We look at Be Charlotte, The Vegan Leather, Lional and more at Northern Roots.
Old MacDonald had a farm, ee, aye, ee, aye, oh alright then I’ll have a pint of Happy Chappy please.
Yes kids– it’s that time of the year again, family friendly festival frolics with your wee pal Marty. This weekend’s foray into the world of plastic pints and over elaborate flower crowns was a trip up to Bogbain farm for the Northern Roots festival – a Friday/Saturday event with a healthy array of bands peppered around a farmyard just like that Belladrum but only if it were pished on Alice’s ‘Drink Me’ potion. In its day job, Bogbain is more frequently a wedding venue but last weekend they bravely put away their bunting and built a music venue that even Michael Eavis would nod a knowing be-bearded head to.
The line-up looked fine and dandy as I arrived and I was greeted by the familiar sounds of Lional warming their instruments in the Barn (not a euphemism). They offered up a particularly bruising set in front of a very ‘intimate’ crowd. The Inverness lads were opening the festival and their early slot was only to be seen by the most diligent of festival goers, but happily the great and the good did not travel in vain as the quartet thundered out enough indie-rock to make the your pint shake and the soundman sneak a grin.
The Barn is a big and suspiciously long room to fill but the gaps between punters were plugged by cataclysmic sounding drums and good ol’ indie-rock medicine. ‘A good start’ was the thought that formed on the rim of my pint of Happy Chappy and it was indeed just the start of a fine evening in the almost wilderness.
Next was a wee pint of Innis and Gunn and a look at The Oxides on the Main Stage. Another good bunch of Inverness boys keeping up the Highland Capital’s reputation of breeding indie-rockers. They’ve been on the go a wee while now and their proficiency and the ease in which they strut the stage is obvious to all who braved the winds outside. I say ‘all’ but the Main Stage was as quiet as the Barn, but nonetheless the fellas cracked on and gave the early birds something to point their pints at.
The inconceivably named frontman ‘Jake Bolt’ even took time out during the set to thank the Sound Engineers on site and it was a well deserved thank you as the sound throughout the entire weekend was beyond reproach and I’m sure any of the artists on the day would tell you that bands live and die by their sound guy. Hats off to the ‘gear in the rear’ on the day for sure, these unsung heroes are quietly shaping the festival from behind their massive box of tricks whilst knee deep in cables that lead who knows where. See images of The Oxides here.
Third pint syndrome then led me to take a break from the festivities and head to check out the facilities on offer. After a standard stop at portaloo place I snuck a wee look at the scran on offer to the more peckish of punters. Sure, there were your usual festival offerings of a burger van and a make-your-own pizza trailer, but there was also a welcome selection of cakey goodness on offer as well. A key lesson learned from this outing was that Empire Biscuits and Caramel Shortcake can only enhance your festival experience – if not every life experience. Cake consumed and pint ordered, time for some more musical marvels.
Tamzene was just tuning up in the Bothy when I strode in reeking of cake and high spirits. The Bothy stage is a more convivial venue than the other larger stages and the chance to have a wee seat on the reclaimed pews and maybe steal some body heat from one of the unsuspecting congregation was an opportunity not to be missed.
Tamzene has been a hot ticket since signing for Belladrum records and the multi-instrumentalist was a popular choice to see amongst the Northern Roots massive. You can see why she is so in demand as her voice slips through the room like a litre bottle of Bailey’s at one of your mum’s ‘Girls Night in’. The Cromarty lass holds the room’s attention with ease as she uses her soulful voice to speak of teen crushes and youthful enthusiasms that this tired, cakey creep had long since forgotten about.
The Vegan Leather were up next and they stole the whole Friday night for me. The art-pop stylings of this Paisley quartet cleansed my indie soaked palette like a disco ball sorbet. Shiny, shiny art-pop is a difficult thing to get right but this foursome nails it to the wall and gives it a tiny wee shiny jacket for good measure. Their single ‘Shake It’ made quite an impression on the crowd and got the movers moving and the nodders nodding whilst I was still transfixed like a budgie by the singer’s mane-like curly hair and glittery AF jacket.
The band reminded me a lot of CSS (mind them?) or maybe the Ting Tings but without the obvious limited shelf-life. The Vegan Leather should be headlining these sorts of festivals imminently so see them as soon as you can before the bigger stages beckon this multi-talented group. It’s not often a band pulls the ‘let’s all crouch down low until the drop’ and I comply, but I happily creaked my knees for this shiny lot and jumped around dutifully like the fanny I know I am.
By the time Be Charlotte hit The Barn I was on the Gin & Tonics and debating about why Toffypops are better than Jammie Dodgers (a real magical time of night). Alas, the verbal sparring was never resolved because Charlotte Brimner hit the stage with a skinny jean vibrating dose of bass that confused sheep two farms over. She has an elastic voice that marries well into the electronic undertones offered by her stage mate of the night. Heady, lofty vocals mixed with decent pop hooks make her stand out amongst the wannabes and with a quirky electro feel to her music that really makes you appreciate that every tune is honed by her own hand. She was so good I was almost glad she interrupted my scathing attack on the humble (dull) dodger.
That was me for the night. My hunger for a musical morsel or two had been satiated once again by this rustic trip to the countryside. The cold, windy outdoors and the cold, windy beer had waned my powers of perception so I elected to return to civilisation and in turn, my own bed, so I could fight another day. Friday night was done right, but just you wait until I tell you about Saturday…