Clash heads to the Fence Collective's annual knees-up...

As bizarre as it seems, the Fence Collective is now big business.

With head honcho King Creosote set to release his next album on new home Domino, the Scottish micro-indie has set up their biggest and most ambitious Homegame festival yet. Bringing big-city names to small-town Scotland, the streets of Anstruther are overrun for three days by some of the most acclaimed songwriters from Britain and beyond.

An old fishing town, Anstruther retains an otherworldly charm that is part living history and part League of Gentlemen. Taking over small halls around the village, it is not inconceivable to find yourself watching an acoustic set stood beside a musical hero.

A palpable sense of community seems to ooze through the walls on Anstruther, and the event opens to the strains of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutcheson. Armed only with a battered acoustic guitar, the Selkirk musician blasts his way through a handful of fan favourites before unveiling a never-before-played newie. And with acts scattered across the winding streets of Anstruther, festival-goers have their pick of weird and wonderful acts.

Sheffield’s Slow Club play to a packed town hall, with their twee-pop finding receptive ears even if the band themselves struggled with the Scottish accent. Emma Pollock is a living legend through her work with the peerless Delagados, and a solo set finds her on striking form. Edinburgh’s FOUND stand out with their tartan blend of Hot Chip-style electro geek-chic, before all-star project Burns Unit bring the night to a close. Led by King Creosote, the collective were formed to adapt the poetry of Robert Burns to music, and the Bard would surely have approved of their strikingly modern update on his verse.

A stroll down the harbour begins day two, with the sun darting between whisps of grey cloud. Eagleowl provide a suitably downbeat opening, with their Low-gone-rustic strains soothing some aching heads amongst the audience and the artists themselves.

One of the most special aspects of Homegame is the amount of secret shows that spring up. I sipped a cream tea with Malcolm Middleton in a church hall while Pictish Trail, Adem and more played a stunning set together. Suffice to say Mr Middleton will no doubt be mentioning the same story to his friends come Monday morning, though I doubt if I will have a very prominent role.

dem returns for a glorious solo set later in the day, while Fence collaborator Adrian Crowley shows just what James Yorkston sees in his music with a deeply impressive performance. KT Tunstall is a long-time friend of the Fence bunch, and her appearance is perhaps the biggest coup of any Homegame event to date. The diminutive singer is a constant fixture at the event, darting between stages and playing two secret shows. Tunstall plays her main set to a capacity crowd that extends out into the street. Choosing to perform only new songs, the singer invites King Creosote and Pictish Trail onstage with her for one of the event’s many all-star sessions.

Whilst it’s hardly the French Riviera, when Scotland does deliver the sunshine it tends to do so with a great degree of style. Bathed in warm weather, the halls seem noticeably roomier with fans and artists alike spending time on the nearby beach. No matter, as the pool of talent shows no signs of evaporating as Bristol’s Rachael Ladd plays a stunning set. Armed with a ukulele, she is backed by an impromptu steel drum performance from Japanese sensation Ichi.

Alasdair Roberts (pictured) tends not to be the ideal soundtrack to a sunny day, with his frequently morbid folk songs best experienced in a dark room with plenty of alcohol. However, his performance here is one of the highlights of the weekend, as his long and lithe fingers pick out forgotten melodies with outstanding grace. Malcolm Middleton is never particularly happy, but his headline performance finds the Falkirk songwriter on unusually chatty form. Playing a selection of material from his forthcoming album ‘Waxing Gibbous’, the singer even finds time to play a Girls Aloud cover, turning the record-breaking girl group into the melancholic types we always suspected they were. (We did? – Ed)

The event closes, as it perhaps should, with King Creosote. The singer covers every inch of Anstruther in an attempt to make sure people are having a good time, and the genial host is joined by a number of friends for a spectacular finale. Playing a mixture of old favourites and new material, the stage’s crowded for closer ‘The Happy Song’ with (deep breath) Pictish Trail, Adem, Long Pigeon, KT Tunstall and more stomping out the uplifting Aliens’ classic.

Hidden away in rural Scotland, the Fence Collective has overcome the odds to become a hugely influential fixture in British music. Including some of their most prominent alumni to date, Homegame proves that you really can go home again.

Photo: Sarah Luv


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