Review of Loopallu 2011, Ullapool on the 16-17th of September 2011
As the non-existent summer draws to an end, so hundreds descend on the small town of Ullapool for the last of the season’s music festivals, Loopallu. Seven years down the line and the event still waves its flags triumphantly along the glorious shores of Loch Broom and attracts crowds from all over to see a carefully selected and charmingly eccentric line up.
Held on 16th and 17th September, this year’s headliners included whimsical gangly pop from The Feeling and nineties/early noughties rockers Ash. Beneath these recognisable names however were a whole wealth of rising talent alongside more nostalgic acts which together truly created a festival to suit all without appearing overly commercial.
Friday kicked off with the Ullapool Pipe Band who marched into the site, bringing with them an air of expectant celebration which helped the crowd fight off the bitter wind and prepare themselves for a rowdy weekend.
A few portions of warming stovies later and Scotland’s prime ska masters Bombskare thrust upon the crowd their rambunctious two-tone stylings. So much physicality is surely rarely seen in a band and the combination of a fantastic brass section and aerobic workout like dancing made this one of the best performances of the festival.
Along with the main events were the fringe acts, held in the various appealing venues of Ullapool. Giving headliners The Feeling a miss was a conscious decision based on a thought that hidden musical gems may suddenly reveal themselves in a West Coast pub. It was also a lot warmer than a tent.
The decision was made that The Ceilidh Place would provide the most excitement and after confusions with the line-up, The Bluebells stepped in and roared through their set which they had played earlier that evening. The raucous crowd responded with thundering yells of drunken appreciation and it was confirmed that the first day had been a success. For those truly wishing to dance the night away, Scottish DJ Vic Galloway set up in The Seaforth to fire out one dire indie cliché after another. But at 2am at a festival who doesn’t like a bit of Blue Monday?
Saturday began with surprising freshness and much eagerness at the day’s line-up. Marked from the outset as one to really make an effort to see, Rachel Sermanni did not disappoint. Her gentle, breathy voice soothed anyone’s headaches and her impressive band gave added substance to her songs.
Continuing in the style of pensive indie, Glasgow based Admiral Fallow graced the stage. After many years of relentless gigging, Admiral Fallow are highly regarded and brought to Loopallu a gained confidence and boldness of performance that entranced the crowd. Singer Louis Abbot portrayed both the subtle darkness and exhilarating emotions associated with their music and crescendoing woodwind gave an unexpected layer to the performance.
This feeling of chilled musical satisfaction was not to last long though as via wading through new rivers of mud created by torrential downpours, were original punks The Buzzcocks. There were certainly reservations about how a thoroughly aged punk band can translate to small West Coast town but this was clearly not an issue with the band themselves. They entered the stage all jowls and too-tight jeans and tore through what must be their entire catalogue for an hour. The initial thrill felt by the crowd eventually waned due to tiresome guitar solos.
With festival exhaustion truly set in, it was off to the fringe events again and in particular, Chasing Owls at the Ferry Boat Inn. Having had the pleasure of seeing this band at the GoNorth Festival in July, it was already known that this would be a quality performance. With the crowd perhaps not the usual set to listen to inventive folk pop, it turned out to be an oddly hilarious and engaging performance which made the most of the small venue. Of special note was the perfect boy/girl acapella harmony between singers which unfortunately seemed to be lost on the continual nose-blower at the front.
Loopallu has proved that it likes to do things a little differently than the other festivals. No sell out names, no cheapy lager stalls, no summery temperatures… This festival manages to genuinely serve the local musicians and population and provides a line-up which aims to intrigue, not just blatantly impress. In a world of now far too many music festivals, Loopallu retains a certain charm that will hopefully keep it going for years to come.
By Megan Donald
Thanks to Lori Williams (Photography) and the organisers of Loopallu.
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