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The 25th Millport Country Music Festival

The weekend of Friday August 30th until Sunday September 1st saw the population of the island of Great Cumbrae dramatically increase with people attending this great music festival. Situated around 40 minutes from Glasgow and only accessible by ferry from Largs, the locals do a fantastic job decorating the town and shop fronts for the weekend. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best at times with very heavy rain but that didn’t dampen most people’s enthusiasm. Writing this review, I only have one regret in that I was unable to see the complete sets of all acts.

The committee have worked endlessly throughout the year to bring some of the best artists to the festival from both home and abroad and pulled off a master stroke in getting CAM on the roster. The 3 days saw some incredible acts and a few new ones for me to see amongst the 50 or so acts over the 3 music stages and the line dancing stage. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to be part of the photography team so didn’t have long with each act as I tried to get to see as many as possible moving back and forth between each stage.

DAY1 kicked off with King Of Birds who certainly got us off to a great start with their rousing acoustic set. Simon James was the 1st act on the Cactus Jacks stage and along with his Deep River Pilots and the beautiful Sam Coe opened that stage as we would expect from Simon with an incredible set and the harmonies with Sam are not to be missed. The sound crews had their work cut out as, as soon as one act was off stage, they were replaced by the next, but they coped so well even when a sound desk packed in they had it replaced and back running within 6 minutes.

Next up on the Maverick Acoustic stage was BCMA nominated Jade Helliwell who along with Luke Thomas had the crowd buzzing with her voice and her choice of songs and she made lots of new fans going by the reactions. Morganway were second after the slight delay for a full sound desk replacement on the CJ stage and wow the progress these guys have made since I first saw them is incredible and opening with Devils Canyon made people sit up and listen to their rockier sound. A new act for me then took to the Maverick stage, American band Lockeland were fantastic and after hearing them they were one act that I was determined to see and hear again in a full band show on the main Nashfield open air stage on Saturday and certainly didn’t disappoint. Sarah Jory replaced Morganway on the CJ stage and along with her band gave a rocky rousing and inspirational set that just highlighted how this master musician has been in the industry so long and is also recognise as one of the best session musicians on the go both at home and overseas. Her banter with Luke Thomas onstage was such a laugh. The pocket rocket from Ireland Kerry Fearon closed the Maverick stage for the night along with her guitarist Tony McLoughlin and although the crowd were a little bit rowdy Kerry still managed to pull off a great set with her mix of covers and her own songs. Day 1 was completed with a Country Disco which was delivered from Rik and Francesca from Silverball Country.

Day 2 (Saturday) started with the weather still playing tricks on us. Still slightly wet the ground around Garrison House was holding a lot of water which I wasn’t looking forward to wandering about in again.

Saturday kicked off with the lovely Laura Oakes on the Cactus Jacks stage and as usual she gave a tremendous display of her vocal talents and she is one act I will never tire of hearing but as over the whole weekend I was trying to get round all stages and acts for photographic purposes so I never saw her full set.

Nashfield which is the open-air stage at the rear of the festival sight opened with last year’s merging Talent Showcase winner Zoee who is taking the scene by storm at the moment. Zoee is originally from OZ and with her brother and father backing her she is a little powerhouse and one to watch. The Maverick Acoustic stage opened with one of the best female artists in the UK at the moment Kezia Gill. This again was a brilliant set of songs from Kezia and she was joined on stage by Jade Helliwell who together gave us a brilliant version of Cams “Diane” much to the enjoyment of the large crowd’

The next slot on Nashfield was the incredible Stevie O’Connor and this man just gets better and better all the time. He had the main stage audience eating out of his hands and as this was the first time, I had heard him with the full band I had to stay longer than intended and unfortunately I missed Anton and Colts who reports said they were very good. I did manage to catch a little bit of Gasoline and Matches and as usual the dynamics between Sally and Steve was there to observe. These guys are so much in sync it’s great to watch them. Steve’s guitar playing and Sally’s singing just blend together so well.

Kerry Fearon then had another slot in the Acoustic tent and was superb again with her delicate tones and voice. Elles Bailey was next up on the outside Nashfield Stage and gave a tremendous account of her talent before I had to return to Cactus Jacks stage for the class performance of Izzy Walsh, this was one of my artists of the weekend. Song of the set for me was “Mr Cash”. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to see Have Mercy Las Vegas who were next on the stage here.

Scottish singer and songwriting sensation Elaine Lennon then took to the Maverick stage and had the crowd mesmerised by her lovely ballads before being replaced on stage by American Kenny Foster and his great tones. Again, due to acts overlapping on stages I had to miss Lars Pluto but this would be rectified later at night.

Lockeland were next on Nashfield and wow a full band set from these guys was amazing. This is a band I’m going to have to look out more for as they are brilliant.

The headliner of the weekend “Cam” took to the stage in Nashfield to a rousing reception and started a fantastic set with “Diane” and WOW that was a crowd pleaser. This lady is such a wonderfully bubbly character on stage and has the ability to take any festival by storm. Her new music will be a blast in my opinion.

Even with the remarkable Cam being on stage the other stages were still very well attended with fans who were treated to another first class set from Sarah Jory on Cactus Jacks stage. Although not feeling the best Sarah was still able to show why she has been at the top of her game for so long. Next up on the Maverick stage were The Adelaides, these girls are fantastic and deserve all the credits they are getting at the moment. With their harmonies they are right on top of their game at the moment. Eagles tribute band Hotel Caledonia were next on Cactus Jacks stage and again I was unable to make their set and I also missed out on The Scoundrels set and both acts got great reports from others that I spoke to.

The evening in the Maverick tent ended with what I can only say was a fantastically well-run Acoustic Jam Session. This was run under the watchful eye of Elaine Lennon who along with her spreadsheet had everyone sorted to perform on the stage and with fantastic work from the stage crew this was a night to remember. Elaine’s spreadsheet might have said a couple of artists would be appearing but at one point we had 8 artists onstage with everyone joining in and it was such a great sight to see artists work and perform together with people they had up to that point they had never met.

Day 3 (Sunday) and final day of the festival began on the Maverick Stage with a young lady who at 14 years old was the runner up in the Emerging Talent Showcase and the improvement in that last year was so evident. Hollie Robinson started with one of her own tracks and then with some covers she had the packed tent in awe of her talent. Tommy McGuire was the first on stage in Cactus Jacks and with this being his first gig with a band since going on his own went down a storm with the crowd in this tent.

The main Nashfield stage opened with a 40-piece choir who come from the island of Cumbrae and a fantastic set of tunes from them had the assembled crowd singing along. Danny McMahon was next on Cactus Jacks and with his distinctive voice gave a rousing display which certainly made people take notice of how good he is. The Maverick stage was then treated to another great set from the remarkable Katee Kross. Katee never ceases to amaze me how with each gig she does she seems to better the last gig performance she did. Big things are on the horizon for her I’m sure.

C C Smugglers were next on Nashfield and with their combination of country swing and jazz proved to be a crowd pleaser. This was another first for me and I was totally amazed by their performance. Cow Cow Boogie then had their turn on stage at Cactus Jacks and the with their country boogie style and their old-time swing style was great.

This years Emerging Talent Showcase was another successful event with 10 different acts getting 3 or 4 songs each and the level of musical talent on stage. Although I didn’t manage to see all 10, I was amazed at the ones I did see. Sasha Kaloheris, Stoney Broke, Megan Louise, Chris Fox, Kate Kyle, Robbie Dale, Robin Ashcroft, Daniel Crow, Donna Marie and Connor Fyfe all gave their top sets and were a great example of the talent available in the UK.

The next act on Nashfield were Remember Monday, an act who in my opinion are now gaining the credit they deserve after failing to get past the knockout stages of the Voice UK. I feel this was blessing for us as I don’t have a very great opinion of these talent type programmes on tv and the girls can now get on with what they are great at. Their harmonies are fantastic, and I actually managed to get one of my few chances over the weekend to get a photo taken with the girls. The final act on this stage were the American act “American Young” and the dynamics on stage between Kristy and Jon is such a great sight to see. During the performance Kristy’s young son Jesse made an appearance on keyboards and at just under a year old has a great future ahead of him.

The final two acts on the Cactus Jacks stage were Angels with Dirty Faces and Backwoods Creek, both great acts and the crowds were showing their appreciation at the superb sets given by these two acts.

The festival then concluded with the Close of Festival Disco which was delivered by Rik from Silverball Country along with his sidekick Francesca. This was a great opportunity for those who were able to stay a chance to enjoy the last couple of hours of this fantastic weekend.

My congratulations have to go to the organisers and all staff associated with the running of this event and roll on next year.

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