Nestled in the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders, this small wee festival is settling nicely into its new home near Cranshaws, which is around an hour or so south of Edinburgh.
This was the festival's second year at Cranshaws and the calm serenity of the site seems to permeate through everyone there. And I love the fact that the directions to the festival on its website include the line “past the reservoir”. Very cool.
The almost perfectly formed site – a wee piece of flat ground gently sheltered between the hills and on the banks of a river - was a little bit longer this year and the layout slightly changed, but to good effect, with the four stages all getting wee areas of their own and the sounds and beats of one stage never impinging on any of the others.
The stages, tents, bars, stalls and food outlets were still all within easy walking distance, as was the decent sized campsite too. And this year, the main festie site featured two campfires, one by the entrance to the site and the healing area – back for 2015 - and the other by the Collider dance tent.
If anyone has any doubts about the Edinburgh music scene, they should head to Audio Soup for an introduction to the vibrant and diverse talent emanating from Auld Reekie. This was Soup's fifth year and arguably its best line-up yet.
First band for us on Friday was Asazi Space Funk Explosion on the main stage. The four piece who hail from Edinburgh and Cape Town describe their style as afro-beat/psychedelic/roots/funk/rock/celtic and they certainly lived up to that in an eclectic set that kicked off with some very psychedelic sounds on a very atmospheric smokey stage.
The still brilliantly named Supa & Da Kryptonites from Dunfermline (okay, not Edinburgh but not that far away) were back at Soup again this year with a slot in the Beetroot Cafe on Friday night, their blend of hip hop, reggae and funk as popular as ever. This band is on something of a roll with around a dozen festival appearances lined up this summer, including opening the Scooter Tent at Wickerman later in July, which also features the likes of Neneh Cherry, Jimmy Cliff and Example and DJ Wire.
In a little bit of Audio Soup magic, I wandered into the main stage area hoping to catch Rumba De Bodas having seen them here last year and enjoyed their mix of swing, Latin vibes and ska-rhythms. I had missed them entirely though, but was instead treated to the John Langan Band, who I thought were due to play the following night.
And I am so glad I didn't miss them. This dynamic three-piece reminded me a little of Shooglenifty and Gogol Bordello with their Celtic, Gypsy, Roma and Flamenco inspired sound and the three of them banged out an infectiously rocking, hi-energy performance.
The Glasgow-based musical travellers have a well-deserved rep as a compelling live band and I would definitely recommend seeing them if you are lucky enough to get the chance. From Audio Soup they headed up to the new Isle of Bute festival and they will also be playing the likes of Belladrum, Doune the Rabbit Hole and Shambala festivals this summer. Catch 'em if you can.
In another melting pot of musical styles, The Matatunes took to the Beat-root Cafe stage late on Friday night, providing some killer tunes in what was almost an album launch party for this Edinburgh-based band.
The seven-piece outfit, whose members originally hail from as far afield as Fife and Spain, collected finished copies of their new album Audio Crime to sell at Audio Soup at four o'clock in the afternoon and were on stage seven hours later. We got a copy and have been listening to it non-stop ever since, loving its ska, punk and rock 'n' roll influences – you gotta love a band that does such an awesome cover of The Pogues' Fiesta – and the song Monday Club was kinda appropriate for the drive home.
It was bedtime for us but the party went on well into the wee small hours for many with the musical show at the Wub Hut and the Beat-root Cafe continuing until at least three in the morning.
Saturday morning dawned blustery but dry and relatively sunny, although as the wind died down during the day the drizzly showers got heavier and more frequent.
Bombskare fans may recognise the name – Andy Pennycuick is the singer and ska dance legend of the mighty Bombskare. In this incarnation however, he was providing guitar and some vocals in support of his wonderfully talented daughters.
The harmonious youngsters, bouyed by the appreciative audience in the stowed out tent, gave a stellar performance, their half hour set comprising classics such as Down To The River To Pray, The Speed of The Sound of Loneliness and Adele's Rolling In The Deep. They belted out the tunes, their beautiful and powerful voices delighting the crowd and (I hope he won't mind me saying this) outshining their rightly proud dad.
Back to the main stage and it was Roy's Iron DNA up next, their electronica trip-hop perfect for an afternoon in a field in the sun. After a pitstop for gorgeous veggie chilli from the Beat-Root Cafe and scrummy crepes from Mutley's beautiful Airstream trailer, it was back to the main stage for The Backyard Rhythm Orchestra.
This is another high energy band that got everyone dancing and that the kids and I fell in love with. They describe themselves as a “silly bunch of Geordies making party music for the people” - what's not to like? Oh, and they have a flutist, which is kinda cool too, although they maintain that it isn't the band members that matter, it's the audience. And this was especially apparent with the appearance of Funkus the Boogieman and the Stance Appreciation Society both on stage and in the crowd, encouraging everyone to show off their best funk dance stances during the set.
In a change of pace and style, next up on the main stage was The Dark Jokes from Edinburgh. This formidable three-piece band fuse drums, bass, electronics, guitars and harmonies creating a multi-layered style of alternative rock.
They have supported the likes of Kate Nash and the Magic Numbers and released their debut album Ecko Transmissions at the end of last year to critical acclaim, with Vic Galloway praising their vision and “truly epic arrangements”.
Their set, which featured Chinese Asylum as well as material from Ecko Transmissions, worked kinda well in the atmospheric conditions, with those Audio Soupers who braved the rain to see them treated to an immense sound that reminded me of early-nineties-era Warrior Soul.
As the rain got heavier, the Beat-Root Cafe entertained and fed the people of Audio Soup with performances from the likes of Jamie and Shoony, back at Soup again, and Steve Ingle and the Druids, and Yoko Pwno, another Soup regular.
Meanwhile, across the hay pile (which had been a neatly arranged seating area made up of hay bales until around 11ish on the Friday night when the first hay was flung, setting the scene for the rest of the weekend) the Cackle Bar was offering up its usual formula of “fun, fancies and frolics” with a wide range of music and performances.
The rain and the fun continued throughout the night, and although the rain had cleared up by Sunday morning the fun continued.
Well, for most folk anyway, although unfortunately not for us as we had to head back up the road due to work commitments, missing Sunday night headliners and ska faves, Bombskare at what is their home festival.
Before leaving though we managed to catch Sea Bass Kid, also back at Audio Soup for second helpings of reggae, blues, folk, ska, rock and funk, and squeeze in some more of the Beat-Root Cafe's veggie chilli.
I was also determined to see Spliff Richard and the Snapping Turtles before we left, billed as a seven-piece 70s funk super band featuring members of Bombskare, Certain Death, Black Mirror and Pedigree and Chums, and they didn't disappoint, getting the Sunday afternoon revellers bouncing and carrying them along in their energetic wake. Good times indeed.
Despite growing every year – numbers were up again and nearer the two thousand mark this year - Audio Soup remains a great wee festival, worlds apart from the biggies, and the epitome of the punk ethos of doing it yourself. It never felt crowded or busy and there were hardly any queues at the bar or for food or the toilets.
As well as a fantastic showcase for musical talent with more than 100 acts over three days and seven stages, Audio Soup supports local producers such as Thistly Cross Cider and The Big Blu – provider of the finest stone baked pizzas ever cooked in a blue van.
The festival lives by its abiding principles of inclusivity and community, with plenty of focal points for people to get together and properly chill out and relax - the camp fires, the Beat-root Cafe, the kids area, the bars – or to get together and dance like no one is watching and as though the world may just end tomorrow and you need to give it your absolute all in the Collider Tent.
Kids have lots of freedom to mooch around, play in the hay, or sit by the camp fire, playing the bongos, occasionally taking in a band and only coming back to their parents if they want food or money, while younger children could enjoy the Kidding Around-run area which fosters co-operation, sharing and child-led play.
I have said before that this festival is not just not just family friendly, it is like a big friendly family get together - everyone knows someone there and if you don't when you arrive you certainly will by the time you leave.
So much of Audio Soup is run by volunteers, almost everyone was there because they wanted to be and not because they were being paid to be there, and that came shining through in the general ambience of the festival, full of peace, love, understanding and sharing - food, stories, experiences, drink, music, talent, laughs, sharing the stage, sharing the camp fires.
Many of the crew, the audience and the bands themselves have been on the road almost non-stop over the last few weeks, moving from Knockengarroch in May to Eden in June and Kelburn earlier in July before landing in Audio Soup, and again, the sense of community that comes from that is a shining beacon in an often quite depressing world.
The organisers promised to bring a bit of sunshine and magic to the Scottish summer and they certainly delivered yet again. Soup is definitely on the menu for us next year.
latest on this festival
festival home page
line-ups & rumours
line-ups & rumours