Now in its fourth year, the Kelburn Garden Party is settling as well into the festival calendar as it is into its home in the wonderful grounds of the Kelburn Castle and Country Centre.
With the trippy, graffiti-castle backdrop, West-Coast seaside outlook and forest canopy club zone, this is far from your average festival mudbath. A limit of 700 tickets and a quick scan of the artists show it’s far from your average festival – full stop.
Of the four stages dotted around, the smallest is (affectionately) known as the Pyramid Stage and is where I come across first band of the day, Rainbow Fisher. The Fratelli-ey swinging guitar that attracts my attention makes way for a mellower Smashing Pumpkins affair before stand out track ‘By the Sea’ washes over me like Credence in a hot-tub. A great start and you’ll really strike it lucky if you see these guys live.
As I upgrade to the Square Stage I come across Matt Norris and the Moon. A raucous romp (very much) in the Mumford and Sons mould, with a double bass player who seems to be wearing the jumper I bought all my in-laws for Christmas. Not exactly pushing any musical boundaries but providing a welcome backdrop as festival essentials are sussed (beer and toilets – both exceptional!).
My game of stage-tig takes me off to the Viewpoint Stage next to see Adam Stearns & the Glass Animals. They offer some terrific 6 piece folk noodle although my patience is being tested by the midgies that have been eating my eyeballs for the last 2 hours so I take the huff and go to score another beer. On the way to the bar I am distracted by the distant beat of the ubiquitous Samba Ya Bamba who have attracted the biggest crowd of the day. Happily it’s the full brass dancing version rather than the taps-aff, drinking in the park schemies that you tend to see at smaller events in Glasgow from time to time.
After some grub (think haggis, Japanese bento box and wood fired pizzas, rather than shit in a tray) it’s back to Viewpoint to see The Dark Jones dish out some very cool, Beta Band, Coral, La’s vibes which remind me of the 5 minutes when the NME tried to get the genre ‘shroomadelica’ off the ground (although maybe in this case is should be renamed ‘wee£2balloonsfilledwithlaughinggas-adelica’)… It’s a pleasant surprise when a guy in the in the crowd wandering around playing trumpet and looking like a total chancer turns out to be part of the band. It adds great fun to the performance and contributes to the playful atmosphere of the festival as a whole.
At around 21:30 The Phantom Band bring their Kraut-wegian electro-rock to the Viewpoint stage with a sonic, surreal, and very-very special performance. A distracted crowd take a while to get into things but when PB hit their stride (notably in the 2nd half of ‘None of One’) it’s a top noise and doesn’t disappoint. The Viewpoint stage takes its name from the great… erm… view… of Kelburn Castle and if you’re not familiar with this thing, Google it now and then picture it as the sun goes down and The Phantom Band turn things up to 11. Absolutely ace.
Just when lots of festivals would be patting themselves on the back and ushering punters towards the exits, Kelburn steps things up a notch. First DJ NoFACE and then DJ Food seize on the large Phantom Band crowds and get some shoulders moving until Submotion Orchestra glide on stage at 1am (also known as questionable notes o’clock). With their soaring, jazzy, bassy, triphop/dubstep (tripstep, anyone?) wobble it is a change of tempo that doesn’t suit everyone but It’s this kind of leftfield addition that marks Kelburn out from the crowd and pushes it towards Big Chill or Electric Picnic in the alternative electronic music stakes.
Boom Monk Ben brings the curtain down at a hazy 3am and approximately 699 punters shuffle off into the darkness with most of them getting the chance to do it all again the next day. And the music programmer clearly knows how to handle day two of a festival as well – sunshine soul, reggae, funk and folk easing punters into the day before stepping up the tempo so that the hardcore can get dancing again. Unique setting, great music and excellent facilities. Kelburn 2012 was a hit and the 6th and 7th July is already in my diary for next year – it should be in yours as well.