Jocktoberfest: Saturday afternoon
Black Isle Brewery
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by Margaret Chrystall
IT could have been the showdown at the hoedown when the squaw in the feather head-dress smacked the cowboy on the shoulder.
But it was just JOCKTOBERFEST.
Luckily making a wrong move in young folk four-piece GABBRO’s Strip The Willow was never going to end in a High Noon-style shootout – though the long street between the festival’s acoustic Hayloft Stage and the bigger Dutch Barn would have been perfect for it.
And even though the ankle-deep straw in the Dutch Barn kept the junior cowboys and cowgirls amused chucking it at each other – it was the closest thing to a dangerous weapon around at the Black Isle Brewery’s annual shindig. At least for singer Ashley from ASHLEY AND THE COSMONAUTS.
"My voice doesn’t like the straw, excuse me while I splutter!" she told the crowd which barely noticed a problem, busy enjoying songs perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon like Tainted Eyes and cover Love Vibration.
Earlier a shift in the line-up meant the bonus of female four piece DOREC A BELLE plus regular bass player Robin Abbot and Derek Urquhart on drums rounding off the late afternoon with one of the group’s best songs, Listen.
And then it was over to the brass and wind instruments of LOBY DOSSER AND THE RANK BADYINZ to bring a genuine German bierkellar vibe to the big barn with carefully customised sounds such as Eine Kleine BEERmusik.
With just the two band members –singer and guitarist Niall Strachan now with Paul Bannon from Lady North on drums – GARDEN OF ELKS, without bassist Ryan Drever who is off on tour with his other band PAWS, might have struggled to make themselves heard. Except they are Garden Of Elks. And even before the noisy punkfest of the set began, Niall had made firm friends with pint-sized "Tigerfaceboy" who helped inspire a full-scale front-of-the-crowd strawfight to a perfect apocalyptic noisy punk closer from the band. And you kind of wonder what Ryan - in America - will have made of Niall’s gig selfie with a Black Isle barn crowd straight outta Dodge.
But with a whole posse of guitar-toting LITTLE MILL OF HAPPINESS bad boys on next, the bracing but never too loud volume wasn’t going down any time soon on the Dutch Barn stage. Frontman Steve Obern’s performance as charismatically mean-hearted as any proper black-hat from Wild West legend, he outstared the young girl who held out her toy gun and fired, fired and fired again right between his eyes.
It was a more folky, gentler feel to the rock of DANTE from Edinburgh with the fiddle of Vicky Gray bringing an unexpectedly downhome touch to the band’s return to their first EP title track for Monochrome.
But if it was thigh-slapping, spur-whirring fun you were after, the Hayloft Stage with its comfy hay-bale seats was the place to find it.
Early on, DR WOOK looked right at home, looping the sound from his guitar and lassoing new hearts with his woody growl in Grace From Below.
The contrast with GABBRO – who revealed they were about to film tracks for BBC Alba the following day – and their dance-calling fiddler Rachel worked well with the acoustic guitar, accordion and fiddle confident on a tune introduced as what sounded like a Jocktoberfest-appropriate Lone Indian.
It was more lone cowboy from CRAIG ROBERTSON, who got a boo from his up-for-it-crowd when he removed his Stetson, but kept on with the self-sabotaging banter – "Here’s one of my own songs, so scatter if you need to!" If they were all as well-received as his own strongest one of the set, designed – he told us – to give his brother a kick up the ass, maybe he should aim at his own saddle-area, man up and stop the apologising.
Following him was the quiet man of the afternoon, ESPERI or multi-instrumentalist songwriter Chris James Marr.
His songs celebrated the arrival of his baby son, building from the one man and guitar experimental folk arrangement of opener Hearts to the looped orchestra he built for Somersaults. It brought loads of us to mob the stage afterwards for new album Seasons, having witnessed him play guitar, drums, a xylophone opened out of a special case, a multi-coloured metal glockenspiel, hand bells, kalimba (thumb piano), melodica (blown in through a tube) and a musical tube whirled above his head for an eerie sound like wind blowing tumbleweed through a gold rush ghost town.
But there was a noisier crowd – including moustachioed and bowler-hatted saloon barman and feather-plumed showgirl – by the time MEESHELLE and two compadres from funksters The Leonard Jones Potential (which she also fronts) launched into a good-time set.
Standouts were a smart reworking of Shannon’s Let The Music Play and Meeshelle’s own songs, Every Morning and her last, Avanti, dedicated to the "Leonard Jones Potential family".
Meeshelle’s own oufit signalled a girl who took the festival’s theme seriously.
"Well done all you cowboys and cowgirls. Everyone’s dressed up!" she grinned, tipping the jaunty stetson over her red-gold hair to the Wild West crowd.
Earlier, one group of cowpersons had found a great way to celebrate the music they rated, pointing their silver six-shooters in the air and hammering the clicks out of their plastic triggers.
Add a rousing "Yee-haa!" for Jocktoberfest Four and a Wanted poster offering a reward for the first sighting of Jocktoberfest 2015.
Also online, see Meeshelle’s photo diary of her Jocktoberfest – and our whatson-north gunslinger’s top three Jocktobermoments.