“What the f*ck was that?”
It’s one week after Howlin’ Fling!, and i’m down at the pier on Eigg, drinking a ‘blue’. A team of us are about to rummage through the bags of rubbish collected over the festival, making sure all the recyclables are put in the appropriate bins. The blue i’m now draining - one of the last cans of Kronenbourg available in the shop, after this we’re on to the Tyskies - also gets thrown into the recycling.
“I mean, was that happy hardcore?”
Greg, a fellow islander, is asking about Romeo Taylor - one of the latest additions to the Lost Map label roster, whose rave-pop classic, ‘Kingdom of Scotland’, became the unofficial anthem of the previous weekend. Wearing a cheap stetson, Taylor performed on the Friday night, armed with microphone in one hand and his obligatory can of Tennents in the other, cheerfully goading the audience to dance in between singing over an ultra-loud backing track. His finale, an un-ironic singalong to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, summoned a stage invasion, with the entire crowd joyously bellowing every word. I was embracing my new friend Alessio, who had performed - before Taylor had taken to the stage - a set of punishing techno thrills under his Not Waving moniker.
“Waat the f*ck eez thees?”
Alessio is Italian.
“It’s Howlin’ Fling, pal!"
Oooft. What an amazing weekend that was! So many memories. So many beers. So much rain. I’ve been given the job of writing a blog about it, to accompany this gallery of photos by Stephanie Gibson and Colin Greig - but it’s quite a tricky one to process. Roughly 9 months of planning go into making this event happen, and it’s something that occupies my thoughts with increasing intensity in the lead up. Excitement, worry, anxiety, terror … until it all becomes too much to bear, and then the weekend arrives before you are ready for it, and the whole thing juggernauts through your body over the course of 72 hours.
Yes, it rained. It’s Scotland, it’s gonna rain. Having only rained once in the previous 5 weeks of glorious sunshine, of course it was gonna royally piss it down for Howlin’ Fling!. On the Friday, the downpour lasted almost all day, getting worse with each subsequent boat arrival of sodden Fling passengers. But, by the time folk had started to congregate up at the Ceilidh Hall in the evening, Adam Ross's first few guitar chords strummed away the wet weather, and the weekend properly began ...
First up, a big thank you to all of you who came, those who bought a ticket, those who performed, and those who volunteered. The journey to Eigg is a long one, and having to set up your tent while it’s pelting it down is no easy task - but you all did it, and with such boundless enthusiasm I can only assume you’d all been drinking on the ferry. Fair do’s.
Big love to the team on Eigg - Jonny, Greg, George, Dean, Shuggie, Karl, Owain, for helping put up the marquee. There were others, but i thank them separately later! Special shout to Jonny and Greg, though, for digging the hole for the compost toilet, ooofty! Love you, boys. Tasha and all the Eigg Trust volunteers (especially Simon and Beth who helped build the bridge at the campsite!). Dougal for assisting with the PA; Saira, Damian, Norah, Tamsin and all the Eiggstinction Rebellion crew; Stu & Gabe for their tasty Laig Bay Brewing Co. beer; Maggie for all her unending support and positive vibes, Wes for his incredible fire construction; Becca and the Forestry team for sorting the firewood & sawdust; Ailidh for looking after our American guests, and feeding them with the tastiest grub. Camille for sorting the delivery of marquee. Donna for sorting the bins. Shout out to Glebe Barn, and Eigg Camping Pods for providing accommodation; the Eigg Shop for staying open late, Galmisdale Bay for keeping up with all the breakfast orders; and a standing ovation for Alistair, for driving everyone’s luggage to-and-from the campsite. Hero!
I can’t really properly express the undying love i have for The Bodens - Sarah, and her parents Alex & Liz - who provided accommodation for the bands, gas and a generator for the caterers, and looked after our two screaming kids over the weekend while I gallivanted around, pretending to be a pop star.
Gargantuan hugs to Sharon Kirby for reconstructing the compost toilet! Oversized woops for Arisaig Marine, Ronnie and the crew of the Sheerwater! Colossal praise for Matthew Ferrie and Robin Sutherland who handled the sound over the whole weekend … can’t believe we almost ran to schedule!? Powerful chest bump for Callum Easter, for stage managing and keeping the store cupboard tidy! Humungous high-fives to Colin, Jake, Laura and all the crew with Hug & Pint, for sorting out the exquisite catering. Gigantic waves of appreciation for Brendan and the Event Medical Group! Mad props to Andrew Beltran for his fantastic poster design, and to Stephanie Gibson and Colin Greig for their dedicated photography skills, to Craig Dun and Ben Cowie for audio/visual treats that I can’t reveal just yet; and to Stevie Dye (and Vicki!) for managing the bar so well. We somehow managed to drink EVERYTHING. Yass! Stevie also suggested that all bar tips go to Tiny Changes, the mental health charity set up in memory of his close friend, Scott Hutchison - and we donated all £222.85 last week. Nice one, Stevie!
Last but not least, big up the Lost Map crew - Kate, Laura, Malcolm, and Alex. What a team! David couldn’t make it up this year. David, you’re fired. (you’re not fired, i love you). So blessed to have this great team, who work so hard before, during and after the event. Kate, especially - managing the ferry bookings, as well as my stress levels. She lost her amazing navy-blue puffer jacket, and her van broke down on the island, but kept her Trademark Lazda Calm the whole time.
Oh, and thanks to Jason Lytle for making me cry with his spellbinding set. I needed that. I have the great honour of being able to program my own festival, 5 minutes walk from my house … and I love all of the acts that play, it floors me. I had the enormous pleasure of catching every set over the weekend - although I had to dash off occasionally to restock the bar, or collect someone for the ferries, or to remember to eat something. But everything I saw and heard, I loved, and that’s testament to each of the acts entering into the spirit of the event. Howlin’ Fling! is so small, and DIY, it needs that willingness - among the performers and the audience - in order to happen. It couldn’t exist without it. Jason’s music is such an insanely massive influence, it was pretty surreal to hear him sing those Grandaddy songs. One of the best moments in my life, and i’m chuffed to have shared that with so many pals. Big shout here to Kate and Matthew Toad for their support on making this element happen. 💚
I’ve almost definitely forgotten someone. My brain is mush. Not sure when the next Howlin’ Fling! will be, but we’ll be doing other Lost Map events throughout the year, and if you’re missing Eigg already, you can think of these as support group meetings.
lots of love,
pictish trail xx