Recreate the vibe of ’68 in ’08

Kaftans? Check.

Beads? Check. No, this isn’t Woodstock ’69 but Belladrum 2008, and it seems that old hippies don’t retire, they just move a little further North.

Set in the glorious Highlands, Belladrum promises to recreate the vibe of ’68 in ’08 and can boast one of the most eclectic bills on the Scottish festival scene. Friday contained a tent curated by the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation – a worthy cause and a tremendous party, as an ecstatic crowd rocked out to The Holloways. Up and coming Glaswegians Attic Lights proved that they are indeed bright young things with a set that contained great tunes and super showmanship – a career in stand up beckons if the public ignore their sweet jangly pop.

Scottish indie institution Idlewild were greeted by a packed out Hot House stage, with Roddy Woomble on fine form as the band ploughed through a greatest hits set. The reception they received bordered on the hysterical, as the rules of this family orientated festival were flung out of the window.

On the main stage genuine old timey hippy sorts Jefferson Starship brought back some happy memories for some sections of the crowd who, judging by the smell, hadn’t washed their kaftans since 1968. These are tunes that changed the world, man – but unfortunately the world has changed. What hasn’t altered however, is the potency of some of their material – “White Rabbit” remains glorious psych pop in any era.

After a few songs that changed the world on came Scouting For Girls to do their thing. Whoever ‘she’ is, she’s apparently luvverly, it’s just a shame that these saccharine odes to not very much aren’t all that memorable. Sorry who are we talking about again? I’m off to get some noodles.

Saturday began with the traditional Highland welcome – torrential rain. However, as the weather picked up so to did our spirits, and the crowd was utterly blown away by American blues group Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir. Using a variety of home-made and standard instruments the group hooted and hollered their way through a set that proved that “Highlander” is just another word for “hillbilly”. A climactic run through old gospel standard “John The Revelator” saw the tiny, rain sodden tent transformed into a Mississippi Baptist church. Magical.

On the main stage Salsa Celtic turned the crowd into a colliding morass of drunken limbs as an inebriated audience attempted to blend a ‘Strip The Willow’ with the mambo, so the short visit to the Hot House stage was required. Infadels synth pop seemed almost ineffectual on record but live the band are reborn as strutting peacocks, inviting the audience onto the stage before leaping headfirst into the front row.

Cold War Kids have earned acclaim for their effective mix of standard rock forms and the new thing (however you define it), and their set was lapped up by the audience. However, the band seemed remote and lacked any kind of charisma – less ‘war kids’ and just plain ‘cold’.

No such worries for The Waterboys however, whose anthemic folk rock adorns the jukeboxes of pubs from Auchtermuchty to John O’ Groats. Opening with “Fisherman’s Blues” their set saw people of all ages joining together in appreciation of a band who commercial appeal has sometimes submerged their songwriting prowess. As the climactic fireworks erupted overhead, we paused to ponder this spirit of ’68 claim. Did it refer to abandoning musical definitions? Challenging social norms? Or early retirement and a sneaky bifter? Whatever, with a range of musical talent on display Belladrum is better at creating new memories than evoking old ones.

Photo: Brian Anderson
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