Michael Pellegrotti on Skye Live: 'We want to deliver a unique experience, and the location and type of music we put on does that'
- David Pollock
- 9 August 2019
Pellegrotti and co-founder Niall Munro speak to us about the island festival's focus and future plans
Coming into its fifth year in existence this year, Skye Live is a hidden gem of the Scottish festival scene for a variety of reasons. There's the spectacular location, of course – only accessible by car or by a well-planned combination of road, ferry and rail, Skye Live takes place on the Lump, a two-tier wooded park on the side of a small hill jutting out into the harbour at Portree.
Beautiful to get to and beautiful when you arrive, Skye Live also features one of the most distinctive – and counter-intuitive – line-ups in the land. At once it's a folk festival, with Lau, Tide Lines, Martha Ffion and Peatbog Fairies all playing the big tent, with the Waterboys headlining a new Thursday night opening concert; and it's also a first-rate club festival, with Erol Alkan, Optimo (Espacio), Leon Vynehall and Auntie Flo set to appear on the outdoor second stage. The many locals who turn out seem to love both incarnations.
'I grew up in Portree, and always thought our site would make a special location for a festival,' says Niall Munro, who co-founded the festival with Ali MacIsaac in 2015 . 'I ran some parties in Glasgow while studying there, while Ali ran parties on Skye. We both felt the island was missing something bigger, but we could never have imagined the demand there would be that first year. That's what drove us on to establish it long-term.'
'We want to deliver a unique experience, and the location and type of music we put on does that,' explains Michael Pellegrotti, who now runs Skye Live with Munro. 'Traditional and electronic music are both heavily driven by rhythm, and provoke a tribal reaction in people similar to the emotions the landscape generates. Skye has some of the most striking landscapes in the world; the site itself is set atop a peninsula that juts out from Portree with stunning views of the island. It feels remote, despite being right in the centre of a village buzzing with life.'
The pair are eager to welcome very different Skye musical institutions Peatbog Faeries and Niteworks (it was the latter group, the festival's resident band, who introduced Munro and Pellegrotti), and most excited about this year's Waterboys coup, a band who last played Skye 30 years ago. Their set will be a fitting special event to mark the fifth anniversary of a festival which aims for long life over commercial scale.
'Our aim is to sustain the festival at its current level, while keeping the music fresh and exciting,' says Pellegrotti. 'The site's compact nature means we can't change much, but I think that's a good thing; too many events focus on growing and lose their original spirit in the process. I was just a punter the first year I came here, but I remember being blown away by the site and wanting to help as many people find out about it as possible.' It's that kind of event – one you take to heart for more than just the music as soon as you experience it.
Skye Live, Portree, Isle of Skye, Thu 5–Sat 7 Sep.