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Musical Day Out In Oban

June 3, 2015



It was ten years in the making but it was certainly worth the wait!


As I made my way from my flat into Oban for the long awaited Skerryvore Decade event, I was astonished to find that I was more worried about sunburn than how to keep dry! The poor weather leading up to the day had been replaced by beautiful, warm sunshine. The town was buzzing as the Bid4Oban van played Skerryvore tracks in the square and people arrived off trains and ferries, most of them complete with wellies and umbrellas. A nice walk up the hill to Mossfield followed to meet up with the gang and get into the park. Entry was easy, despite the red-hot security (“Oh crap! I was supposed to be counting people. How many have gone in so far? I’ll say eight”) and the park was well laid out. We picked or spot and it was perfect for our “more mature” group. Room for the folding seats (not for me, I wasn’t that organised), a good view of the stage and close to the beer tent.

The event started with a performance by some young local dancers in a tribute to their former tutor Eilidh MacInnes. They danced beautifully, kitted out in hoodies and kilts, to the One Direction track, “The Story of My Life”

First act on were the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. I had seen them on TV before but was always a bit wary of their live shows as they seem to be a sort of franchise band and have various different versions on the go at the same time. Whatever formula they use, it worked. It was a spectacular show, effortlessly combing traditional tunes like the Clumsy Lover and the Little Cascade with Eye of the Tiger and Everybody Dance Now! The high spot for me was the cracking version of Chasing Cars that had my spine tingling.

At this stage, the only flaw in the otherwise fine organisation was becoming obvious. The queue for the beer tent was ridiculously long!  Luckily, during the next band, Lee called to say he was in the queue and we managed to get the next round in with only a half hour wait.

That band was the first of the trio of Tiree bands on the bill, Trail West. Again, I had never seen Trail West live but they put on a fine set of traditional tunes and songs in Gaelic and English. My personal highlight was their re-working of the old Corries favourite, MacPhersons’ Rant.

Dougie MacLean was next up and by this time the park was almost full and Dougie, armed with his guitar, had them singing with gusto. I think Dougie is a bit underrated as a songwriter, being thought of have as having one big hit, but he put on a set of beautifully written, poignant songs. Holding Back, Ready for the Storm and Feels So Near were all brilliant and the set was finished with the moving She Loves Me. One or two in the crowd were disappointed that he had not sung Caledonia but I think most of us knew why that was.

The queues at the bar were getting worse by this stage but my cousins braved the melee and had the good sense to buy two round at once!

The Scott Wood Band were the next act on stage and we were treated to some great sets on the pipes and whistle by Scott, with Mhairi MacKinnon on fiddle providing excellent support. One of the day’s high spots for me was the tune Looking Through Portnahaven which was just superb.

Next up was Sharon Shannon with Alan Connor and what a set they provided. Sharon’s virtuosity on the button box is well known and coupled with Alan’s prowess on keyboard and guitar (sometimes at the same time) they had the place jumping. Hard to pick a highlight but the Phil Cunningham set was excellent and the closing “Galway Girl” had everyone singing again.

The beer queue situation was still dire by this stage but Morag had arrived to keep us amused and take our minds of it.

We were getting towards the end now and it was time for the second Tiree band of the day. From the opening strains of Land Below the Waves, to the closing Walking on the Waves, Skipinnish were on top form.  Robert Robertson was in fine form and had us all singing along. The whole set was great but probably Piper to the End had that spine-tingling moment.

June and Laura bravely attempted to join the beer queue at this stage and it was probably about an hour before we saw them again.

By that time, the main act of the day were in full swing. Skerryvore began life as a Ceilidh band and have now developed into one of the top celtic rock bands in the country.  Their set was sprinkled with special guests and even the light rain that was falling by then couldn’t dampen the spirits. Jill Jackson joined them for a song and there were also appearances by various Chilli Pipers, Alan Henderson, Sharon Shannon and our co-host for the day, Stuart Cassels. The moment of the day though, was undoubtedly when they were joined by Dougie MacLean for an absolutely magic rendition of Caledonia, with full audience participation. It was a very special moment. The set rocked on and finished with another singalong classic, Home to Donegal and a final, rousing version of Path to Home to send us on our way.

So, that was it. A great day altogether. It was great to see some familiar faces like Jason, Stephen and Katy and spend time with Gary, June, Laura, Lee, Morag and Laura 2. Probably the most bizarre moment of the day was while I was waiting in the queue. The women in front of me asked “Where are you from?”

“I live in Oban” I replied “but I am from the Isle of Colonsay”.

“Colonsay?” says a voice behind me, “I have a cousin from Colonsay. “

I thought that was quite a coincidence. Then I asked who his cousin was and was amazed to discover that she was my cousin too!

So, there was nothing left to do now but say our goodbyes and start the walk home, wondering if I can last until Ceol Cholasa without going to another gig!


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