Saturday at Belladrum 2016, 06/8/2016. A review.

Saturday, the second morning waking up at beautiful Belladrum, the morning was bright, the heads a little squiffy but where else can you make breakfast in the sunshine, hearing a saxophone, singing intertwined with happy voices and children’s laughter across a field before midday. That being said, it can be a struggle getting out of the campsite, where sore bodies, fuzzy heads and tales of fun had the night before means that functioning is a lot slower than the day before.

I am still gutted to have missed The Mermaids, on sharp at 12pm that day, as I had been very excited to hear this duet from Galloway. Unfortunately, this was not be the only missed gig that day, but with such an extensive line up you physically can’t be everywhere at once, no matter how much you would like to.

Catching the last 3 songs of Tweed, on at the Grassroots Stage, my feet found their rhythm again on the hill outside as others were in full ceilidh swing in the busy tent. Finally, stopping nursing the first cider, we wished the talented Sarah Williamson well as she headed for her gig at Boaty Macboatface stage while we stayed to see I See Rivers. This female trio from Norway were stunning and smiley, and immediately had the crowd mesmerised tapping a soft drumstick on the strings of the guitar the notes joining higher ones from the xylophone.

Coming from different parts of Norway, they took reference from the geographical variances of their homes to influence songs. ‘Ocean’, with crashing symbols to start the feeling of waves was immediate and continued throughout the song. Another, a folklore tale from the mountains, was about a girl surviving the plague, this had a heart beat drum, with vocals so beautiful and unique to each of them, like birds in the dawn chorus, calling back and forward. For everyone else who missed Sarah Williamson this weekend you can catch her at Velocity on the 18th August around 7pm.

With rain on and off all day waterproofs were essential. People stop daundering to their next stop, hooded heads instead missioned across the slippy mud. We took cover under a tree, beside BBC Alba van, to watch CC and the Smugglers from the hill not feeling brave enough to join the feet stomping brolly twirlers in the pouring rain. A set of funky tinkles on the keyboard lifting heavy beats of the base and strong harmonica playing kept the crowd moving and warm.

From being out in the cold rain to being inside the very Hot Hot House tent crammed with people for Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5, where crowds reached out doorways like legs of an insect. The yellow attired band encouraged the crowd to move forward to let more people in and reminded everyone to be careful of children, messages of safety and respect that the set echoed in fun, sing and dance along songs about crossing the road and equal rights (International Sex Hero).

With walking, dancing and jumping songs this big sunny band reminded people to be themselves and poked fun at breakups, ‘might not be the end of the world but it always ends in tears with a ginger girl’. Joined on stage by Swagatha Christie from Spring Break for a finale that also had a band member crowd surfing a giant inflatable unicorn across the heads of the audience, as the happy mantra penetrated us all ‘everyone is happy, everyone is smiling, no one here is sad anymore’ before group hugs for everyone including the sound guy on the stage. The love and happiness in the tent matched the warmth of the combined bodies now with any low or flagging spirits lifted high. Most definitely a band and audience for the main stage next year.

Changing plan and deciding not to see Breabach on the main stage we instead moved from the giant Hot House to the wee Seeding Stage to a band recommended by a friend. Indigo Velvet who played earlier this year as part of the XPONorth music showcasing pulled a good audience including the legendary Vic Galloway to their energetic set. The band who describe their sound as Tropical pop, are rocky poppy with hints of the Caribbean from the peppermint electric guitar and wooden block beats.

The sound is fun and magnetic from the 4 piece band and their fabulous hair, whose guitars chimed together and took you to a place of white sands, and no kidding there was the smell of coconuts in the tent. Indigo Velvet returns to Inverness Thursday 3rd November as part of their UK tour, I would highly recommend this gig to help beat away those winter blues.

Walking around the top of the festival, senses are all stimulated, with a plane cockpit as DJ booth at Mothers Ruin, flying pig, The Dangelberries at the Bella bar, gymnastics and parade from the woodland orchestra and drummers as they snake their way around the site. Getting a badge and free tattoo from the CND stall to wear with pride, stovies with beetroot in the belly to make energy for boogying, it was time for some beautiful blues.

Errol Linton began his set on the harmonica zoning those in the tent directly to him and drawing others into the tent like the pied piper. Having been about 17 years since I first saw him play in the intimate Portmahomack Inn I was just as intoxicated by him on this bigger stage. His music feels like it’s playing right at you. Accompanied by his blues band including deep notes from the double base there were reggae vibes and classic songs, ‘Momma Said’ and ‘Love is Strong’, plus a wee taster of the new album planned for the new year ‘Can’t get no love’. The set was amazing start to finish, sadly so amazing I forgot to leave to catch The Lappelles at the Seedling stage.

A ‘quick’ nip back to the tent nearly resulted in me missing my top pick for the festival Keston Cobblers Club, coming back through the food area I was immediately excited seeing a tuba on the stage and its deep tones calling to me, I quickened my pace and thankfully only missing the first song. This multitalented indie, folk, pop group from Kent called for attention with the trumpet, wooden spoons, the tinkling piano joking with the mouth organ as the band played older songs and the title track from their most recent album, ‘Wildfire’, to the delighted dancing audience. With a sing along and cover of ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac to finish, I was left wanting to see and hear more, let’s hope they get some Scottish dates billed soon, I won’t be late again!

With some more evening confusion and lost bodies we didn’t make it to Madness instead drank, watched the world go by and went on the Helter Skelter (again) before regrouping for Turin Brakes. My friend is a big fan and her bouncing energy was contagious and the crowd was busy and happy, with sing a along to ‘Summer Rain’. I found the set a mix of the extremely uplifting or dramatically depressing, the later making them perfect for before MacFloyd. They were grateful to the eager crowd saying how they would find it hard to pick anyone over Maddness, “Maddness are an institution and we should be in one, thank you”.

With Hot Dub Time Machine billed for the Hot House finale we headed over to find the tent strangely quiet, sadly that had been cancelled and instead there was a headphone disco on. Not to be put off we paid our deposit so we could understand the crazy silent dance moves we saw around us. I love headphone disco’s; the conflicting tunes, karaoke that you can’t hear (thankfully) but mostly because it can turn any introvert into an extrovert through the direct input of sound that creates its own bubble.

Sucked in right until the end the realisation dawned that we hadn’t caught the end of Tweed at the Free Range Folk stage finale and we headed down in the hope there might still be a Scottish tune or two waiting for us. Sadly it was very quiet in the walled garden but we warmed our bodies for a wee bit at the Burke and Hare sparking fire before the wind picked up and we knew it was time to make our way back to our tents, slowly.

Walking across the site, empty of most festival goers, the time of the Belladrum cleanup team kicks in, food vans pack up, railings are gathered and the marquees start to come down, their tarps are removed leaving giant elephant skeleton of metal bones. With no music, a disco ball hanging from a tree twirls in the wind; its reflections, shooting across the ground onto places where many feet once were, it now can dance unobstructed. The funny site of the socks are being put on the carousel horse’s feet, has us gigging, each foot individually made cosy and protected for the pending journey home, much like all the people in their sleeping bags, it must be time for bed now.

The wind continued to gather speed through the night making the trees rustle, hiss and whoosh but it’s the sound of the flags flapping so fast that I am drawn to, they sound like many hands softly clapping together. A giant gentle crowd saying thank you to everyone who’s combined effort to create and be present made Belladrum 2016 so very special.

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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I can’t promise you intellectual chat about structure or comparisons to other bands but I am going to try and put the feelings I have into text. That being said you might hear the word tingle more than occasionally and other words like fantastic, amazing and delighted are favourites! Honestly I am only learning about instruments and how music goes together, possibly as most of my 20’s I was reaching for lazers. Live music baffles, intrigues and delights me!! However I have not a musical making bone in my body but I love to dance and make the occasional badge for talented musical folks. ;-) If you enjoy excited ramblings about music tickling my senses as I learn and fall more in love with it, then you might like things I try to write.