Saturday at Belladrum 2016, 6/8/2016. A review.

It’s a slow walk through the general campsite, it’s looking a little bit tidier (little bit) and certainly more sedate than it has been in the past. My walk changes pace when I hear the band playing in the background.

Fortunately it was The Side‘s sound check, so with a wee bit of time to catch a breath we make it. “Lovely to be back” lead singer Winnie said, “It’s been five years”. I am convinced that I caught that gig and I am fairly convinced little has changed and certainly that’s no complaint. Doing what they do and doing it well is an adage many could do with keeping to. The tracks kept the partisan crowd happy and certainly kept the boiler suited man in the crowd dancing away. There is a new recording , courtesy of Toy Town Records, on it’s way for The Side hopefully this year.

From one Highland band to another, it’s raining now and to be fair even if it had been glorious weather the crowd for Inverness band Lional would have been huge, such is the well deserved hype for the band at the moment. “There’s a lot of you out there, Jesus Christ” lead singer Joshua comments. It’s a strong set for the band, there’s a splattering of new material ,which gains the nods and claps of approval from the audience and a more than decently respectful cover of ‘Let’s Dance’. “See you all next year x” the band’s Facebook page teases…

Settling in to the Seedling Stage, someone runs up to me and says “have I missed Lional?”, “wrong tent and wrong time I say”. WOMPS are more than suitable compensation and despite confessing to feeling the worse for wear it’s hard to hear the issues in their set. WOMPS describe a fluidity on stage, creating a unique experience and certainly one to catch.

It’s time to move to the not so secret, secret act, “It’s always Fatherson” I overhear more than once. Two things grab me about that, firstly it’s not always the Kilmarnock band, with KT Tunstall, The View and Kassidy taking up the secret title in the past. Secondly isn’t it great to have a band like Fatherson who truly love and appreciate the festival? when sometimes cynical commercialism can commodify the music scene. It is unfortunate that Fatherson have to cope with a further return of the rain, but regardless Ross and Co. show why they are seen as the gold standard for emerging music at the moment.

Not for the first time on my wander through the festival I find myself giving a double take to the best promo of the event in the Searching For Donkey’s fake tenner flyers, so much more subtle than the million frisbees, and perhaps just as effective.

I manage to get my first beer of the weekend (you know who you are, cheers sir) just in time for Devil’s Queen.Tom Coyne has abandoned his face paint today, and for me that creates a more honest rawness to proceedings. For fans of the genre there’s much to love about the band, it’s all loud, fast and at times political. Whilst Tom has black sleeves of tattoos, this is not music with a dark heart, far from it, hope reigns eternal with a little bit of anarchy thrown in.

It is unsurprising to see so much talent in The Seedlings stage and it certainly would be great if that was reciprocated to a greater extent at other events for Inverness acts like it has been previously. The final act I catch on the stage are The Lapelles, they cram a lot into their songs at a perfect pace and whether I mishear the lyrics or not, “I think I’m dreamin’, I’m kinda steamin'” it works for me. This is Friday night dancing music, akin to the likes of The Vaccines, it’s no surprise that they have signed a management deal with the same agency that looks after the Arctic Monkeys.

Last time I saw Lucy Spraggan she mentioned a desire to return to Highland festivals, she was unsurprisingly signed up to both Loopallu and Belladrum shortly after. For a solo act (accompanied occasionally by her keyboardist) it is an impressive feat to have filled Hothouse tent, more impressive is to keep the crowd fully engaged for the full set with her instantly likeable and personable tunes. It is the live setting where where she reigns, and whilst she might know that, she remains humble.

Lucy is followed by Public Service Broadcasting a band with a creative concept and a desire to drive forward J. WillgooseEsq had said ; “I think we’re the same as any band, we’ll continue to make music as long as we enjoy it and as long as we feel we’ve got something to say.” The electronic voice personalises the set and the intensity of the tunes including ‘Spitfire’ are given added impetus with both the screened visuals and the environment of the tent.

It is at this point that the infamous Belladrum wall has been hit, the thirty thousand plus steps, late nights, early mornings took their toll. Instead of the sensible move towards home, wandering towards Madness, in more than one way… The audience is huge and we would be unsurprising if it is the biggest so far at the Garden Stage, but the humour is good and so we start our traipse home.

Not before a slight detour to the newly named (to celebrate Robin Abbots 40th gig at the event) ‘Rockin’ Robin’ stage. It is Jim Kennedy leading proceedings with a set full of crowd pleasers, we had to leave at the Snow Patrol cover, time to bide the festival farewell, with a bounce in our step.

“Best Bella” ever declares Gigs Jr as she declares she wants her bed. It’s certainly up there.

Make sure you check out our Belladrum 2016 page for all the news and reviews of what’s happening at the festival.

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