The decision to go to Audio Soup this year was a last minute one - one of those things that happens when fate steps in to guide you in the direction you need to go in order to restore your soul to something resembling a former glory.
So, with two kids, husband, dog and a hastily packed van, we headed south on a sunny but blustery Saturday morning to a new location for the little East Lothian festival, a teeny valley surrounded by trees and cornfields just off the A1 and within walking distance of Scotland's sunniest town, Dunbar, which is itself only around twenty miles south of Edinburgh.
The last minute decision to go meant that we missed Tribute Friday and main stage performances by the Counterfeit Clash, Beezer and Dirty Harry. Beezer were back for the second year in a row, and it was also the second year in a row that a Blondie tribute act graced the stage. Friday night was, by all accounts on the following day, "banging", despite a few sound issues on the main stage.
These were sorted out by the next day, however, and Saturday's main stage line up kicked off with Vacant Life and Penny Black, followed by We Came From The North, an instrumental four piece rock band from Edinburgh.
Rock 'n' roll band Easter Street from the Scottish Borders were up next, then Yorkshire's the Mighty Vipers, whose blend of reggae, ska, calypso, swing and all sorts else was the perfect mix for getting the morning-after-the-night-before Soupers going again.
The main stage hosted another Edinburgh band - Jen and the Gents - next, before skanksters The JB Conspiracy stormed the trailer, hot on the heels of appearances with legends Bad Manners and Sick of it All.
Grousebeater Sound System have also been out and about on the festival circuit this summer. Their brand of "celt tech" music had the crowd jumping and swirling, heads down and hands up - always my fave rave move. There were a few 'driving the car' moves too, and the obligatory 'big box little box'. Happy halcyon days and the start of what was to be a very good night.
With the fading light, it got a wee bit colder, and the kids - being boys and of a certain age where it is "way not cool" to dance with their ageing raving mother - headed off to the camp fire to poke it with sticks and recreate the moves they have seen the firedancers at Belladrum pull.
So it was from the camp fire that we watched Dark Soul featuring Naledi and Nasty P - highlights being a truly brilliant version of My Favourite Game and that burlesque routine with the illuminated umbrella.
The camp fire was also our vantage point for My Bad Sister, who say that 'caberave' is the name of their game and they certainly do not disappoint, tearing up the Soup stage and blowing the crowd away despite the already blustery conditions, the perfect warm up to Bristol-based sound system and headline act, Dr Meaker, who closed the main stage in suitably awesome style.
Sunday morning was even more blustery than the previous day, with the dance tent succumbing to the pressure - after hours of doing the 'gaffa tape skank', organisers conceded that Mother Nature had this battle and by mid-afternoon the tent was down.
The wind meant that it was colder too, and some of the early acts on the main stage on Sunday suffered as festie-goers opted to watch from the still burning camp fire, or the teepees, or were still cosied up in their vans and tents.
Kids and a dog meant that we were up and about though, and that we spent most of the morning at the free bouncy castle and in the kids' area. The afternoon was mainly spent in the truly beautiful Beat-root cafe - homemade food, tea in mugs, chai, energy balls, and some fantastic performances throughout the day made this community-based project the place to be.
Yoko Pwno were one such performance. Featuring Bombskare saxophonist Calum Cummins, the set saw some very earnest and technical ambient electronic performances from the three piece.
Then we had a date at the big main stage with Captain Mustard and the Dijon 5. Any band that cites their influences - however tongue in cheek - as including "Stephan Dennis, Roxette, Guns n Roses, Neil Diamond, The Flight Of The Conchords, Frank Zappa, Primal Scream, The Beatles, Kenny Rogers, Dave Gilmour, Elton John, Mark Thomas, The Chemical Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Socialism, bigger boys telling us to do it" is good enough for me.
Highlights of the set, which typically involved a significant amount of audience participation, were "These are not the drugs" and, for this dyed-in-the-wool red head, "Ginger Girl". I loved this band, they were one of the highlights of the weekend - and for days afterwards the kids have been cheerfully belting out "these are not the drugs you are looking for" while cleaning their teeth before school. Catchy stuff.
It was back to Beat-root for a couple more sets. Kickin' Flies is a country blues collaboration, with another familiar face from Bombskare on harmonica, vocals and uke. The cafe crowd were lovin them, with an impromptu and almost improbable version of Bombskare's Do all Dogs Go to Heaven surprising even Mr Pennycuick himself.
Spartan Tartan, one of last year's highlights, were up next. It was a pared down line-up and a rocked-up performance, opening with a snarly, punky version of The Proclaimers' Over and Done with and segwaying into Iggy's Passenger, starting as they meant to go on, taking nae prisoners in another stormin' set.
The Victorian Trout Conspiracy have spent the summer gigging at various festivals throughout Scotland and Audio Soup is something of a home festie for this ten piece Edinburgh-based band. Fresh from a performance at Trad on the Tyne in nearby Haddington on the Saturday night, this was also the last gig with cornet player Craig Huggan who is off to New Zealand for a year.
The Trouts, as they are known to their growing legions of fans, always produce hi-energy sets however many gigs in a row they may have played, and the crowd, however chilled out they may be, always give back everything they get. Skanking in a field with a bunch of happy liked-minded souls as the sun goes down is one of the best ways I can think of to spend a Sunday. Oh, and this particular hi-energy performance also saw a wee guest appearance by East Lothian's favourite skankster, Bombskare Andy.
The Horndog Brass Band is another band for which Audio Soup is their homemade festival, and who have also spent a summer of weekends gigging up and down the country. Unfortunately for us however, they were to be the last band of the weekend as work and school commitments meant we had to head back up the road.
Short and sweet though it was for us, Audio Soup was a great wee festival, worlds apart from the corporate behomeths, and truly the epitome of the punk ethos of doing it yourself - a significant proportion of the crowd were there helping out in some capacity or another, also highlighting its inclusiveness.
The festival is a genuine melting pot for musical talent, with a generous helping of organic food and fantastic craic on the side. It reinforces a sense of community and well-being amongst those that go, with various focal points for people to get together and properly chill out and relax - the camp fire, the Beat-root cafe, the trees, the kids area, the bar, the hammocks, the Thistly Cross bar - which was kinda apt given the plentiful amount of thistles in the site (although that didn't seem to bother the many bare-footed crusty types).
Despite nearing its 1000 capacity, it never felt crowded or busy, particularly when compared to some of the bigger festivals - rather than being rammed in up against folk at the campsite or the toilets or at the stage, as you are at so many other festivals, there was space to breathe, to dance.
There were more dogs than kids, and the kids that were there had total freedom, mooching around, playing in the hay, on the bouncy castle, in the trees or the kids area, sitting by the camp fire, occasionally taking in a band, only coming back to their parents if they wanted food or money or, maybe once or twice, a cuddle :-)
There was little sign of any radge (as we say in Scotland) behaviour at the festival, just a shared atmosphere of peace, good will and a willingness to party and have a good time. And while this was a first festival for some, it was part of a way of life for many many others.
This was the third year of Audio Soup and although it has grown to more than 100 acts over three days and four stages, it has managed to retain its identity and vibe – and its growing reputation on the festie circuit. It is not just not just family friendly but is just like a big friendly family, there is no need for “free hugs" signs here - everyone knew someone who knew someone there and the heartfelt hugs were between genuine friends and like-minded souls.
Its eco-credentials are good too, as well as the organic food, there was a £5 eco-tax which was returned to festie-goers when they left and handed in their rubbish and showed organisers their tent packed away and ready to use another day.
Organisers had also, erm, organised, buses from Edinburgh city centre, and car sharing was encouraged, further emphasising the close community values of the event. And which may also have something to do with the guy parked next to us leaving his keys in his ignition all weekend.
Audio Soup is definitely a festival to be proud of; bodies may have been broken by some of the excesses of the weekend but spirits were certainly stronger and soaring, singing along in the words of Colonel Mustard: “everyone's happy, everyone's smiling, no one here is sad any more.”
The secret ingredient in the Audio Soup recipe is undoubtedly the people. It was a pleasure to be a part of it and we will be back for extra helpings next year.
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