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Sun, Music & 36 Pints in four seconds

May 15, 2016


As I headed into town for the first day of Oban Live 2016 it was overcast and a slightly less warm than it had been. After a couple of pre-show drinks we headed up to Mossfield.

The first band were already in full swing and Cal Mac Culture award winners James Edwyn & the Borrowed Band put on a good show of country tinged songs.

A quick break then, as the Sun made an appearance, to test out the bar system and see if it had improved from last year and I am happy to say it has! Pouring at a rate of 36 pints every four seconds, they just about kept up.

Aly Bain & Phil Cunnigham were next up and, even in the wide open expanse of Mossfield, the emotion and excellence of their playing shone through. “Irish Beauty” and the emotion filled “A Bright Star in Cepheus” were the highlights of a great set. The set ended with a birthday cake for Aly, who was on the eve of his 70th, and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday from the crowd.


The last time I saw Wolfestone live was in Oban some 24 years ago. There has been some line-up changes since then but the basis of great tunes remains. The new songs were very good but to me the highlights of the show were the old tune sets. By this time our mini Colonsay Gathering was in full swing and the banter flowed with the tunes.

As the sun dipped behind the stage it was time to remove the sunglasses and put on the jackets as we waited for We Banjo Three and boy were they worth the wait! They produced a terrific set of songs and tunes that had the place jumping. “The Long Black Veil” was one of the highlights of the whole weekend and the tune sets sparkled with energy and fun. They are definitely on my list of acts to see again.

The final act of day one was Skipinnish. Having been lucky enough to witness their line-up change halfway through the show at the Corran Halls in April, I was looking forward to a full set from the new look band. They were tremendous. Norrie was in fine voice and fitted in perfectly and the band were on top form. “December” was beautifully sung and it was great to hear “Oceans of the Free” again but the old favourites like “Walking on the Waves” and “Land Below the Waves” were the real stormers. Norrie’s vocals on the start of “The Island” were absolutely brilliant and definitely one of the wow moments of the weekend.

On to day two and, as if I needed a wee warm up, I popped into the Royal Hotel for a few songs and tunes from Gunna Sound before heading up to Mossfield. The sun was out again and the park was very busy and ready for the magic to begin.

Capercaillie were first up and performed brilliantly on their home turf where Donald used to play shinty and Karen used to smoke behind the tents! I have seen them a few times before and this was definitely the best I have heard them play. With Aiden O’Rourke, Angus MacColl Jnr and Julie Fowlis joining them at various stages, this was a cracking set and a great way to start the day.

A complete change of pace followed next with Hunter & the Bear taking to the stage. Their set absolutely rocked and their own songs were very impressive. The highlight for me was undoubtedly their cover of Springsteen’s “The River”. Spine-tinglingly good and, judging by the queues at the merchandise stall, they won an army of new fans.

I have been waiting a long time to see Julie Fowlis in concert and she had the task of following Hunter & the Bear. Her set started off a bit flat to me and she seemed to be only engaging with the audience at the front and the rest of the crowd seemed distracted. Thankfully, things improved greatly towards the end of the set and by the time we got to “Hug air a’ Bhonaid Mhoir” and “Smeorach Chlann Domhnail” with Donald & Karen, it was very much as good as I had hoped for.

The boys behind the whole Oban Live idea were the next act on and Skerryvore blew the place apart. A superb set with guest appearances from JJ Gilmour and Blair Douglas had the place jumping. The singalong “Home to Donegal” and the finishing number “Path to Home” were excellent. The highlight of the show, and probably the whole weekend, was their stunning cover of Runrig’s “Rocket to the Moon”. It is rare to find a cover that improves on the original but this is definitely one.

The final act of the event was KT Tunstall. She overcame some early technical difficulties to produce a good set. A few new songs were played and were good but the highlights were the well-known numbers. “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”, “Other Side of the World and the closing number “Suddenly I See” were all superb. By this stage, my knees were just about to give up after two days of mad dancing. The walk into town didn’t help, neither did the hour spent watching the seemingly never-ending taxi queue. So, after all that, I decided to walk home. I arrived home sore but incredibly happy. It was an amazing weekend of fantastic music and great company.

Oban Live 2017? Yes please!






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