Frank Finlayson reviews Friday at Belladrum 2012.


The sun was shining but the festival site seemed somewhat quiet as we made our way across from our first stop at the Seedlings where a good number were enjoying the pumped up set by Last Summer Effect.


The trek across to the HEN stage saw us take in the tail end of Ashley and the Cosmonauts performance. A small but captivated audience connected well with the regal Ashley who was adorned with her tiara. It can be quite a journey to get to the HEN stage but there are usually some gems when you make the effort to get there, of which the Cosmonauts were one. On our return through the site it was noticeable that people thought that it was a new area this year. So some didn’t find it last year, and no doubt some will not find it this year. To others it may just be a journey too far.

On our return, the numbers had begun to swell, mainly due we expect to excesses from the Thursday night. Next stop was a bit of a punt, in the shape of Spaniard Juan Zelada. Think of a Spanish version of Jools Holland and you are part of the way there. He really got the boogie in to the feet of the festival goers. Gold to Spain!

Next stop, was a brief one when we took in the start of The South’s set. A few sound hitches aside at the start this really brought the crowd to life. There was always a worry that history may repeat itself following the huffy antics that were played out at the Ironworks a little while back. Not this time. If I had a little more time I would have stayed but, the crowd was won over by the time that we had set sail for the Seedlings tent and the appearance of Megan Blyth.


Megan has been on the up and up this year, and it was good not just to see many of the familiar faces but a good few new ones taking in Megan’s set. There is a lot of power in Megan’s voice which she uses to full effect especially in songs such as Bring Me Down which it would appear is the route that she is going down; strength in songs that match her voice. Plenty of promotion from Megan who has a free EP on Sound cloud at the moment.


Next was a date with Nina Nesbitt, who apparently does her dates with a certain Ed Sheeran. There is also a similarity in their style too, with a very stripped back acoustic set played by the Edinburgh lass. As with Mr Sheeran, Nina attracted a very youthful crowd compared to the normally more mature audience that you expect in the Grassroots tent. That’s mature by age not actions by the way. When announcing that she was about to do a cover the inevitable question came from the audience “Is it an Ed Sheeran one?”. She really can’t escape him can she! A bit more Scottish than that, it was the Proclaimers 500 miles which got the kids in full voice. They sang along with her to the end, and were more than excited when she announced that she was keen to chat after. This, at the end of the set, led to a stampede to the entrance for the artists’ area where Nina duly obliged with the  autographs. We will hear a lot more of Nina in the future I am sure, and not just because of you know who.

First visit of the weekend at the Hothouse Stage followed. Sweet Billy Pilgrim was the act in a sparsely filled tent. This may well have been due to the “special guest” effect. Smart money had been on Kassidy to be the announcement, but recent rumours had included Amy Macdonald and Plan B. Plan B, really? Sometimes I never know how these rumours start. Anyway, Kassidy it was. Been there, done that but never bought the T-shirt, so left that for others. Back to Sweet Billy Pilgrim before I forget about them too. The sparse numbers made it a bit cringy when they took an audience photo, but they are a laid back lot, so it didn’t seem to bother them too much. Their music too can be a little laid back, touchy feely at times, but they do have an extra gear which they used on occasion, but not enough for my liking. Maybe on another day.


More trekking ensued as we took up once again the orienteering challenge of getting to the HEN stage. This time it was the Sweet Melindas with their brand of nu-folk, played out before a decent sized crowd. A bit of work had been put in to point punters in the right direction, and the Rob Hillis led set gave the attendees a worthwhile end to their journey.

Back we went to pick up a little of Rachel Sermanni’s set from the very back of the Grassroots tent. It was rammed in there; all ages, not just the kids who turned up earlier for Nina. Rachel, and her audience both have an appreciation of music, and this was reflected in the very generous applause which was dished out.


Finally it was headliner time and tonight we chose The Wombats. Performance wise, The Wombats did everything that was expected of them blasting out Kill the Director, Moving to New York et al. Sometimes the momentum was lost but all in all they did what the Wombats do, entertained their faithful. That, though, is where it fell down. Their faithful don’t really stretch beyond the mid-twenties and as such once you went beyond halfway back from the stage gaps were appearing and a noticeable steady drift away from the arena. Those on the slope really didn’t seem to get The Wombats. In the end, in Olympic year, it’s only a silver for The Wombats.

That aside, Friday at Bella was everything you could wish it to be. I mean, the sun shined and how often can you say that.

Further photos of the festival will be appearing here,

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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