Various venues, Ullapool
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Not that the occasional rain shower or the biting cold which crept in after dark seemed to be a problem for local revellers, at any rate. Set amidst a caravan park on the shore of Loch Broom, the tented main and only stage was pressed hard up against the water, lending some beautiful views at dusk. Loopallu takes on the character of Ullapool itself, affording the laid-back tranquillity of a remote village but maintaining the cheerfully hard-partying nature of a Highland ceilidh.
The music was a similarly odd but pleasing mixture of the local, the national and the international. Friday night’s headliners were the Fratellis, recently reformed and playing one of the festivals which will perhaps prove most suited to their style. It didn’t matter that many of their older album tracks and singles haven’t exactly made it into the canon of festival classics, their way with a simple, easily-learned chorus and a noisy guitar solo kept the audience warmed up, and the inevitability that Chelsea Dagger would eventually send the tent wild was enough to keep everyone paying attention.
It’s a niche that Friday’s penultimate act, Glasgow’s Kassidy, seem to have nestled into themselves – noisy, uncomplicated bar-room rockers with a growing roster of unifyingly recognisable tracks like The Traveller, Stray Cat and The Betrayal. Before an audience who seemed to favour a good time over even a pinch of subtlety they were a hit, and singer Barrie-James O’Neill, whose voice suggests he gargles bitumen, may have even been a contender for most famous man on the bill through his relationship with Lana Del Rey, a fact he reminded us of when he asked the crowd to shout “we love you, Lana” into his phone to get him out of the “bad books”.
That honour, however, ultimately went to Scouting For Girls’ Roy Stride, whose band headlined on Saturday with the same sense of populist precision which had apparently gone into ensuring the compact but engaging two-day bill had been designed to appeal to as broad a base as possible.
Amidst a few lesser-known rock and folk acts from the local scene there were also sets from skilled young Highland singer Rachel Sermanni and Dundonian blues-folk outfit Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward and Fisher, a far more impressive act in person than on record. The quartet also personified a genuine sense of passionate engagement with and interpretation of ceilidh culture, the like of which saw Ullapool’s bars, including the famous Ceilidh Place, rocking with sets from the festival’s bands until early morning.