Loopallu Day Two. Saturday 26th September 2015. A review.
The sun might not have been shining bright, but the day was as forecast: warm with a mild sou’ westerly. As evening closed in there was the bonus of a spectacular full moon over Loch the day was warm even the full moon making an appearance later in the day. The perfect setting then for a busy day of music watching, socialising and just catching the vibe.
We start off with home territory for IGigs, Nieves found themselves on the IGigs stage at XPO North in July and have continued to gig regularly since then. Lead Brendan Dafters in an interview with us astutely observed “I think people are surprised when they meet us and we’re not utterly miserable!”.
Whilst disclosing that they were feeling “a bit peaky” after a night enjoying The Argyle’s hospitality, there was no impact on their performance which always comes with an emotional heft. These guys know what they are doing and doing it well, Dafters has a presence that draws the audience in. “Black Tie” is the band’s most recent release and typical of the bands approach. It seems cheap to liken the band to the like of Frightened Rabbit but certainly they fall into that ilk.The official launch for the EP comes next month.
Catholic Action are the second of three XPONorth curated acts playing the festival. Well fancied and very well supported by those in the know. Chris McCrory has flourished in his transition from drummer in Casual Sex to frock coat wearing front man. The Irn Bru themed lighting glanced over McCrory’s flowing locks, although it is the music proving the obvious pull with the impressive harmonies and the guitar work certainly impressing in the likes of “L.U.V.” and “Rita Ora”.
The bookers of Loopallu are astute if they are anything at all. Frances had recently grasped the opportunity of standing in for The Libertines on Radio 1’s Live Lounge. The cover she did on that occasion. “What Do You Mean”, is played as she proudly boasts that she too is a “Belieber”.
Her performance quickly gathered a crowd, including a Little Mammoth or two. Frances represented the only solo act to play the mainstage stage on Saturday. Much credit must go to the sound engineers and the respectfulness of the crowd that her voice did not get lost in the environment
This was her second trip to the area this year, she has played The Ceilidh Place in March, and whilst the audience was slim to start with, by the end of the second song it had grown significantly, “there you are” she observed.
Twin Wild had travelled 11 hours to get to the festival and were determined to make the most of the opportunity. Rock was to be very well represented in the line-up for Loopallu, and the first true taste of it today came from the London quartet, and what an introduction. Infectious rock tunes including “Another Stranger” are given a more immersive sound by the addition of a synth driven dynamic.
Man Made are, fashion wise, influenced by glam rock, gold sequin jacket of front man Niles, and plenty of glitter make up. Maybe it is the drive from Manchester, or the strength of the on the acts on the line-up that make Man Made seem a bit tepid. However they do return to Inverness in October and they have just signed a record deal, so it will be an opportunity for locals to cast their own eye over the band and on balance, it’ll be worth the effort.
For many, including a well-informed 4 year old, The Supernaturals were the most anticipated band of the weekend. The band who started gigging in 1991 have recently released new material in the form of CD “360”. James McColl announced that the band had travelled 200 miles to have a good time, and with Loopallu being one of only a handful of gigs this year for the newly reinvigorated band, they didn’t mess about.
Mid song banter ranges from cute (James had stolen his son’s transformer toy which was used in his pedal) to the plain strange: like a discussion about buying a monkey called Badger in Inverness. The banter however bizarre is charming and get’s the audience on side so when the crowd is asked to pretend that they know new tune “My Sweet George”, they cheer and clap as queued.
“Smile” is of course the band’s best known tune – an infectious Brit Pop styled anthem whose success was perhaps partly aided by it being the advertising campaign for a bank. It is however the lower beat of 1997’s Dung Beatle that draws the set to an end, which was a wee bit odd, we would have preferred to leave the tent with a ‘smile, smile, smile, smile ….’
“Word Up” is GUN’s first tune and it makes perfect sense as it encourages the crowd towards the mainstage tent. The cover did the band no damage when it was first released in the 90’s, so a bit of a surprise that the response was perhaps more muted than might have been anticipated. This affected the band not a jot, they pouted, posed and gestured away throughout the set and won the audience over, albeit fairly near the end of the set.
Dante Gizzi has been the role of lead vocalist for four years and he certainly has embraced the role fully. The set spans the band’s career with tracks from March release of ‘Frantic’, and whilst the recent trip to Spain may have been disorientating “Thanks or should that be Muchas Gracias” Danti adds.
There is a poignancy to contrast with the GUN re-working of Hot Chocolates “Everyone’s a Winner” is a newly released charity fundraiser for Marie Curie. Danti’s T-Shirt had ‘Electric’ emblazoned on it, even with line-up change and the age of the band, we agree.
Gabrielle Aplin is an interesting proposition to many, a singer songwriter whose cover of “The Power of Love” is their main point of context. With Gabrielle being joined on stage by seven of her band, some of the audience would need to reconsider their preconceptions.
Included in set-up were four mics for backing vocals with special note going to Hudson Taylor whose occasional vocals were called upon whilst also taking violin duties.
Her first song includes the lyric “Light up the soul in you” which almost perfectly surmises the set, endearing and enthralling. She moves from acoustic to electric guitars and then on to the keyboard and a far more intimate sound.
The audience participate: a chorus of female voices for “Please don’t say you love me” is quite simply beautiful and a highlight of the day. Early in the set Aplin seemed to be hinting (apologetically) that she might be in the wrong place. But by the end of the set thanks to a great response from the crowd she is clearly reassured that she made the right call declaring that Loopallu was her favourite festival audience.
Contrasting not complimenting Aplin is The Temperance Movement’s Phil Campbell. Whereas Aplin has containment, Campbell has energy and more energy. Both have control and capacity, don’t for a second think that Campbell’s energy is related to chaos, far from it.
Of course, The Temperance Movement are returning to Loopallu as headliners after playing lower in the bill in 2013. The decision to promote them is condoned by the biggest and most consistent crowd of the day. The Temperance Movement are (like Gabrielle Aplin’s band) a very tight unit, even Campbell’s dancing and gesticulations are perfectly in time.
The first four songs, Campbell observes, “seemed to be fucking tied together” they certainly sit apart but there is no space between them – ratatatat. He acknowledged the need to take a breath before “Get Yourself” – good call, the audience needed it too.
The Rock n Roll n Blues persist for the twelve song set, but after the crowd demanding an encore, they return for an unlucky thirteenth track, “Serenity”.
They would have been a hard act to follow, and that was Skerryvore’s job, as we made the journey home the noise from the tent certainly indicated they were more than up to the job.
In Loopallu you have a festival just entered it’s second decade, it is very much the last hoorah for the Highland festival season, and has more than enough identity and soul to continue for years to come. This year there was no doubt, Loopallu Rocks.
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