Arriving at Bogbain there was a real feel of summer in the air whereas in previous years winter had been biting back. Walking down from the car park I joined up with the steady flow of campers who were filtering out of the campsite and into the compact arena.
That feel of summer was heightened by the strains of Searching for Donkeys which were capturing the midday sun adding a certain warmth to the short and efficient entry queue. The aforementioned Donkeys were entertaining a growing number of prompt arrivals as they picked up their drinking tokens from the table close to the stage.
One reason for the early numbers was the announcement that King Creosote would be opening the Barn Stage; an early slot so that he could have his projections set up and running without causing delay.
A packed out barn was drawn between both the music of King Creosote who, in the words of compere Vic Galloway, is ‘one of Scotland’s greatest songwriters, so good I wrote a book about him’, and the Scottish Screen Archive footage of Inverness and the surrounding area.
This being part of a project for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. With the video backdrop ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’ had a strong rousing attachment, and a little ‘rubber bumpers’ as he played with the crowd. ‘No One Had It Better’ rounded off what seemed like all too short a set.
I also discovered that we were very proficient at the three-legged, sack and skipping races back in the days of black and white film. Like many I left the barn with a big smile on my face.
It was only a short skip and a jump that took you to the Pond stage, a small mobile stage set behind the barn where Verona were doing what they do best; rocking out a set of their well established songs with the likes of Pause Your Life and Cap To Wear in there.
There was nothing groundbreaking but equally that consistency and professionalism, minus the odd string, that you expect from frontman James Mackenzie was as usual evident.
Also the set remarkably had Caroline Truslove drafted in at late notice to take up keyboard duties and with very little opportunity to rehearse with the band.
“an accomplished little but big band”
Tucked round the back the Pond Stage had a number of gems for those that remembered that there was life beyond the main stage which was running acts at the same time as the Pond stage. Skinny Dipper were one of them who more than filled the stage as all nine of them, I did count them more than once so I hope that’s right, put together a well thought out set.
There were some really lovely vocal arrangements with quieter moments as violins run through. With some Celtic infusions Skinny Dipper come across as quite an accomplished little but big band in what they told us at the end was only their fourth gig!
Bronagh and the Boys were equally enthralling with the delicate vocals of lead singer Bronagh Monahan breathing life into their songs. Also the way that the trumpet flits in and out gives a real feel good attraction. With final song ‘Wait’ ending it all a little too quickly this was music that you could lose yourself in.
Due to a change in the programme, Roddy Woomble landed on the Pond Stage and drew a large crowd. Roddy’s effortlessly rich vocal, and rather languid appearance, gave the impression that it was all just a little too easy for him.
“all round endearing nature through both song and performance”
The quality was there, but when further back the chatter from those at the rear and the overlap of sound from the main stage made it just a little too distracting. I took my leave and followed the sounds that were causing that distraction, which turned out to be Randolph’s Leap.
A band from the Olive Grove Records label; a stamp of approval if ever there was one. They weren’t the only act from their roster here today, Randolph’s Leap even drafted in stablemate Call To Mind’s Joe as a replacement drummer.
They gave a quirky account of themselves in their songs; songs that people relate to, and today was no exception. It’s not just clever lyrics, or Adam Ross’s vulnerable vocals that give a connection, it is just a band that have an all round endearing nature through both song and performance.
Returning back to the Pond stage, one act that had caught my eye, due to a previous impressive gig at Bogbain, was the return of Olive Grove Records’ Jo Mango. Patience was the key as it took a little time to get through the sound check due to ‘‘technical difficulties’. Once it was all in place it was a set to savour. Musically, and lyrically, this is very intricate; a real labour of love.
The interference from a mobile phone through the sound system offered a moment of levity, and had a few checking that they weren’t the culprit. Quickly sorted the set moved on before an extremely captivated and entranced audience. When Cordelia ended the set it left everyone wanting more. Inventive, innovative and immersing. Jo Mango is really that good.
It wasn’t all light of touch around the festival. Take Roman Nose, for example, a masked trio who brought out a heavy electronica which although not in keeping with others that I had seen to that point gave a pounding set that the barn welcomed and embraced.
Later, Atom Tree also provided a lashing of electronica too. They didn’t grab me by the scruff of the neck in the way that Roman Nose did, but as the set progressed I became more drawn in. My senses were probably just too battered and bruised after Roman Nose earlier.
Being a small, compact festival means that you can catch glimpses of many of the acts. Without it sounding too much like a roll call mentions in dispatches must go to:
Siobhan Wilson for bringing a hush over the barn with a spellbinding performance.
Casual Sex for just being, well, damned dirty.
Lionel for carrying on where they left off at the recent Easter Showcase at the Ironworks; that is on top of their game.
Woodenbox who kicked off the dancing in their own inimitable way.
The Pictish Trail who produced a set which wasn’t the misery that he had promised us.
Prides for picking up from where they left off last year, and more.
and Stanley Odd for showing that they truly are a headline act.
If an act didn’t get a mention it only means that I didn’t see them.
So three years in and you could say that Brew at Bog is established without being part of the establishment. It also has some of the friendliest, most polite festival goers that I have come across.
There may have been queues at the bars and for the food, more so than at other festivals, and a little issue over the access to the Gin Bar through the bar, but no one really minded too much. There was no barging, pushing or shoving.
Even the rain in the evening didn’t dampen spirits. The talk about 2015 is that the festival may be held over two days. It would be only be polite to say ‘Yes please!’
You can see all of our Brew at the Bog 2014 coverage here.
To keep up to date with the music scene in Inverness please sign up to our mailing list.