Gig review: Kelburn Garden Party, Kelburn Castle

THE sell-out success in recent years of Kelburn Garden Party, a strong contender for Scotland’s most bohemian boutique festival, was illustrated this year by the expansion of the event to a weekend-long three-day party.

The Kelburn Garden Party, expanded to three days this year, inspires loyalty in its followers regardles of whos playing
The Kelburn Garden Party, expanded to three days this year, inspires loyalty in its followers regardles of whos playing

Kelburn Garden Party - Kelburn Castle, Near Largs

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In this case the addition of a Friday night bill, reduced from Saturday and Sunday’s near 24-hour programme but still rich in well-selected and moment-grabbing Scottish groups like Halfrican and Miracle Strip alongside a range of late-night soundsystem DJs, gave the Garden Party’s annual regulars the chance to exercise their already well-established partying abilities.

The family aspect of the event is excellent, too. Built into the forested hillside grounds of Kelburn Castle, the festival features an Enchanted Forest woodland maze, a waterfall, as well as an expanded children’s area and a new circus tent.

There was obvious disappointment when Sunday’s headline showpiece, Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, cancelled at the last minute due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts, but the talk around the camp over the weekend wasn’t of disgruntlement at the news. Kelburn is that rare kind of festival which inspires loyalty in its followers regardless of who’s playing.

Musically it might not be unfair to say that the festival’s a slice of the Edinburgh underground transplanted to coastal Ayrshire. The city’s well represented in terms of musicians and DJs, and the aesthetic is similar to those established by venues like the Bongo Club and the Forest Cafe, a conflation of timeless world sounds and underground dance styles in an outdoor rave aesthetic.

The likes of Cera Impala’s Eastern European-flavoured folk rock, Tinderbox Orchestra’s impressive school orchestra covers and the Postcard Records facsimile of Golden Arm built things up gently on Saturday. Later that night the best of the weekend’s higher-profile bookings occurred, including the inventive Red Snapper, a singular confusion of jazz and dub reggae played on double and electric bass, drums and saxophone, sited in a wooded glade as the sun dipped below the trees.

On the largest stage at the heart of the estate’s outbuildings, meanwhile, ska revivalists Bombskare instigated a real party, which saw audience members dangle from the canopy’s guy ropes as the monochrome-suited mob on stage battered out unlikely covers of Pink Floyd. Continuing until the small hours with late-night headliners the Nextmen, the festivities took a while to get going on a lazy, sun-kissed Sunday, with such disparate talents as the measured Cairn String Quartet, the rootsy Bevvy Sisters and Jesus H Foxx building up towards replacement headliners, the Riot Brass Band, a stepdown from the planned finale. Those who had attended for the singular experience alone wouldn’t have minded.

Seen on 05.07.14 and 06.07.14