Skye Live Review

A recent addition to the festival circuit, this cavalcade of British DJs looks to be a new favourite.

Set up in 2015 by local DJs Niall Munro and Ali MacIsaac, Skye Live is the modernised successor to the original Isle of Skye Music festival, bringing together a refreshing combination of traditional artists and electronic acts. Now in its fourth year, the festival’s panoramic location – overlooking the scenic Portree Harbour – and the beauty of Skye’s seemingly untouched surroundings continue to create a festival experience unlike any other.

The event has undoubtedly grown over the years, attracting both Skye locals and those willing to make the long trek from Scotland’s central belt to the scenic island. However, the still comparably small scale of the festival allows for an intimate appreciation of both the remarkable setting and the commendable line-up of acts that entertained over the weekend. With a mix of gourmet food and drinks available onsite to fuel the days, there are few things missing from the programme. This year’s line-up placed more emphasis on electronic acts and DJs than in previous years, but nevertheless remained a seamless blend of international names and upcoming folk acts. The festival transformed the Apothecary’s Tower at Am Meall into one of Scotland’s most compelling dance floors, and Friday’s line-up saw some of Scotland’s best DJs take control as people began flooding the forest floor.

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The illuminated Apothecary’s Tower

Glasgow’s rising club star Ribeka kicked off the night, followed by Edinburgh born Eclair Fifi in her set with Big Miz. Down the hill at the tented Talisker stage the penultimate guest was Irish born, Liverpool based DJ and producer Or:la (Orlagh Dooley), blessing the crowd with her breakbeat-heavy set as the sun went down and Friday headliner Denis Sulta took over with his late night disco-adorned act. The Sultan’s buoyant character combined his crowd-pleasing sets (a balanced mix of disco favourites and contemporary club beats) have led the Glasgow born DJ to become a world-renowned producer.

Despite the unpredictability of Scottish weather, Saturday gave the talent a few dry spells to work with. The day also showcased a bill more familiar to Skye Live veterans: an eclectic mix of electronic, leftfield and traditional acts. This wide range of styles really makes the most of the open air landscape, producing the creative sound that epitomises what Skye Live is about. Islay born Lord of the Isles (John McDonald), kicked off the Saturday with a set of synth melodies perfectly suitable for both the local families and young campers. Fort Romeau (Michael Greene) then upped the pace as the evening progressed; bringing his unique combination of house, kraut, ambient and techno to the Tower Stage.

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Session A9 entertains a rowdy crowd

Even more so than previous years, the gender balance of the line-up was notably progressive. All-female groups Kinnaris Quintet and Heisk – a six-piece folk act combining traditional Scottish music with punchy riffs and grooves – featured alongside fiddle sensations Session A9. Following them were Skye natives Niteworks, whose fusion of Gaelic language with traditional and electronic influences created a fresh and exhilarating sound appealing to both the young and the old. Leeds based Vessels closed the Talisker Stage with a late albeit impactful set of live electro, taking full advantage of the festivals newly established 2am license. While tensions may exist between the established communities and the new generations, the blend of contemporary and traditional that Munro and McIsaac have achieved, this year in particular, has the potential to mark Skye Live as one of Scotland’s most distinctive small festivals.

By Joanna Hampson

All photos credited to Ryan Buchanan

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