The strains of Gaelic vocals tinkled softly on the main stage at the HebCelt arena when I arrived ready to report on all things festival on Saturday afternoon, as the Fèiisean nan Gàidheal
The day was going to be all about offering the Gazette’s patrons, a little bit of instant gratification from the festival, as I readied myself to post some Hebcelt action via live video clips to the paper’s Facebook page.
It was a technical feat I wasn’t sure I was up to!
However, armed with my two-year old Samsung, which was to be my entire editorial package for the day - photos, video and reporting - it all started well enough and I managed to post a clip of the rehearsals.
The feedback was instant, right away, I was being asked questions about the performers, which I had to scurry to find out more about to satisfy the curiosity of the Facebook audience.
I was learning about this medium very quickly indeed!
Feeling empowered I headed off to catch the first act of the afternoon Sea Atlas on the Islands Stage, who was delivering the first course of the afternoon’s tasting menu of music.
Sea Atlas is Calum Buchanan, whose music is orchestral-like indie rock, and this was very much appreciated by the tent’s early-bird crowd.
Following the Sea Atlas set there was just time for a quick coffee stop, before heading to the Acoustic Stage, where the curtain opening act of the afternoon was Lewis teen Rosie Sullivan.
In the meantime, out on the Castle Green the multi-award winning festival showcased its family credentials, as the Circus workshop opened its doors.
But, back to 16 year old Rosie, who hails from the West Side of Lewis, and this year was making her festival debut.
With a lovely soulful voice this home-grown talent is already an old hand in the performance game as she has been writing and singing songs since she was 12.
With performances at Wembley and Belladrum already under her belt the jammed-packed Acoustic Stage was not about to intimidate this young songstress.
Unfortunately this reporter was not as adept at her game and messed up Rosie’s first Facebook Live clip (my phone went off at the same time as I was recording - eek!) Never mind at the second attempt all was well.
Enough about my battles with the tech, and more about the music.
This year Rosie has a new E.P called ‘Space’ featuring six new tracks, which will be coming out around September. Keep an eye on her website (http://www.rosiesullivanmusic.com/) for more info.
A particular favourite for me from her HebCelt debut was the soulful ‘Sleepless Nights’.
And a rousing rendition of George Ezra’s Shotgun was a great crowd pleaser to finish off her set in great style.
From the homegrown talent in the Acoustic Tent, it was soon time to head westwards for our next musical morsel, thanks to Martha L. Healy on the Islands Stage.
Martha’s music is influenced by folk and country and after landing back in the UK after a three-month stint recording her newest album ‘Keep the Flame Alight’ in Nashville, she was ready to deliver her brand of music to the HebCelt crowds.
By the time Martha took to the stage the HebCelt arena was starting to swell nicely with a growing tide of folks eager to be entertained.
As a fan of Dolly Parton and co, Martha’s musical vibe is right up my street. I must admit I didn’t think I would come across at Hebcelt, but that is the magic of this event - you never know what treasures you will find.
Saturday afternoon flew by as brisk as the buffeting wind, although thankfully, the rain was held at bay.
Into the early evening and a Hebridean trio of singers held court on the Acoustic Stage.
The strains of Gaelic came to the fore once more as Ceitlin Smith, Josie Duncan and Mischa Macpherson took to the stage amid cheers from the huge crowd, which had squeezed into the bulging tent.
With Anna Massey on guitar the Gaelic trio of singers soon impressed with crystal clear voices and bell like tones, which shimmered around the tent with angel-soft purity, to convey some delightful folk songs.
Hot on the heels of this demo of soaring vocals was the The Tumbling Souls, who launched off the Islands Stage with their meaty offering of Bluegrass merged with Scottish Trad style, as their opener ‘City of Adelaide’ delighted the large, enthusiastic crowd eager to get on with the party.
The band are about to launch their brand new album ‘Between the Truth and the Dream’ (available to download soon) and with their big, multi-layered musical style and tub-thumping beats, they went down a storm from start to finish.
The band’s interaction with the audience was also fine-tuned as they turned the Hebcelt party up to full volume with stomper-sing-along ‘Wishing My Time Away’.
Soon it was time for the magic created by the Blazin Fiddles on the HebCelt main stage, who kept the mood of the lively crowd in high gear, as the audience started to feel ready for their dancing shoes, with toes tapping to the familiar sounds that only a fiddle can create.
The Blazers are great at capturing the excitement and passion of Scottish music and showcasing the different regional expressions.
The HebCelt attracts and caters for many musical tastes and for those who like more of a dance-edge to their music they could also find their niche as the energy levels spiked on the Islands Stage with Niteworks, who raised the roof with their distinctive techno-trad music, which found an eager, bounce-enthusiastic audience.
Going by the number of fans crowding into their performance and the cheers of appreciation for their set Niteworks have found the right alchemy to be a festival ‘must see’.
Then it was time for headliners Deacon Blue and the Lews Castle Green amphitheatre credentials stood it in good stead as the band warmed us up with ‘Wages Day’.
It is now 30 years since the band released their million-selling debut album ‘Raintown’ - crikey - I know all of these songs!
However music making for this band has been an ongoing love affair, their most recent album ‘Believers’ in 2016 became their highest charting album in 23 years and with a 2018 tour ‘To Be Here Someday’ announced there is still plenty to see and hear from Deacon Blue.
The HebCelt audience certainly agreed and an enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the old and the new in equal measures, however crowd pleasers ‘Real Gone Kid’ and ‘Dignity’, were of course the clear favourites, as Deacon Blue left HebCelt 2018 on a wonderful high.
HebCelt 2018 lined them up and knocked them down - the festival sold out easily showing that visitors and locals alike love and appreciate not only the great music on offer but the fact that this event helps to put the Outer Hebrides on the map - long live HebCelt!