This writer’s first trip to Kelburn Garden Party was also its wettest. Joking, I made that up (though it might be true, who knows). But those who were on the West Coast looking out the window feeling smug that they didn’t get a ticket know what’s up. Alas, the girlies swapped out their jeans for waterproof trousers and a cute top, because a little bit of rain never stopped them before.
The first act I saw on Friday was incidentally one of the best that I caught at the festival. Bemz was stepping in for Kobi Onyame, which makes you wonder why the hell he wasn’t just on the bill in the first place. Swishing around in his green kilt (to match his Celtic tee), he chatted to the crowd about his kilt-based awakening – ‘Now I see what those motherfuckers be on’ – and cracked his inhaler out his sporran after a jazzed up rendition of ‘Raging Bull’.
Bemz was at ease, playing with his live band and the audience, taking requests, namely ‘Little Lady’ (featuring Kobi Onyame) about his daughter, and giving thanks for the fact that his ex wasn’t in the audience to hear him gushing about love lost before performing ‘Sweetest Girl’.
Poor KLEO shared with the crowd, at 5pm in the rain, that she had to drag herself out of the hospital so she could come and perform. She was excellent even despite it being a bit early in the day for hyper-cyber-pop (brain-vibrating bass isn’t a good accompaniment to the first hair-of-the-dog-beverage of the day).
It would’ve been wonderful to have seen her later on a larger stage, especially if she could be accompanied by her usual visuals (though, that being said, the music stands alone without it). Accompanied by FAST MUSIK founder and DJ Joey Mousepads, KLEO still brought the energy even if the crowd were only capable of sad, soggy two-stepping. Besides, anyone who samples Ke$ha is a legend in our books.
Another total festival highlight in terms of music has to be Amunda. Performing at golden hour on Saturday, the best way to describe her performance is effortless. Though the crowd was still warming up, the charisma she exuded pulled the audience in closer. This might also have something to do with the fact that she kept venturing out of the stage, saying ‘I promise I’m not attention-seeking by coming out here, I can’t hear myself properly in there!’, to which the audience replied ‘You’re doing great sweetie’.
She excitedly sped through her set, serving up steaming hot dishes like ‘Mess Me Up’ and ‘You Walked Away’ that the audience gobbled down gratefully, plus a sneaky taste of her upcoming EP with single ‘UPSIDE DOWN’ (Diana Ross could never). Honourable mention to the rap on ‘Isn’t This What You Want’: listening to it just now while writing this is taking me right back and damn it was so good.
Discussing this review when bumping into people during the rest of the festival, all who managed to catch her set said you have to talk about Amunda. I mean, who would I be not to?
Equally, when I asked people who they were here to see, many didn’t have an answer. It’s not that kind of festival. People go to frolic with friends, make new ones, explore the magic of the Neverending Glen (which was peppered with deeply unnerving – but also very beautiful – installations that served to disturb trippers and children alike), and stumble upon some incredible performances in the meantime.
Go to Kelburn next year if you love good music, swimming in waterfalls, buying overpriced packets of crisps from festival children and watching old white steampunks tripping balls.
Tickets for Kelburn Garden Party 2024 are out now.