Loopallu 2016, on the 30th of September and 1st October. Review.

I had been told this festival is magnificent. I’d been told the atmosphere is electric . This was my virgin visit and I was excited to be there and annoyed I’d had to work till teatime in Inverness.

Arrived late just in time to catch the last half of Fatherson’s set (You had missed a very impressive sets by Hunter & The Bear and from stage openers Lional – Ed.). This is the first exposure I’ve had to anything Loopallu and to be honest I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about . Whatever the quality of the performance going on up on the stage I was thinking if the PA sounds like this the weekends going to be a waste of time.The band may have been getting a good onstage sound and they were certainly giving their all up there but now and again I got the impression all was not right. For instance Marc Strain, was forever tuning his bass. Like all the time , even during songs. I have never seen the band before so maybe that’s what he does as a nervous tic but it’s the bass, it’s not needing tuned every minute . To me that indicated sound problems.

A festival set for the masses

After a visit to Rhythmnreel being fab in the beer tent I began to calm down and then ventured back to the muddy main tent for Feeder .Much better sound and the band let rip with all the hits you just keep recognising .Coming on to the spaghetti western strains of Ennio Morriconni they went straight into hits including Lost and Found and High. Pausing for breath and some new songs from soon to be released album ‘All Bright Electric’ the launched back into the hits again finding Buck Rogers , Just the way I’m feeling and many more.A festival set for the masses and for me the welcome rescue of my excitement that Loopallu could indeed be a special festival.

Marc Radcliffe and Galleon Blast were giving us Pogues tunes and sea shantys back at the beer tent and are a lot of fun. They finished the official Friday program.

I’d been told the towns pubs were great after the main shows and they did not disappoint!
I drop in with friends to the Caley Hotel to find Trad band Tweed in full ceilidh mode. The public bar is heaving and the atmosphere is brilliant. Drinks are flowing and the hotel even gives out free sandwiches! This is the sort of thing people remember and pass on about music festivals and The Caley has proven to have real warmth.

After lapping that up I got myself out and managed to get myself a fish supper at about 1am, fantastic.Walking back to my digs eating this I spy a friend Alistair Bodhran playing the Djembe with a rock band in the Argyll Hotel lounge. The band are Will and the Wild Horse from Ayrshire and they are rocking this bar. Drummer Richard Hamilton absolutely nailed it playing off what Alistair was doing with the Djembe. This band are on watch out for.

The night was now complete and the Loopallu fringe proved to be as good as had been promised. Magic !

Getting to town on Saturday afternoon the Main Street of Ullapool is buzzing. Sitting eating an ice cream and a man looking remarkably like Jean Jacques Burnel walks past . It’s that sort of thing which seems to happen at Loopallu. Since I’ve got here I’ve heard many stories about previous years rock star encounters.

I made my way into the festival and went to The Literary Tent where Miles Hunt singer /songwriter was being interviewed by Marc Radcliffe This was a very enjoyable and interesting time spent listening to tales from behind the scenes and history of The Wonder Stuff.

 She had the main tent enthralled and I was carried along by their enthusiasm.

On from there to see my first act of the day former X Factor finalist Lucy Spraggan. Now not usually my type of thing but this girl was overwhelmingly nice and her songs were fresh and interesting. She had the main tent enthralled and I was carried along by their enthusiasm. One particular song “Dear You” about suicide and mental health issues showed a real depth of feeling and understanding. This song remains with me and was a standout moment of the weekend .

My ceilidh band from the Caley Hotel the previous night were now fulfilling the “changeovers band” role in the beer tent. This was a crowd pleaser and much dancing ensued.

Mark Radcliffe gives us another blast of pirate inspired sea shanty music interspersed with songs from the Pogues and The Waterboys. All real crowd pleasers and a good bit of fun .

They were magnificent and managed the almost impossible task of fitting new songs in without killing the vibe.

A bit more of Tweed and then next up I went to see The Selecter . Now I like a bit of Ska music but I’m not a massive fan of it but this band stood head and shoulders above everything else I saw this weekend. They were magnificent and managed the almost impossible task of fitting new songs in without killing the vibe. That doesn’t mean the tent didn’t go nuts when “On My Radio” “Too Much Pressure” and other hits we’re brought into play. For my money Selecter on this day were best in show.

Watching The Wonder Stuff was like watching two different bands the first section featuring fiddle player Erica Nockalls . This was fine and the band were slowly winning the crowd over. However Erica left the stage and everything went up to 11 . This is not always a good thing . I’d say the rock out , far too noisy and kind of self indulgent Wonder Stuff must have cleared almost a third of the audience out of the tent within two songs . I managed to stay till a fourth but they’d lost me. It was really like seeing two different bands and maybe for die hard fans that’s a good thing but for a festival crowd it just didn’t work. (Perched on the other side of the tent, I certainly did not see the exodus and the set as a whole was worthy of a band evolving through their 30 years- Ed).

In the beer tent we now had some magnificent sets of punk and pop from Davy Cowan accompanied on drums by his young son Sam.The Damned’s New Rose and the Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop in your set and you just cannot go wrong. Also a smattering of Stranglers songs to set us up for later.

On we go to The Stranglers and they did not fail to deliver. Hits like Nice and Sleazy, Skin Deep, Golden Brown , Always the Sun and Hanging around reminded the crowd that the Stranglers are a great rock band and can get a crowd moving.Singer Baz Warne complimented the festival location commenting quite rightly given the great weather we’d been having that this was like playing in God’s back garden. The Stranglers wrapped up the main tent in fine style indeed.

Just what I wanted from a last band of the festival.

After a bit more of Davy Cowan which saw Sam crowd surfing I headed off to town.
In the Seaforth I managed to catch The Little Mammoths. They’d been on in the main tent earlier but I hadn’t caught them.Formed by Matt ‘ Urby Whale’ Owens from ‘Noah and the Whale’ they are fantastic. Lineup of guitar , pedal steel, bass and drums and a really Uk/ American 70s/ 80s pub rock sound. Just what I wanted from a last band of the festival. They had the Seaforth bar in the palm of their hands and strategically placed covers like AC/ DCs ‘Gone Shootin’And a medley of Stones songs were exactly what was needed.

Loopallu was a brilliant weekend festival it lived up to its reputation of being impromptuand a lot of fun. There was no heavy handed policing nor was it necessary as there was no trouble.

I’d thoroughly recommend going next year no matter who is headlining. It’s not just the music in this place it’s the whole experience!

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I am a Singer/Songwriter/Band Leader and first and foremost a music fan. My tastes run from quiet tasteful acoustic music to a proper racket with Jazz , Blues and Country in between. I think a leaning towards classic 70's Rock and boogie is evident in my own songwriting but I am always striving to write something different and to listen to something new as much as I can. I host a monthly (no PA) "Acoustic Music Night" at the Velocity Cafe in Inverness . I encourage new talent, young and old, to play. I am a very firm believer that you cannot, and never will, better the experience of witnessing great live music, no matter what the genre.