Wet and wild in every sense, the second Hydro Connect festival saw headline sets by Kasabian, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. Did it sink or swim?
Overall – 7/10
The advertising hoardings proudly boasted stunning views of Inveraray “on the banks of Loch Fyne” but 15,000 festival goers quickly found themselves IN Loch Fyne at the second instalment of Hydro Connect. Not even those who have paddled their tents through the floods of Glastonbury could have been prepared for the results of a remote Scottish valley falling foul of Mother Nature’s cruel wrath. Shin high sludge engulfed Argyll – from the car park to the front stage barrier – for the entire weekend and those who managed to escape with both wellies and just a little calf-strain were among the fortunate. But it’s testament to the event’s stunning setting, absorbing atmosphere and near-perfect production that not even sleeping with the fish could completely dampen an enthralling festival.
Getting There And Back – 7/10 (to the festival) 1/10 (from car park to the site)
Despite its rural setting, with one small country road hosting all the traffic, access to Hydro Connect is considerably straight forward and with no car crashes or over spilling of cattle onto the route only the bad luck of being stuck behind a pensioner in a Volvo at 13mph can be noted as a drawback. Getting to the front gate from the car park is another story altogether; a 30-minute walk, up a steep goat path, in a half lit bog with your legless friend's Fosters and Strongbow is an absolute killer. You can’t say the organiser don’t warn you of this epic journey beforehand with their advice of hopping on a bus and enjoying an alternative entrance which isn’t lined with suffering humans… But who ever listens to the organisers?
The Site – 9/10
The main Oyster Stage is a picture of magnificence, sandwiched between postcard standard Scottish hillsides and the commanding Inveraray Castle. Erected at the bottom of a slope, the view and sound for the entire weekend is faultless whether you prefer a front row spot or relaxing in your raincoat in what seems like acres of space. The Guitars and Other Machines, Unknown Pleasures and Your Sound stages also benefit from great production and without the ‘The Sludge’ it would’ve been an enjoyable stroll around the site.
Atmosphere - 8/10
So friendly even the security guards were dishing out high-fives instead of checking for the cans of beer stuffed into our crotches. The mature crowd made for a very relaxed vibe and even in the campsite offers of hay from those desperate to construct a their own bum-size area of dry land were as touching as getting your hands on someone else’s last Rolo.
The reason why Connect exists… Simply beautiful music is the most fitting of settings. The rain had finally stopped, Jonsi and his band – which included a brass section complete with ‘See you Jimmy’ hats - were on top form and no one dared come close to the weekend’s defining moment. 75 minutes felt like 10 in the company of the Icelandic group and only the thumping of the Slam-curated tent rapping the tenderest moments of their songs prevented a perfect set.
The young Paisley crooner was rightfully welcomed like a home-coming king on the Oyster Stage and he re-paid the crowd with a sterling set which included old and new tracks and a captivating rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’.
The Glaswegian foursome are a massive draw on the second stage as thousands descend to catch the massively hyped bunch of miserable buggers. Luckily though, the depression stops firmly with the lyrics, and everyone has a riot, belting out one of this summer's anthems; Geraldine.
Closing a resounding first day with the tough task of following a great Manic Street Preachers set, the Mancs were more than up for the challenge with the likes of 'Shoot The Runner' and 'LSF' sounding like stadium fillers against a backdrop of tranquility. The Leicester boys proved the pick of the weekend's three Oyster Stage headliners despite strong offerings from both Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.
The food market
Restaurant quality grub; scallops seared with garlic anyone? At very reasonable (festival) prices. It’s an odd feeling to return from a weekend event without the burning desire for a healthy home cooked meal and a hatred for burgers topped with a tasteless orange product and goo. Compliments to the Connect chef!
The very worst of all villains. Give us back our tents, shoes and relatives!
Invisible campsite toilets
With the experience, might and success of the T In The Park brand in their locker… there must’ve been more than ten toilets available for the thousands who were camping. Well played to the lucky ones who found them though.
By Sunday afternoon, without a pair of dry Calvin Kleins in a four mile radius, lesser mammals would have thrown in the towel, or drowned, but one group of plucky Scots lifted the spirits of thousands when they staged a brilliant performance of the Hokey Cokey by the front of the main stage. Just brilliant!