Trad-rock titans Skipinnish bring 20 years of history to the Highlands for special anniversary gig inside Big Top tent at Bught Park, Inverness as part of LCC Live's Live in the City series
TRAD-rock titans Skipinnish have reached the sort of heady heights most bands could only dream of.
The group are celebrating 20 years since co-founders Angus MacPhail and Andrew Stevenson began the band with the biggest gig of their lives – playing to up to 5000 eager Highlanders at a one-off hooley in Inverness’s Bught Park on Friday night.
That’s bona-fide rock star status. But even if the band are playing like rock stars, they’re certainly not acting like it – the group are still grounded to the ways of the world.
Angus proves that’s more than the case when he answers the phone, calling back from the original ring because, “I was paying the window cleaner when you called there!”
From paying the window cleaner on Tuesday to playing the gig of their careers on Friday is quite something for Angus, the accordionist and chief composer for Skipinnish since the band’s beginnings.
And back then, 20 years ago, there was no inkling that this sort of outdoor gig, playing to thousands, would have ever been a reality. “I mean it’s always the kind of thing you dream about,” Angus said. “A big audience for us even two or three years ago for a standalone gig would be maybe 200-300, maybe 400 people at the very most.
“Then that went up to 800-900, to 1000, to 1200, to 1800, to 2000, to 3000, to 4000...it’s just amazing! Now the gigs we’re doing this year are all kind of 3000, 4000, 5000!”
Over the 20 years, Skipinnish have performed across the world, with sellout dates at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, and Glasgow’s Barrowlands.
But one venue has written its name into the Skipinnish history books in a deeper ink than most – Inverness’s own Eden Court theatre.
“That was a big turning point for us,” he said, speaking about the band’s first gig at the Empire theatre in May 2017. “That was the first big gig we took on ourselves, and looking back it doesn’t look like a massive venue for us now – but back then it was huge.
“It was a big risk, because at that time a big crowd for us would be maybe 200-300, but this was an 800-900 seater venue. And we had no idea whether we would get 100 people, if we were going to get 200 people, or if anybody would buy tickets for it.
“But the ticket sold out for it in the first three days, and we were absolutely astounded. We nearly didn’t take on the gig, but the tickets were released between Christmas and New Year  and we couldn’t believe the speed the tickets sold at.”
It’s certainly a far cry from the first gigs that Angus performed with Skipinnish bagpiper Andrew more than two decades ago – but the old gigs are still special.
“Well, the first gig that we played together it was actually pre-forming a band – it was actually in the Park Bar, in Glasgow,” Angus recalled with a laugh. “And I was playing along with a singer – and the singer needed a fiddle player. Andrew’s not actually a fiddle-player but he’s fairly competent, so I got him on!
“And then our first actual gig we did as a band was in the Queenzieburn Town Hall. It was organised by a guy called Alan Reid, who was a member of the Battlefield Band for many, many years.
“We loved this guy! He’s a very famous musician, Alan Reid, in the folk and traditional music circles, so to play our first gig in front of Alan Reid was quite nerve-wracking.”
Skipinnish perform a special 20th anniversary show at a special Big Top show in Bught Park, Inverness on Friday night, as part of LCC Live's Live in the City series. Support from Beinn Lee and Rachel Walker. Gates open at 6pm, limited tickets (£34 face value, additional charges may apply) are available from the event’s box office. Go to www.skipinnish.com