Park Fest

Review: Park Fest 2017 Young Guns Night

Park Fest 2016Last Friday, Small Town Sounds headed west to Stranraer for Park Fest; the music festival that raises money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Park Fest is now in its 8th year and has raised £52,000 for the RNLI, with figures of this year’s fundraising efforts still to be added to the total.

Small Town Sounds went along to the Young Guns night on the Friday, which featured a line-up of young and up-and-coming musical talent. We had been previously approached by the organisers looking for suggestions of bands to add to the line-up and we were delighted to put forward Dumfries based band Karin and Kirkcudbright’s Black Mango. Both are relatively new onto the music scene, in fact, this Park Fest gig was Karin’s first ever.

The Young Guns night was organised this year by three young people from Stranraer – Lana McMurtie, Catriona McGhie and Megan Ritchie – which seemed very fitting considering the focus of the night was young talent.

Karin opened the evening with a set that was generally well received (although it was possibly a little ‘heavy’ for such an early slot) and one they definitely felt the benefit of as it allowed them to make their official debut. We caught up with them after they came off stage and they were excitable and grateful to have been given the opportunity to play. Not ones to wait around, they went on to play their second gig the following day at The Station All-Dayer in Annan.

Pere Mata followed Karin, and they describe themselves as a ‘Scottish indie rock band’. Sounds good so far, yes…except unfortunately most of the band pulled out of the gig, leaving only one band member to do the vocals, guitar and keyboards. Credit must go to him for not leaving organisers in a difficult situation by cancelling the appearance at short notice, but this was a difficult performance to watch.
Black Mango have been working hard lately playing live gigs and recording tracks. They have gone through some line-up changes but the band seems to have settled down now, and they are sounding excellent. I’ve known guitarist (and the main force behind the band, from what I can tell) Andrew McCulloch since I interviewed him in 2015 on Radio DMC, as part of The Mind Sweepers who he played with at that point. After leaving The Mind Sweepers he started Black Mango and they have been sounding truly fantastic. Park Fest was the first time I had watched them play live and they absolutely nailed it. Yes, the sound quality could have been improved – it was difficult to make out the lyrics sung by lead vocalist Tyee Wright – but everyone in the crowd seemed to love them. McCulloch’s guitar solos were also first class and I can’t wait to see how the band progresses.
Glasgow singer/songwriter Jamie Martin was up next and sounded excellent, performing original material which was well received. Local lass Zoe Bestel, as always, charmed everyone with her delicate voice and ukulele sounds – she’s someone who performs faultlessly and it’s a shame there wasn’t a bigger crowd to appreciate it. New band Saltire closed the night. They were officially announced as headliners the day before, which was a bit late and from speaking to so some people attending the festival, they had not seen the announcement so were still unaware of who to expect.

We didn’t make it to the Saturday of Park Fest but it was clear that the day had more of a focus on local talent this year, with some bands from further afield such as The Stumblers and Patersani sprinkled into the mix. The evening was headlined by Toploader (and yes, they did play Dancing in the Moonlight!). From a personal point of view, I was disappointed not to see Park Fest regulars, Irish band The Late Twos on the line up. It would have been nice for some Dumfries or Annan bands to have featured on it too.
Organising an event of this size takes a lot of work and a lot of patience, and Park Fest is run entirely by a team of volunteers so a big well done to them. It was great to see more volunteers on board this year, especially the young people who organised the Young Guns night – that kind of experience is invaluable and I’m sure it will help them in their future careers.

For me, I was never a fan of Toploader despite them being popular when I was growing up. Last year’s headliner Ben Haenow certainly drew in the crowds, so it would have been tough to find someone who could equal that. From what I have seen and heard, Toploader didn’t achieve that.

I can’t wait to see who the headliners for Park Fest 2018 will be.


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