A review of Brew at the Bog 2013, held at Bogbain Farm on Saturday the 4th of May.
They sold out, it snowed on the campers on Friday night, the weather on Saturday was somewhat inclement (but nowhere near as cold as last year), the punters drank all the beer… twice and Fatherson’s audience got so excited they broke down the barriers and charged down to the front of the stage. That’s it in a nutshell. Brew at the Bog Mark II carried on as they meant to. Read on for more…
There were three stages to choose from this year, the Bothy, the Barn and the Main Stage outside in the courtyard. All three had packed timetables but I was able to catch most acts thanks to the programme’s handy clash finder. If I did miss anyone then please tell us what you thought of them in the comments section below.
I arrived in time to see the first band on the main stage, fronted by Emma Mitchell, The Earls of Caithness are a funk outfit and kicked things off superbly, and despite the early hour managed to encourage people to get dancing down the front. Rumour has it there may be some further festival appearances in the offing. Verse Metrics are a math rock band from Glasgow who kept the momentum going and kept the early arrivals heads nodding. Adam Holmes and the Embers was possibly the only real lull on the main stage as he struggled to hold everyone’s attention, his songs a tad too mournful for an audience intent on partying. Randolph’s Leap returned to Bogbain farm and this time with the full eight piece band in tow, indie pop at it’s finest and with very sharp lyrics to boot.
At this point we were greeted with the somewhat surreal sight of Bruce MacGregor driving a forklift with portaloo attached through the festival site. Apparently a few more crossed legs than expected were causing headaches and he had to move some extra loos down from the campsite.
Donald and Macdonald and the Islands confounded many people’s expectations by not being a twee traditional group (as the name might suggest) but by delivering lively folk pop that had people raising their pint glasses aloft and dancing in the mud. Three Blind Wolves arrived in style in an old Mercedes limo and were electrifying as the sun began to set behind the stage, a new album is out on Monday and you could do worse than to get on over to iTunes to get a copy.
The Whisky’s might have had a lineup change and a name change in recent weeks, but that doesn’t seem to have fazed them in the slightest. The departure of fiddler Iain Duncan hasn’t harmed them at all and the addition of an extra guitarist definitely gives them a harder edge. Discopolis were probably the first really big draw at the main stage and for good reason, they delivered eminently danceable pop tunes and even got their own stage invader for their troubles. She was promptly escorted off the stage and sent back behind the barriers where she belonged. They finished off with a remix of ‘Loosen Up’ by the Little Kicks, which featured a guest appearance from the singer of the same.
Prides have only been together a short time, and what was surprising was that this was their first ever live performance and I think we were privy to something quite special. It could be argued that putting on a band who haven’t proved themselves live and with no significant back catalogue to speak of was something of a risk. That argument would fall flat on its face as Prides proved that they are more than capable and impressed everyone with what I shall term Scotronica due to the amount of Scottish bands playing electro pop at the moment. Think a more cheery Depeche Mode with hints of Duran Duran.
Headliners Fatherson ended the main stage in suitably chaotic fashion, while I’m not sure that they have any particular stand out tunes their energy is infectious and a crush quickly formed at the barriers down the front. The barriers duly fell over leading to a mass invasion of the pit directly in front of the stage. This led to some damage control by the security staff, but to everyone’s credit there was no harm done and all anyone was really guilty of was being slightly over exuberant but it is a festival after all!
First on in the Barn were The Poor Things anyone expecting a gentle start to the day would have been sorely disappointed, their entertaining indie rock tunes made a good initial impression. Keep an eye out for these guys in the future, I’m expecting big things from them and wouldn’t be surprised to see them play bigger stages very soon.
Kitty The Lion were one act I’d added to my ‘must see’ list and I’m pleased to say they didn’t disappoint. The Barn by this point was rammed and songs like ‘duck’ were received with enthusiasm, a new album has been announced for release in September. United Fruit arrived at Bogbain and tore through half an hour of some of the finest punk rock you’ll get anywhere in Scotland. Yvonne had mentioned to me earlier on in the day that I should go see them as I like ‘all that thrashy stuff’ and she was right. Definitely one of the best bands of day, feel free to book them again Yvonne!
Wearing a Byker Grove t-shirt James Mackenzie made a triumphant return to the Highlands, he’s beefed things up a bit and wielded an electric guitar for a few of his newer songs, in particular new single ‘Pause Your Life’. He received one of the most enthusiastic welcomes of the day. If you missed him you can catch him again at Mad Hatters on May 19th. Chris Devotion and the Expectations were another band that I’d been alerted to as being a bit special, again I wasn’t disappointed and they played a blinding set of pure and simple pub rock. They’ve also won the approval of a certain Vic Galloway who was an enthusiastic member of the crowd he was also berated for having the temerity of being better dressed than Chris! If you like loud guitars and snappy 3 minute rock tunes then get along to Mad Hatters on June 22nd
Cherri Fosphate played Brew at the Bog last year and returned with a new EP to promote (Burning Youth, out May 11th) and the intent to get everyone watching to get on someone’s shoulders, of course they obliged although some had a pronounced list, possibly due to the amount of BrewDog that had been imbibed by this point. Homework were a marked change in style, the Edinburgh synth band’s moody electronica suited a now sweaty barn perfectly, they’ve been compared to LCD Soundsystem and not without good reason. A cracking slice of electro pop with some distinct nods to the eighties that would do Gary Numan proud.
Once the main stage had closed it was up to Miaoux Miaoux to finish Brew at the Bog on a high and they did that in spades. Julien Currie is the brains behind the project described as ‘synth dream pop’. He’s recently signed to Chemikal Underground records and new album ‘Light of the North’ is released on June 11th. Just the right mix of beats and chilled out trancy tunes to send everyone floating back to their tents and taxis home.
Over in the Bothy Eilidh Hadden filled the small room with a huge sound akin to Florence and the Machine, it was still reasonably quiet in there but those in attendance were mighty impressed by the Perthshire Brewdog debutant.
First ‘you’ll kick yourself if you missed it’ moment was arguably provided by Shambles Miller whose witty and cleverly written songs had everyone in stitches. Songs about Chris Brown and his relationship with a certain singer might sound heavy subject material but he pulls it off brilliantly, casting a wry look at our relationship with the ‘stars’.
Invernessians Naked Red are well known on the local scene and proved to be a popular draw. I arrived in time to catch the last song of Bronagh and the Boys set; her cover of ‘Respect’ was a hit and I’d be keen to hear more from the Belfast band. Sion Russell Jones seemed to have a following of very excitable young ladies and the affable Welsh singer songwriter won a few more fans last night too, ‘Indestructible’ has featured as background music in EastEnders and Corrie and has been championed by Craig Charles on BBC Radio 2. I bumped into him later on he said he loves playing at Brew at the Bog having played at the inaugural event last year. Ashley and The Cosmonauts are another local act to feature at Brew at the Bog and have a distinct Fleetwood Mac feel about them, ‘Clouds’ being a set highlight. Captains were noisy, chaotic and created a discordant racket that left folk generally nonplussed. Just a guitar and drums and a lot of feedback, it was at times hard to tell whether they were genuine or just taking the piss.
In the Highlands I think we have three festivals that must have some of the best views and settings of any others in the UK. Whether it’s Rock Ness and the superb views down Loch Ness or Belladrum and the Italian Gardens and chapel, now we have Brew at the Bog with views down over the Moray Firth and Ben Wyvis. It’s hard to imagine going anywhere else to get your festival kicks.
Yvonne and Bruce have outdone themselves (again!) and despite a few teething issues they pulled out all the stops to make Brew at the Bog one of my most memorable festival experiences to date.
Thanks to the Bogbain staff for providing us with press access and a particular thank you to all the bands that took the time out to have a chat with us.
Please look at the pictures of Brew at the Bog 2013.