We look at Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Slow Club, Emme Woods and more, at Tartan Heart Festival.
It’s becoming a habit… the Bella bookers pick the noisiest band possible to wake up any sleeping campers who’ve been daft enough to pitch their tent in the vicinity of the Hothouse Stage. And lets face it, a double-header of Bloodlines and The Broken Ravens is guaranteed to give anyone with a hangover a very, very rude awakening.
Bloodlines are first up and an impressive crowd has assembled to take in a band that are poised to take on the world. Rumours are swirling around that record labels are sniffing round their scrawny ankles and you have to wonder whether this is one of the last performances where they play as an unsigned act. Frontman Jamie Coltart was getting married later in the day but there was no sign of any pre-wedding nerves, ‘Cathedral’ is dedicated to his wife of this evening and the band play half an hour of the most uncompromising rock music you’ll find anywhere.
The final song is chaos, pure unbridled noise and rock band antics…. Coltart dumps his guitar on the floor and heads to the rigging, mischief on his mind and with every intent on scaling it. The stage manager grabs a hold of him to prevent any further height being gained and flashes a red card like a referee at a football match. Seriously. An actual red card… Once Jamie is back on ground level the same chap then ambles up on to the stage and starts to switch off the guitar amps.
The boos from the crowd are deafening but the band aren’t done yet, as a final flourish bassist Stephen Bull jumps into the crowd and is carried triumphant like a returning victorious warlord. This is inspired stuff by the band and whether it’s by accident or design this is a set that will live long in the minds of anyone that was there. (If you were not there see the action here)
— invernessGiGs (@invernessGiG) August 5, 2017
The Broken Ravens have a hard act to follow but frontman Toby Michaels is an old hand at this kind of nonsense and the Ravens aren’t exactly shrinking violets either. The band are now sounding heavier than ever and the bluesier southern rock tones of the past have long since gone, this is pure unabashed metal with some positively evil guitar tones coming from the stage.
Extensive touring and gigs over the past couple of years has clearly helped cement their sound and a well-received festival slot over in Bulgaria has brought them attention from much further afield than the rocky shores of the Western Isles. Sporting an Inverness Gigs t-shirt Toby Michaels is usual ebullient self and isn’t shy from venturing to the barrier to shower his affection on members of the audience. The rest of the band are equally fierce and Kevin Clark’s powerhouse drumming drives the band along.
Howling Lords are another band from Lewis and play early on in the Seedlings tent. They may only have had a handful of folk there to watching them in the tent but those there were treated to down and dirty garage rock. I had a quick chat with Felix afterwards and his enthusiasm is infectious and he said, ‘the only reason we started a band was to see how much free beer we could get’ (Love that line – Ed.), he’s grinning from ear to ear so mission accomplished in that regard.
We’ve caught Emme Woods before at XPO North and she impressed us back in June. None of the attitude has dissipated as she snarls and growls her way through another 30 minute set. There’s plenty of piss and vinegar but it’s balanced with intelligence and wit. The songs range from punky to smoky blues rock and moody reverb.
A rock star in the making, she recounts how she recently attended a meeting armed with a murderous hangover, fur coat, Bubbles (her wee dog that comes with her everywhere) and a can of cider, ‘the meeting went really fucking well’. Music needs characters like Emme Woods and she’s got more than enough talent to back that attitude up.
Saint Phnx are of the breed of pop music that you’d come to expect millennials (a hateful term but it serves a purpose here) to lap up. And of course they do. Where Emme Woods and Bloodlines had edge and vigour, this band are straightforward and aim only to make pop music with woah-woah choruses. In my opinion they were relying a touch to heavily on a backing track but they do get a warm reception from the yoof down the front. This 40-somethink writer is probably not going to be their intended audience. All power to them but definitely not my mug of warm cider.
In a similar vein to the above, Birdy draws a sizeable number of the younger crowd but it’s not to be drawn to her voice and the passion she has for music. Her cover of Cherry Ghost’s ‘People Help the People’ gets one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon and just as I was musing on how she reminded me a little of Kate Bush she launches into ‘Running up that Hill’! Now I’m a bit of a Kate fanboy and her music is hallowed ground as far as I’m concerned. A line has to be drawn somewhere and I generally disapprove of people doing Kate Bush covers (I’m looking at you Futureheads) but on reflection I will accept she did a decent job of it…
A lack of coffee by this stage has left me feeling a wee bit flat and Birdy’s set is having a soporific affect on me. I’m impressed though and she’s another artist who I hadn’t realised how many of her songs I actually knew! Perfect music for a Saturday afternoon in an Italian garden in the Highlands.
Slow Club had been recommended to me as a band I really had to go and see, so I dutifully did as I was told and was immediately struck by the power of Rebecca Taylor’s vocals and how it was offset by the subtler tones of fellow band member Charles Watson. This a soulful and impassioned set but not a sombre or depressing one as the band’s name might suggest. They manage to keep it light without dropping too far into the gloom and at one point spend a few minutes contemplating how to get the ‘raar’ noises that the singer from M-People and Mick Hucknall from Simply Red manage to make.. You had to be there I suppose! The Grassroots stage always seems to put a band on the bill that I’ll ‘discover’ and return to over and over again, Slow Club are that band this year.
My evening finishes as it starts with the thunderous roar (hiss?) of another band, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. Neatly bookending the din of the early afternoon, Frank Carter sets forth to destroy the last remaining tatters of Bella’s eardrums with a savage racket of punk and metal. Formerly of Gallows, Frank Carter has lost none of his energy and the hour long set is an relentless, unforgiving, riot of noise and one that the seething crowdsurfing masses down the front lap up.
He orchestrates a circle-pit that had to leave from one entrance to the tent and come back in via the other… So essentially, he makes a few hundred kids run around the outside of the tent like a demented PE teacher. In fact PE teachers take note, just play the little monkeys an hour of punk and metal and let them go at it in a moshpit. They’ll burn calories, make friends, acquire some bruises and build character. Who needs athletics? Speaking of monkeys, I couldn’t help notice a few members of Bloodlines getting stuck into the pit too!
It’s a breathless end to my Bella weekend and I come away with my eardrums ringing, my feet are killing me and my back hurts because I’m turning into an old fart. A weekend well spent then.
WHAT HAVE YOU MISSED? All our other Belladrum 2017 interviews, reviews and photographs can be found here.
Check out photographs of Frank Carter and Rattlesnakes below;