17 August 2011

Belladrum 2011 - Review

Until just recently I had decided that I was now too old to go to music festivals, the thought of waking up in a tent just really didn't appeal to me anymore. In short I was starting to think along the same lines as this grumpy old sod. However, when Randolph's Leap offered me one of their 'plus ones' for this years Wickerman Festival, I found myself changing my mind somewhat. I used to be the kind of person who looked to see who the headliners would be, this time round though I found myself looking at the smaller, emerging stages and getting excited. After deciding I'd go to my first Wickerman, I ended up getting the festival bug again. I had fully intended to write a review of my weekend at Wickerman, however, in the words of Vicki from Randolph's Leap, I was 'muntered' the whole weekend. So I decided against trying to recall my drunken antics and chose instead to write a more sensible review of my time at Belladrum.

Unlike the last time I visited Bella, 5 years ago, me and Nic managed to blag a bed at my folks, who also picked us up and took on baby sitting duties for the weekend. So there was no slumming it in tents or being woken up by drunken Highland neds. We did however, have the joys of dealing with a screaming baby at 7 in the morning, which trust me is not much fun. Anyway, that's enough of my self indulgent ramblings, on with my shambolic attempt at reviewing...

PAWS for thought...

We deliberately made sure we arrived on the site nice and early to catch two of the noisiest and most entertaining live bands in Scotland at the moment, PAWS and Bronto Skylift.
It was the aforementioned PAWS that kicked the day off with a blistering set in the goNorth Seedlings Stage. The local three piece blast their way through a rip roaring set, which concludes with lead singer Phil Taylor setting up his mike in the middle of the crowd, leaving us in a wall of feedback. We quickly make a sharp exit to head down to catch Bronto to see if they are up to the job of matching that performance...

Bronto Sklyfit, yer gran would love 'em

Having seen Bronto a fair few times in the past twelve months, they rarely fail to impress. I'll admit that I don't find myself listening to their album all that much, only if I have had a really shitty day at work. However, every time I see them they impress the fuck out of me, they may well only be a two piece, but boy do they make one hell of an enjoyable racket. The only problem sometimes is knowing who to watch. One minute I am being hypnotised by their drummer Iain's stick wielding wonders, then the next thing I know Niall is down in the crowd hurling his guitar back onto the stage. It's noisy, it's brutal and fuck me it's great to watch.

so that's what happened to Herbie

After Bronto finish we find ourselves at a bit a loose end for a few hours, so we go for a bit of a wander round the site and also to find out what joys the press area has in store for us. In the end it turned out that it really had two main functions, one it was a good place to meet up with folk we knew and even more importantly there was a portaloo that didn't have a queue. Which might not seem like much, but it was great for the odd piss-stop.

Similarly to Wickerman, Belladrum is very much a family friendly festival; T in the Park this is not. At what other festivals would you find a Beetle covered in moss, or pianos scattered amongst the woods, that and the food is great. Over the weekend we gorged ourselves on things like Crepes, Chicken Risotto and even some Cullen Skink, that being said we still succumbed to the ways of the burger.

How Now Highland Cow

We also managed to hook up with my Highland partner in crime, Jamie from NetSounds, who was over manning the goNorth RockHopper mobile recording studio. The goNorth area proves to be the ideal place for us to chill out over the weekend, as it has seats and nice folk to hang out with. Theyalso had a whole host of live bands playing sessions for them and I guess you all know how much I love my sessions.

Later in the afternoon we headed down to see The Xcerts, in the past I have always thought that they might have been the kind of band I would love if I was 18. Being 33, they just make me feel very fucking old, however, the kids seem to go bat shit crazy for them. At the end my wife asks where abouts in Ireland they're from and why were they trying to sound American. Our friend Weaver soon informs us that they're actually from Aberdeen, fucking kids these days...

Talking of stuff that makes me feel old, we head up to catch some of Lightguides, a band that we had on the bill at our 'bloggers night' gig at goNorth. Again, I remain unconvinced by their pop-punk tunes, but I think it would be safe to say that The Pop Cop would have fucking loved it.

Where's Wally?

It's safe to say that my love of the Phantom Band isn't much of a secret, their last two albums have been my albums of 2009 & 2010, plus I have seen them too many times to recall. However, I did feel that there performance was a little bit flat, although I did speak to several other folk who thought they were amazing, each to their own I guess.

Louis Abbot and his Grizzly Adams-esq beard

Admiral Fallow on the other hand were on top form, they genuinely seemed pretty shocked at the number of folk that had turned up to see them, as they recalled that they'd played to virtually nobody the year before. Over the years I have seen a fair number of 'my wee bands', moving onto much bigger things, after the reaction that they got at Bella it looks like Admiral Fallow might the next Scottish band to join the ranks of bands such as Snow Patrol and Frightened Rabbit.

Highland folk going bat shit crazy for Admiral Fallow

After Admiral Fallow we found ourselves with a few hours to spare as there wasn't much else that we wanted to see. We ended up blagging our way into the backstage area, where we got to witness how the other half live, basically there was no queue at the bar and they have nice toilets. We also got to stand and watch as Texas warmed up to go on stage, turns out that Sharleen Spiteri does look like an SS Officer in real life... who knew. On our way back out we bumped into Niall from Bronto and Phil from PAWS, who had just been kicked out of the catering tent for starting a food fight, which seemed to involve flowers. That's modern rock 'n roll for you then!

wherever god shines his light...

To finish our Friday night off we made our way back up to the goNorth Seedlings stage for Kid Canaveral's headline set. As they open with 'Her Hair Hangs Down, drummer Scott joins the band at the front of the stage on guitar, and the tent is surprisingly pretty quiet. However, by the end of the song I was pleasantly surprised to find that the place was pretty damn packed, and 'no' it wasn't raining either. What follows is 30 minutes of pure unadulterated pop pleasure, as the band race through the highlights of their album 'Shouting At Wildlife', including my favourite song of last year 'And Another Thing!!' and their cracking wee cover of King Creosote's 'Missionary'. I might well have been knackered from being on my feet all day, but I still managed to pull off some rather dodgy dance moves, much to the embarrassment of Mrs Peenko.

For me personally, Kid Canaveral were the perfect way to end a really fun day. The Saturday at Bella now had a lot to live up to...

Jarv our beautiful butterfly

After a night in bed and a shower in the morning, we arrive rather early on site feeling suitably refreshed. We had deliberately made sure that we had gotten there pretty promptly as those crazy Detour kids had planned one of their now legendary 'Wee Jaunts'. Sadly we arrive to find out that they've had to cancel as Rachel Sermanni had gone home, Tommy Reilly didn't have a guitar and a whole load of other bands had plain old disappeared. We were however treated to an impromptu version of 'Without The Help of Sparks' from Jarv from Endor, which was rather ace.

The Folk Venga Boys

I always forget just how much I like Woodenbox, but it's always nice to be reminded. Their album 'Home & the Wildhunt' is cracking wee record, but in a live context the songs take on much more life, any fears of today finding us falling prey to a day one hangover are soon shook off by a barn storming set. Not only do all of the band look like they're having the time of their lives, but they're also tight as fuck with great tunes, so it's no real surprise that they get the crowd going wth their country-tinged pop.

Boycotts made me feel old, very fucking old..

Later in the afternoon we found ourselves back at the Seedlings Stage to catch the female fronted four piece, Boycotts. Having bought their debut EP a while back, I am still pretty undecided about whether I like Boycotts, I can see that there's potential there, but they're not quite there yet. That being said, their closing song Press Play is a cracking wee pop song. I'll defo be keeping my eyes and ears peeled for future releases.

We Were Promised Jetpacks felt like an odd choice as a main stage band, there was definitely a hardcore element of fans there to see them, however, the rest of the crow didn't seem too fussed about them. In true Jetpack fashion they don't appear to give two shits as they treat us to a number of songs from their forthcoming second album. Unfortunately, just as the band start to hit their stride we have to leave as we wanted to catch Endor at the Seedlings Stage. I will however, make sure that I catch them when they play Glasgow towards the end of the year (details of this gig should be announced very shortly).

Endor can't afford drums

I hate admitting that other folk are right, but fuck it, I have to hold my hands up to The Pop Cop, Endor are fucking great. There I have said it. At Wickerman two weeks prior they were one of the finest live bands I saw all weekend and at Belladrum it was more of the same and then some. Their self titled album was one of the most under-rated albums of 2010, however, with performances like this they're not going to stay a secret for much longer.

Love this band...

Love 'em!

Child's Play...

Hoe Doon

Later on in the afternoon we catch Woodenbox playing an uplugged set outside the goNorth RockHopper and fuck me it's good. Once again I found myself dancing, badly.
If my shitty memory serves me right, I do remember myself and Jamie from NetSounds having a male bonding moment about how much we love their album. Thankfully nobody overhears quite how gushing we get, perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that part...

Man Love
When it comes to great indie pop bands, Scotland really does have more than it's fair share. Aerials Up are another band who fall into this category. They've got great tunes and they certainly got the Seedlings Stage shaking their hips with their energetic pop tunes. With songs like 'Stay Awake' and 'All Your Mothers Daughters', they're undoubtedly going to establish themselves as ones to watch in the Scottish music scene.

Owner of a lonely heart

So as the day starts to draw to an end we catch bits of Be Like Pablo, who remind me a lot of Weezer. Then we made our way down to see Deacon Blue, who I must admit I was quite looking forward to, as they were on of the first bands I listened to when I was just a nipper. I don't know if it was my dislike of big crowds or just general boredom, however, I soon find myself abandoning my wife in favour of another former hero, Roddy Woomble performing in his folk singer guise. As good as he was, I wasn't overly wowed as I have seen him far too many times over the years, so his performance almost felt formulaic.
As the heavens opened and a months worth of rain descends upon the Belladrum site I regret my decision at leaving Deacon Blue, as I meet with a very soaked Mrs Peenko who was raving about how great Ricky Ross & Co. had been.
With the majority of campers returning to find their tents flooded, I was extremely grateful for a lift back home to my folks.

All in all, Belladrum was great weekend, great music, great food, some quality banter and one of the most ned-free festivals Scotland has to offer, just don't fucking camp at it.

A Massive Thank You Goes Out To Mrs Peenko For Taking All Of The Pictures For Me And For Babysitting Me For The Weekend xxx


  1. So you went to Belladrum and you DIDN'T go see Frank Turner?


  2. I heard him in the background, I'm not a fan I'm afraid