Belladrum Tartan Heart 2017: 10 acts to see
Our highlights from this year's Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival line-up, from Bossy Love to Young Fathers
In ten years, Belladrum Tartan Heart has gone from a home-grown family festival that was basically on par with the Black Isle Show to the best festival in the Highlands. The death of Rockness (R.I.P., we’re still not okay) opened a slot for Bella to get ahead of the competition. If we’re honest, it’s not been a totally smooth ride; the festival still has to appease the attention both of local families happy as long as they get cider in the sun, and of more expectant listeners – not to mention the school-leaver crowd. And somehow, they do it.
Each year, Belladrum deliver a line-up showcasing new talent, with a host of bands on the verge of breaking through. It can be daunting knowing which ones to check out though, given the lack of coverage out there for some of them. While we’ll all likely be seeing the bigger acts like Franz Ferdinand and First Aid Kit, here are ten acts further down the bill to check out this weekend.
Amandah and John from Bossy Love will come armed with the most club-ready set of the weekend. Their small collection of singles is made up of smart, vibrant bangers, crammed with personality. The band’s DIY textures would make you believe it’s all done off-the-cuff if the songs weren’t so meticulous. Think AlunaGeorge, Robyn, and Kylie – but, y’know, at Bella.
Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5
Colonel Mustard and his ever-growing number of Dijons are masters of crowd interaction. Their whole act is a celebration of the audience/band relationship. From the brass section’s choreographed dancing, to the elaborate costumes, the band's many members use everything they can to get you involved. At their last Bella set, they managed to get a whole crowd to walk from one side of the tent to the other, during the psych-reggae jam Cross the Road. They’d be a novelty band if their songs weren’t actually... y'know, pretty good.
Hamish Hawk is in good company. He’s been writing the kind of witty, melancholic guitar music Scotland excels at, has worked with King Creosote, and with his full band backing him, he evokes the sinister mood of the Twilight Sad. His stories flit between intimate and deadpan, delivered with a nervous lilting vocal that could be from a bumbling romantic or a lunatic, depending on his subject. Catch him on the Seedling stage as he works on a full-length album alongside the New Outfits.
In Scotland alone, there are more 90s revival bands than you can count. Honeyblood stand out for the same reason any good band stands out – they write good songs. Their no-nonsense drums and guitar setup seems purpose built to showcase their melodies and personality, and the result is a band that you probably fantasised about being in with your pals when you grew up, singing about nights out and not giving a fuck about what people think of you.
I See Rivers
Scandi pop trio I See Rivers were one of the best surprises at last year’s festival. Their songs are built on delicate harmonies that can turn fiery in an instant, and textured arrangements with a warmth that suggests more than just three members. They’re immaculate performers, each bobbing between instruments and roles throughout their sets. But it’s their bright melodies that will have us coming back to hear them again this year.
Neon Waltz are a small-town band with stadium rock ambitions, and they might just get there. The Caithness band have an instantly likeable presence, and songs that are begging for a big stage, and their debut album isn’t even out yet. They’ll no doubt get a warm welcome from a Highland crowd this weekend.
The Ninth Wave
This Glasgow four-piece have been grinding hard on the gig circuit, each show turning a few more heads. Their gutsy approach to goth rock is drenched in all the drama and spectacle you’d hope for, driven by big pop choruses and duelling vocals. They’ll be brooding at the Seedling stage on Friday.
Slow Club first broke through as a wholesome boy/girl duo back in 2009, managing to hit the sweetspot on the cute-scale. They were charming, without drifting into the treacherous territory of ‘saccharine’ – or even worse, ‘twee’. Over four albums, they’ve sharpened their act further. Their very best songs are layered with darkness and danger, while sticking true to the earworm melodies that first sparked life into their music.
This sleek, groove focused synth-pop act could be playing on the main stage and no one would blink. They’ve got the widescreen presentation of a much bigger band, paired with a giddy indie spirit, and choruses that spill out in all directions. Their guitar loops break into unexpected moments of sweaty raving, or melt away into electronic ambience depending on the track. Fans of Washed Out, Jagwar Ma and Foals will find a lot to like.
It’s been five years since Young Fathers released Tape One, and, still, no one sounds like them. Their joyful, noisy approach has only strengthened as they continue to experiment with gospel, African music, hip-hop, rock, punk and grimy electronics. The band reissued Tape One and Tape Two this year to underline the moment they found themselves musically, by following their own instincts and eccentricities. It’s what’s made them one of Scotland’s most exciting bands, and a must-see at Belladrum
Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, 3-6 Aug, Belladrum Estate, Beauly