what is special about Bella is the eclectic vibe

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2011 review

published: Thu 11th Aug 2011

around the festival site

Friday 5th to Saturday 6th August 2011
Belladrum Estate, by Beauly, Inverness-shire IV4 7BA, Scotland MAP
£90 including parking and camping, under 12s free - SOLD OUT
last updated: Fri 5th Aug 2011

Saturday was sunny again, although chillier, and there was some (misplaced in many cases in retrospect) optimism amongst the campers that the site may dry out enough in time for us not to have to be towed out the following day.

The festival was generally busier on Saturday but still felt hassle and stress-free. On the main stage The Amphetameanies put in a polished and popular afternoon performance and there was plenty of old school ska dancing going on in the garden from die hard bovver-booted and skin-headed fans as well as the hippies and younger new fans; this sort of happy mix is what I love about this chilled out festival where there is little or no aggro.

In the Hothouse tent it was time to catch glam trash punks Diddums, who didn't disappoint with their leather jackets and shades and James Hetfield look-a-like guitarist. They claimed all their songs were about girls and many of them were, although one was in fact about "being the New York Dolls in the 1970s".

We Were Promised Jetpacks
Back to the main stage then for Edinburgh's We Were Promised Jetpacks in what was their first gig since December. The four piece band with a big sound were frustrated by the set up, and spent a lot of their set time tuning their instruments. They had little to no interaction with the audience - judging by this performance they are a muso band rather than festival entertainment, which resulted in a rather disappointing experience for both band and audience.

Aberdeen band The Lorelei, who reformed after a chance meeting at Bella in 2005, had the tea time slot at The Potting Shed. Their loyal followers enjoyed another storming performance from another Tartan Heart regular and folk punk favourite of mine.

On the main stage it was the turn of Newton Faulkner, who despite a horrific accident earlier this year which saw the finger-picking guitar maestro break his wrist and dislocate his hand, still sounded fantastic, his talent and spirit of personality shining through. He was hugely popular with the Bella crowd, packing out the arena and filling the natural amphitheatre with his music, no mean feat for just one young man, a guitar and a drum. His love of performing was brought to the fore as he encouraged the audience to imagine that we were all on a big pirate ship, imploring us to let him be our captain. And he seemed genuinely surprised and a little bit delighted that for the first time during a haunting performance of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' somebody crowd surfed.

3 Daft Monkeys
Festival veterans 3 Daft Monkeys hit the Hothouse stage with an energetic 45 minute set into which they packed nine songs, including 'Eyes of Gaia', 'Social Vertigo' and 'Paranoid Big Brother', determined as they were to make the most of the experience having driven two days to get to Bella. The tent filled up during their performance and one of my best memories of Tartan Heart 2011 is of the crowd of crusties and hippies and kids all waltzing away to this band.

Deacon Blue, who I always forget were huge in the late 80s/early 90s, were a disappointment to many at what was their first ever Scottish festival performance. The first couple of songs were lacklustre, and almost as if the band felt entitled to a rapturous reception without working for it. So it was off to see Hothouse stage headliners Kassidy for us.

There's something about Glasgow's Kassidy that I can't quite put my finger on, but I kinda like them against my better judgement, and they are very popular with the kids (in my defence I don't like them as much as 'the kids' do but I may be too old and cynical for that). This is the third time I have seen them in less than a year and they grow more confident with each performance. They have a great look, some annoyingly catchy toons - 'Waking Up Sideways', 'Oh My God', 'Stray Cats', 'Take Another Ride' are the ones that stick in my head most - and beautiful four part harmonies which kinda suck you into their idealised world of nostalgia. Which is comforting I suppose, and sort of perfect for a chilled out tartan heart festival hundreds of miles away from a burning London.

around the festival site
Belladrum isn't about the line-up, it is something else. There is always so much going on throughout the weekend that actually the music isn't that important, and it is almost a bonus when something beautiful happens - like Newton Faulkner or Frank Turner this year. What is special about Bella is the eclectic vibe, the peace and harmony, the tranquillity of it all, the fact that there is always something new and surprising around every corner, and the fact that despite evolving and changing it still somehow stays the same with regular and loyal fans, and traders and artists, all turning up year after year after year. It is the fantastic food, the organic beer, the prose tent, the discussions on life, love and the universe. It is real nappies and storytelling and bare feet and performance artists and arts and crafts and the Celtic wishing tree and moss-covered VWs and pianos in the trees and everything in the Hielan Fields.

It is the fact that it proves year after year that people can have a good time and a very decent party without having to drink themselves into oblivion or throwing up in front of everyone or getting all aggro on some misplaced grounds of injustice. It is about catching up with old friends, like-minded souls and spending quality time with your loved ones. It's about the kids. Quite simply, it is what everyday life should be like, if only everyday life didn't get in the way.
review by: Clare Damodaran

photos by: Clare Damodaran

Friday 5th to Saturday 6th August 2011
Belladrum Estate, by Beauly, Inverness-shire IV4 7BA, Scotland MAP
£90 including parking and camping, under 12s free - SOLD OUT
last updated: Fri 5th Aug 2011


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