I was keyed up from the moment I heard about the Loch Lomond Boat Party. Not only was it a party on a boat in a loch, which was device enough to sell it to me, but one glance at the flyer on the wall of the NHC shop, was all I needed to tell me this was not to be missed. Names coruscated among that line-up that jumped off the page at me like glittering letters from a magical scroll, Mickey 9’s, Twistettes, Victorian Trout Conspiracy, Steg G etc. I was further surprised at the price of the ticket, expecting something in  the region of sixty bucks or more, I was pleasantly shocked at the mere entry fee of thirty quid (including travel)! Without even bothering to enquire about a press pass I snatched up two tickets before it would sell out, and it surely would, fast…

 

…That was many months ago, and through the whirlwind of activity that is the festival season, the Boat Party finally arrived on 11th July. The weather was fuliginous with intermittent spurts of equal rain and sunshine, but simple showers will not dampen the spirit of any Scottish crowd, not least one made up of such hardcore music fanatics as this! So in good company, we disembarked from George Square in Glasgow in two coaches, to disembogue half an hour later on the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.

 

After a quick fondle from some security guards they turned us loose inside. Flanked by Gobophotography (always capturing life’s essence in a lens) we entered the gig and I immediately located the bar, once I’d filled both hands with golden cider I took the opportunity to have a look around our vessel for the day – with ten glorious hours ahead of us aboard the good ship Maid of the Loch. A sturdy ferry for our festivities, the evening would be a convivial mish-mash of raves, raps, reggae and rock-outs. The bow of the ship was given over to hip-hop performances, and the stern was throbbing with the pulse of dance, dubstep and drum and bass, which was alluring, but I opted to stay firmly in the live music section outside. I love dancing my ass off to some deep, dirty techno rhythms as much as the next pill-popper, but live music was essentially why I was there, and the only dalliance I had with the rave-side of the night, was waiting in the queue at the bar, nodding my head and tapping my foot.

 

The live music section was out at the mercy of the elements, out on the docks, just before you climb aboard the gangway, but mercifully covered with a large canopy. It was here we milled about and awaited the much anticipated showing of our first band for the night, Ska Ya Man. Much-anticipated because I was fresh off the back of the Kelburn Garden Party where I had stumbled upon Ska Ya Man, playing the Viewpoint Stage as I returned from a dip in the waterfall, and they had sent me off in a skanking spin immediately, with their energetic and electrifying ska/reggae sound! I had informed everyone I was with at the Boat Party of how good they had been at Kelburn, and we congregated round the stage space to watch them play…

 

…I’ve listened to the reggae/ska genre to death since my discovery of it decades ago, and most bands just end up sounding the same after a while. Ska Ya Man however, deliver a blend of the genre that is souped-up enough to make you stand up and take notice, before being galvanised into action by their catchy riffs, mind-blowing breakdowns and really heavily and superbly delivered slices of ska supremacy. Setting you up lazily with smooth laidback reggae, then hammering it home and waking you up in an almost ska-punk style. Seeing them twice in one week has certainly been a highlight for me in the past few months of intense non-stop gigging. It’s like the first time I heard the King Blues; they came out and supported the mighty Bedouin Soundclash at a gig I attended many years ago in QMU. The ‘Blues were nobodies at the time, and that night they were one of the freshest ska experiences I’d had since my teens, all this was before The King Blues went on to become moderately successful, and get all soulless, poppy and shit.

 

The energy and originality of Ska Ya Man remind me of the ebullient innovation of King Blues when they first aborned on the scene. SYM’s frontman is impressive in that he looks small and relatively innocent, but delivers a powerful and rousing performance with a voice that belies his size and can stand up against any black reggae singer (I caught up with him for an interview at Kelburn which will be released in our forthcoming Kelburn Gonzo Review). The dreadlocked horn player in SYM is so skilled he’s not far off the likes of Dave Hillyard and Tommy McCook, watching him play his instrument was a joyful and evocative thing to behold. Check out Ska Ya Man anywhere you can, they are becoming regulars on the festival circuit and seem to be cropping up more and more often these days, gaining a deserved following everywhere they go…for all roots, radicals and rockers out there!

 

I’ve had the pleasure of being knocked flat by the tornado that is The Twistettes more than a few times now, and they seem to get louder and more potent and vivacious with every passing performance. Like some kind of fucked-up twisting and mashing of The Stranglers, The Stooges and Velvet Underground – loud like Motorhead, but fast like The Ramones while growling like Led Zeppelin. Their own unique voice can be found in the two-piece female punk group’s Scottish slant and somehow managing to charm while also destroy the oracles of anyone within a, oh say, five mile radius! Haha, at least it seems that way, there should be powerful fans either side of the stage aimed at the crowd to complete the feeling of the sort of wind tunnel effect achieved by standing between the two sisters and a sound desk! Very cool female punk for a new age, just like The Slits before them they are representing for modern day punk in a male-dominated music world. The tour de force that is the tremendous tidal wave of sound the Twistettes tear out while remaining catchy and tuneful is well worth seeing live every time!

 

Have Mercy Las Vegas served a generous helping of homespun celtic/ folk/ blues /rock that instantly put me in a dancing mood, especially after their storming rendition of one of my all-time fave songs ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, by one of the greatest bands ever, The Waterboys! HMLV were a man down that night, the frontman, or woman, to be precise, was missing, but that didn’t stop them delivering a storming set that had most people with a soul up and jigging in a very much ‘fuck the rain, let’s dance’ sort of attitude. And the band played on, providing everything you could possibly wanna’ lose your shit and have a good old knees-up to, from Scottish folk to Americana, and country to blues. I shall look forward to seeing them in action again very soon.

 

Ciaran Mac and O’B are a very interesting hip-hop duo that I’ve followed since I stumbled upon them at Kelburn a few years back. Since then I’ve seen them support much of the finest that Glasgow’s hip-hop scene has to offer. They played a well-received set at an NHC instore gig back in March, and supported the mighty Mog in there the following week too, for one of his last appearances, which completed NHC’s crossover into every genre in the Glasgow music scene. They came up from the hip-hop section of the boat in Loch Lomond to the rock/reggae stage to literally ‘Unplug The Speakers’ and deliver an unplugged set to the crowd, who sang most the words for them anyway, confirmation of their emergent popularity. With memorable songs, and such a cool twist of the hip-hop genre. Combining well-spun lyrical raps containing quirky lines and esoteric Scottish references, alongside the comely and upbeat strumming of O’B’s guitar as the only musical accompaniment, and it is the only accompaniment they need as it’s a warming experience, especially when the rain is lashing down on the loch. I can see the infectious music of this duo spreading far and wide…keep an eye on O’B and Ciaran Mac!

 

A band that have floated around my radar for quite some time are The Mickey 9’s. They’ve played at plenty of gigs I’ve attended, and are well-known to me through my work with NHC and The Yellow Movement, but for some reason, several times over, whether through reasons of inebriation or pressing engagements, I never get to see them live, they kept eluding me. It got to the point that it seemed everyone had seen them except me, and this was probably true. This just wouldn’t do for a music journalist who is supposed to have his finger on the underground pulse, as Mickey 9’s have risen beyond underground now, achieving critical acclaim left, right and centre, so I made sure to see them rock at the Loch…

 

…And it was well, well worth the wait, totally deserving of word repetition there. Soaring past even my highest expectations, it seemed the Mickey 9’s reputation for brilliance was well-deserved and no hyperbole at all. I don’t even know where to begin, the eccentric, electric flamboyance of the golden-masked frontman is the first thing you notice, but then the music absorbs into your brain and the musical part of your mind kicks in and tells you that you’re hearing something you’re not entirely familiar with, a new wave, an unidentified genre! It’s punk……but at the same time it’s funk, somebody finally crossed the two, and did it spectacularly! What an incredible grungy, galvanising buzz the band sent through the crowd, like someone had dropped a shorting electrical cable onto the wet floor. An exuberant, exciting, exalted, exceptional, and excellent experience! A string of alliteration every word of which describes perfectly the enigmatic Mickey 9’s and their very individual, very inspiring sound! An absolute must-see, shuffling the deck by shooting their way immediately into my top ten favourite local artists, get out and see them in one of these small intimate gigs while you still can!

 

Firm favourites of mine, Victorian Trout Conspiracy capped off the night brilliantly as always, with their own matchless ska-punk sound so characteristic of them and them alone. With a name as good as Victorian Trout Conspiracy how could the music not be stupendous! If you like ska-punk then your record collection is probably littered with American bands. The USA is largely where ska-punk lives, with it originating there in the 80’s through bands like Operation Ivy and the ilk. Yet here we have Scotland’s very own answer to all that, and no better, for their lively, upbeat effortless mixing of genres is enough to keep the crowd on their feet for one last dance (well, one last dance before we go down to the rave in the Maid’s bowels and dance some more and blackout). VTC are on a mission to rule every dancefloor they unleash their insanity on, and rule they do, high-octane, fast-paced, adrenaline-ska! Just as you’re on your last sea-legs after spending the day on a ship consuming vast quantities of cider and generally overindulging, VTC take to the stage like a defibrillator to the heart of the crowd and play the night out for us…my last fading memory, and a happy, salubrious one.

 

Good vibes that night on the Maid of the Loch, a well-run, well-organised, cracking day out for music lovers of all genres. A friendly atmosphere, an excellent line up, and a panoramic view of the verdant hills of Balloch overlooking the peaceful waters that begirdled our gregarious gathering of gig-goers in the gloaming.

 

Hats off to all the organizers and contributors who make these things happen, and to all the fans and artists for the good vibes and the great performances. A special mention for Mark McGhee for his tireless work in the scene and his contribution to music, whether through fronting the phenomenal Girobabies, Making Things Happen, Yellow Movement, or his constant compering and collaborating (I love his verse in Col.Mustard’s ‘These Are Not The Drugs…’) to his very own spoken word meets stand up meets rapping performances as Mark Mywords, which are always though-provoking, skilful and humorous. He truly is a prolific and endearing driving force in local music.

 

So much more happened that day too, but this has already been a long-winded attempt at portraying it, so we’ll just put the rest down to good times seen through blurred vision and paisley patterns. Loch Lomond Boat Party was an immense joy and an incredible triumph, hard-working enthusiasts putting it together and passionate patrons lapping it up and both having a great time while doing so, makes everything worthwhile. I’ll be attending every Boat Party from now on as it is definitely a highlight of the summer now! Thank you Live and Underground, see you next year!

 

Epilogue

 

Despite Loch Lomond being one of the very few places outside Australia with a viable population of wild wallabies (accidentally introduced to the land in the 40’s by Lady Colquhoun) I did not see one, maybe next time wallabies…

 

 

                                                      C.T Herron

 

Originally published on NHC music 17/07/2015

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