Monday, June 28, 2010

Solas Festival

Popped along for the Saturday of Greenbelt's younger Scottish sibling, Solas. Here's a few highlights of the great acts I had the joy of seeing (follow links to see their websites and/or give them a listen):

Sol/Rory Butler: Some excellent playing here, both in lovely solo acoustic form (I'm jealous of this guy's guitar skills!), and in tight, electric, complex full band form.

Calamateur: Met before at The Art of Joy, and great as always - nice to hear a few songs from his great new album, Each Dirty Letter, which is now in regular rotation in my iTunes. Forthcoming single Banoffee is particularly catchy, with it's bubble of joy in danger of breaking out from Calamateur's usual slightly-downbeat persona.

Yvonne Lyon: 3rd time seeing Yvonne (after first meeting at a gig in Aberdeen), ably accompanied by husband DL. Yvonne "attempted to sneak onto the stage to start without anyone noticing" to open with Fearless, which fitted the relaxed atmosphere in the Northstar tent. The audience lay around, joined in singing, and even danced in their sun-loungers for a prize of Percy Pigs. Juliet Turner added some nice harmonies to a few songs. Lovely.

The Lowly Knights: Boisterous, infectious, multi-voiced, instrument-swapping, bouncy folk-rock. A friend recommended them to me (apparently, one of the front-men, Neil Mullan, was part of the Aberdeen crowd when I was there: recognised, but never properly met in my case), and I wasn't disappointed. Their two EPs are well worth the download, and can be heard here, but it's the enthusiasm and energetic harmonies of their live performance that grabbed my ears.

Juliet Turner: Lovely songs, with her accompanying guitarist pulling out some delicious acoustic-guitar-dripping-with-ridiculous-reverb solos. I was slightly surprised at the cynicism of some of the songs, but I think that's part of their effect.

We See Lights: Enjoyable indie with nice vocal harmonies. They make a nice feature of their accents, à la Proclaimers (they even have a song entitled Singing in Your Own Voice, which may or may not be anything to do with this). Check out their new album Ghosts & Monsters.

Jo Mango: You've probably heard of her already, as I had, but this was the first time I'd actually heard her music. Totally weird, but utterly spellbinding. Bizarre songs, including one about moths and libraries, and another about a trapped starling, but a beautiful performance that held the audience captivated. Nice range of odd and unusual instruments, including harmonium, glockenspiel played with a bow, finger piano, autoharp (courtesy of Suzuki corp!).

Martin Aelred: A stunning 2-song operatic interlude before the headliners - awesome voice, the crowd loved it!

McIntosh Ross: Foot-tapping mix of celtic-ness and country. I had meant to leave after a couple of songs to get home not too late, but found myself still there at the end of the set. Nice pedal-steelage, and a nice a-capella spiritual as the first encore. Not my usual cup of tea perhaps (okay, rubbish metaphor, given that I don't actually like tea, but anyway...), but a most enjoyable end to the evening.

Overall: so glad I went. Lovely location, beautiful weather, great music, nice time mixing and playing at the open mic tent. It felt slightly undersold (I suspect it probably was), but hopefully it's reputation will spread in time for next year. In some case it was actually quite nice for it to be a bit quieter, enabling the crowd to lie on the ground to listen rather than being crammed up against somebody's armpit.

Honorable mention: the food! Was expecting festival prices and quality, so imagine the delights of finding a stall with options of venison or pheasant burgers for the mighty sum of £2.50.

Bring on next year's!

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