Beginning way back in 2004, the Tartan Heart Music Festival, held in the tranquil settings of Belladrum Estate, north of Inverness has went from strength to strength and has definitely established itself as one of the best boutique-smaller festivals that Britain has to offer throughout the Summer. I made the last minute decision to head up to this year’s event to see what 2010s version had to offer.
I began the drive up on Friday morning and due to a number of reasons, namely bad traffic, hungry stomach and a weak bladder, I arrived on site at about 3pm, thus missing two acts that I was desperate to see, Admiral Fallow, who were playing the main stage and highland boy come good, The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, who was playing the Grassroots Stage. Never mind, I’m sure I will catch these two brilliant Scottish acts sometime soon.
Anyways, once the tent was up I wondered into the small arena and moseyed on down to the main stage where Colin Macintyre aka Mull Historical Society was taking to the stage. I have listened to MHS a wee bit but had never listened to any of Colin’s solo material. His set was a rockier affair and although a few technical mishaps threatened to spoil his 40 minutes, his set went down well and it was a pleasant start to the day.
Next up were FnS favourites, Twin Atlantic, who had gradually made their way to the main stage after playing two smaller stages in the previous two years. I love this band but the set they played at Bella ’10 was nothing I hadn’t heard before. I’m desperate to hear some new material from them and I’m sure I will enjoy this new material when I do hear it but something on the day was stopping me from getting involved, although thousands other would disagree. A rare outing for single Crash Land proved to be the only highlight in an otherwise samey, middle of the road set from the lads. The new album cannot come soon enough.
I then hurried round to see Scottish dance wonder Unicorn Kid, absolutely destroy the Hothouse Stage with his attack of bleeps and dance beats, which had the crowd in raptures. Having toured with the likes of Owl City in America and recently signed to Ministry of Sound, I can’t help but think this 18 year old is on the cusp of something enormous. Although not my usual cup of tea, I thoroughly enjoyed his set and was definitely a highlight of the whole weekend. I doth my furry lion hat to you.
Next up was Oxford indie-folk band Stornoway, who after some major loving from mainstream radio, appear to have broke into the mainstream on the back of the success of bands such as Laura Marling, Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons. The band played a brilliant set of acoustic folky numbers, to a packed and ecstatic crowd on in the Hothouse Stage. Lead Singer Brian Biggs appeared nervous and overawed by the reception his band received but this only endeared him more to the Bella crowd, with single Zorbing providing one of the biggest singalongs of the weekend. Expect this band to go global very very soon.
Headlining the main stage on Friday night were Welsh rock band Feeder who played a triumphant career spanning set of punk rock with highlights including the infamous Buck Rogers, Just A Day and a brilliant cover of Nirvana’s Breed. The staying power of this band is incredible and compared to the arrogance of today’s new breed of rock bands coming through, Feeder appear to have remained firmly down to earth and appreciate and tackle anything that comes their way. New material such as single, Renegades is justification as to why this band are still going strong and hopefully I will see them again very soon.
Once the bands were over on Friday, there was so much still going on to keep you occupied. Fire jugglers, headphone discos and even Kare-uke, which consisted of eight ukulele players providing the music for karaoke to take place could all be found around the site, as well as a comedy tent and the biggest variety of gourmet food I have ever seen. Curries, kebabs, Japanese noodles, venison, steak, sausage and mash. You name it and Belladrum had it!
First up on Saturday was Scottish singer songwriter, Rachel Sermanni, who I had heard fantastic things about on numerous online blogs and new music sites and to be honest, I was not let down in the slightest after her packed out set on the Grassroots Stage. Scotland has a great reputation of producing quality female singers, and Rachel Sermanni is no different, producing a near perfect performance of folky inspired pop songs with a distinct Celtic feel. The combination of guitar, two violinists, a piano and a drummer help wipe away the bleary cobwebs of Friday night’s hangover and help get the festival off to a fantastic Saturday start.
Next up is a visit to the Seedlings Stage to continue the Saturday Folk-Fest with Glasgow’s own and FnS featured Julia and the Doogans. Singer/guitar player Julia, accompanied by cello and piano brought their laid back, warm, fuzzy, soft approach to music to Belladrum with a set that fitted in perfect with the festival’s aura; peaceful, friendly and welcoming. Lead singer Julia’s vocals are perfect today and the band are definitely evolving into one of Scotland’s best gems in it’s music scene. I can’t wait to see Julia backed by all the Doogans as going on this stripped back performance, it will certainly be something. Spine tingling.
Next up I caught the highly thought of Glasgow folk pop outfit Kitty the Lion, who I had been desperate to see ever since I heard a version of Catalytic Converter on their Myspace. The Seedling’s tent is packed out for their half hour set which is gratitude to the growing word of just how excellent this band is. It’s fun, fast paced folk, with perfect harmonies and a brilliant rhythm section to boot. Singles Lion in the Bed and Catalytic Converter are the highlights, with lead singer Anna Meldrum leading the way with her band of merry men in tow. Having already headlined King Tuts in Glasgow, and played numerous festivals including T in the Park and Rockness, expect this band to go in a similar direction as Glasgow band Pearl and the Puppets; Global.
Last up on Saturday and closing the Grassroots Stage was Anstruther’s finest King Creosote. King Creosote is singer Kenny Anderson who has released over forty albums to date with newest album Flick the Vs released last year to much critical acclaim. Tonight Kenny was joined by his six piece backing band and ran through a career spanning set much to the delight of the rapturous crowd that had packed out the Grassroots Stage. Highlights included set opener Not One Bit Ashamed, Jump at the Cats and a rousing version of You’ve No Clue Do You which Kenny tongue and cheeky boasted about just sneaking in to the top 80 of the charts when it was released. Kenny Anderson is a brilliant song-smith and his songs as King Creosote definitely enhance his reputation as one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. A great way to cap off a great festival.
Belladrum is great. It’s friendly, it’s fun, the food was brilliant, the bands were great and the weather was superb. Roll on next year…
Tartan Heart Festival Website