Festival Season: A Summer Wasting

Come drizzle or ash cloud, the Scottish music jamboree will not be defeated – here we cast an eye over the highlights on this summer's typically mental festival calendar

Feature by Paul Mitchell | 31 May 2011
  • Wickerman

So. Many. Festivals! We feared a cull during the first wave of the recession (what, did you think we were done yet?) but it seems that despite these impecunious times the ever-optimistic Scots still believe in summer; and who are we to dissuade anyone of that notion? The list is lengthy, and it's as nuts as it is lip-smacking. So, without further ado...

West End, 3-26 Jun. Where Glasgow’s West End does its best Rio de Janeiro/ New Orleans impression and keeps it up for the best part of a month, hoping nobody spots the difference; and after three weeks, nobody does. In amongst the comedy, theatre et al, there’s a solid music line-up, with The Horrors, Fence Collective and the wonderful Inspector Tapehead all set to guest. (www.westendfestival.co.uk)

Coloursfest, 4 Jun. 2011 is the tenth anniversary of Scotland’s largest dance party taking place in the Braehead Arena which this year features trance master Ferry Corsten, hard house Headhunterz and BBC’s Pete Tong. It costs £35. There’s not much else to say other than it tends to be populated by the shy and retiring types on their sole annual excursion and as such is one of the gentler family friendly festival experiences this summer (and pardon our pseudomania). (colours.co.uk)

goNorth, 9-10 Jun. This Inverness exhibit of all that is great and good in the (sometimes) forgotten wilderness of Northern Scotland comes with added incentive in 2011. All acts selected to showcase over the two days will get the chance to appear at one or more of Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, The Wickerman Festival, Loopallu, Summer In The City 2011 and Wizard Festival. Those chosen already include Mitchell Museum, Panda Su, The Scottish Enlightenment and a host of other seriously guid acts. (www.gonorth.biz)

Doune the Rabbit Hole, 10-12 Jun. Now I give you fair warning, you have to take your choice (go for Off [With] Yer Heid wherever you end up), but the three festivals happening this weekend look like crackers, and are extremely good value for money. The Rabbit Hole features The Vaselines and Mungo’s Hi-Fi atop the billing, but there’s high-class, locally sourced scran to be munched, dance, theatre, comedy and an existential pub quiz to be experienced. There’s even a place to park the kids. It’s £68 all in, and getting there is easy; just read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction. (dounetherabbithole.co.uk)

Eden, 10-12 Jun. If you’ve got a carbon friendly set of principles (and if not, why not?) and like music and dancing and generally having a very pleasant time then Eden is the just the ticket. Located in the Raehill Meadows, Moffat, this year’s line-up features 1 stages, 300 acts (Gomez and Parov Stelar as headliners) and many, many positive vibes. £79 for the weekend. (www.edenfestival.co.uk)

RockNess, 10-12 Jun. They boast of the unparalleled beauty of the setting for this festival, square on the southern shores of Loch Ness, and you know, they have a point. NME made this their Best Small Festival 2011, but in truth, it’s not that wee, with a cluster of smaller arenas around the main stage showcasing the latest up-and-coming acts, with a heavy nod to the festival’s origins as a dance festival. This year’s headliners are Kasabian, Chemical Brothers and Paolo Nutini, surrounded by quality such as DJ Shadow, Skrillex, The Cribs and Simian Mobile Disco. There’s a comedy stage, but surely one of the more bizarre festival sights of the summer will be that of Mr Nice himself, Howard Marks, on the main stage with anecdotes of his rather eventful existence. Tickets start at £149 for the weekend. (www.rockness.co.uk)

Leith Festival, 10-19 Jun). The music strand of this increasingly impressive festival is deliberately low key, with a lot of free sessions around, but it doesn’t lack for quality with the Leith Festival Music Sessions (at various venues) featuring the likes of T-bound Aerials Up, Miss The Occupier and Any Colour Black. (www.leithfestival.com)

The Insider, 17-20 Jun. A delightful gem of a festival which takes place at Inshriach House near Aviemore and features loads of great music this year with appearances from Lau, Hidden Orchestra, The Banana Sessions, Bronto Skylift, French Wives... jesus, all the good bands you’ve seen locally in the past couple of years. It’s pretty exclusive (i.e. small), so get booking asap. Weekend tickets are £75. (www.insiderfestival.com)

TweedLove, 18 Jun. Tweedlove is a week-long festival of riding bikes and good times in the Tweed Valley. How those good times come about is entirely up to you, but the Frightened Rabbit boys from Selkirk take to the stage in a small venue in nearby Peebles on 18 Jun, supported by The Filthy Tongues. The gig is in aid of making sure the festival gets to ride again (sorry) next year. The weather’s better down there, so on yer... (oh dear). £15. (www.tweedlove.com)

Kelburn Garden Party, 1-3 Jul. Well, we raved about this one last year, and shall do so again without remorse (it’s the ‘fucking painted castle!’ wot done it for us). Largs, Ayrshire provides the setting for an eclectic mini-Glasto catering to the rockers, folkies, technoheads and, erm, anyone who may be a combination of the above and/or defies pigeonholing. Sons and Daughters, JD Twitch (Optimo), Iona Marshall and DC Breaks are bill-toppers, but it’s all good, really! £55 in advance, £70 on the door for a weekend pass. (www.kelburngardenparty.com)

Dundee Blues Bonanza, 1-3 Jul. This free three day epic takes place in over 30 venues in the Blues Capital of Scotland. I have no idea about which bands are any good, but with over 12,000 folk expected to attend, it does sound like a great (if occasionally misty-eyed) party. (www.dundeebluesbonanza.co.uk)

T in the Park, 8-10 Jul. The Mac Daddy of Scottish festivals, this year Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Beyonce are all set to shake their thang on the main stage. Away from the bigger acts, there really is much on offer; not least the T Break stage for emerging home-grown talent, where the likes of Biffy Clyro and Snow Patrol have gone before. Hoping to follow, the likes of maverick instrumental trio Lady North, Glaswegian avant rock combo United Fruit and the ambient pop of Conquering Animal Sound stand up amongst a strong bill of hopefuls. Tickets, alas, tend to sell out well in advance but there’s always eBay. (www.tinthepark.com)

Hebridean Celtic Festival, 13-16 Jul. The Fèis Cheilteach Innse Gall takes place annually in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, and on top of the Celtic music (previous alumni include Runrig, The Waterboys and Van Morrison), offers the chance to steep yourself in Gallic heritage with workshops in Gaelic storytelling and language tasters. Topping the bill this year are KT Tunstall and Seth Lakeman. Tha sin glè mhath! Weekend tickets are £65. (www.hebceltfest.com, www.scotlandsislands.com)

Linkylea, 16 Jul. With a name as cute as that you can’t resist, can you? Well, when you discover that this one-dayer has been set up to raise money for disadvantaged children and young adults in adults in Gwalior, India you may well say; ‘Well what about the disadvantaged children at home?’. But you’d be an ill-considered prick! Philly Bouchereau, The Black Diamond Express and DJ Astroboy all feature, as does a BBQ and facepainting and all for a mere £15. (www.linkyleafestival.org.uk)

Wickerman, 22-23 Jul. ‘The Wickerman Festival – Better Than It Needs To Be’? Well, possibly. A family-friendly affair in Dumfries and Galloway very proud of its luxury accommodation and toilets that aren’t, well, bog standard. Echo & the Bunnymen and Feeder are the headliners, but an eclectic mix of the old (but Young at Heart, The Bluebells) and new (Miaoux Miaoux) lead us nicely to the ceremonial burning of the Wickerman (after the classic British horror flick) at Festival’s end. There’s also a children’s area, workshops, beer tent, crafts, a cinema, and even a dubiously titled ‘Sherpa’ service for anyone needing a hand carting their booze to the campsite. Tickets are £90 for weekend with camping. (www.thewickermanfestival.co.uk)

Rewind, 29-31 Jul. Head to Perth if you want to be transported all the way back to the 80s. Then in July, they have a festival to mark the decade that taste supposedly forgot, then seemed to revise opinion of, as is always the way. But there is no arguing with Tony Hadley, The Human League, Billy Ocean or Rick Astley. Weekend camping is £105. (www.rewindfestival.com)

Edge Festival, 1-31 Aug. One of the plethora of festivals that happen in Edinburgh in August, a staggering array of quality gigs is to be expected across the city's smallest to tallest venues. With Chad VanGaalen (Sneaky Pete's, 19 Aug), Warpaint (Queen's Hall, 23 Aug), Sebadoh (Cabaret Voltaire, 24 Aug) and Best Coast (Bongo Club, 30 Aug) already announced, expect this year’s to be no less intriguing. (www.theedgefestival.com)

Tartan Heart Festival, Belladrum, 5-6 Aug. After seven years of ever increasing profile, we can forgive the organisers the fact that Scouting For Girls headlined there not so long ago, because the line-up is generally pretty damn sweet. Them Bunnymen are still knocking about, joined by the likes of Anna Calvi, Easy Star All Stars and festival ever-presents, The Dangleberries (make your own joke). Weekend camping tickets are £90. (www.tartanheartfestival.co.uk)

LuckyMe’s 3-Day Festival (11-13 Aug). Those purveyors of all that is music, art and parties are going up against the big boys during the Edinburgh Festival extravaganza by hosting a free entry concert and art installation in a glass and concrete Quarter Mile (near the Meadows) retail unit, supplementing home grown talent with a North American invasion. Canadian producer / DJ / Singer ANGO, who has worked with the likes of Katy B & Jacques Greene is on the line-up as is our very own legend Hudson Mohawke. The big boys should lose this one. (www.thisisluckyme.com)

Wizard, 26-27 Aug. At time of going to print, The Stranglers, Cast and The Saw Doctors have been confirmed to play this festival at New Dear Showground, Aberdeenshire. It’s £75 for a weekend ticket and we’re sure they’ll conjure up some more acts in the meantime (Boom Boom!). (www.wizardfestival.com)

Loopallu, 16-17 Sep. It could be said that having an outdoor festival in September poses a risk from a weather perspective, but then again, this being Scotland... well, you get the drift. Anyway, this two day event has seen the likes of Franz, Idlewild and Alabama 3 play before. £70 for weekend camping, line-up tbc, if you've made it to this point. (www.loopallu.co.uk)

Commercial Alternative, 24 Sep. After the success of last year's inaugural Commercial Alternative at Mono, the event ups sticks to set up its stalls of falafel, knitting and ginko green tea lemonade at art installation-cum gig space SWG3. In some senses it's a small scale spiritual successor to the much missed Indian Summer where good vibes, gourmet scran and real indie rock bands are the stock-in-trade. This year's bill features the rousing rabble of Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, Moon Unit and John Knox Sex Club, with an outstanding headliner to be announced in the coming weeks.

A Further Field

It would be easy to gaze upon this majestic coterie of festive joy and assume that this nation of ours appears to have secured sole rights to the notion of be-tented revelry, but no! Big fuck-off parties, like nightfall and, eh, desertification, happen all around the world. But cash is tight, dammit. So here are just a couple of the more affordable highlights to be found south of the border.

OK, it's not such a geographical leap, but the Portishead and ATP curated I'll Be Your Mirror (23-24 Jul), is an exciting step into the leftfield. The line-up includes the aforementioned Bristolian experimentalists, PJ Harvey, Grinderman, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, MF Doom, Caribou, Beach House etc... 'nuff said, really. (www.atpfestival.com/events/ibymportishead.php)

Also well worthy of a look is Supersonic (21-23 Oct). Now in its ninth year, legendary Dorset metal band Electric Wizard top the bill in Birmingham, along with arty multi-instrumentalists Zombi. But in truth, every aspect of the sonic spectrum is explored, often in very strange ways.. (www.supersonicfestival.com)

Click on www.theskinny.co.uk/music for our latest summer festival coverage