Music review: Away Game, Isle of Eigg

As far as festival locations go, the Away Game on the Isle of Eigg is certainly one of the more remote. But that doesn’t stop dozens of musicians, and the punters who snapped up the tickets in minutes, traveling for a whole day to get there.

This musical migration is down to the Fence Collective, whose events and releases are a seal of excellence in the Scottish music scene. Run by Mercury Prize nominee Kenny Anderson (King Creosote) and Johnny Lynch (Pictish Trail), they have a knack for attracting acts who usually play much bigger festivals, both in Scotland and abroad.

The logistics of making it to Mallaig for an early morning ferry on Friday proved impossible for this reviewer to navigate, but the performance by Eigg’s homegrown metal band, Massacre Cave, was cited by many as a highlight.

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By the time the sole Saturday sailing emptied scores of musicians onto the island, things were already in full flow at the village hall, where half the gigs takie place.

Rob St John was joined by a band including Meursault’s Neil Pennycook and Eagleowl’s Bart, reflecting a tradition of cross-fertilisation which characterises the Fence Collective. These gentle men played a soothing, country-tinged set, a musical theme which continued with Bristol’s Rozi Plain at the nearby marquee.

She was followed by King Creosote, whose slightly melancholic songwriting was given an incongruously funky twist thanks to some excellent drumming, enjoyable bongo playing (yes, really) and even a bass solo. It was only 8pm, but when the band finished with their version of The Happy Song people were already leaping around.

Kan’s whistle-driven Irish folk had the same effect, and by the time Django Django took to the stage at midnight many of the audience members were euphoric. Although frequently compared to the Beta Band, the four piece are a far more danceable live proposition than their legendary predecessors, while possessing the same unassuming cool.

For those too tired to stay up for John Hopkins (1.45am) and Eagle Owl (who finished the programme at 6am), Django Django were the perfect way to end the night.

Sunday’s bill began with Glasgow’s stunning Quickbeam, who seemed un-fazed by the fact that their tent was destroyed in the middle of the night by raging Atlantic winds. The soothing beauty of their songs, which include double bass, harmonium and violin, combined with the layout of the hall, hinted at a church service (albeit one punctuated by the frequent fizz of beer cans being opened).

The Twilight Sad’s acoustic set was another highlight of the day, with frontman James Graham showing a natural inclination for performing accompanied only by guitarist Andy MacFarlane.