A review of Belladrum 2014

Bellladrum never forgets it's most important customers, the kids.
Bellladrum never forgets it’s most important customers, the kids.

As last year we took the kids out with us to the festival and as always this gave us the chance to experience things through their eyes as well as our own. At the festival there is such a range of events and acts taking place over the two days that it is physically and mentally impossible to fit everything in. This review covers the areas we managed to fit in.

For the kids the music was secondary and they focussed on playing and doing activities and crafts. There were magic and puppet shows as well as storytelling, face painting, hair colouring and participatory music. We went home each day with bulging bags of face masks, paintings, shakers and the like.

Other events included sandpits, monocycles and tented tunnels to crawl through. There was also a mobile Library on site from which story books could be borrowed. These were very useful at the rare quiet times we had. The Spiderman bungee jumping and dodgem cars also proved big hits.

Now to the music- most of the events covered this year took place in the Black isle Brewery tent. Both mornings started with performances from local youth music groups – the Caledonian Ceilidh Trail on Friday and Fiddle Forte and Feis Rois on the Saturday. These groups of youngsters illustrate why it is worth bodies such as the Council and the Feis investing in musical development. The range of talent on show is amazing and it happens every year. All three groups provided a variety of traditional music centred around fiddles, voices, pipes and harp. Listening to these talented youngsters is a very pleasing and soothing way to begin each day.

Mad Dog Mcrea provided a rousing set of Irish tinged folk rock
Mad Dog Mcrea provided a rousing set of Irish tinged folk rock

The Singing Kettle made an appearance on the Garden Stage and a large crowd of old and young took in a show based around the festival theme of wild life. Shades of Bella 2005 appeared with a pink rabbit replacing the bear from the British Sea Power performance from that year. The audience were treated to some aerobic exercises and sing-alongs courtesy of snakes, bumble bees and a very athletic granny objecting to being pushed off a bus.

From Devon Mad Dog Mcrea provided a rousing set of Irish tinged folk rock including a couple of Irish dancers. Stand out song was their version of The Bare necessities. The rain was on at this point and the tent filled to bulging creating a very fine atmosphere. I don’t know if they travel but if you want a fine band for your wedding – look no further.

The band Merrymouth were delayed so Ade Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds stood in in their place. You may remember Mr Edmonson in various guises from Vyvyan of the Young Ones to mainstream TV presenter. This group specialise in playing punk songs on folk instruments. Does this work? I think the answer must be a yes. For example The model by Kratwerk sounded really good with the Irish pipes as a base, and the instruments helped load the two Sex Pistols songs performed with a menace that the Pistols never achieved.

"Mr Singh delivered a very accomplished performance to an appreciative audience"
“Mr Singh delivered a very accomplished performance to an appreciative audience”

I remember being told about local group Dorec-a-Belle some time back and I’ve followed their development since then. Always good the four local lasses (now joined by three males) have evolved into a wonderfully rounded band. The addition of drums, bass and percussion has really opened up their sound. Standout song for me was their amazing rendition of Donavan’s Colours. Watch out for their new CD which is to be released shortly.

One of the joys of Belladrum is that you stumble into hearing music you have never heard before. Luke Sital Singh is London based singer song writer with a very soulful sound. Playing acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards Mr Singh delivered a very accomplished performance to an appreciative audience. He also has a CD forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The Mekons were a total revelation. The 1980’s passed me by in a mix of study and unemployment so anything from this era is interesting. I was expecting a bunch of cynical old punk types but what we got was a very warm spirited sing along style of folk merged with country and western. The group were accompanied by the American Robbie Fulks. In a nautically themed set the group paid tribute to Cromarty where they will be appearing this coming Friday. Well worth a listen if you get the chance.

Argyll group Capercaillie performed a blistering set on the Saturday night. In a packed tent they performed a set of old and new material from their 30 year career. Particularly pleasing was that the group sang mainly in Gaelic. They also faced a challenge they never encountered before – ably coping and even managing to blend in their music with the Belladrum fireworks closing the main stage going off in the background.

When they ended the audience managed to get them back for a spine tingling encore in which Karen Matheson performed Burn’s Ae fond kisss – the song she sang during the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

From the fleeting movements I grabbed at the Potting Shed and Free Range Stages it appears these areas have not lost their eclectic and high quality programming and acts.

In closing – a tribute to the unsung heroes of the festival – the teams who provide the light and the sound which contribute greatly to the festival atmosphere. They work tirelessly before and after the festival and deserve high praise for their work

Finally a big thank you to Joe Gibbs and his team for another great festival, and a request if resources permit can we have some reggae and world music next year? And to the BBC if licencing permits expand coverage to the early part of each day and to the Potting and Free Ranges Stages.

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Rob Polson can’t play a note but loves listening to music, especially played live. Likes any sort of music but particularly interested in ambient, early and world music. Being involved with InvernessGigs gives me the opportunity to get out and about and listen to music, try some new beer and also to develop my writing skills.