The Big Beach Ball, 05/05/13

The Big Beach Ball is one of the best things to happen in the Aberdeen music scene for some years. Founded last year, it has expanded from its predominantly-electronic beginnings and this year boasted a number of top indie and rock bands from across Scotland in its line-up. With a diverse range of music on offer, all that remained was for the sun to shine over the festival site – the illustrious Beach Ballroom – which it did in abundance. Here’s what we saw at Aberdeen’s only inner-city music festival...

Marionettes, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
Although the festival kicked off an hour earlier than Marionettes’ set, it was up to the Aberdeen five-piece to get things started from a live music perspective. And boy, did they deliver! Beginning with the exuberant Shrinking Violets, their set was packed with catchy danceable tunes including new track The Garden Song, which is due to be released as a single soon. The small crowd who had braved the festival early doors enjoyed their fast and spiky music, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t win over a number of new fans.

Kathryn Sawers, Chivas Peace & Jam Room
Among the vintage tea sets and local designer clothes on offer in the Peace & Jam Room, Kathryn Sawers played to an enraptured crowd early on in the day. Her hypnotic songs, accompanied by sparse piano work, were incredible to listen to and provided a nice relaxing beginning to proceedings on the second-floor indoor stage.

Amy Sawers, Chivas Peace & Jam Room
Anyone who knows anything about Aberdeen music will have heard of Amy Sawers. Back by a full band, the previous winner of Cafe Drummond’s Two Grand Tournament rocked hard for the appreciative audience. Playing through a number of songs recognisable to her many fans, Amy played a fantastic set that really energised the early hours of the festival.

Cats in Capes, Chivas Peace & Jam Room
Despite some dubious dance moves from some of the members during their set, Cats in Capes put on a really impressive show. With a tight indie-rock sound, they powered through their set and indulged in copious amounts of banter with the audience. Launching themselves into the crowd for the final song, Cats in Capes made to sure to leave a lasting impression on all who saw them.

Miaoux Miaoux, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
Originally scheduled to appear much earlier in the day, Miaoux Miaoux faced some drum problems that delayed his set by two hours. When he finally arrived, though, flanked by two new bandmates in matching sky blue t-shirts, he played some exquisite electro-indie. Jumping between synthesizers and guitars, it was an eclectic sound, but one that the crowd really got into – there was much dancing to be seen in the large outdoor tent. Not bad for a line-up that only saw its second outing at the Big Beach Ball!

Auntie Flo, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
One of the pitfalls of electronic music, for me, is that in a live setting it falls a bit flat due to essentially being records played on a turntable. That was certainly not the case with Auntie Flo, however, who created their beats live on stage: electronic bongo drums and a myriad of samplers and synthesizers created an awesome spectacle, and definitely made me rethink my attitude towards live electronic music.

Three Blind Wolves, Chivas Peace & Jam Room
Playing a number of songs from their new album, Sing Hallelujah for the Old Machine, Three Blind Wolves were on fine form. Their guitar-based indie-folk sound – augmented by hints of Americana and supreme vocal harmonies – went down very well with the mid-afternoon audience. Old favourite Emily Rose was, unsurprisingly, a set highlight and showed the band off at their best.

Randolph’s Leap, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
Eclectic indie-folk outfit Randolph’s Leap are an intriguing prospect: boasting more members in one band than in many full gig line-ups, I was interested to see what they sounded like. Although the set had its quieter moments, perhaps more suited for earlier in the festival, when Randolph’s Leap really let rip they were a joy to behold: the crowd danced through their trumpet-fuelled upbeat numbers with gusto, and really got stuck in.

Nevada Base, Chivas Peace & Jam Room
Nevada Base were a new find for me, but I’m glad I made the effort to climb up the stairs to the indoor stage on which they played. With a really interesting electro-indie sound, they quickly had the crowd up on their feet and dancing away (although I’m sure the alcohol might have had something to do with it too).

The Little Kicks, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
Having just returned from a two week European tour, The Little Kicks took to the stage tighter than ever. Opening their set with five or six tracks from their forthcoming third album, they showcased a new direction to their music: a progression from the synth elements on their sophomore effort into a full-on electro-indie sound. The Little Kicks were the first band of the festival to really command the large outdoor stage, drawing a big home crowd with their set which also boasted favourites like Anti Work Song and Call of Youth.

IndianRedLopez, Chivas Peace & Jam Room
IndianRedLopez suffered from an unfortunate scheduling clash and deserved a much bigger crowd than they got. Those who did attend, however, were blown away by the technical ability of the Aberdeenshire group. Showcasing a number of new tracks alongside firm fan favourites, including Ropes, the band masterfully combined pulsating electronic sounds with screaming indie to put on a stunning show, augmented as ever with custom visuals projected over the stage.

The Xcerts, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
Always a hit when they return to their hometown, The Xcerts put on a blinding performance at the Big Beach Ball. Despite an unusual lighting choice by the stage designers, which left the band practically as silhouettes against the bright lights, they played well and pleased the eager crowd. Songs like early hit Do You Feel Safe? and sing-along anthem Aberdeen 1987 really struck a chord with the band’s local audience, and proved why they are much loved by music fans across the land.

We Were Promised Jetpacks, Red Bull/Lyle & Scott Stage
One of Scotland’s finest indie rock groups, We Were Promised Jetpacks closed the live music portion of the festival in style. Despite a number of festival goers choosing instead to check out Octave One on the Snafu Main Stage, We Were Promised Jetpacks managed to pull an impressive crowd. Erupting onstage, they played through a set of hits including Quiet Little Voices which saw the crowd passionately singing along. Ending with the utterly epic It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning, the band left to thunderous cheering and an audience baying for more. A brilliant end to a brilliant day.

Full photo gallery by Hayley McMann coming soon.

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