An intimate festival from Fence Records
The Away Game Festival 2012

It all started with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it announcement on Fence Records’ website earlier this year. “Our usual festival Home Game in Anstruther isn’t happening, we’re organising a festival called Away Game on the Isle of Eigg instead,” it basically announced. And fans of the independent label whooped with glee.

For they knew that a jaunt out to a Hebridean island to watch some of the most exciting folk and electronic acts around would reap some pretty spectacular, not to mention memorable, rewards.

And so it is that we find ourselves on the west coast of Scotland – following an indescribably pretty 5-hour train journey up from Glasgow – jumping onto a chartered boat with said acts in glorious sunshine. An hour’s sailing brings us to Eigg, population 100, and the waiting figure of Fence co-founder and festival organiser Johnny “Pictish Trail” Lynch, who charmingly welcomes everyone to the island, hugging all and sundry. With only 350 people present, along with a few of the locals, this is set to be an intimate, special private party for Fence, their favourite artists, and some of their pals to boot.

Friday night heralds the opening of the festival, and the lighting of the bonfire outside of Eigg’s community hall. It is in the hall, under paper planets and spaceships, and in an atmospheric marquee in the garden outside, that the action happens.

Meursault open proceedings, but unsigned trio Radials light the dance floor up with their infectious indie-pop songs. Frontwoman Sarah Tanat-Jones dominates the stage, standing behind her unique drum kit set-up rattling out her beats, all the while singing with an ethereal voice that sounds not unlike Joni Mitchell’s.

Man of the moment Pictish Trail provides the highlight of Friday night, previewing new material from his “sad wee record”, as he describes it, interspersed with classics including ‘Words Fail Me Now’ and set closer ‘Winter Home Disco’, which sees Kenny “King Creosote” Anderson join him onstage.
Local metal act Massacre Cave – yes, they apparently know how to rock out on Eigg – thrash and headbang their way through a hardcore set which is a shock to the system after the gentle folk and electronic music we’ve been subjected to up until now. Clash runs screaming into the inky night to get some rest before another day of intense musical wizardry and appreciation.

Early Saturday afternoon sees Welsh trio Gulp play their second-ever gig to an appreciative crowd. This is Guto Pryce from Super Furry Animals’ new side-project, and their woozy space-country music sounds like it’s been beamed out of the year 3013. Keep an eye on them – it’s sounding interesting.

Later on, Fence co-founder King Creosote performs a storming set backed by an eight-piece band. The beefed-up sound gives his songs a completely different dimension, with the performance escalating into a joyous, ramshackle, rambunctious scream-along of ‘The Happy Song’.

Cuddly Welshman Gruff Rhys plays a set of two halves, the start being an intimate, lo-fi, one-man show with acoustic guitar, samples and harmonica, taking a journey around such hits as ‘Candylion’ and ‘Sensations in the Dark’. He then invites surf band – and fellow countrymen – Y Niwl to join him onstage to play a few numbers in their native tongue (‘Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru’ and Gwn Mi Wn’, pop pickers), and they prove to be a perfect backing band with their sunny vocal harmonies.

Walking back into the hall, we’re witness to the Gaelic version of a techno rave, with Irish group Kan inciting everyone present to whirl like a dervish, stamping their feet as the violin/flute/guitar combo rattle through their infectious reels.

The dancing spirit carries over to the marquee, where the charming Francois and the Atlas Mountains leap around the stage. Opening with ‘Les Plus Beaux’, their set is an energetic take on their latest album 'E Volo Love', with dreamy pop songs reinterpreted as massive dance numbers with carnival beats. The band clearly enjoy performing together, breaking into mini choreographed dances and laughing all the way to the finish, which is a huge dance version of ‘Piscine’.

More drinking, dancing and performing happen – including dawn sets from Jon Hopkins and Nathan Fake – and people either fall over or crawl to bed.

As the weekend wraps up, and we stand on the pier next to the island’s piper - who’s playing the ferry off - Clash looks around at the artists we’ve been watching all weekend, and the surreal, dreamlike nature of Away Game suddenly hits home. Eigg is a beautiful island full of wonderful people, and it seems only fitting that Fence should choose this place to hold their very own festival-cum-intimate party.

And then Johnny Lynch comes over to shake our hand and thank us for coming, before waving everyone back onto the ferry, and reality. What a gent. What a weekend.

Words by Laura Foster
Photo by Brian Murnin

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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