Fence Collective's Away Game takes the party to island of Eigg
Human Don’t Be Angry, Silver Columns and Withered Hand among highlights
Miami sunsets, macaroni pies, tractors-as-transport. Live death metal at 6am, beach campfire concerts, and a bottomless hipflask of whisky doing the rounds long after the bar had been drunk dry. Away Game – the first Fence Records festival on the Hebridean island of Eigg, was, in short, a colossal success.
Besides the appeal of an idyllic island retreat for the weekend, the music also hit a string of highs. Friday night included Edinburgh art-pop collective FOUND (who recently signed to Chemikal Underground) gee-ing up the crowd expertly with their blend of quirk-rock and electronica (and an unexpected appearance from a Bez-like stage invader). Silver Columns’ delivered their frenzied tropical techno beats, with added crowd-invading drumming from Adem and a congo-line through the marquee. At one point Adem (pictured), wearing a t-shirt with his musical other half’s face on it, had worked up such a heat, there was a small cloud of steam rising from the top of his head – setting a new benchmark for less energetic performers to aim towards, surely.
Withered Hand’s solo set (after Dan Willson had endured a particularly ‘invigorating’ crossing on the Shearwater ferry earlier in the day) was a warm, well received display of his neurotic, angsty majesty; followed later by Francois & The Atlas Mountains’ stuttering rave-folk set.
On Saturday, Indiana-raised, now London-based Player Piano interrupted his plaintive acoustic-pop performance to take a call from his sister in America, before Sweet Baboo (Daniel Johnston with a Welsh accent, and added surreal humour) sang under the ceilidh hall’s canopy of tweed bunting, performing tracks from his oddball-maudlin upcoming album, I’m A Dancer. (Shape Records.) (See his video of ‘How I’d Live My Life, aka The Bumblebee Song’ on YouTube for evidence of his sublime fretwork. Despite Sweet Baboo (Stephen Black) explaining in the song that he thinks Cardiff is a ‘shithole’ and couldn’t live there, the track was also used on a Visit Wales advert.
Malcolm Middleton’s new project, Human Don’t Be Angry was a definite highlight: a blissfully sparse, mostly instrumental wave of ‘Midnight Noodles’, peppered with comedy-bleak commentary from the ex-Arab Strapper. Earlier Middleton had explained that the name for his new direction in glacially-slow riffs comes from an Austrian hardcore group of the same name. http://www.myspace.com/hdbaband
Later in the day, King Creosote’s anthemic folk-pop soared; British Sea Power were, well, hammered; Come On Gang!’s choral-pop throbbed and The Massacre Cave (local death metallers; one of their dad’s is the Eigg postman) screamed into the small hours. Hats off to Johnny Lynch, aka The Pictish Trail and one half of Silver Columns – not only for fusing Fence’s strong folk back-catalogue with bleeping, doofing, bass-heavy electronica – but also for dreaming up, and then coordinating Scotland’s newest, very special, music festival. Come back soon, Away Game.