Alan Forbes reviews Belladrum 2018 featuring The Charlatans, The LaFontaines and so much more.
I do love a good festival and the Belladrum Tartan Heart festival is always up their with the best of them. I was bouncing about all morning until me and my partner went to pick up our camper van for the weekend.
bambi was not going to be rushed, the insensitive piece of venison.
After collecting the van and stacking it up to the brim with beers, we set off with a playlist previewing the great acts playing at this years festival. We took off down the single track road towards Muir of Ord, when we were joined on the road by a young stag, out for a leisurely stroll. So slowly it took us about 10 minutes to travel a 100 yards, with no disregard to all the horn blowing and shooing we were doing, Bambi was not going to be rushed, the insensitive piece of venison.
After finally getting on to site and getting dragged around four areas of the campsite by the stewards and a slight argument with the camper vans fridge, I was ready to rock. There was no better way to start than by going in to the arena and along to Rob Ellen’s Moose Mobile stage and caught Danny Mortimer on his debut Bella performance. He pulled in a really good crowd, with a good portion of them wearing t-shirts with his face plastered all over them. This was a really good set with tracks from his past two albums, showing the full range of his voice and depth of his heartfelt lyrics.
Straight after Danny’s set the crowd did a full 180 degree turn towards the Potting Shed stage where Dougie Burns and the Cadillacs were getting ready to bring their rock and blues party to the festival. Armed with a great catalogue of Boogie Blues tracks, like Everything went wrong when I went blonde, had the crowd jumping. Even more so when pupils from Elgin Academy joined in, supporting their teacher Ali Davies as he played on harmonica, as the band played Put your mad hat on.
After this I went on a wander around the arena to get my bearings before going to the Garden stage to catch country twins Ward Thomas. I had never heard of them before this and although country is not my favoured choice, I did really enjoy their set. Both girls have incredible voices and you could tell that they were really enjoying themselves.
From New York to Kiltarlity was the route of travel for the next act on to the stage, The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. This was my first time catching the criminals live and although they have been around for over 20 years they were sounding as smooth and cool as they did in the late nineties. One thing that really impressed me was the way the drummer could keep in time drumming with one hand and drinking with the other, that’s top trekkers that!
Last on to the stage was Scotlands very own Amy MacDonald. She played a selection of tracks from her previous 3 albums and also from her new one. It was nice to see her on the main stage, as the last time I had seen her at Belladrum was in a tiny wee tent 11 years ago. I stayed for a while until the heavens fully opened, then headed to the Trailer Park stage to catch a bit of MIR.
With a good mix of rockabilly blues and the outstanding vocals of front women Miriam Campbell, even the rain wasn’t going to stop the festival revellers from dancing in front of the stage. It was really good way to end the first night and set me up for a full day of it on the Friday.
After a comfy sleep and a fry up (got to love the camper van) I was all set to take day 2 of Bella by the horns and the only way I could think to do that was to go to the bar.
When I got there the lads from Park Circus were just setting up in the bandstand. I have seen the band quite a few times now and thought that this was one of their best performances.
I sat on the pyramid to watch and as they were playing with their Oasis/Arctic Monkeys crossover sound and you could see the number of people that were just walking past that were drawn in and stayed for the set. There was a wee slip as Colin Bunce, the lead singer, guitar strap fell off, but instead of getting flustered powered through to show maturity for such a newly formed band.
It was a great performance and they sounded incredible
Once they were done I went to the Grassroots stage to see Elgin’s favourite sons and daughter Edgar Road. They have had a brilliant summer after being selected to open the main stage at this years Camden Calling and also a headline show in the world famous Carven Club in Liverpool. To top all that they also got the chance to make their Bella debut in a packed out grassroots tent.
You could see from the ease from which frontman Mark Conti was strutting the stage, that this is where the band wanted to be but also where they deserved to be. It was a great performance and they sounded incredible, if you have not had a chance to catch them yet, put them to the top of your list.
I made my back across site to the Seedlings Stage to catch an act that I have heard great things about but hadn’t been able to catch yet The Dazed Digital Age. A high octane mix of indie rock with electronica that has the head bopping and the foot tapping as soon as you cross in to the tent. After staying for a few songs I had to head off but was really impressed with what I heard.
A change of pace at The Garden Stage where Lucy Spraggan was performing with a full band, she has made no secret of her love for the festival in an interview prior to Bella. I had only caught Lucy once before up at Loopallu, a few years ago and that was inside the large tent. I was interested to hear what she sounded like on a bigger open air stage, to say she blew me away is an understatement.
There was a ten minute delay before she came on but when she did she got straight in to it with the brilliant Fight For Me. Her interaction with crowd is great and you really get the feeling that she has a strong affiliation with the festival. Personal highlight for me was her rendition of Tea and Toast.
Bursting on to the stage with so much energy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ellon Musk would try and bottle it.
After this I headed back to the bar for a bit of lubrication, with full intentions of getting down to catch a bit of The Supernaturals, but by the time I got served it was time to head in to the trenches that were the front of the crowd for The LaFontaines. Bursting on to the stage with so much energy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ellon Musk would try and bottle it. The feeling in the crowd was electric as band ripped through tracks from Class and Common Problems.
New track Up comes across great but I do have to say I might have lost my shit a little when they played King. I know that before hand I told the Mrs that I would be staying clear of the mosh pit seeing as I nearly turning 36, I lied. I just feel if you aren’t going to get hot and sweaty at a LaFontaines gig you are not doing the band or yourself any justice.
I never left the Garden stage as up next were a band, that I grew up listening to and up to this point one that I shamefully had not caught live, The Charlatans. I thought that they were absolutely outstanding and ran through some newer stuff and the classics such as North Country Boy, One to Another and Weirdo.
To top off their performance they brought on to the stage Grant and Billy from Frightened Rabbit and cover Heads Roll Off. A beautiful rendition in memory of Scott Hutchinson, which really grabbed you by the feels. A very emotional but excellent way to finish off day 2 of Bella.
I started the Saturday once again a the bar (I see a pattern here) and while there I caught a bit of local lads Lucille as they performed on the bandstand. A really strong performance and kept everyone entertained, or was that bassist Gordon Boltons knobbly Knees? After this I caught a bit of Torridon in the Grassroots stage, really tight and sounding great and that shows with the following that they are getting at the moment. From there I went to the Free Range Folk stage to listen to Wilson Noble give a brilliant performance.
As always they blew it out of the park, firmly cementing themselves as the country’s number 1 festival party band.
At The Garden Stage the party was really about to get started as the Dijon train rolled into town, enter Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5. Kicking things of with their DJ playing a mix of Limmy’s nursery rhymes. Before long they had the bounce balls out on full display and had near 11000 6th Dijon’s crossing the road. As always they blew it out of the park, firmly cementing themselves as the country’s number 1 festival party band.
I had never managed to get to Retro Video Club, but our friends at Discovery Music did, here are their perspectives of the set;
Next to take to the stage on The Seedling Stage were Retro Video Club. For those who don’t know who they are are, they are a 4 piece indie rock band from Edinburgh. They are one of the most promising up and coming bands on the Scottish music scene at the moment. I had the pleasure of catching them playing in my hometown of Dundee back in June when they toured for the first time.
Even though the tent wasn’t packed, there was still a good size crowd to catch RVC’s first time playing at Belladrum. Even though there were a few technical difficulties with Sam’s guitar, they powered on through their set. There was an impromptu version of Noir to try and let the sound engineer fix whatever issues were going on.
Liam’s charming patter with the crowd helped to turn attention away from the on going problems. Once the problems seemed to be sorted they were up to full strength again. My favourite song of theirs is Chemistry and it was brilliant to hear it live and the crowd really got into it too.
Overall it was a typical RVC performance – high energy and clearly enjoying themselves playing on stage. Despite the few technical issues at the start, their set was one of my highlights of Saturday. Thanks to Martin for this you can read more of Discovery Music’s perspective of Belladrum 2018 here.
A long walk to the walled garden to catch Alan Hercher on The Free Range Folk Stage loomed. A young talent from just up the road in Beauly, he had pulled in a massive crowd to listen to his songs straight from the heart. I have had the chance to catch Alan at a open mic recently and was blown away by the performance on the night, if you get a chance to go see him, do so you wont regret it.
From there I took a short stroll to the Burke and Hare stage to see Belladrum favourites Spring Break. They went through tracks like Dolphin Puncher from new album Tropicaledonia as well as festival staple Tractor Tractor. They had the crowd dancing like crazy and even brought up some of the Dijon 5 to party with them.
It was a quick run to The Seedlings Stage to catch part of the heavy rockers King Kobalt’s blistering set. Warrior being a major standout for me, can see big things coming for these lads, so if you like your rock hot, heavy and sweaty, these lads are the band for you.
I will leave it there as although I had seen a lot more acts over the weekend, the beer started to catch up with! I feel that this was probably the most stacked card in the history of Belladrum and one that everybody went home afterwards with a smile on their faces.
So the one question I have left is… how long until next years Bella?
WHAT HAVE YOU MISSED? All our other Belladrum 2018 interviews, reviews and photographs can be found here.
To see our other review of Saturday night at Belladrum;