Fence Records are already well known for putting on a fine festival. The outrageously fun Homegame may be on hiatus, but their Eigg takeover Awaygame sounds like it was a stormer this year and St Andrews’ Eye O’ the Dug sounded like fun too.
But having organised a grand total of five gigs in our time, we can only imagine the organisation that goes into a full-scale weekend of festivities, so it’s no wonder that Johnny ‘Pictish’ Lynch and Kenny ‘KC’ Anderson are letting someone else take the weight as they invade yet another small town for the weekend.
That someone is Ryan Hannigan of Aberfeldy’s finest (only?) Americana soul troupe Star Wheel Press. And the somewhere is the Northern Irish ex-pat’s adopted home town.
“I tried to call myself the creative director” says the ginger-bearded troubadour, ”but the committee all laughed at me.” Someone has to do it though, and after the success of last year (featuring Admiral Fallow and James Yorkston among others), Hannigan and his mysterious Committee have clear ambitions for the event.
Aberfeldy itself is a picturesque little town in the depths of Perthshire. Like Anstruther - home of Homegame – it’s quaint, old-fashioned, ornate and sounds like it will lend itself splendidly to an arts festival.
The Town Hall – capacity 500 – will host everything on November 2-3, music to the ears of anyone who’s ever sprinted across a town or muddy field to catch the next act at another venue.
And so to the line-up. As mentioned, the Pictish Trail and the peerless King Creosote are appearing, and taking lesser-known Fence acts Rozi Plain and Gummi Bako along for the ride. Ex-Fencers FOUND are there too and the Phantom Band and Meursault also know their way around the label’s bespoke events.
Naturally Star Wheel Press will open up the whole shebang and Scottish Album of the Year award winners Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat will also be taking their brand of wry melancholy to Perthshire.
Completing the bill is Dan Willson, a.k.a. Withered Hand. Having just released the acclaimed Inbetweens EP, which in turn follows the rather splendid Heart Heart from earlier this year, Willson is certainly one man that’s looking forward to the weekend, not least after having a recent UK tour blighted by illness.
“It will be very sweet to see familiar faces” he says. “I don’t see my musical peers half as much as I used to and I expect it will have the same intimate feeling Fence events have themselves, considering the line-up. It’s beautiful up there too, so I didn’t have to think too hard about whether we would play.”
Promising a mixture of new songs and old, Willson is also damn chuffed about how the invite came about. “Someone told me Ian Rankin had asked whether we could play. It’s nice to be asked by someone brilliant, I know Ian is very supportive of the music scene up here.”
Ah yes, Mr Rankin. It seems the renowned teller of grisly tales has had his own story inextricably linked with Star Wheel Press of late. Also heavily involved with last year’s festival, the beating heart of Aberfeldy’s ’music scene’ have much to thank him for, with his patronage of their debut album The Life Cycle of a Falling Bird (re-released earlier this year on vinyl, propelling it to four star reviews from both The List and The Skinny – go buy it, kids!) bringing it to wider public consciousness.
“He’s been a busy man this year with Rebus’ second coming” says Hannigan. “But he’ll manage Saturday night. He’ll host the night and say a few words I’m sure.”
And what of the second coming of Star Wheel Press themselves? A second album is in the works with a refreshed line-up. If their Electric Circus show earlier this year is anything to go by it’ll have a meatier sound and Hannigan for one is rather excited about its development.
We’ll surely hear those new songs but we’d also be fibbing if we claimed the Aberfeldy Festival was just about music. Its, ahem, creative director promises untold delights including “a market on the Saturday and good food from local chefs at the gigs. Innis and Gunn will also have a sample bar”.
Oh and did we mention whisky? Dewar’s Whisky. A whisky cocktail bar no less. Sod the bands, we’re just going for that…
But seriously, going we are, and we’re packing Fuzzystar into the Tidalwavemobile for the road trip. If you want to join us (not in the same car we should add), you’d better get in quick – we hear there is but a handful of tickets left. They’re available here. Bloody good value too, but don’t dither!