So, we have an idea of what makes a festival great. The Hits.
In lieu of bona-fide chart action, however, the main arena bands require that something else. In lieu of any famous friends actually onstage (despite the big buildup of Kurt Cobain as their most famous fan) the BMX Bandits opt for an entertainment assault. Duglas T Stewart is the ultimate showman, the indie Tony Bennett perhaps, as he effortlessly chats with the crowd. Opening with ‘The Road To Love Is Paved With Banana Skins’ complete with fruity props, the expanded combo are on a mission to cheer everyone up – indeed, Stewart suggests that anyone with an elderly aunt who’s down in the dumps will have her mojo revived by the simple addition of the band’s new album to her life. With Chloe Philip on duets and flute as well as engaging in Duglas’s hand jive, she’s the quiet foil to Duglas’s warm banter, as he namechecks songwriting partners Norman Blake and Joe Kane (actually in the crowd) and the band’s sunny pop melodies almost bring the sun out. They may be saccharin sweet; indeed, a passing photographer – who has, frankly, no business throwing around similes or metaphors – describes them as “like a chocolate liqueur”. He’s right – addictive melodies that leaving you wanting more. Aptly then they close with ‘E102’, their C86 ode to tartrazine.
What’s in a name? Not punk-goth pioneers “Siouxsie and the…”, not much-missed West Lothian indie combo “Flip…” – no, just plain ol’ BansheeParty Fears 3 aren’t an Associates tribute act, but they do note-perfect covers from that era – ‘Mad World’, ‘Vienna’, ‘Planet Earth’… getting anyone of a certain age in the crowd nostalgic for the days of bad hair and DX7s.
Sadly, we don’t find out if they perform their (nearly) eponymous tune, having another date with another act up the hill. Indigo Sixteen, frankly, isn’t a name offering much promise, but even the fact that the Broxburn combo play all original material is a plus. That it’s speedy guitar-heavy indie rock adds to the appeal, and bonus points for the fact shared t hat their first gig was at a Sighthill 5-a-side football park.
I don’t even know the name of the next act to show on the Wee Stage, but it turns out that they are a name I’ve seen on posters The Quiet Society. It seems apt that they gig at the likes of Tchai Ovna, as they have a decidedly 60s psychedelic vibe with definite nods to The Beatles. Despite this, they boast excellent harmonies, multi-instrumental abilities, and a drummer who can sing (and drum, come to that.
From the hits of tomorrow (well, maybe) to those of… well, just when were Dodgy in the charts? The drummer, I recall, was more famous than the rest of the band (he’s greyer of beard now) while the singer though good-natured, is dour, rambling and mumbling. The reformed London act of course have a new album out and aren’t afraid to trail it. However, the crowd are there for The Hits of course, and ‘Let Me Go Far’ is wheeled out. They are, it transpires, a band who’ve only ever had four top 20 singles, and that wasn’t one of them, so we cut our losses for …
the Winner of Edinburgh’s Got Talent 2010! Thus, Gavin Blackie is the first act of the day to tantalise us with walk-on music and to be fair, he has a hard-core following who stick around for his hi-NRG covers of the Killers’ ‘Human’ and ‘Relight My Fire’ – “everyone loves a bit of cheese”, as he points out.
And he’s right. He’s also fortunate that he’s not going up against the next act on the main stage. A-ha! I mean, Bjorn Again. Talk about hits, the fact that they are a covers act seems immaterial even to the most cynical hacks (I find myself cursing that I’d not gone into the camera pit to capture their remarkable look, then slapping myself mentally to remind myself that they are not actually Agnetha, Bjorn Benny and Anna-Frid, but probably Bruce, Sheila, Nate and Daphne. No matter. They perform the hits of the Swedish foursome with not a duffer, and even get away with ‘Benny’ doing a comedy House of Pain style rap, a daft phone stunt on ‘Ring Ring’. There are so many hits that some are rushed by as segues – in fact, the band don’t even do their own sole chart entry (their none-more-meta covers EP ‘Erasure-ish’). That aside, there are no surprises, with ‘Dancing Queen’ getting everyone from indie kids to grannies to security guards singing along, just perfectly choreographed versions of the archetypal pop group.
Up the hill again we go, to the busy acoustic tent as sponsored by Bathgate’s Purple Orange venue. Whether View From August just do covers is unclear though their U2 tune benefits from some strong backing vocals, as they fight to be heard above the Lemonhaze‘s scratchy county rock on the Breakout Stage.
From an earlier era, but similar to Dodgy are Hipsway – light on the chart smashes compared to Abba, but who isn’t? Grahame Skinner looks stylish in suit and impeccable silver quiff, the only real sign that the band’s heyday was three decades ago. With their funky rhythms and trademark choppy guitar, they soon make it clear that there is still a following for the band and ‘Broken Years’ and ‘Honeythief’ are delivered to much acclaim.
But they have nothing on the festival’s headliner. Amy Macdonald is chatty and confident, the world-conquering artist just glad to be back home with a crowd who can “understand my accent”. throwing in ‘Don’t Tell Me It’s Over’ and ‘Spark’ early doors, she saves ‘Mr Rock’n’Roll’ till later, as well as showering the crowd in confetti which they bathe in light from their phones. A fitting end to another triumph of a festival.