gow’s Apprentice. Roddy’s broad range of influences along with his masterful song writing come together to create something really quite lovely.
Nothing could be as far removed from the relaxing tones of Roddy Woomble than British rock-blues band The Temperance Movement. Stepping in to see that performance genuinely was like stepping into the 70’s (I imagine!); the image, the sound, the head banging was all sheer rock and roll excess. Front man Phil Campbell was one of the most energetic frontmen I’ve had the pleasure of watching (Tim Booth of James is still in the running for this years no.1). Have you ever seen Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean? Just think of his flouncy movements but dialled up a notch or two.
From the sublime to the rock excess to The Vatersay Boys – you can’t make this up.‘Ach, we enjoy playing some tunes now and again for the craic!’ says the Vatersay Boys fb page. So, some tunes and a bit of craic. Nothing mindblowing, but a bit of fun and some passionately played, foot tapping traditional music.
Now it was time for English pop rock band Reef to take to the stage, with a performance that left the crowd suitably hyped up ahead of the headlining act.The band jumped right in with some of their most popular hits ‘Good Feeling’ and ‘Naked’. To the crowds delight they also played ‘Place your hands’ which was the clear favourite from the audience. It is almost 20 years since some of these songs were recorded but the music feels in no way dated and the band themselves put on a fresh and enjoyable performance with some impressive headbanging from bassist Jack Bessant with a hair and beard combo to rival Gandalf the Grey. The set ended on a high with some supreme guitar solos and lead singer Gary Stringer jumping into the crowd.
I warn you now, my review of Loopallu 2013’s headliner Newton Faulkner is going to be a fairly biased one, as I have been following the singer songwriter since I first heard his debut album in 2007. Still giddy from meeting the man himself earlier in the day, I stood in bewilderment as the stage crew wheeled on his equipment which incorporated a life sized model sheep. It only made sense when Newton appeared on stage to applause from the masses, and from the hollowed out sheep produced a teapot and cup for himself. I couldn’t help but laugh.
There were several technical issues which hindered the beginning of the set but the overall performance was of the highest quality. Faulkner played some songs from his new album Studio Zoo, which has been successful in the UK album charts, along with some old favourites such as Dream Catch Me and Teardrop. Big on crowd participation, the dreadlocked singer from Surrey had the crowd split into groups and performing harmonious three part backing vocals. Newton Faulkner noted as so many other acts had done, that Ullapool is indeed a beautiful part of the world.
The night came to an end in exceptional style with Newton’s ‘party trick’ his one-man rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody which really is something else. Spirits were at an all time high as Loopallu 2013 came to an end and I’m sure they remained that way whilst the campers ran wildly through the campsite after their windblown escaping tents. But hey, what’s a festival without a little tent shenanigans.
See more photographs from Loopallu 2013.