Approaching the gates of Kelburn Garden Party you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a small, cosy affair amongst the camouflage of trees and trippers.
But take one trip through the bushes, trees, hills, waterfalls, dancers, stands, festival goers, hippies, ravers and even families, and you’ll see this Scottish country park music-topia in the woods more than lives up to its tagline as a “festival like no other”.
Sandwiched between two big Psychedelic Forest Carnival nights either side of festival season, one in May and one in September, the Garden Party is the Kelburn Family’s flagship event and one of the most unique weekends in Scotland’s festival calendar.
This year, that ragtag troupe of woodland warriors invited their biggest ever crowd to join in all the fun in the forest. Here’s what tickled our unrelenting jungle fancy over the weekend.
Kelburn has its own sound
It’s not uncommon for a festival to try and bring an array of artists together under one banner and ethos. In fact, it’s something synonymous with these smaller independent festivals across the board. At Kelburn, since its inception in 2009, they’ve managed to mould a distinctly unique psychedelic jungle vibe to the big nights when the sun goes down.
From Mr. Scruff’s extended four-hour set on the Friday musing our earholes with his reggae funk forest inspired jams, right through to Mungo Hi-Fi’s big, bouncy, bass-y rhythms to a sea of flower strewn hair and glow painted faces on the Sunday, there’s something wonderfully unique that runs through the festival’s psychedelic sound. Anyone who’s been, or who stays in the near vicinity, will 100% know that bongo driven, soulful sound of Kelburn.
Even still, some of this shit is as diverse and creative as you’ll see…
The festival line-up reads like an A-Z of the finest independent and emerging talent from across Scotland and beyond. It’s a complete plethora of musical goodness. There are artists from across the musical spectrum, with convention abandoned and a stage set for anyone who wants it. If you’ve got something to say, show, do or shout, Kelburn is all eyes and ears.
I saw a fully kilted ginger Scotsman playing a ukulele, tightrope walkers having a rare old time crossing the glens and then chilling in the trees and one of the most talented cello players I’ll probably ever see alongside an array of dancers, painters and other creatives. Kelburn Garden Party serves as an artistic cultural melting pot where people from all over get that chance to express themselves.
If you’re hungry for something different and to potentially be blown away by the taste of something you’ve never had before, we’ve no doubt that the fruits of this forest will provide.
The whole place is jammin’
One of the most infectious things about Kelburn is the impulsion of attendees to up tools and break into massive group jams left, right and centre. Some of the best things I heard all weekend came from the instruments and mouths of people at tents or in the grounds of the festival; something which says more about the immense amount of independent music talent Scotland has at its disposal than anything else.
It’s Friday night, the first night festival buzz is in full swing, we’re crowded under a hastily set up gazebo in a rainbow of deck chairs, for all intents in purposes, everyone completely out their banger. Cajón, guitars, singing, rapping, playing, freestyling. Genuinely, one of the best musical experiences of the weekend. And it wasn’t the only one which came from a spontaneous jam session.
Scottish hip-hop has a voice – and it keeps getting louder…
Scottish hip-hop has remained a largely independent scene for decades, never quite overcoming the ignorance of those floating above in the mainstream. But guess what? They don’t give a fuck. Scottish hip-hop keeps producing some of the most talented technical rappers, writers and music in the country, and at Kelburn, be it through impromptu jam or a set on stage, the freedom created by that same cultural abandonment breathes a refreshing lack of pretence into the performances.
“Hip-hop for hippies”, Busker Rhymes, combine hip-hop, folk, ska and punk to seriously bring da noise to crowds across the festival. Their mid set breakdown, jam and resultant invitation to rappers to come on stage and say a verse is fast becoming one of the highlights of their raucous sets. If you didn’t catch them at Kelburn, don’t miss them at King Tuts.
It’s probably one of the best places to get lost…
Exploring a festival is always one of the personal highlights of a big weekend away. Whether it’s roaming about stage to stage dipping in and out of acts or floating about the campsite at 5am chatting utter bollocks to anyone who’ll listen, it’s all part of the allure. The difference with Kelburn is that it’s like some kind of hallucinogenic forest tardis. There’s stages up on hills, secret gardens, never-ending glens, waterfalls, nooks and crannies. Every time you turn a corner you stumble upon what feels like a completely new world you never even knew existed.
There’s a fair bit of walking involved but just by meandering around the festival grounds, you’ll get an even bigger, better and more surprising look into why the festival has such a merry band of loyal followers. There’s new shit to be discovered with every visit.
Photos courtesy of Stevie Powers