Gig review: Insider Festival

INSIDER FESTIVAL INSHRIACH HOUSE, BY AVIEMORE

THE Insider takes place in 30 rolling, semi-wooded riverside acres by the Spey, where those rolls provide three perfect pockets for the music to nestle in: a garden marquee (alongside the food stalls selling spit-roast local lamb and West Coast scallops); a bijou natural amphitheatre for the main stage; and a wee forest glade where the late-night dance-bands and DJs strutted their stuff as midsummer gloaming merged imperceptibly into dawn.

There was also the most fantastically mouthwatering home-made cake stall I've ever sampled, a main bar purveying a choice array of Highland-sourced brews, premium spirits and stylish cocktails, and the mobile Tractor Bar dispensing cider around the campsite. All this, and a ticketed capacity of just 500, gave new definition to the "boutique" festival concept, while allowing ample room for judicious expansion.

The word will certainly be out after this year's blissful three-day party, featuring a lavish and quirkily eclectic spread of folk, indie, nu-folk, post-rock, skewed pop, singer-songwriter and Celtic sounds, mostly up-and-coming, with a sprinkling of bigger names.

A wholly unscientific cross-section of highlights of this Scottish festival success story included the French Wives' louche, spiky, melodic braggadocio; the barbed, bittersweet charms of folk-pop five-piece Abagail Grey; the mesmerising duo of singer/electro-harpist Mary MacMaster and percussionist Donald Hay, and the fat, sizzling licks of the Horndog Brass Band.

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