Live review: Insider 2011 (written by three insiders)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it up to Aviemore for the third annual INSIDER festival, which ran from June 17-20. Thankfully, though, Rachel Sermanni, Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott and State Broadcasters pianist Pete MacDonald did.

Not only were all three of them playing on separate days, they also wrote a diary for The Pop Cop of how magical and unforgettable the experience was. Thanks for rubbing it in!

Here’s how it was for them…

by Rachel Sermanni

What festival have you attended that has a zip wire whizzing humans, clad in Victorian-era raiment, over your head and across the front of the Main Stage all night?

It is, I can tell you, a rare and wondrous sight to behold: Some solemn character singing a sombre traditional tune of woe and hard labour followed by the soft whirring of the flying fox and a communal “whoooooooo” from the audience as their attention is momentarily stolen and they raise their happy eyes from stage to sky. Of course, it’s taken by all performers in good humour because that is the only way to be at Insider – bad humour doesn’t exist in the magical realm of Inshriach; everything is just too wonderful.

You find this unearthly place by travelling beneath a tunnel of gentle, old oaks with their rustling canopies. Driving quietly along narrow, meandering road bordered in bracken, ancient stonewalls and the many smooth, silver legs of the forest. Turn down a dusty road that runs alongside a still, dark lochan; pass spindly birches nestled among hundreds of delicate bog cotton flowers (also known as Eriophorum angustifolium…) and thick, sweet-scented grass.

Then music starts to tickle your ears and you get out the car and wade through the buttercups and the sounds get fuller and brighter and excitement bubbles and brims, greater and greater, right up to your eyeballs.

Insider emerges behind the hill like a scene from a fairytale.

My good parents drove me through with my two friends, Leo and Jen. We all arrived in time to hear Findlay Napier & The Bar Room Mountaineers, Sam Lee and Kettle Of Kites before our turn to jump on the stage. There was also time to sample the source of that mouthwatering smell in the air. Apparently the burgers were good. I had the chicken curry and it was also that. There was a tender-looking spit-roast over a fire and some traditional ice cream.

There was also a good amount of hugging going on. Oh, and midges; there certainly was a good amount of those little buggers about too. But remember, all in good humour…

After a great set from Kettle Of Kites (I was about to abbreviate that to KOK but decided it may offend…) I took to the stage with fellow beings being Siobhan Anderson, Jen Austin, Joe Rattray, Martyn Hodge and Leo Forde. They all played wonderfully. As the sunlight diminished, everyone lounged on the grass; a few had a wee dance. We invited Ben Harrison and his trombone and Blair Mcmillan on the drums to join us for a new song, Pablo’s City. It was very fun.

I would’ve liked to stay for the whole weekend. But alas! Not possible.

Rachel Sermanni – Breathe Easy (demo)

June 24, Oran Mor, Glasgow (tickets)
June 26, Solas Festival, Biggar (tickets)
July 9, T in the Park, Balado (sold out)
July 16, Hebridean Celtic Festival, Stornoway (tickets)
July 22, The Wickerman Festival, Kirkcudbright (tickets)
August 5, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Beauly (sold out)
August 11, Fringe By The Sea, North Berwick (tickets)
August 17, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (tickets)

by Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow)

Having succeeded in getting a reasonably early night on the Friday knowing fine well that the heady mix of Thistly Cross cider (at a cool 7% abv) and shouting enthusiastically at some of the fine talent on show at the festival’s first night could batter my voice for our own set, I awoke with the inevitable sound of light rain on the canvas above me. And so, with an all-too-full bladder, I pulled on the nearest pair of shoes and trudged to the aptly-named Heilan Loos to kickstart my day.

Our friend and driver, Jen, had brought all the necessary accoutrements to cook some bacon on a little stove and my better half’s decision to buy a six-man tent for two turned out to be a stroke of genius as we welcomed a series of bleary-eyed passers-by in for tea and grub. The campsite food van (unlike some of the ‘big’ Scottish festivals) were doing a cup of tea and bacon/egg roll for £2 – very reasonable indeed.

Capped at around 750, attendance over the three days was strong but never overbearing and the site set-up was a vast improvement on last year’s event during which the Main Stage was often left looking barren; punters preferring the cosy hub of the Lawn Stage. This year, with a slight shift in Main Stage position and the kitchen and bars moved down the hill, the cauldron-like arena was always full and welcoming.

Lit beautifully like a scene from the movie Big Fish, a path through some trees brought you out to the Backwoods Stage, where Saturday hosted the dapper French Wives, The John Knox Sex Club and a blistering set from Horndog Brass Band. At night this area would be more focused on electronic-based music with lasers and smoke machines creating an open-air Europop orgy of sweaty, hirsute euphoria.

Without talking too much about our own set, I can say that it was a real honour to close the Main Stage on the Saturday night and especially so to be joined by the disgustingly talented Aidan O’Rourke and Kris Drever of Lau for a gloriously sloppy version of Neil Young’s Old Man. We rehearsed the cover once in a squash court disguised as a corrugated iron barn; the site is full of hidden nooks and eccentric little details you wouldn’t necessarily notice at first.

Band members and punters mixed together like everyone was in it together with the simple aim of having the best time they could. No egos, just good patter. And OK, there was a bit of rain, but this is Scotland. Security was present but not so strict that you felt threatened and, as far as I know, the only illegal act occurred at roughly 6.30am on Sunday morning when myself and Kevin Brolly (our clarinet player) headed for the nearby river and swam together Billy Bollock naked for 30 blissful, freezing minutes – a sight that no living person should ever have to witness.

A big tip of the cap should go to Gordon, Polly, Ross, Walter and all the volunteers and staff for creating one of the finest festivals I have ever attended.

Admiral Fallow – Delivered (Alternate Version)

August 5, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Beauly (sold out)
August 14, Liquid Room, Edinburgh (tickets)

by Pete MacDonald (State Broadcasters)

Now, I should probably mention before I go any further that I don’t like festivals very much. They tend to conjure up the image of sunburnt, shirtless arseholes, downing a can of the cheap booze that is sponsoring the weekend while simultaneously pissing on your tent to the strains of whatever dross Radio 1 happens to be championing that year.

Insider couldn’t be further from that nightmarish scene, however. I’ve never been to a festival with so many like-minded people, soaking in the happy atmosphere and the beautiful setting. And the setting truly is beautiful – the Main Stage sits in a magical little valley, surrounded by trees and hills. With a zip-line flying its passengers over the heads of the audience. And a whole lamb being spit-roasted next to the beer tent. Amazing.

We were playing our set in a gorgeous cabaret tent up the hill, complete with a honky-tonk piano and projector playing old silent movies (punters were encouraged to provide their own musical accompaniment to Charlie Chaplin or whatever film happened to be playing as they wandered in).

It was a bit of a cobbled together set on our part – with our singer Graeme and cellist Suz unable to make it, we decided to attempt a collaboration with our friends Endor in a one-off Insider special (or, at least, it was special to us).

With a whopping two rehearsals under our belt we were a little apprehensive about how things were going to work out, but we needn’t have worried. The tent was packed with a supportive crowd (some of them sitting on the floor at the front in full Victorian garb, something I’ll always remember) who gave us a fantastic reception.

Later I had the great pleasure of playing the closing festival set with Let’s Talk About Trees. There was an audience holding helium balloons, choreographed dancing from the band and a lot of synths. We ended the set by leading a singing procession out of the tent and through the woods to a campfire that Gordon, the organiser, had lit specially for the occasion. It was a pretty magical little moment, and a pretty magical little festival.

My own musical highlights of the weekend were Over The Wall (playing next to a caravan in a stable), Washington Irving, The Duplets (perfect morning music for the hungover festival-goer), Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers and The John Knox Sex Club. And, of course, dancing to recordings of Toots And The Maytals in a clearing in the forest.

All that and no-one pissed on my tent.

State Broadcasters – Kittiwake

All photos © Ingrid Mur except top photo © Michael Glienecke.
Massive thanks to Rachel, Louis and Pete for their diaries.

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