Saturday was a day to make the most of the music and the splendid beer on offer by the Black Isle Brewery, or so I thought!

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Dress up for a western theme? Neigh problem

I was able to flit between the stages and sample a selection of the beers on my journey through Saturday. Opening up the Hayloft Stage was Music Plus sponsored act, Connor Johnston. I caught the end of what appeared to be a lively set as he did a bit of cut and paste on Ed Sheeran which entertained the growing crowd.

Over on the Dutch Barn Stage were Delta Mainline who started off with some downbeat atmospherics which grew and turned into western infused psychedelia with the focus being evenly spread across the width of the stage.

It was the turn of another young act back at the Hayloft with Hollie Atkinson displaying some real confidence and a wide vocal range in a busy set. Her songs certainly drew the gathering festival goers closer.

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“There is a real old school rock ‘n’ roll vibe emanating from every pore of this band [Chris Devotion and the Expectations]”
Meanwhile Chris Devotion and the Expectations were next back in the Dutch Barn. There is a real old school rock ‘n’ roll vibe emanating from every pore of this band which sits on top of a pop punk undercurrent for its modern twist.  One punter said of them, when he asked me who they were, ‘they are superb’. Those three words say it all.

Next on the main stage was Sara Bills and the Hasbeens. Sara was following on from a solo stint at North Hop the week before and set about giving us a half hour of honesty wrapped up in a folk punk blanket. They even threw in a ballsy version of Lorde’s ‘Royals’.

Dr Wook has been a busy man this weekend and turned up for his third set, including one with The Whiskys, back over in the Hayloft. It was getting very busy in there now but Dr Wook held his own. As well as his own material which sits well in a wild west theme he added in a cover of New Order’s ‘Love Vigilantes’ and this bittersweet tale caught attention.

Dorec-a-Belle turned out for the under the weather Silver Coast and with the addition of the trio of Robin Abbot, Dickie Bills and Derek Urquhart this eclectic mix fused their world influences in a set which sparkled.

I did mention the beers at the beginning and it was good to see the old favourites ‘Blonde’, ‘Red Kite’ and ‘Yellowhammer’ (unfined!) there, although I was a tad disappointed to see the Yellowhammer run out so early. I did though manage to sneak a pint on Friday night to accompany the others I had on Saturday. Also good to see Goldeneye, not only here but sneaking onto the shelves at Tesco too. A heather honey beer was also on offer, although it was in its consistency described to me as similar to that of a urine infection. It certainly didn’t taste like one, not that I’ve tried the aforementioned ailment. Stowford Press cider was a good alternative for the cider drinkers, and also for the cider and beer drinkers ;-)

Anyway, moving on sure footedly around the site I skipped past Gabbro where an impromptu ceilidh was taking hold in the Hayloft. No slight on them but just that I associate, from experience, the Strip the Willow with broken bones.

Instead I soaked up that band with funky sunny disposition, Ashley and the Cosmonauts. Chilled for the late afternoon with the vocal of Ashley Mackay bringing us through the early evening. Summing up the atmosphere were covers ‘Love Vibration’ and ‘Missing’. Garden of Elks on the other hand were monstrously big, and only had two members on show with bass player Ryan in the US with PAWS. Arguably this was just a little too monstrous for some of the festival goers. Well, their loss is someone else’s gain.

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“To the fore was Steve Obern [Little Mill of Happiness], lost in the moment, but equally as brooding and intense as ever.”
Back over at the Hayloft, and apologies for any acts that I may have missed over the day but two paragraphs above may give a clue, was Esperi. As ever he was intricate and personal. I thought he had lost the audience late on, due to the chatter in the seats by the stage, as he piled together a momentous section of loops culminating in a good old thrashing of the drums. As the sound diminished at the end the crowd erupted. They were there alright and many rushed the stage in search of CDs and merch. How good is he? Quoting from a voice around me ‘Why is he not on the main stage?’.

Next filling the width of the main stage were The Little Mill of Happiness using he full width like a bunch of gunslingers who’ve just arrived in town. To the fore was Steve Obern, lost in the moment, but equally as brooding and intense as ever. It’s good to see these guys back. There may only be six of them but they are still magnificent. By now it was getting more difficult to get into the Hayloft as Michael Cassidy belted out a strong set with his strong vocal. I really need to catch this guy the next time he is up north to get a full appreciation.

It’s hard to ignore James Mackenzie these days. He seems to pop up everywhere, as enthusiastic as ever, but predominantly in solo slots. Tonight he fronted Verona and they were firing on all cylinders. They were solid tonight and James was loving every moment of it. Catching the start of the Red Kites set, how apt for the Black Isle Brewery, they started to rock the barn with their anthems.

Unfortunately I had to take leave of the festival at this point but as I walked down to get my lift the sound was still echoing in my ears. There may be another festival which is noted as ‘the best little fest in the west’ but this weekend this was ‘the best little fest in the wild west!’.

Have a look at our other Jocktoberfest 2014 features including more photos of the acts featured above.

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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