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Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2017

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2017 **** The Scotsman |
20,000 fans agree – this was one of the best at Belladrum
Published in The Scotsman, 7 August 2017 | Words by Derick Mackinnon, Read on

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This years’ edition of Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival was a major success by all accounts. Founded by Joe Gibbs in 2004, the event is located within the historic Belladrum estate in Beauly, a picturesque village about ten miles from Inverness. Nearly 20,000 revellers attended the sold-out festival from 3 to 5 August.
In its 14-year history, Belladrum has sold out consecutively for the last eight – an impressive feat considering the festival market has reached saturation point (with a growing list of casualties).

The Pretenders on the main stage were a lot of fun. Unlike other acts, they spread out their big hits across the set, including Don’t Get Me Wrong and Brass In Pocket. Indie guitar band Feeder finished off their set with big single Just A Day.

Getting underway on Thursday with US superstars Sister Sledge and Swedish pop band First Aid Kit, the festival offered a good mix of established and emerging artists.

Starting proper on Friday, our first act is at the Bella Bar, a podium stage next to the main bar. Cameron Roxburgh is great, unusual phrasing and witty lyrics make for an entertaining set. Arriving at the Hothouse stage, we see the tail end of lively Edinburgh quartet Indigo Velvet, who are on excellent form, with a sizeable crowd gathered. Over the course of the day we see a number of acts on the XpoNorth Seedlings stage, a key platform for emerging artists. A particular highlight is Lilura with a promising electro-pop set with live drums. BooHooHoo, 80s-influenced funk and disco are brilliant. 

Scottish grunge-rock duo Honeyblood are a main stage highlight with stand-out singles like Killer Bangs, lots of charisma and engaging banter. Later we catch a glimpse of bhangra / fusion act Tigerstyle which is really interesting; unfortunately the crowd is a little sparse due to the poor weather. Heavy rock band Vukovi deliver an outstanding show at the Hothouse. Lead singer Janice Shilstone oozes stage presence and commands the capacity crowd. Glasgow quartet Twin Atlantic are on of our overall highlights of the day also on the Hothouse stage. The weather has let up and it’s just as well with at least 3 times the capacity crowd inside the tent, spilling outside onto the grass. They deliver their signature heavy rock, blistering set.

Saturday is nice and sunny and a welcome break from Fridays downpours. 
A highlight is Tamzene on the Grassroots stage. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter delivers a flawless performance. Now performing as a duo, multi-part harmonies embellish her soulful vocals and polished pop gems. It’s easy to see why Belladrum Festivals’ newly formed record label – Belladrum Records released her debut single. Over on the XpoNorth stage, Edinburgh band Vistas play a catchy, indie guitar set. Glaswegian trio Bossy Love get people moving with their pop-funk branded dance on the Hothouse stage. Powerful lead vocals, live drums, synths, bleeps and beats. Rapping / emcee skills of front woman Amandah Wilkinson are impressive and it’s a funky, super slick and cool set. A distinctive, gravelly, blues-inflected voice accompanies a top performance from Emme Woods and band on XpoNorth stage.

Tongue-in-cheek social commentary, delivered via a lighthearted, fun and highly entertaining live show (with crowd-surfing on an inflatable dinghy) it’s Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 on the main stage. The band are the perfect festival booking and there is plenty of sunshine to accompany their lively show. We venture into a small busker tent to relax for a moment and discover 15-year-old Rosie Sullivan from the Isle of Lewis. Performing through youth music project Music Plus, she’s a real find, mixing covers with original material. JR Green on the Grassroots stage, brothers Jacob and Rory, provide another highlight, now performing as a five-piece band. Their sound is genuinely original, mixing traditional folk with contemporary influences and they’re among my favourite young artists in the country, distinctive vocals and sharp, teenage angst-laden lyrics. 

Later we see excellent Edinburgh quartet SKJØR on the XpoNorth stage. The smaller stages are starting to compete with the headline bands, but it’s an excellent performance. Mercury Music Prize and Scottish Album of the Year Award winners Young Fathers play to a capacity tent on the Hothouse stage. The pop-tinged, hip hop trio are truly mesmerising.  KT Tunstall is full of beans and plays an energetic set on the main stage. 

Overall, we conclude the key to Belladrum’s success, is a combination of a unique and beautiful location, an eclectic line up with family orientated activities including theatre, wrestling, salsa and ceilidh dance classes and the Danny MacAskill Drop and Roll juggernaut. 
It’s clear Belladrum supports local artists and the business community too, with possibly the finest food and drink offering of any festival, from the Black Isle’s organic beverages to Loch Fyne oysters, salmon and even ostrich and venison burgers.
A hit-laden set from the mighty Franz Ferdinand brings Belladrum Festival to a triumphant close.

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* Derick co-writes a weekly new music column in Scotland On Sunday. For consideration as our Artist of the Week please click HERE scroll to the bottom and review checklist of what we NEED in order to feature artists. Then email: Derick Mackinnon with all the info