A review of Friday and Saturday at MV Festival 2013, Aviemore 1st –3rd March.
First steps on the MV trail saw a rearrangement of the line-up due to issues regarding noise and the upshot of this was that on the Friday night we caught the tail end of the set from McLowrus at the Cairngorm, whose earthy tones were entertaining the assembled.
Next up was Norrie MacIver who should have been on at MacKenzie’s Inn. This was actually a stroke of good fortune because the accomplished Norrie gave us a very professional mix of his own, some country and the odd gaelic song. It was a clever set working songs around his voice to great effect. Highlights of this set, and there were many, included a poignant tribute to Scottish boxer Benny Lynch and his tragic life. Take It To The Limit qualified his country credentials as did his handling of a Johnny Cash cover. Gaelic song Oran Na Cloiche, translated as Song of the Stone, was brought to life by Norrie, as was a Runrig cover, Every River. As one wag nearby put it, he made a Runrig song sound decent.
Norrie hammered out his set with a stirring Caledonia followed by a rousing finale of Bob Dylan’s Wagon Wheel. Norrie may be a new name as a solo artist to many, but his polished performance has no doubt been perfected by his work with Mànran, and previous band Bodega, as well as a host of other collaborations. Norrie is a class act and he showcased it tonight.
The mile or so trip out to the Coylumbridge was next to see the first of the Friday night bands, Culann. For those that don’t know the Hilton Coylumbridge, the stage was in a room larger than the Ironworks and more used to hosting weddings. Having travelled up from Irvine there must have no little disappointment in the turnout, but they tackled this with good humour, in particular their sales’ pitch for their t-shirts. They are maroon by the way, with yellow print. Just saying.
Their brand of indie rock, in a world where it is two-a-penny, was, underneath its outer layer somewhat more complex than most and it demanded to be listened to. The hard edges were evident also, even within the song titles such as The Lowlander’s Great Hatred. Culann will play to much bigger audiences in much smaller venues, and will be more than worthy of a second listen. Salvation, their set ender, was played out to all too few and deserved a lot more.
Due to an early morning commitment I left around midnight and just prior to Brown Bear and the Bandits who were headlining the evening, but we won’t have too long to wait to see them as they will be appearing at Hootananny in Inverness on 25th of April and I’ll make sure my calendar is kept free for that gig.
An early afternoon return to Aviemore took us back out to Coylumbridge as Toby Michaels Rolling Damned took the stage to a small but nonetheless enthusiastic reception. Entertainment is the name of the game with the Rolling Damned from the off with Toby doing his trademark acoustic Bat Out Of Hell to warm up the audience. Now a four piece following the departure of Gary “Dreamboat” Thain, Toby has switched from acoustic to electric guitar for part of the set maintaining the body of the band. Add in Johnny Gash, the masked man, and Calum Martin on drums and you have a rocking little set up. Sure, Toby can ham it up at times, but that is the band’s appeal adding a touch of theatrics to old school rock. With favourites in there such as Save Me and A Little Bit of What You Fancy, they also introduced us to a new song. It’s all going in the right direction for the Toby Michael and the Rolling Damned as they were known for at least part of the weekend.
We had been hearing quite a bit about ROADWAY’s collaboration with Dave “Bucket” Colwell, and were intrigued as to how it would all pad out. This was real classic rock, from an era before some of Dave’s friends were born. Roadway play with a harder edge but were equally at home with Dave as they strung out a run of old school rock standards. Kicking off with Guitars, Beers and Tears they leapt through each song with big time posturing and no shortage of confidence. ROADWAY’s Midnight Dance, Bad Company’s Running With The Pack, and the one which needed no introduction, Bad Company, just rolled out. Only fitting that they rounded it off with Free’s All Right Now. When these get togethers work, they really do work, and this afternoon was a prime example.
With the afternoon over it was time to take a trip back into Aviemore to see if we could catch a few more acts, and with a bit of luck, some punters. First stop was the Cairngorm Hotel, where we had found out that Anna Sweeney was playing having been moved from MacKenzie’s in a repeat of Friday night’s shuffling. Numbers were a little up on the Friday night, With Anna’s set running late due to the rearranging of equipment, it gave little time for comedian, and absolute professional, Iszy Lawrence to warm up the crowd.
In a busy day of acts at Brew at the Bog last year, Anna was one of the acts that set down a marker in my notebook. Anna has been well travelled since, playing gigs well away from her base in Ayr, even a visit to Inverness earlier this year. Anna is calm and assured in her approach with Take a Long Walk Off A Short Pier. Her sultry, folky vocal tying up with a laid back delivery which brought her closer to the seated audience. It is not all sweetness and light with tea drinking Anna who sings about having to dump someone who is so nice because you are a heartless bitch. In fact there is a real emotional connection between Anna and her guitar. Anna’s music ticks a lot of boxes and with her set being rounded off with Don’t Look Down it was time to put a further plus mark against Anna in my notebook.
A quick check of the watch and there would be time to catch a bit of The Oxides at MacKenzie’s Inn. Entering to Wake Me Up In Summertime, we could see that the Oxides had turned the venue into a sweaty bear pit. It really has gone up a level for the Oxides. They are really kicking it. The injection of Paul Elliott to the setup has given Jake more freedom. Back in the early days he carried a little too much of that burden on his shoulders, and also Duff and Archie are growing into their roles. In Control, is more than just a song but how they take a gig. They were totally in your face tonight; like it or leave. And nobody left. By the time they had got to Going Overboard they were nearly spent. I know it is becoming a bit of a cliché, but The Oxides don’t let us down.
Surfing in on the back of the wave created by the Oxides were Last Summer Effect. Always willing to interact with their audience they needed little prompting tonight. At their best when they ramp it up, this they certainly did. Brand New Day opened it up and there was very little let up. Sounding as hard as I’ve heard them there was a much greater purpose in their output. They upped it through the gears and in the form of Dragons produced a full assault on my eardrums. Partly my fault for sitting less than five yards from them I suppose. Also good to see Dave “Bucket” Colwell there too supporting the young guns.In the end sweat stained and breathless, they gave their all. And tonight that was more than enough.
Following the mayhem at MacKenzies it was time to get back out to the Coylumbridge for Katie Sutherland and then Toploader. As had been the way with the MV Festival, we were greeted by not Katie but Toploader, as we believe Katie was delayed and the decision was made for Toploader to play first. We were also encouraged by the crowd that had turned up. A couple of hundred who had made their way out for the comedy and stayed for the music.
Toploader may have been off the radar for some time, and there was definitely a palpable air of anticipation for Dancing In The Moonlight, but they were able to keep a festival crowd entertained who may have really come for the comedy. It was also to the crowd credit, and the band’s appeal, that didn’t see them disappear once that certain song was played. In the words of their new single can they Turn It Around? A professionally delivered set like tonight will do them no harm.
Ending the night, or starting Sunday morning depending on how you view it was Katie Sutherland. Katie was formerly Pearl and the Puppets and certainly not a stranger to the north of Scotland. With a new album in the pipeline, and already available to those that supported her through Pledgemusic, of which I am one, it’s all looking to be on the up for Katie once again. It is quite clear that Katie’s music is somewhat infectious and tonight won over some more fans. With a forthcoming album full of delights Katie transports us through the summery sound of her music to those much longed for better days ahead. Even with a full band there is a welcome lightness to Katie’s songs especially in the likes of I’m Not Yours and Toughen Up. Slipping in a ukelele gives a quirky dimension to her set and music. Because I Do, an old favourite hasn’t lost it’s freshness, unlike myself, and at that point I had, unfortunately, to take leave of the festival.
MV wasn’t perfect and some issues arose requiring a number of tweaks. Hopefully these can be put down to experience and any lessons that have been learnt can be rectified next year.The Coylumbridge Hotel did seem to be just that little bit out of the way and the three nights of comedy may have worked last year with a big ticket like Frankie Boyle, but this year the lack of a household name may have had an impact. However, I must add, the music was of a fine quality, and I couldn’t fault the enthusiasm, and commitment, of the staff and volunteers that I encountered. The atmosphere around the pubs was everything that you would want at a festival and if anything that may be where the future of the festival lies.