The Insider Festival

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Right, I promised this a little earlier, and here it is, a wee write-up of the Insider Festival which I attended last weekend, along with recording crew to make the third Song, by Toad Split 12″. The festival itself takes place on the Inshriach Estate near Aviemore, with Inshriach House (above) its focus. As we were recording, we were in the large drawing room at the house itself, and threw our sleeping bags on the floor at night, surrounded by mics and cameras.

The room itself was surprisingly similar to our room here at Toad Hall actually. A little smaller and lower of ceiling perhaps, but three large Georgian windows along one side, a floor covered in carpets and lamps absolutely everywhere. So for all this was Song, by Toad heading into the wilderness, the surroundings actually ended up being surprisingly familiar. The one exception being one of Jonnie Common’s songs where we went into the central hall of the house and recorded him playing the piano, with a mic hung over the bannister from the top floor for good measure.

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In terms of festivals, this is pretty much my ideal: a small attendance, a relatively modest lineup, set somewhere in beautiful landscape and with little enough infrastructure and few enough people that you actually feel you are in that landscape, not in a miniature city which has sprung up for a week, and tends to rend the immediate environment an irrelevance. The Backwoods Stage here was a prime example: a tiny secondary stage set in a natural dell up in the woods and decorated with red paper lanterns. It was really lovely, but the woods around it were 90% of the reason why, not the stage itself. I don’t have a picture, sadly, other than the rather fuzzy one below.

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The other aspect I loved about the festival was what I suppose would be called its middle class credentials. I am not entirely sure why wanting to drink nice beer and eat decent food is supposed to be middle class exactly, but that’s the accusation which tends to be made when you celebrate these things. Williams lager at £3.50 a pint, and the rather stronger and rather delicious Grozet at £4.50 was a good start. As were the stalls offering pulled pork sandwiches, pizza made to order, and fantastic venison or halloumi burgers.

But the real pièce de résistance was the posh restaurant in the marquee by the house, called The Painting School. Thirty odd quid for five absolutely phenomenally good courses, and all at a music festival, where you’re not really supposed to have washed for three days. It was almost comically ambitious, but in actual fact worked extremely, extremely well.

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And yes, seriously, the picture below is of the coffee I was served at the end of my meal at a music festival, as the rain drizzled onto the tent above and I gave not a single shit.

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So yes, a really, really lovely weekend away. The recording was a little hectic, due to the bands having to juggle our demands with those of their sets and their soundchecks, but we got everything done in time and I think it’s going to be an excellent record.

It rained of course, mostly on the final day, which was pretty soggy. But this is the Scottish countryside we’re talking about. To paraphrase Billy Connolly: of course it rained, where do you think you are, fucking Benidorm? But actually the thick forests and bare mountains rather suited the rain, so given it was really only one day I don’t think it really mattered at all. The Scottish landscape is meant to look rainy, after all.

And the festival itself was just what I want: small, manageable, and tailored towards a small group of people who give a shit about things, not a thronging mass demanding fifteen pints of warm Tennent’s each and punching the air to fucking Kasabian. I just don’t derive any enjoyment from that kind of thing, even if there are good things to be found at the larger festivals, the ocean of shit which surrounds them makes it impossible to really enjoy the few islands of good stuff.  So the more small, carefully put-together festivals like the Insider we have, the happier I’ll be.

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