Belladrum Friday – Chips and Gravy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As I sit in this here pub being slowly deafened by the world’s worst example of heavy guitar backed wailing, I find myself having flashbacks of Belladrum. In between wishing for death of course, but that’s nothing new. My Saturday was interspersed with similar auditory warfare, and I consider myself to be a survivor. This review is Friday however, so you’ve just read a pile of my pish for no reason. Congratulations.

Friday started off moist, and not in a good way. The tent had leaked overnight, and I’d mutated into some sort of hungover amphibian hybrid nightmare. Once I’d recovered from the terror that comes with a near death experience such as almost drowning in my sleep, I realised all my belongings were also damp and disappointed. This was not the morning I had wanted, but it was probably the morning I deserved. Not only had I been woken by the desperate slamming of portapotty doors as the first comedown shits of the festival tore through the bowels of men everywhere, but I’d had to do it cold and wet. On reflection yes; it was the morning I deserved.

After some deep soul searching I decided nothing could make my Atlantis-remake of a morning worse, and so I gathered some companions and headed in to the Burke and Hair stage for a weird and wonderful (if I were on acid) play titles Les Idiottes. The title was true to the subject matter, of which I understood none. Les Idiottes was a strange pantomime-y affair; a man dressed like Elton John’s wet dream accompanied by a dude that looked like Steve Urwin’s wake. Still, it was lively. I needed to tap in to some form of energy source, and I’m not fussy. The play was weird, in my professional as fuck opinion. It was to be a comedy – and it was for a bit – until it started to feel creepy. There were some unwarranted innuendos, followed by forcibly inserting a group of women into the performance (which culminated in a ‘wedding’ that the ‘bride’ looked wholly uncomfortable having to partake in). The less said about Les Idiottes the better, I’d say.

Next up we had Inverness’s very own Depeche Mode cover band, The Dazed Digital Age. I’m not sure they necessarily cover as much as copy Depeche Mode, but I don’t think it matters. I thought they were fucking brilliant, which is a compliment despite my introduction. They seem to have some form of dress code, in that tshirts were not allowed. The singer wore a jumper, while guitarman wore a tartan suit jacket, nipples akimbo. Did they forget, or is this a rule? Who knows. The lads screaming “take your top off” certainly didn’t. Maybe the indoor sunglasses and 1980’s headband threw them off course. A few tunes later and the band storm off stage in some kind of dramatic “fuck the audience” statement. This might have been fitting for a band with massive success and earned ego, but for a relatively new band lucky enough to play the Seedlings stage at the biggest festival in the north nah. It came across as barefaced wankery. Time for a drink.

Despite the shit start to my day, the skies were starting to brighten. I came across some abandoned beer tokens and toddled off to experience some Savanna Dry tent hospitality. A few cans and a complimentary pair of sunglasses later and I was ready for my final commitment of the day; Hey Argentina! – a one-man play by the sensational Hamish MacDonald, a favourite. I had no idea what to expect as previously I’d only seen Hamish perform spoken word and musical satire. Turns out, I still have no idea. The play’s protagonist was an erratic and excitable football fan named Alan who was on a mission to see Scotland win the 1978 FIFA World Cup.


Unfortunately, I know less than fuck all about football and found myself lost through most of the references. The plot was fairly easy to follow, but I do feel I’d have gotten a lot more out of it had I was familiar with the ‘beautiful’ game. In fact, the companions I’d dragged along with me seemed much more enthused – and I put this down to a deeper understanding of the subject matter than my dead hamster-brain was capable of. The play began to take a dark turn – and without spoiling it for you, dear reader – becoming about much more than just football. The set was purposely minimal; a couple of silhouettes, a Scotland scarf and some photographs as props. It was clear that the aesthetics were a major part of the performance and story arc. Hamish delivered every line flawlessly and with intense passion – despite the running time of close to two hours – which is demonstrative of his professionalism and talent. A tiny part of me wanted to hate this play, because I’m deeply envious of the man’s skills. It was impossible though. He’s too good. It’s infuriating.
After being dazzled by the ever-cool Hamish, I took myself for a drink like the sound cunt I am. Unfortunately for the Nettle, drunk-me was very generous with drinks for sober-me and I was in bed by 9pm with no recollection of anything after dinner. I expect I had a good time, good craic and nobody died, but I guess I’ll never know. Potential R.I.P, fella.

APACHE DARLING – Mad Hatters – 19/08/2018

Reading Time: 6 minutes

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A double hit – giggles served with with a complimentary side of pure magic man!

Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I found a new favourite band completely by accident. And of course, revel in the idea of you being slowly driven mad over the next few days because you can’t stop humming that fucking Fresh Prince theme. I like to treat my readers well.

A bit of context: I’m injured and in pain as a result. A lot of pain. So being a responsible, high functioning, grade A, “10/10 would recommend to a friend adult,” I’ve been drinking. I’ve become a transient bar-hopper, desperately seeking my next pint as I find myself barred from the fifth pub this evening. Last night that bar was Mad Hatters. A sexy little number, tucked away where tourists can’t be arsed to wander, painted dark and slathered in fairy lights. There were even candles last night. REAL candles, with a flame and everything. Real fire in a room full of drunk potential arsonists. I think Madhatters is beginning to trust us. I also think that trust is misplaced.

Too busy laughing to take some photos – sozzerlollies – here’s their tour poster.

I got myself comfy (as comfy as one can on a wooden kiddy stool when they have an arse the size of mine – half an inch to the left and that ‘chair’ would have been swallowed whole) pint in hand and found myself pleasantly surprised to have caught the final leg of the Teuchters Comedy Club  – Arse End of Nowhere tour. Five stand up comedians and a host, almost two hours of comedy for free. Even if it’s shit you can’t lose, right? Turns out, I couldn’t lose. Regrettably I’d sunk a few too many Mickey Finn’s than I should have and forgot to take notes or pictures (alcohol abuse can have its drawbacks), yet I soldier on. Having been to Teuchters before, I noticed a lot of the comedians recycling their jokes. Now of course, this is understandable and generally how stand up works, but knowing the punchlines the second you hear the opening line can put a dampener on your experience. I have no problem with hearing jokes repeated at different shows, as long as that isn’t the basis for the whole set. Inverness is a small town and you do a lot of shows, throw me some variety! I can confirm that Jenny Johnson was fantastic as always, however. A couple of jokes of hers I’d heard before, but she threw in just enough new material to keep me cackling like the dying hyena I am. She looks like she owns the stage – pacing around and lunging like it’s leg day whilst displaying the energy levels of an electric hamster in a bubble bath. She is unafraid to take up space in a profession dominated by and associated with men. She rattles off period jokes, soaking in the unspoken camaraderie between the women in the audience whilst simultaneously reveling in watching the ‘ladsladslads’ squirm. She’s a breath of fresh air in my highly fucking professional opinion.

Kieran Lochore headlined the show in the most delightful way possible – passionately singing Beatles medleys in German and giving Metallica’s Enter Sandman a gleefully perky rejig. I’ve seen Kieran perform with Teuchters before, but this was the first time I’d seen him with a guitar and a suitcase full of musical craic. His set was absolutely headline worthy and wishes they hadn’t sent such a shite reviewer to cover it. Sorry guys, my bad. Pictures next time.

Making up for the two pound sixty glass of coke.


I was fully prepared to go home after the comedy due to both exhaustion and the arrival of some unsavoury characters. They probably didn’t do anything, but they looked unsavoury to me. You can’t tell me who to like, mum. I’m an adult now and- sorry, I got carried away. I’d have gone home instantly if an unexpectedly captivating band hadn’t just swaggered to the stage, but here Apache Darling were, in all their bold and bolshy glory. I was so in.

The singer Stephanie was confident, robust and extremely fucking talented. Despite the mic not picking up certain pitches correctly, her voice was powerful enough to carry over to the audience unaided. Her passion for the lyrics was clear to see, and she delivered each line with pure emotion. I knew I was hooked. The genre flitted between pop punk, electronic and folk, and was right up my street. They reminded me of Pvris with less screaming; more upbeat and certainly less depressed. The dress code seemed to be black and white (except for the keyboard traitor player), which gave me first album (White Noise for those who are interested) Pvris vibes. Basically, I’ve seen the Scottish Pvris. That might not sound like a compliment, but it fucking is. Go listen, now.


Anyway, the band was comprised of two women and two men, all four dripping with charisma seemingly without effort. I’d hate these people if I didn’t bloody love them. This was Apache Darling’s first tour, which was announced as they asked the audience for their patience while they played one of their songs live for the first time in two years. They didn’t need to add that preface it turned out, as the band pulled off the performance flawlessly. Embarrassingly for me, I chose this moment for a cigarette break, getting caught downstairs by the aforementioned unsavoury characters and talked at for fifteen minutes. This led me to miss most of the rest of the set. I will never forgive those bastards.

I eventually got rid of the unsavouries and managed to catch the band’s last song; Ghost. An emotional tune that reminded me of Paramore but when they were good. Stefanie’s voice was something Hayley-esque, but with much more depth and a generous helping of vibrato. Some lovely harmonies and the realisation that the guitarist was playing a five string later and the band try to leave the stage. That was not to be, as the crowd characteristically demanded “wan mair choon”, to which Mr Keyboard (Andrew Black) responded “I hadn’t even thought about this, we literally don’t have any more songs”. They literally didn’t. After a chat amongst themselves, they settled on playing their new track, Bubblegum, for a second time. I’d missed the first, so this filled me with childlike delight. The song started off with what I wrote was ‘kinda sexy rap”, eventually transitioning into an emotive chorus about uncommunicative relationships. Stephanie whips a tambourine out, the drunk solo dancefloor inhabitant ruins my totally fucking professional photos of the band for the fiftieth time, and I resign myself to a new reality, where a band from Glasgow stole my heart on their first tour.


APACHE DARLING live at Hootananny Inverness, electro funking the fuck out of a Sunday night

Posted by on Sunday, 19 August 2018

Now, can anybody remember the mystery verse of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

Here’s a robot repeating all that as he takes time out from dealing with the unruly robot peasants in robot Downton Abbey.

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Belladrum 2018 – Fremsley – Friday night

Reading Time: 9 minutes

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Belladrum Festival Review Part 2

Friday 03/08/18

By Fremsley

Cover photo by Andrew Williamson, and others as credited

The Good, The Great and the Ugly

Friday morning brings the stagnant hell of waking in a tent that’s too hot to sleep in but not quite hot enough that you can risk emerging from your polyester sauna until absolutely fucking necessary.  The airbed bought on a whim on Thursday morning may have saved me from a groaning back, but no amount of good intentions puffed into the now swollen mattress can save me from the cotton-mouthed, aching-headed perdition that’s been my inescapable destiny since I purchased that wretched ticket to Belladrum.

Despite the antithetical armies of drink-addled paranoia and Strongbow fuelled eagerness waging war in my teeny, tiny baldy heed, I endeavoured to surface from my polyester prison into the perfect, processed wilderness of Family Camping on Belladrum Estate.  Slipping elegantly out of my tent as if I were a new born giraffe being announced to the world for the first time (if giraffes were born clutching a can of Kopparberg Mixed Fruits and wearing yesterday’s pants and socks that is).  The fresh, burger tainted air washes over me as if to absolve me of the previous night’s depravities, renewing my depleted enthusiasm, ready to once again to confront the delights of the festival day ahead.

But no trip to a festival campsite is complete without an ambling, hungover visit to the row of hungry port-a-loos that line the back of the now waking battlefield, so off I sauntered in their direction; can in hand and bladder firmly in throat.  Disappointingly, this year the toilets were fewer in number by a long way.  In Family I could only count about 10 or so cubicles and that 10 had to service an amount of revellers that was approaching pure shit-loads (puns are fun) by early Friday morning.  I shan’t bore you with the details of my morning ablutions and evictions, but one could easily describe them as ‘textbook’ despite my uncooperative dressing room being the piss-soaked phone box one was forced to transform in like a vagrant Clark Kent.

Needling in the Seedling

Unencumbered and with a relieved skip to my step, it was time to get my money’s worth and see some actual things.  With my new 7-fucking-quid programme/lanyard and an early afternoon Black Isle Blonde for company I made my way to over to newly relocated Seedlings stage that had now taken up position next to its more formidable neighbour, the Hot House stage.  Thankfully any sound that may have bled into the Seedlings tent was battered away by the band on stage as I arrive – The Dazed Digital Age.  Although the band name might be of the cumbersome variety, they have been gaining a great number of fans amongst the knowing of Inverness.  I arrived to their announcement that this was only their 4th ever gig and that in itself is quite the eyebrow elevator considering how accomplished they sound.  “Terrifically 80s” was the phrase I wrote in my notepad of shite patter and despite that phrase being one I’d never use in an actual review – here we fucking are.  The best description I can offer of these 3 lads is they sound like a less happy-go-lucky Human League, or maybe a diet

Dazed Digital Age – like an 80’s rave | photo by Fremsley | Framed the crowd like a pro.

version of the Nine Inch Nails if Trent Reznor lightened up and went a bit mad on the synth-pop.  Either way, I was buying what they were selling, even with the lead singer’s sardonic glimmer contained within the patter between songs.  The surprising Neil Young cover sealed the deal for me and much of the crowd as they Electro’d-up (I’ve just made this term up) ‘Old Man’, and their version didn’t even ignite my usual need to express my derision at anyone attempting to cover such a classic tune.

After that there are a lost few hours spent checking out the different parts/bars of the festival.  A Sailor Jerry’s stall and a Gin Palace now stood behind the Hot House stage and I can confirm that they do in fact serve gin in the Gin Palace and rum in the Sailor Jerry’s stall – investigative journalism at its best I’m sure you’ll agree.  The Prosecco bar – yup you guessed it – served prosecco.  Prosecco is the worst of the wines in my experience because you never get enough of the stuff and at a festival you tend to have to wait in line behind a fucking melt of a woman dressed all in pink who professes to be pissed before she has even tasted the fucking thing whilst her pals screech in her direction about wanting to see the young ‘fit’ singer-songwriter playing today that Ken Bruce secretly whispered to them is apparently gonna be the next big thing to listen to whilst they’re not listening to. 


Creepin’ About Yer Shed


Lucy Spraggan | shot by Andy Williamson Photography |

After a couple of pints of this and that and various stop-and-chats with the great and good of Inverness, I found myself at The Black Isle Brewery Grassroots stage where Isaac Gracie was starting a set of singer-y songwriter-y stuff that had seen the tent fill to half capacity, which ain’t bad considering fan-favourite Lucy Spraggan was doing her singer-y songwriter-y stuff on the Garden Stage at the same time.  I opted to see Isaac because I was sure someone else would see/review Lucy due to her being a bigger draw amongst the X-factor peering patrons of Belladrum.  I’m glad to report that Isaac didn’t disappoint despite the over-represented genre he was pitching to the late afternoon crowd. 

Isaac Gracie, woo-ing the free world | shot by Andy Williamson Photography |

He’s got a grand voice and is clearly a very talented performer who is noticeably at ease up on that stage as he chats to the crowd in-between slow, almost hymn-like songs about heartbreak, love and the typical subjects of the genre.  An attempt at Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ matched the tone he sought to set throughout his set perfectly (try saying that fast) and showcased his obscenely good voice and long, mental hair that your auntie is just going to fucking love.   The crowd appear to know all the words to his songs and this was particularly evident when he played his latest, far more upbeat single ‘Running on Empty’ which is met by a full-on sing-song by the ardent fans in the audience.  An anthemic chorus is sometimes all it takes to make rock stars of mere men and Isaac has found a bit of an anthem in this stand-out tune.    

Sara Bills and the Hasbeen’s killin’ it as they do | Fremsley took this wi’ a phone

The Potting Shed was the next destination after a quick stovie stop (cos stovies are fucking life) where Sara Bills & The Hasbeens were practising their own brand of meat and potato goodness but in musical form.  Sara and the band are one of the few bands in Inverness who you can rely on to show you a good time no matter what shitebag is pishing on your chips.  A good-time band was exactly what I need after the sermon concerning heartbreak from Isaac Gracie to get me back on the good ship Good Times.  A spirited cover of ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ by Deee-lite was the highlight of the set which sparked some military-grade shapes being pulled by the more lubricated revellers amongst the crowd.  I’m glad they were on a small stage like the Potting Shed because the intimacy really plays into the warmth that emanates from the entire band and I’d hate to see that being wasted on the shit-munchers that set up camp at the larger stages during these events.



Bring Sreak taking a break | fotae by Fremsley

Talking of bands playing smaller stages – I got to see Spring Break at the Burke & Hare stage in the Walled Garden.  Having happily/accidentally camped next to 2 of the band I was sort of on a promise to go see them but an outing to see the Dingwall Hip-hop outfit is never a hardship.  I had plumped to see them over the Charlatans and thankfully so had enough people to fill the Burke & Hare and that really speaks volumes about the esteem in which these purveyors of dope rhymes and sick beats are held (look how street I is mum!).  Having recently released a genre-bending album in Tropicaledonia and members of the group having performed on numerous occasions with the unstoppable yellow festival machine that is Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5, they’ve had a pretty good time of it of late and it shows in their vigorous performance.  The band seems to swell in number every time I see them and the question of whether they are more parts party than they are band is always up for debate.  Some early sound problems were on show with a mic dying a death but being the pros that they are, they soldiered on and smashed out songs like the toxic masculinity/porpoise fighting anthem ‘Dolphin Puncher’ (a personal favourite) as well as the terrific ‘The Slouch’ about the trials of procrastination and laziness.  I’ve reviewed Spring Break on a few occasions now for a couple of different publications and every time I pure gush heavy about their good tunes and their good people so if you haven’t seen them, for fuck sake go see them.

By this point in the night I had only seen good things and it was already headliner time, surely a visit to Paloma Faith would seal the deal on a great day…?

Did it fuck man.

Funk > Faith

Pum all ova Ma faith | Shot by Andy Williamson Photography

I’ve seen Paloma on the telly on panel shows and chat shows and what-not, and she always seems quirky but funny and has an obvious talent for the old singing and wearing of the mental outfits.  She lived up to expectation on the costume front for sure, and her voice was big and bold as ever, but her craic was fucking humming.  Some further sound issues played their part at the Garden Stage leading to parts of the crowd being unable to hear Paloma’s singing to which she started pointing fingers at the sound crew and flippantly calling for someone to be sacked.  After this she then began a ramble about love or togetherness of some other banal pish which just reeked of being pure incongruent with all her haranguing patter about the sound.  She did however manage to be belt out a couple of her big numbers that got yer da’ dancing like ‘Can’t Rely On You’ and her new tune ‘Lullaby’.  To be fair, she did ask to sing the tracks affected by the sound issues again for the crowd but a more cynical me would suggest that might be because the set was being recorded by the BBC.  Anyway, her patter was reeking and pure harshed ma buzz, man.

The Red Dwarf guy. That’s what he’s famous for right? Right? | Fremsley

Thankfully, the night was not offer.  Craig Charles’ Funk and Soul Roadshow was on at the Hot House and by fuck was it a beauty.  There were shades of the now famously good set Grandmaster Flash played at Belladrum a couple of years ago on the same stage and Craig matched Flash banger for banger.  Craig Charles off of the Coronation Street and the Robot Wars played a mix of Soul and Funk classics that seemed to infect every single body in that Hot House tent.  Just like that scene out of The Blues Brothers that you better have fucking seen, people were jumping about and dancing like the spirit of James Brown himself had possessed their very being including wee Brian from the checkouts at the Co-Op who was doing the Electric Slide like he’d dropped the milk in aisle 2.  Up on the decks Craig looked like he was living his best life as he spun the records and instructed the crowd in various funk dance moves whilst spinning songs like ‘Jungle Boogie’, ‘Last Night’ by the Mar-Keys and ‘For The Love Of Money’ by The O’Jays.  It was a stellar end to the night with the funk carrying me all the way back to the campsite where I was welcomed by strong gins, slight winds and drunken shenanigans.


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