Raehills Meadows, Dumfries & Galloway
The sun blistered through cotton clouds and smiled down a cheerful welcome upon the hordes of revellers making their way down through the Raehills Meadows, the site of the garden of Eden.Fresh faced and clad in a rainbow of colours, sparkles and glitter the Edenites swarmed like multi-coloured ants to taste the garden fruits here on offer. And they were not to be disappointed. A riot of sounds, smells and flavours filled the air to satisfy even the most discerning of tastebuds, from teeny reveller to grandpa.
Eden, first introduced as a youth chill-out project by the Youth Strategy Group within Wickerman festival back in 2002 has expanded and grown to become one of the most diverse boutique festivals in the country, with 11 stages including a circus tent, cinema, workshops, games and cabaret. A truly spectacular and mesmerising spread to feast upon, with an overwhelming variety of talent and performance.
We arrived on Friday evening and headed down the hill to the back entrance to arrive at the Boardwalk stage. It had moved from previous years to occupy a larger neighbouring area, whilst the bar stayed on its original spot, serving delicious and reasonably priced £5 cocktails. Tenement Sounds were filling the blue skies with laid back reggae sounds, spilling out an ambient summer vibe to kick start what was to be a superb weekend. The crowd were kept involved by a cleverly employed pedal powered sound system keeping us humans working for our audio treats, in keeping with the festival’s green ethos.
Another commendable environmental stance which should be adopted by all the festivals was the £2 cup deposit, a highly successful attempt at reducing the huge amount of produced waste by abolishing single use plastic cups. The cups also make for a great souvenir, often to be affectionately found around the entire festival circuit. The Well Happy Band lived up to their cheerful name as the crowds bounced along in Bob’s Back Passage to upbeat genre hopping happy music, always a firm favourite in the festival circuit.
We wandered over to the Smile Garden, packed with interesting and diverse stalls offering all manner of activities, such as the Green Aspirations pitch, offering all ages the chance to try bushcraft skills, whereby keen apprentices are given the option of carving their own spoon or, indeed, wand, both very useful in their own way! As we chatted to one of the Green Aspirations team, Iain Patterson , a diamond dude full of enthusiasm and cheer for his craft, we were treated to the beautiful a capella ballads of “with somebody who loves me” drifting from the pavilion nearby from a 20 strong female choir. Rock & Roll from band Barrie James was bursting out of Rabbie’s Tavern, which drew us in to meet with a sawdust kicking, trouser swinging audience, jiving in full spirits and living up to Eden’s reputation of a colourful mix to flavour every taste-bud.
We ventured down in to the snake pit to see what offerings would be found within the trio of tents at the pit base, and they were to be as diverse as expected. As we found our way into the Vishnu tent, we found ourselves immersed in a hippy haven. Hammocks, beds & baths were scattered haphazardly around, filled with tri-dyed bodies and crumpled dreadlocks. A wall of teddies fronted the side of the bar whilst chilled ambient vibes filled the room between band sets. At 9pm, we were treated to Gypsy Roots, a five piece reggae-dub-punk band open their set with a punchy “Break It Down”, which quickly got the audience swinging out their hammocks and onto the dancefloor. The female vocals owned the next song, with some beautiful sassy, funky vocals. The band then treat us to an amazing performance of “Everyday”, their recently released new single, which opens smoothly and breaks into bouncing, high energy ska with some nice solo keyboard breaks.
As darkness fell, the swarm of midges had grown into an army of revenge-seeking angry psychopaths, fighting a battle against the electric invasion. The main stage bounced back defiantly against the tiny warriors to the war cry of a seven piece Balkan band “The Turbans” who took an ecstatic crowd on a rollercoaster journey, over epic crescendos and fat breaks. The multi-genre band had impressive crowd management and produced a punchy and highly entertaining set which held the audience for its entirety.
By 11pm, it was the Lost Disco who took the prize for the most rocking venue of the night. The DJ WBBL cut up classics from an eclectic genre. Mash ups of hip-hop, electro, soul & house were offered up to a packed crowd of bouncing revellers dancing amongst the trees and fire flares. He was then succeeded by the almighty drum & bass veterans the Stanton Warriors, absolute legends who didn’t disappoint their huge base of loyal fans. But the highlight of the night had to be JFP, who played an absolutely blinding drum & bass set, cutting, chopping and mixing his tunes together with his elbows. Absolutely Beautiful.
Bleary-eyed revelers awoke to Saturday sunshine and cracking blue skies. Armed with strong coffees and bacon sarnies we recharged our disco boots and shook off the hay, ready to start all over again. Eva Crystaltips and Edinburgh duo Erb & Ting joined the Mumbo Jumbo squad for a massive 12 hour Thunder-dome Takeover Extravaganza of the finest disco, with live percussion and MCing, above the famous Thunderdome boxing ring dance floor and haybale arena. The atmosphere was electric as kids young and old kept up with the marathon of music.
Over on the open air stage, Carny Villains belted out big beat sassy songs whilst the crowd whooped and cheered along. Powerful vocals punctuated an already incredible performance of upbeat ska, flanked by a sassy trumpet and fat double bass. Epic summer festival vibes rocked this Saturday evening. Down in the snakepit, Edinburgh legend Astrojazz kicked off the tropical vibe and turned up the heat with a riot of exotic flavours in the Gilli Dhu tent, effortlessly filling up the tent with the finest of citrus audio bursts.
We were spoilt for choice when it came to munchies and drinks. Hordes of stalls covering every taste imaginable was pitched up, such as veggie stalls, artisan hotdogs, firm favourites Panda Noodles, standing alongside long established Mutleys Crepes, whilst candy floss and sweetshop stalls were sprinkled around every corner. Thirst was quenched from a choice of Thistly Cross cider, Williams Brothers beers, or a fine selection of cocktails and wines.
Of course, not to forget the much loved firepit, tended by spiritual healer Divine, which is always a great place to meet friends old and new. Headlining the open air stage, and living up to their crown of Britain’s Best Unsigned Band, Bombskare pulled out the bag all their much loved classics, providing yet again another cracking festival performance and undeniably proving that they only seem to get better each year.
‘Feck No’ – Rabbie’s Tavern – Saturday night.
Andrew Mill – guitar
Ciaran Ryan – fiddle
It was late Saturday night. Late by the fact that it was after midnight, the lingering lightness having fully fallen to clear dark skies, and with it remnants of the previous evening’s shenanigans had started to creep my body in the direction of my tent. En route to some well-earned sleep, a final calling found me slipping into Rabbie’s Tavern for one last dipping of my toes in the musical water. On stage, the lilt of a singular guitar and fiddle was to be the mellow finale to my full on day as I settled among the throng of young and old who were seated and standing with their butts and bodies swaying to a casual reel. The slow, cord runs and selectively picked out fiddling wrapped me in warm anticipation of my short walk to a warm sleeping bag and I too swayed. This was to be the perfect backdrop to a day of musical chaos and carnival.
It was then I slowly acclimatised to the surroundings and took in the faces of those who remained to party in Rabbie’s. These are not the faces of people who are bent and broken. The music still controled any urge they may have had to cease and desist from the revelry. Expectancy and familiarity led these revelers here and they knew something I didn’t. As the speed of the canter increased, the watchers enthusiasm built with it until the ongoing crescendo was heralded by the introducing a bass stomp by guitarist Andrew. It’s a miracle that my body could still respond, but that it did, and I was immediately part of another Celtic/Techo ceilidh, raising the rafters in conjunction with my knees. Then, just as the power lagged from me, the roaring applause settled the pair into another tune that slowly built and built, giving my legs just enough time to recover for the next onslaught.
And so it continued, smiling faces smiling ever more as the tempo slowed and then lifted. People “Hooching!” over the straw, strewn floor, kicking up their own version of a pa de bas or arms, linked eightsome. What a shindig! These guys had the crowd in the palm of their hands and they successfully carried us all safe and sound to some beautiful mountain glen, in 80s Detroit! Latterly I found out that the ‘Feck No’ two have many other collaborators that usually play with them. I can only imagine the beautiful racket that they make as a larger band/collective, but I for one will be on the look-out for future gigs.
Feck No? Feck Yes!
Yoko Pwno – Rabbie’s Tavern – Saturday night
Lissa – Fiddle/Keyboards
Lewis – Fiddle
Calum – things electric/production
Ali – Drums
(The writer couldn’t find any reference to second names on their website or on a brief internet search. How interesting?) Endorphins unwillingly (but happily) realigned to ‘home’ again, I attempted to extricate myself from the casual meetings of eyes and the polite but brief exchanges of delight at Feck No’s set, and make my way to the door, and a night time of well-earned slumber. Maybe I’d missed the memo, but bearing witness those who stayed, and the many more that were arriving at Rabbie’s to join the throng, I definitely felt I was struggling to move against the crowd. Before I managed to reach the exit the compere had started introducing the next act, with the final promise that they would take us all to a Berlin nightclub!
That’s high praise indeed and an invite that could not and would not pass temptation (was the compare looking at me when he said it?). Rooted to the spot, or as rooted as the latent beats of Feck No in my head would let me be, I remained in limbo. As the gathered settled down there was a palpable, infectious buzz spreading round the tavern, garnering me for what was to come. It was busy.
Thereafter I bore witness to the musical creation that is ‘Yoko Pwno’! Lissa and Lewis front the band. Lissa pulls us into a musical landscape, her keyboards messing with traditional forms of meters, creating both psychedelic and cinematic tapestries for Lewis to fix his fiddle to. This before she herself picks up her fiddle and joins Lewis in an ongoing panoply of what is based in good Celtic razzamatazz. All this is held together by Calum and Ali, who stand behind the front two and create a magnificent backdrop of beats, from afro to drum and base, techno to dub, all seamlessly venturing together through to beautiful conclusion. Lewis wielded his fiddle like an extension of his being, attaching it to his neck, hip, or in fact any part of his body, seeming to release at us whatever life has thrown at him since his last gig.
Lissa bounced between keyboards and fiddle like an ecstatic woman, occasionally perplexed with what was going on, but in total control, looking at times equally delighted and surprised that the band sound as good as they are. Every song for her seemed like the first time she’d ever heard it, never mind played it. Her enthusiasm was infectious, but by no means detracted from the other band members who bounced with the best when the tunes merited it.
At times I felt that I was listening to stories being told. Instruments talking to each other. Crying fiddles feeling the pain of Lissa’s melodic chanting and wailing, and always (nearly always) concurring that dance was the solution to any ails that they had. And how we did dance! But none a well as their guest dancer on stage who interpreted the music for those who had no soul, or were beyond feeling at this late hour. Latterly other guests appeared, particularly a woman on flute who was a fitting marriage with the fiddles and beats. Sometimes festival ‘guests’ are no more than friends of the band who come for the free party and bring no skills. All added much that night and all seemed completely on page with the construct of all the acts of the play that Yoko Pnwo unfolded before us that night.
My detour was complete. To take a festival crowd driving along empty roads lit with street lights. To then drive them off cliffs into the briny Scottish sea, only to dry them off round a secluded campfire and then parachute them into a Goan beach party, with a Balkan guest band, that was Yoko Pwno in Rabbie’s tavern. God, they looked like they were having fun. I hope so, because all who saw and listened did.
In all that has been and is happening in the meld of traditional Scottish music electro, Yoko Pwno are ahead of the game. They didn’t capture the zeitgeist. They are the Zeitgeist! 5 stars+ from me, and a promise to myself to make sure I see them again.
Fuck Bergain and your door policy. All are invited to partake in Yoko Pwno –
Friday June 15th @ Bongo Club, Edinburgh
Saturday 23rd June @ Gatehouse of Fleet
Friday July 20th @ Audiosoup, Duns,
Sunday 29th @ Mugstock, Milngavie
Oh, Eden, Eden, pure and simple everytime. I am sure we all have our favourite place, day, space, stage, tent and healing place within the compounds of the garden of Eden.. As I wander around engaging people with chat and humour I soon realize that Sunday is my day. A day to heal, to relax, to reflect and to wrap yourself up in cotton wool (just for a moment. Take a walk to the peaceful sanctuary of the cold but refreshing river that curves its way around the Eden boundaries. Wash away the heat of the previous night, refresh your body and gain some well deserved tranquility… The early bird catches the early worm, as many sleep the birds sing their song and how endearing it is… As the 10th Sunday anniversary starts to warm up so does the mood of the Edenites. With new stages and entertainments popping up every year I was keen to check out Bob’s Back Passage, which was to house some cabaret, theatre and musicals. Situated behind the tentacles of the Snake Pit in a very nice well decorated tent, this was a nice contrast to the other alternatives on offer.
Listening to the talk around Eden, I was pulled towards watching Alibi written by Damo Bullen Beeson. A musical that highlights the life of Edinburgh’s underground party scene, humour, laughter, and addictive songs guide you through a fictional but realistic take on the adventures of a motley crew out for a party on the streets of Edinburgh. It was was well scripted and admiringly executed, allowing the audience to heal their hangovers with the power of laughter. A day without laughter is a day wasted… The only down fall was that the encroaching sound of the adjoining tents, hearing the actors, whom, by the way were excellent in their delivery, became difficult at times, otherwise a real breath of fresh air. Well done to the Scottish Concordia Association for bringing it to Eden.
That same evening I swung by to catch and embrace the intoxicating wonder that is Submotion Orchestra. This 7 piece band that formed in Leeds in 2009 brought their dubstep, jazzy, ambient soulful concoction of brass, string, vocals and percussion to the hunger dancers of healing Sunday.. Sometimes its difficult to capture the warmth, joy, and energy in words but for those that had the privilege to witness the set will understand the memory is more precious… Leaving the company of Submotion Orchestra I strolled along to relax by the heat of the community fire, looked after by the reliable loveable being that is Divine. As always a warm welcome was received and a seat was given. Some of the most interesting and educational conversations come from around the fire but not forgetting the laughs. Content with my day I found a new love for Eden this year in spirit and in soul. Even after many a year it still delivers the medicine required to be able to leave one life behind and enjoy another for the 3 days in the fields of the pop up village that is Eden. Once again pure and simple as always…..