ONE ‘ALE OF A TIME!
Marking the end of the village’s vibrant summer festival season, the last weekend of August played host to the Moniaive Ale and Music Festival. The event was hosted by the Craigdarroch Arms Hotel who, in promoting the event, floated the tantalising promise of an entire weekend of free music and camping, coupled with the tagline, “all you need is beer money”! Presumably to sample some of the 50-odd real ales they had on offer at the outdoor bar.
The festival kicked off on Friday night with, “Heart of Rust”, a locally-based Neil Young tribute act. Starting on a high – Heart of Gold – the band eased through some of Mr Young’s more languid numbers, providing a chilled out vibe as darkness fell upon the rather perfectly appointed courtyard stage. Much like Neil Young’s career, the set gradually evolved towards louder guitars and fuzzier feedback, accompanied by eerily convincing vocal. Also staying true to their idol, the band delivered an extremely long set!
Next up were Monkey Shoulder, fronted by Moniaive resident Ralph Yates-Lee. Confidently strutting their way through some low-down dirty rock’n’roll, the band upped the tempo of the evening with clanging guitars – tinged with both blues and grunge influences – and melodic lighters-in-the-air anthems.
Friday night was concluded by headliners, another great Dumfries and Galloway asset, Scruffy Buzzards. Unleashing drive and energy onto the stage, the Buzzard’s folk-infused roots-laden rock had the remaining crowd jumping, but unfortunately all came a bit too late. A schedule over-run earlier in the evening, twinned with a strict curfew, meant that their set had to be cut short. A great shame for all those to waited up late to see Scruffy Buzzards, but hopefully they can be encouraged to come back and play a longer set in Moniaive sometime soon.
One of the real stars of the weekend was the festival venue. Transforming beer garden onto a mini outdoor arena was a masterstroke by the Craigdarroch (albeit one that got lucky with the rain gods!). With tarpaulin-covered stage surrounded by coloured lights and day-glo trees, numerous fire-pits, stone pizza-oven and beer-laden bar, the self-contained festival site came to life.
Following a day of courtyard acoustic sessions, folk and spoken word, Saturday night was kick-started by Dumfries upstarts, Ammonium. In true punk style, the band spent their afternoon foraging for kit before exploding onto the stage, unleashing noisy grunge to wake the gathering crowd.
Next on the bill was Neil McLarty, singer and guitarist with superb Leeds power-pop outfit, Gojin-Go, to deliver a solo and acoustic set of songs that had never previously been performed in either solo or acoustic form. This task was fulfilled to excellent effect. With one foot firmly rooted in West of Scotland indie melancholy and the other drowning in twangy Americana power-pop, Neil’s set of self-penned material (usually wrapped up in feedback and electric guitar) is all about the songs. An exiled Moniaiver, Neil says he’s chuffed to be playing the village. And we’re glad he came.
Continuing the vibe of acoustic charm and Americana influenced strains, The Oystercatchers are next to perform. This is their first show with two new guitarists; this works, the performance is crisp and fresh. This band thrives on the strength of the vocal performance, in particular the startling close harmonies from singers Jade and Gerry, melodic lines that wrap around each other and noticeably draw people towards the stage. Their set is a mix of traditional American song, bluegrass, roots and country, and original material which never once sounds out of place alongside classics like Elvis’s, “That’s Alright Mama”.
Next up, my band, Lucien’s Ghost. Our bandmates arrived from Glasgow and the Borders on Saturday afternoon to squeeze in only our third rehearsal so, by the time we took to the stage on Saturday night, it still felt we were flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants. However, we managed to get through it unscathed, I can’t complain about the feedback we received and, in my opinion, our guitarist, bass and drummer (Michael, Craig and Rufus) were superb! In between some of our own songs, we performed covers by David Bowie, The Eels and a version of “Small Town” by Lou Reed and John Cale; always a little risky in Monaive!
And with that, we finished up just in time for my personal highlight of the weekend, the utterly magnificent, completely legendary Scottish-ska superheros, The Amphetameanies. Cramming neatly onto a stage made for far fewer, team ‘Meanie delivered – as ever – a set of flawless classics to an instantaneously filled and bouncing dance-floor. The perfect headliner, their tidal-wave of a set seems to be over in minutes, but ska hung in air as festival stragglers and campers gathered around campfires for the remainder of the evening.
The Ale and Music Festival, showing far greater stamina than I, continued into the Sunday with an afternoon session featuring laid back dub, ska and reggae beats from Eazy Skankin’, featuring a set from Moniaive-based dubstep programmer, DJ, composer and trailblazer, Suspek6. Unfortunately the excesses of Saturday night kept me away from this one, but I’m reliably informed by all involved that it closed the weekend brilliantly.
So, Moniaive festival season is over for another year, but it most certainly ended with a bang! The Craigdarroch Arms Hotel provided a great setting and a fantastic line up, so many thanks to them, as well as to Lance Stewart and John Dinning for taking care of the sound, stage and lights all weekend.