North Hop Aberdeen, The Lemon Tree, 11/4/2015. A review.

The first ever North Hop took place late last summer at Eden Court in Inverness but this year organiser Michelle Russell decided to expand and take the successful formula to the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen.

Best Girl Athlete 3
Katie Buchanan with a little help from her friends.

Michelle made a few tweaks to the set up including a reduction in the number of music acts but North Hop is a beer festival very much first so the acts should be judged in that light. Anyway, I’ve never let beer get in the way of a good time…

The festival was over two sessions with both, afternoon and evening, drawing long queues in advance of opening. You can get a feel for the festival by having a look at our photos. As such the venue was pretty much packed when the first music act Best Girl Athlete took to the stage.

Best Girl Athlete is Katie Buchan who is backed up by a six piece band including her father, Charley Buchan, on guitar. The larger setup was not there to overpower but to compliment Katie’s vocal, and it worked really well; mellow and warming.

A great start to the day even if many were more interested in seeking out their early beers of choice but as I mentioned at the beginning this is a beer festival and Best Girl Athlete proved a fitting opening backdrop.

Next up was the first of two solo acts on the day, Margaret Finlayson. Twenty-one year old Margaret hails from Keith and shares her life experiences through song; whether it be driving lessons or returning to her old school for a teaching placement.

A change of pace with DJ HomeAlone
A change of pace with DJ HomeAlone

With a strong voice aided by her balanced guitar playing she gave a personable performance. Alsao with covers going to prove to be crowd pleasers, Margaret’s version of Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You To Want Me’ certainly ticked that box.

To change the mood the next act was a DJ, HomeAlone, who worked the venue through the mid-afternoon slot. What he brought to the party was the feeling of a party. It certainly matched the mood.

Rounding off the afternoon session were Strange Skies. There was no arseing around with this bluesy rock three piece who decided to kick it up and turn heads towards the stage.

Finding a little more favour with the audience was their cover of ‘Superstition’; easily recognisable and just as easy for people to dance along to. As the pace chased along so did the final run on the bars for the afternoon session. As the crowd slowly went out the doors, and many didn’t want to leave, it was clear they had got their money’s worth.

The evening session, as with that in the afternoon, kicked off with introductions and quick on stage meet the brewer interviews with compère STV’s Rebecca Curran. Rebecca drew out what each brewer had on offer and gave, especially in the evening, fair warning for the punters which beers were in short supply.

Host for the evening Rebecca Curran
Host for the evening Rebecca Curran

Rebecca’s next job was to introduce the first act of the evening that being Colin Clyne with his upbeat and up tempo country folk. Again battling with the early flow towards the bar Colin made the most of it by adding some familiarity to his set with a dropped down, harmonica enhanced version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’.

He must also be one of the few artists that can write a football song that doesn’t sound like a football song which in itself is quite an achievement. Colin though had a heckler who was keen to offer him £30 pound if he sung something by Oasis. Quick as a flash Colin accepted and gave his version of ‘Wonderwall’. He then handed £10 back as he hadn’t played it as well as he should have. Well if you ask, that’s what you get.

Acts up until now had been familiar to the greater Aberdeen area but for Lionel this was a 100 odd mile trek along the A96 for their appearance. There is always that little more in each performance of these guys, and I’ve seen them on numerous occasions.

Tonight they were electric; the standards were there as was some new material. All delivered with the trademark Lionel intent. Lionel are still climbing and tonight was another step on the way.

Another band very much on the up are Daydream Frenzy. Energetic and engaging they deliver a pop punk set fused with some Twin Atlantic influences. As the final band of the night they knew how to charm an audience.

Pumped up they drew the last of the days energy out of the audience at the front as they left the stage to the final DJ of the night to roll the festival over into the early hours of Sunday.

Finishing off the entertainment for the evening was DJ Will Farquhar
Finishing off the entertainment for the evening was DJ Will Farquhar

Will Farquhar was the DJ who took up the reins to draw the festival to a close. Again he created an ambience which worked well with the setting and the festival in general; this wasn’t a crowd who were there to dance but equally it served as a soundtrack to end their night, or at least that stage of their night.

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the brewers, as it was a beer festival, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to partaking in one or two. Of the beers that I did sample I would give high praise to the following:

Windswept Brewing Co. : A big thumbs up to their 5.2% Weizen. This was recommended to me as a ‘banana’ beer but in reality it was the yeast that had given it its exquisite flavour. Give it a try if you get a chance but I still feel someone chucked in a bunch of bananas when someone turned their back!

Williams Bros. Brewing Co. : I’ve always enjoyed their range and tonight was another excuse to slip down a couple of 7 Giraffes, Joker IPA and Caesar Augustus. Their quality can never be doubted and neither can their range at a supermarket near you.

Rebecca interviewing Cromarty Brewing Company
Rebecca interviewing Cromarty Brewing Company

Cromarty Brewing Co. : Happy Chappy, to me, has become synonymous with the Cromarty brewery but they have a few more strings to their bow as I found out on Saturday night with Red Rocker. Great beers and also not far from home.

Brewdog: Those punk upstarts know a thing or two about this game and their Jackhammer certainly is one to knock back. Not for the faint-hearted at 7.2% but one I will hopefully be re-acquainted with at Brew at the Bog.

Thistly Cross Cider: They have a range that suits all palettes but sticking with the original, also a heady 7.2%, and you can’t go far wrong.

10 Dollar Shake also ran a cocktail bar which had a continuous queue throughout each of the sessions. Not my cup of tea but obviously that of lots of others.

Artist Craig Fisher at work
Artist Craig Fisher at work

You couldn’t go far wrong at North Hop whether it was the beer or the music, and I haven’t even mentioned the food! Yes there was food too!

There is only so much you can try and from what I sampled at The Adelphi Kitchen this was streets ahead of most festivals that I’ve been to! Judging by the crowds around the other stalls they were not alone.

So, overall, as a beer festival this is a resounding winner. If you think it’s a music festival, well, it’s not. But who doesn’t like beer and music!

Tickets for North Hop 2015, Inverness.

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Chartered surveyor by day, music reviewer by night, and occasionally I get to use my camera. A strange mix, but one that I enjoy.A chance meeting in the queue for Bella in 2010 led to the opportunity to write for InvernessGigs; a far cry from the days of writing for a football fanzine back in the late 80s, early 90s. My interests lie between the mainstream, the emerging and the local. Increasingly I find that we have more than enough locally to entertain us to necessitate a trip south. I’m always happy to give a listen, whatever the genre.Inverness has a plethora of talent, all of which I am more than keen to write about. If it encourages just one person to make the effort to listen to some new music I’ll be happy.You can contact Frank direct via frankieboyfin@gmail.com