A good nights sleep, no rain, a trip to the showers at the Leisure Centre and a cooked breakfast all set me up for the first band of the day, Manran- on Stage One at 1pm. Such is Norrie McIver's charm that he soon had the audience joining in on Gaelic choruses despite the relative early hour.Manran have only been around for thirteen months- I was lucky enough to see them play a month later. The change in their performance as a group in that time is incredible- as is the way they manage big crowds-even when not in their native Scotland. I'm a bit of a soft touch when it comes to uilleann pipes - add thumping bass and a set of bag pipes and I'm away with the fairies. I just have this feeling that this band has the potential to be very great indeed- and they're not bad now!
Justin Townes Earle (son of Steve) was next. He described himself as a 'hard dog to keep under the porch' and I can see why. He comes across as being more than a little arrogant and I suspect he's not remotely bothered by that either, as he proceeded to show the audience what he could do without the aid of loops and pedals. Clever and talented, wearing Woody Allen style classes and a bow tie , he has more in common with that other famous Woody- certainly his songs are of that ilk. The teenagers next to me though he was the epitome of cool- so maybe it's just me that doesn't get him.
No such problems with Danu though. Uncomplicated, just confident musicianship- Danu play Irish trad with some contemporary arrangements.Good humoured banter and comfortable chat between the band with all of them having equal opportunity to talk to the audience.Biggest roar of the festival so far went to the outrageously talented Martin O' Neill for his bodhran solo; beats that sounded as at home in the Sugar Hill Gang as they do in Irish Trad. Superb!
Frank Turner burst onto stage and straight into the first song from his set in the same instant. Joined by four others, all wearing white shirts and displaying as much energy, Frank and his band ruled the stage. The performance of the festival in terms of passion, fervour and just great showmanship,he rushed through a whistle stop tour of his album in full punk rock style, stopping only briefly to to sing an a capela folk song to prove to the somewhat stunned looking folkies watching that he wasn't any kind of one trick pony.
Newton Faulkner was next, fresh from his guitar workshop in Stage Two and giving a solid performance; Bohemian Rhapsody was a bit of a surprise, but the people around me seemed to love it,as did the group of fans with their own take on his trademark dreadlocks.
After all this excitement in Stage One I left for a breather and a look around the site. Most of Friday Stage Two is given over to ceilidhs, meaning the majority of the festival goers crowded around Stage One. It was a relief to wander around in a bit of space, and after a while I joined in with the ceilidh by Tickled Pink, learning how to do some complicated 'mangle' manouevre in Sir Cassian circle. That all proved a bit much, so after some mexican food (black bean chilli!) I went over to the new Den, the fourth stage run in conjuction with those lovely people at the Magpie's Nest in London. Kitted out like the Queen's Head pub with a mantelpiece, curtains and lamps, it's generally a lovely addition to the festival; occasionally troubled a little by sound from Stage One, particularly if you're unable to get inside the Den itself and have to stand watching from the outside. I saw The Staves, sisters with unbelivably beautiful voices who sing indie folk style songs with beautiful harmonies. I definitely want to see them again.
Cider next, then a trip to the Club tent (four stages in one day!) to see local band The Willows and be very impressed by the young Feis Rois group from Scotland, who thrilled the audience with their puirt a beul, none of them looking older than eighteen. A standing ovation and well deserved too!
By this point Bellowhead were abouto go on Stage One, but I decided instead to see Orkestra del Sol, a band I'd seen a little of before at Celtic Connections Festival Club. I'm glad I did becuase they're really entertaining. A nine piece band playing mostly wind instruments, including a sousaphane, this group are dessed entirely in black and red perform their hearts out. Part street theatre, part reggae/salsa/ska Orkestra take audience participation to another level with actions as well as voices required for some of their songs.