Bannockburn Live review: Mix of fun and tradition

Julie Fowlis's set, with full band in the Music Arena, took in lyrical Gaelic yarns, Celtic jigs and Beatles covers. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Julie Fowlis's set, with full band in the Music Arena, took in lyrical Gaelic yarns, Celtic jigs and Beatles covers. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Roddy Hart summed it up best: “It’s like Glastonbury, but with tartan and battle re-enactments.”

Bannockburn Live

* * * *

His own suited and booted band, the Lonesome Fire, provided a pleasant Scotpop palate cleanser on the second day of Bannockburn Live, following the first of three enjoyably hoary and humorous recreations – with horses, spears, beards, grunting and everything – of the battle we were here to commemorate.

Certainly, there were considerably fewer paying punters than at Glastonbury and no electrical storms. Bannockburn Live was a decorous and easygoing affair, with a music bill which firmly shook hands with Scottish tradition, and occasionally led it a merry dance.

The Cask Strength Ceilidh Band presided over a storming “dance anywhere ceilidh” with bonus piano and drums, and some lovely flourishes from Adam Sutherland on fiddle and John Somerville on accordian.

Likewise, Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson’s sprightly pipes were souped up rhythmically with acoustic guitar. Their mid-afternoon set was a keenly calibrated balance of soothing slow airs, folky fugues – one of which was gamely interpreted by a lone refreshed jigger in front of the stage – and a couple of soulful song showcases for Henderson’s beautiful, breathy voice.

In an unfortunate clash for lovers of fragrant female folk singers, Bella Hardy took to the Storyville Stage minutes before Julie Fowlis’s set in the Music Arena. Both singers are engaging storytellers, mining different traditions. Hardy added some sympathetic originals to her tour of English folk song, while Fowlis’s full band show took in lyrical Gaelic yarns, Celtic jigs and Beatles covers.

To encounter the Treacherous Orchestra in the open air and in daylight hours was an unusual break from their natural late night festival club habitat, but this invigorating big band were still the best equipped ensemble of the day to whip the gathering into a party frenzy, adding bursts of sunshine reggae and trancey Moog synth to an already inventive mix.

But given the popularity of the battle re-enactments and the number of kids playfighting around the site with plastic swords and shields, it was arguably Saor (pronounced “shore”) Patrol, comprising five volunteers for the Clanranald Trust, who best captured the spirit of the occasion with their primal pipes-and-drums drones.

Their music was less sophisticated and more sentimental than Treacherous Orchestra but they were the ideal soundtrack with which to finally beat a retreat from this grand family day out.

Seen on 29.06.14