The Celtic bands prove the gems of the music on offer at Belladrum

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2009 review

published: Thu 13th Aug 2009

around the festival site (1)

Friday 7th to Saturday 8th August 2009
Belladrum Estate, by Beauly, Inverness-shire IV4 7BA, Scotland MAP
weekend £80; Saturday £50; children (12 and under) Free - SOLD OUT
last updated: Thu 6th Aug 2009

So it's Thursday night and the festival already have half the folk on site. For me this is usually a time to just mooch around and find my bearings. The site is very compact for a medium sized festival and one can cover the arena area within less than 20 minutes at a stroll. The Healing Fields with its relaxing atmosphere is situated on the far side of the field, set against an amazing backdrop of the Scottish Highlands.

around the festival site (2)
I wander around for a little longer but everyone seems to be congregating around the Black Isle Bar. The festival have put on a couple of bands to form the opening 'Craic it Open Ceildh', and crack it open they do. The night is opened by the Storm Chasers but I was deep in conversation elsewhere and I missed them, but by the time I arrive rhythmnreel have started. On the face of it they appear to be a traditional Celtic band, with a trio of fiddlers and an accordionist, but they prove to be far more than that adding a rock twist. Obviously well known by the crowd they received a tremendous reception and it was wonderful to see parents and young children dancing together. Throughout the set Catriona Macaffer switched between the accordion and the pipes with ease, but after 'Alasdair's Set' I had itchy feet and it was off for a bimble.

around the festival site (4)
I found myself at the Verb garden Stage for a comedy set which was quite disappointing. I listened to the ramblings of Mark Nelson for 20 minutes. His set was not well thought out, and he just could not handle bored hecklers, so it was another cider and then find a spot to sit down where I wiled away a couple of hours talking to a lady from the local area. I was tempted by the lighting and the backdrops of the 'Mothers Ruin', but the music was just awful. I was in the mood for some psy trance, and I have no idea what they were playing. It was then back to camp, and sitting up until sunrise and beyond with the young folk. Finding it prudent I thought I better get some sleep and fell in my tent around 10 am.

Friday started for me around 12 with the sound check from the Hothouse Stage near our camp, followed by Shutter, a metal band which forced me away from the camp. So back into the arena and more looking around, and I ended up at the Garden Stage and caught the set of Scooty and the Skyhooks which was fun to say the least. They played a mixture of covers from soul to ska to present tracks, and I am certain they played some Specials. They finished with a compilation of '60's tracks that went down well.

The Garden Stage was yet again full of families with older and small children, all just taking in the atmosphere. Kid British was next on stage but I went for a wander and found myself a bench and spent a pleasant afternoon talking to folk camped near me as well as my daughter and her new found friends. The atmosphere really was just too relaxed to go on a mission, and I had great fun watching the kids wandering around nagging people for their empty glasses for the deposits. In the background is an old gent constantly playing the didgeridoo, which just adds to the unusual nature of things?

around the festival site (3)
I did manage to make my way over to the Verb Garden and caught a talk on Fair-trade issues, something close to my heart, and then I had a walk around the stalls for shiny things, and found the prices to be more than reasonable but very cheap. Festy hats at £5 were soon mine as was a hooded lambs wool poncho for a baby. It was then back to the meeting area with a cider in hand, and there I find that the Orkestra del Sol have set up an impromptu gig. To call this brass based band whacky is an understatement, and a crowd of a couple of hundred soon gather. Anyway I am off, as I want to see the Peatbog Faeries, who clash with another favourite the Alabama 3.

The Peatbogs are not well known South of the Border, but are one of my favourites. It is hard to describe them, but I don't think I would be far wrong from calling them a Celtic Dreadzone, using Celtic tunes rather than Reggae The band play a fusion of Celtic, rock electronic, you name it, and many tracks are based around Peter Morrison who plays Pipes and whistle, although other tracks are based around individual members. They have the crowd rocking, especially to the finale of 'Folk Police'.

Again whole families are in the arena, and they are all loving it, but this is spoilt by the headliner of the Editors, whom I soon become bored with after about 4 songs. They do not seem to engage with the crowd, so I head of to camp. I was told later they got better so maybe I missed out. On the way to camp I again stop at the Mothers Ruin hoping for a dance. I don't know maybe I have a different idea of what dance is, and it appears that someone doesn't know what bass is. So back a camp a few chats and then bed around 1am.

around the festival site (4)
So Saturday comes to us, and it's the final day. I am up and about as I want to see the 3 Daft Monkeys, but yet again there is a clash this time with the The Dangleberries. 3DM win out, but I am disappointed for them that they have a lunchtime set. They still managed to draw an audience of around 300, which for a festival lunch is not too bad, even with Athene Roberts having a croaky voice.

Most of the tracks they played came from last year's album 'Social Vertigo', and once they get too the title track of 'Social Vertigo' Tim Ashton gets the crowd dancing. Their set really did set me up for the day, but I was still sad at missing the Dangleberries, and I do think maybe a little more thought could go into the scheduling. The day was followed by wandering around and just chatting to folk and my daughter.

I was just waiting on Noah and the Whale, as I missed seeing them anywhere last year and wanted to see if they had any new stuff. Then to my utter joy I was walking to the Bellabar, and the where The Dangleberries playing an impromptu set within a wooded area called the 'Treelaxation'. They could not have found a better venue for it as well. They seemed to be hidden amongst the bushes, and that just added to the atmosphere.

The Dangleberries are a pipe and drums band but with a twist. They play traditional tunes but also do covers as well, and here I heard anything and everything, from Valerie to the Screaming Yap Yaps. They have a lot of energy and it is refreshing to see a band laughing and joking amongst themselves whilst playing. They get the crowd dancing and involved, having people from the crowd dancing in front of the band, with a particular lady grabbing folk from the crowd. I managed to get behind the crowd and got some really good photographs of one of the best crowds of the festival, again young and old alike, (unfortunately I left my camera on the bus).

Ocean Colour Scene
So we come to the headliners for the final night, and I must admit I was conflicted so I spent my time floating between all three, Ocean Colour Scene, British Sea Power, and Seth Lakeman. There was nothing memorable about any of them, but I soaked in the atmosphere from the crowd, but too be honest after seeing 3DM and the marvellous set from The Dangleberries I was rather pleased.

So I chose the meeting area, and then got talking to a group and we went off to use the last of our beer tokens. Vodka was the last drink available, so with that in hand we headed to the Palais to watch Summer Holiday. Having to leave early in the morning they headed off to bed, and I bumped into my daughter and her friends. It was off to Mothers Ruin to see if we could have a final dance and the music was as Katrina said "Music for people on Acid". Thus I spent the final hours inside Belladrum until the security kicked us out at gone 2am. A full breakfast in the campsite for £6 and long chats too folk around until dawn and then the festival is over and a great time is had by all.
review by: Rufus Gwertigan

photos by: Carol Keith / Paul Melville

Friday 7th to Saturday 8th August 2009
Belladrum Estate, by Beauly, Inverness-shire IV4 7BA, Scotland MAP
weekend £80; Saturday £50; children (12 and under) Free - SOLD OUT
last updated: Thu 6th Aug 2009


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