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Oban Live 2017 – Thunder Over the Bay

June 6, 2017

A weekend of music, fun and manic dancing

Oban Live is over for another year and it was another magic weekend of great music, great weather and great company. The usual suspects were there,(although some were missing). Lee, a veteran from Skerryvore Decade was back, joined by Lauren whose exuberant dancing fitted perfectly with the group. We were also joined by the ladies who became known as “the three Germans”. Names are a bit difficult here as Mr B decided to introduce us all with false names (I was Nigel Johnson for the weekend). There was the unlucky one, who spent day one in the first-aid tent and A&E, the bubbly one (who may have been called Stephanie) and the always dancing (and frankly, quite gorgeous) one who was probably called Ellie. They certainly added to the madness and the dancing was superbly manic. Indeed, during the Skipinnish set, anyone who came within a few feet of our group was grabbed by the arm and swung round. Most seem to enjoy it; some even came back for more!

On to the music then and it was, as usual a fine mix of styles. As we are getting older (noooo!) we paced ourselves and missed some of the opening acts each day. We arrived just as Ceol An Aire & the Argyll Ceilidh Trail were starting off. These youngsters put on a great show and got the feet tapping and the hands clapping during their excellent set.

More West Coast talent next with Trail West and it was another cracking set of tunes and songs that had us singing along and the first signs of the dancing starting to break out.

Admiral Fallow were on next. They are one of my favourite live bands and their lyrics are sometimes seriously beautiful. They split opinion in our group but I loved every minute of their set with “Guest of the Government” being my highlight.

By this stage, it became clear that the bar queue problems from year one had returned. This was disappointing as things had worked so well last year. I spent a large part of Manran’s set in the queue. This is the third time I have seen the band with their new line up and they were on good form. Split opinions again with those who were seeing the new line-up for the first time being a little less enthusiastic while those who had not seen the previous incarnation were much more impressed.

The day’s headliners were next up. I was not really sure what to expect from Toploader as, like a lot of people, I could only remember one song of theirs. As it turned out, it was a very good set and held the audience well until the inevitable closing rendition of “Dancing in the Moonlight”.

As the sun began to set behind the hills, it was time for Skipinnish to do their stuff and boy, did they do it well?!!. To my chagrin, there are still some members of my family who cannot see the magic of this band but they were on awesome form again. They had thousands of people dancing, singing along and, during a short tribute to Barra schoolgirl Eilidh MacLeod, wiping away a silent tear. It was a gem of a set and brought a highly enjoyable day to a stunning climax.

As I waited for the bus to head in for day two, the sky was alive with lightning and thunder was roaring around the bay. Luckily, by four o’clock, the sun was splitting the sky again. Someone up there obviously likes Oban Live.
We arrived in perfect time for the start of the set by Tide Lines. The band were launching their new album, Dreams We Never Lost, and they got the day off to a cracking start. The tune sets were great and the songs were excellent and beautifully written. I have no doubt that Tide Lines will be much higher up the bill by the next time they visit Oban Live.
The organisers had responded to yesterday’s complaints and added lots of extra bar staff and the system worked much better. No more lengthy waits for drinks and the only problem was when we somehow ended up with cider instead of lager!

The next act on were Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire and again, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What we got was an excellent set of songs that I thoroughly enjoyed and will definitely look out for this band again.

Up next were last year’s surprise package, We Banjo Three and they once again went straight to the top of most people’s favourite act of the weekend lists. The produced a stunning set of tunes and songs with mass audience participation and had the crowd in the palm of their hand. It was an absolute joy to watch.

The day two headliners were on next and Hue & Cry produced a set which was just what I expected. Expertly performed, jazz tinged soul which did absolutely nothing for me and had me tapping my feet impatiently waiting for their set to end. They are a decent band but, in my opinion, not the right band for this festival.

Time for the final act of the year and there was never any doubt that Skerryvore would raise the spirits and get the crowd buzzing again. The highlight of their set was probably when they were joined by Oban High School Pipe Band for a great set of tunes. The concert built to a glorious climax and the manic dancing was back better than ever before the end. It was a great way to end a really enjoyable weekend.
So, that was it. It was then time to say goodbye to friends old and new and wend our way through the remarkably well-behaved crowds to get some cheesy wiggles (not toasted) and head for bed.
It was a superb weekend, helped by wonderful weather, great music and excellent company. My Celtic Connections disaster is forgotten and it’s time to start counting the days until Ceol Cholasa.
Thanks to all who made it such a fun weekend and hope to see everyone there again next year!

Cheers

Hughie

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