Kelburn Garden Party 2018: Review

From boats on hillsides to art installations and loads of great music paired with probably too much sun, The Skinny, once again, have a bloody great time at Kelburn Garden Party

Review by Tallah Brash | 12 Jul 2018

The Skinny arrive at this year’s sun-soaked Kelburn Garden Party as the sun begins to set on the first night. After hurriedly erecting our tents, we rush to the Square Stage to catch Eno Williams’ crew Ibibio Sound Machine, who get our 2018 party off to a flying start; you can’t help but dance to their infectious African highlife beats and smiles fly wide on the faces of everyone around us.

As the first night rumbles on and the sun sets beautifully in the distance over the Firth of Clyde, we catch a bit of Loki’s powerful set on the Pyramid Stage before getting our ears well and truly pelted by Goldie’s massive jungle beats at The Landing Stage, which Kelburn's organisers have made bigger and better this year in the hope it will become their second main stage. While teeth are well and truly rattled in heads tonight, it’s The 2 Bears who thrill us the most over here on Saturday night with their pounding electro and dance-heavy beats. The lighting is superb, the sound system meaty and the general atmosphere around this area of the site is one all clubbers dream of.

A short walk from here across the gorge (yes, a gorge) takes us to the Viewpoint Stage – we sadly don’t spend too much time here this year, but rather more around this area. We go on an adventure assault course, which is bags of fun (apologies again to the lady we interrupted while she was having a quiet pee in a dark corner. *Note to reader: there were plenty of very clean, well-equipped portaloos all across the site so we’re not quite sure why she was here in the first place. When you gotta go, you gotta go?) – zipping down fireman poles and flying about on chain swings as a grown adult is way more fun than you’d think. Shortly after we've recovered and replenished our beverages, we find a slide in the nearby Saloon bar which we go down way more times than we probably should have, arriving out the bottom on the dancefloor – note to all nightclubs, get a slide installed, thanks.

Saturday sees The Skinny take over Kelburn's Pyramid Stage and we couldn’t be more pumped – we can’t really review this as it would be a bit weird, but what we can do is give you a bit of a recap. Lou Mclean starts the day by giving her friends a telling off for not remembering one of her songs has a false ending; Annie Booth plays a stripped-back set and her guitarist has to run off before the end due to being STUNG BY A WASP; Khalid Al Khajah is heckled by a very merry crowd member for having a “beautiful voice,” followed swiftly by a request for Norah Jones; Super Inuit state “it’s too hot to talk” between songs and simply get on with it, at one point being upstaged by a toddler who desperately wants to join the band; Kobi Onyame brings the highlife and energy to our stage during what is probably the hottest point of the day at around 25 degrees, managing to bring people to their feet for a dance to his infectious rhythms; ST.MARTiiNS rip through their set with great precision and in record time – we later find out one of them is struggling from severe hayfever so that probably explains that?

As the sun starts to set, SKJØR take a more laid-back approach and play a delightful set as a two-piece; DTHPDL get the first “one more tune” request of the day and during their set announce that they’re changing their name to Bobby Banger and the Top Shaggers, although we’re not sure how serious they are about that; CRYSTAL follow and gain a new hardcore punk fan who screams at them, “yous are the best band I’ve seen in ages,” later adding “punk’s no dead,” to which we utter under our breaths, “and it can wear gingham!” Like DTHPDL, they also get the "one more tune" request but come clean with us that they don’t, in fact, have any more songs. Opting to play one of their songs again, they have everyone fleein' by the end. Party on! And just before our headliners Future Get Down, ahem, get down, they’re asked by one brazen lady in the crowd if they’d mind charging her phone for her… eh, nah pal.

All in all, we have bags of fun hanging out at the Pyramid stage today and would like to take this opportunity to say thanks so much to all the bands who played for us in the sweltering heat – you all fucking nailed it. Not long after it’s all over at Pyramid, we hit The Landing Stage for the aforementioned 2 Bears, followed by some more, yeah, you guessed it, shots on the slide at The Saloon and call it a night at around 4am.

Sunday sees us get fully involved in what Kelburn Garden Party is all about: exploring and adventure. We fill our hungry tummies with posh haggis baps, hot dogs and coffee and head into the Neverending Glen. Whilst on our way to the Monument Stage, we stumble upon the adorable Tea Cave, giving out free tea to all who want it, on one of the hidden forest paths. However, we’re so full from breakfast that we don’t stop, continuing on to catch some delightful ambient noises and electronica from Edinburgh collective Bless This Machine at the aforementioned Monument Stage, although it’s more of a clearing under a tarpaulin next to a monument than an actual stage; either way, it’s a real treat and we could have easily whiled away several hours here, but our exploring needs must and we set off again.

Shortly after stumbling upon a number of creepy carved heads in the woods, we find ourselves on an actual boat jutting out from one of the highest points within the tree-covered hills of the festival site. We kick back and take in the glorious views across the distant harbour as the boat sound system belts out reggae and dub bangers galore. Thankful for the two portaloos all the way up here, we squeeze in a quick comfort break before making our way to The Beech Plateau, a gorgeous secluded space in the trees with another sound system, DJs playing and a group of people trying to figure out if they could slackwire or not, while another group were, quite literally, just kicking back in a tree.

Continuing our art crawl in the Neverending Glen, we find a number of quite astonishing reflective silhouettes in the river, a giant nest, a rock suspended in the air between the trees, which simply says “DISBELIEF” on it and a Thermos Museum. Finally, we arrive at Luke Jerram’s, quite overwhelming, incredible and much bigger than anticipated, touring artwork Museum of the Moon. Measuring seven metres in diameter with to scale imagery of the moon courtesy of NASA, this giant 3D work of the moon is suspended magnificently over Kelburn’s much-loved waterfall. We arrive just as Edinburgh’s The Phoenix Choir, who have been doing random performances across the site for most of the day, happen to be singing beneath the moon; we’re treated to a lovely performance of Midnight Train to Georgia, complete with train sounds (choo-choo!), but their version of C+C Music Factory’s A Deeper Love is what gets everyone going.

We finish off our day, and festival, with a ceilidh at the Square Stage – not something you get at most festivals – and leave on a Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant high. As well as the plethora of live bands and DJs who pack out the line-up every year at Kelburn Garden Party, there are also bucketloads of activities going on during the day which are family and child-friendly: songwriting and hula hooping workshops, storytelling, circus skills, comedy shows and more besides. Kelburn Garden Party is attended every year by people of all ages and from all walks of life; they come with friends and family for its wonderfully laid-back vibe, unique setting and the guarantee they'll have a good time – it's as simple as that.

While the sun (and the moon) may have been out in full force this year, we've had equally wonderful times at Kelburn Garden Party when it's been cold and pissing it down, which is testament to this inclusive, for everybody, hidden gem on Scotland’s West Coast.

Kelburn Garden Party 2019 takes place from 5-8 July