At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the fencing and dozens of security guards around Inverarry Castle was down to a G8 style conference of the great and good. The location is certainly well suited to it and the locals would probably have preferred it.
However, the breathtaking scenery of Inverarry was this weekend to form the backdrop to Connect festival. Promoted by DF the firm behind T in the Park I’m told the festival was run along a simple premise. T in the Park is run to make money Connect is the festival those who organise T would want to go to.
With a line-up including Björk, The Beastie Boys, CSS, MIA, LCD Soundsystem and a host of Scottish acts (as well as Jarvis Cocker – I wasn’t the only Yorkshireman there) you cant fault their taste in music. Nor can you fault their taste in food, drink and merriment. From the Loch Fyne whisky tent to the porridge and neeps, you were well catered for in every sense.
The aforementioned Brooklyn trio may have been slightly off with their geography (“Is the Loch Ness monster in the house?”) but they were bang on with the hits a set spanning nearly two decades in the business sounded as fresh as ever, from the punk laced Sabotage to a piercing Intergalactic.
Despite the international blend of headliners, the line-up included some home-grown gems. The recently reformed The Jesus & Mary Chain took to the Oyster Stage (the nearby Loch Fyne is famous for oysters) for their first Scottish gig in six years, while Teenage Fanclub dispelled the dubious weather with a masterclass in rock majesty.
Another gem of Scottish musical heritage, the Fire Engines, rolled out the highlights of their rather slim recorded catalogue and instantly earned a new generation of followers, while Mogwai literally blew back the clouds with a typically majestic set. The Saturday night headliners, Primal Scream, played with typical gusto, blasting through the likes of Swastika Eyes and ‘Accelerator’ with a raw energy most pertinently displayed when bassist Mani grabbed the microphone to demand the culprit behind a pint that had hit him come onto the stage ‘to get their nose broken.’ Funnily enough nobody came forward, with Mani branding them ‘a fucking coward’ the set proceeded with according swagger.
Across on the second stage (Guitars and other machines…why?) Idlewild headlining their first stage ever apparently brought Sunday to a close with a career spanning hit, closing with an awe-inspiring In Remote Part as Hot Chip brought down the curtain with their own Over And Over in the big tent. It probably had a cool name, but I don’t remember.
It was left to LCD Soundsystem to close the main stage, bumped up the bill apparently by Bjork, who had requested to play as the sun came down. After a set that stood out as slightly subdued, the finale of Declare Independence pointedly dedicated to Scotland broke out into an all out electrofest, driven by Mark Bell of LFO fame. As with her Glastonbury set, Bell’s electronic wizardry was broadcast on big screen TVs across the stage and included a blitzing mix of his own track Freak interjected into Bjork’s own Hyperballad.
All in all, Connect ticked all the boxes for a successful festival. Yes, the car park was too far from the main site, and overpriced. No, the paths weren’t big enough and of course, the no bottles/alcohol/anything in a liquid form rules had more in common with an airport on a heightened terrorist alert than an apparently relaxed festival. But after that, what you’re left with is a line-up that offered both eclecticism and some sold rock n roll, in a pretty amazing setting.
With tickets already on sale for next year’s event, if you’re a fan of eclectic music, a more relaxed festival environment and don’t mind the trek to Inverarry, make sure you get your hands on one.