Is there a more joyous or feel-good feeling spreading event than a music festival? Despite some heavy rain in the run up to this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival, there was no chance of Mother Nature’s latest mood swing putting the dampeners on this year’s event not when the isles, and far, far beyond, are in the warm and melodic grip of Peatlemania.
Friday at HebCelt was the day Peat and Diesel took over. A hastily arranged main stage slot was arranged by festival bosses which quickly – and quite rightly – realised that the band’s evening slot on the acoustic stage was nowhere near big enough to quell the appetite for the Leodhsaich trio who have caught fire on our shores and beyond.
So Peatlemania took to the main stage just after 2pm on Friday and with my hand on my heart I have NEVER, in more than a decade of covering the HebCelt, seen the main stage so packed at 2pm in the afternoon. The crowd was packed all the way towards the sunlight peeking in at the rear – a hugely unusual sight for an opening slot this early in the day.
The Peatle power was just highlighted when the following band The Youth and The Young hit the stage to play to a crowd which is monstrously less as the Peat and Diesel supporters left after the set.
Their demographic too is from teenagers – and below – to older music lovers tapping their feet and roaring every word back at Boydie and the boys.
Their songs are jovial anthems about island life, partying and with tongues firmly in cheek but feet stomping a mud hole in the ground and hips in relentless motion.
From the stage Innes Scott warmly thanks the crowd for the Peat Power from the fans which has propelled them onto the main stage and into venues around Scotland – including a January set in Glasgow’s Oran Mor he excitedly reveals to the crowd.
He also brought a huge cheer as he confirmed a second album is in the works and we all can’t wait for ‘Light My Byre’ might include.
During their hit-heavy set there were numerous funny yarns from Innes about frontman Calum ‘Boydie’ Macleod’s early morning mishaps en-route to the festival, plenty interactions with a quite rabid crowd, calls for favourite songs and a even a dip into ‘Make Your Way To Stornoway’.
By now drummer Uilly Macleod was grinning maniacally from the year and singing along to every word as the Peat and Diesel express shows no sign of slowing down.
The set ends with crowd favourite ‘Heorna Mhor’ which was probably the festival’s biggest crowd sing-a-long of the entire weekend – headliners included – as everyone packed into the tent joined their voices together for an epic, cathartic, festival sized sing-along as Peatlemania conquered the main stage.
The trio were back on site later that evening for their long planned acoustic stage slot which saw more people outside the tent craning their necks to peek in than could fit inside the acoustic tent.
Meanwhile the Friday feelgood factor continued on the main stageee where headliner KT Tunstall brought marags to the masses. During a cover of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’, the Scottish singer instead sung ‘Black Pudding’ and launched marags into the crowd for revellers to grab and take home for a hearty island breakfast the next morning to soak up any hangovers or kickstart their adventures for the next day.
It was just one highlight of a hit-packed set from the 44-year-old who fronted an all-female band as she brought the musical curtain down on our Friday night delight.
She followed on the main stage from contemporary folk group Breabach, a former Scottish folk band of the year, and Newton Faulkner, a singer who had a number of UK top 10 hits a decade ago which were all sung back at the stage with force by the energetic crowd.
The Lewis Wind Power Island Stage was also stacked on Friday from openers Benedict Morris, through Fara, Kris Denver Trip to Ferris & Sylvester and headliners JigJam.
Looking back, Friday was a day of bombast and exuberance. Every band, musician and singer which plugged in and entertained threw the kitchen sink – and a few marags – at it but story of the day was the unstoppable rise of Peatlemania. Three likeable local lads joining together to form a band riding the crest of a wave which is washing away all before them.
They were the anointed kings of the Lady Leverhume castle turf and it would be hard to top Peat and Diesel fever for any who follow in their muddy bootprints.