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Festival review: Away Game Festival

AWAY GAME FESTIVAL, ISLE OF EIGG *****

"EVERYONE knows it's been a hard time for music," remarked Kenny Anderson, aka Fence Collective prime mover King Creosote, during his Saturday night set here on Eigg, "and I've spent a lot of the last two years asking myself what the hell is the point."

Beyond a few deathly whisky- induced hangovers, that was about as sombre as Scotland's newest festival - an inspired transplanting of Fence's annual, Anstruther-based Home Game to the Inner Hebridean Isle of Eigg - was allowed to become. "Just to stand with Johnny Lynch (Away Game organiser and fellow Fence-runner] and see you all coming off those ferries yesterday makes it all worthwhile," continued Anderson, before battering into his traditional set-closer The Happy Song while Lynch yelled along on backing vocals.

From braving the waves and singing sea shanties on the ferries from Arisaig (ballboy's Gordon McIntyre, during a well-received solo set, would describe those who endured a tumultuous early evening crossing on Friday as "my team"), to camping out and drinking around the fire with members of the wealth of great bands packing the bill, to exploring the stunning and fortunately sun-kissed single-track island's Singing Sands and Massacre Cave - also the name of the local metal band who closed the bill early on Sunday morning - this wasn't just a music festival. It was an adventure, a bonding event for the indie scenesters of Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and elsewhere who had made the trip, and it was a true privilege to be a part of it.

Besides a rich array of emerging Scots talent such as FOUND, Come On Gang!, Withered Hand, Slow Club and Meursault, other acts had made longer journeys. Darren Hayman, formerly leader of Essex indie icons Hefner, began his set of humorous, heartbreaking indie anthems for guitar and fiddle with "a song about something that can hardly ever happen on the Isle of Eigg - someone dying in a car crash", while Malcolm Middleton gauged the mood of early Saturday well with a collection of (mostly) soothing instrumentals from his new project Human Don't Be Angry.

Despite being obviously and uproariously drunk, British Sea Power provided a focused and noisy set worthy of de facto headliners. Yet Lynch - who also played as part of his Silver Columns and Pictish Trail projects - and Anderson were, as ever with Fence events, the true stars of the show, epitomising the combination of endeavour and community spirit which represents the Scottish music scene at its very best. Setting a perfect lead, in other words, for any fellow artists who might have ever asked themselves what the hell is the point.

 
 
 

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EDINBURGH
FESTIVALS
2014

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