A ten hour trouble free Thursday road trip up the fine British road network. A calm as a millpond sunny late evening ferry to the Isle of Eigg from Arisaig saw the tent pitched by the harbour for 9pm.

A quick wander around to get our bearings, local catering and a beer & malt to watch the stunning sunset by. This is going to be no ordinary festival.

Have you ever been to a festival where the audience is made up of around 400 happy campers? When the camping was not crowded and placed in one of the most idyllic spots (just off) our shores?

Have you ever been to a festival where you could see every performance from every band or artist, where there was no need for security staff, where the vibe was so chilled that punters, musicans, and residents happily co-mingled and all went round happily smiling and striking up conversation with each other for four days and nights?

Welcome to Howlin' Fling 2014 on the Isle of Eigg in the Hebrides. This is actually the third running of this delightful festival but the first time it has been run under the banner of Lost Map (previous versions were Fence Collective ventures) and under the sole curatorship and general hands on effort of Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail) and his team of impressive helpers and organisers.

A Beautiful day on Friday saw us hiking up and tumbling down 'An Sgurr'. A very musical mountain on this particular Friday as, we passed Beth Orton & Sam Amidon on the way up and at the top we could hear Steve Mason & band soundchecking a long way below.

Back down a lamb & mustard stew cooked by the crew of 'Where the Monkey Sleeps' hit the spot. Actually catering via Eiggy Bread, Dan at the Hebridean Larder and the Galmisdale café created excellent dishes all weekend long. 

The Music kicked off proper at 7.30pm on Friday as bands alternated between the Ceilidh Hall and Marquee which where about 1 minutes' walk apart from each other. The rule of thumb being, that the band following on, did not start until the previous band had finished. At the end of the night that meant (I'm told) that last band on 'Miracle Strip' came on around 04.30 on Saturday morning rather than the 02.30 slot in the programme. Fantastic and who cares, no one was going anywhere!

Sam Amidon kicked off our musical evening. A Very talented singer-songwriter, who did however, lapse into comedy moments, which took away the intensity of a very good set. Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, played as part of a three piece and delivered some delightful ballads.

Beth Orton entranced as usual but was hindered by a very talkative crowd. Beth in the past who would tell everyone to "Shut the f*ck up" but this time just said to the audience that they "were talking so loud, she could not hear herself sing" It had the desired effect for a while. Tuff Love came across slightly less spectacularly than they do on their debut EP but it was a lively set.

Steve Mason and his band where the night's other A-listers and didn't disappoint with a full length concert set that was full of energy and enthusiasm and had the crowd bouncing from start to finish.

Saturday music lasted well over 12 hours and started at lunchtime with Mark Andrew Hamilton a.k.a. Woodpidgeon backed by Eagleowl (Lost Map's shoegaze specialists). It was vice versa during Eagleowl's own set with Mark joining in as well. Seamus Fogarty was on fine form (hard not to be when on Eigg he later said). Rozi Plain added sound effects, some of which brought smiles as Seamus tried to integrate them into his songs.The low key relaxed nature of the set was something to behold

Jens Lekman was a true star. First half of the set was filled with singer- songwriter, acoustic guitar, and humorous songs about life in Gothenburg. (I also know someone who danced next to Kristen Dunst). Midway through the set Jens passed around small envelopes with sweet smelling lavender inside which, he then told us to crush between our fingers and smell, at which point if launched into a disco driven 20 minutes that had the crowd jumping and the tent swaying.

Homecoming hero The Pictish Trail also had the marquee shaking which was packed out for a career (so far) spanning set. All quite picturesque with a band comprised of a bassist and guitarist with long flowing blonde hair (who both looked more suited to Iron Maiden) and Tuff Love guitarist. It all worked though and sounded suitably celebratory in the middle of such a great festival.

Saturday also had a dynamic headline set, this time from The Phantom Band who had played the Latitude Festival the previous day. They seemed to have been having a nightmare weekend, with stolen guitars, broken down vans and police checks but they had finally made it to Eigg and the magic of the island had begun its work. A fiery anthem driven 90 minutes certainly brought their spirits to a good place and blasted the sing-a-long, arms raised crowd to new heights. By now we had survived 12 hours of rain but our own sprits still remained high as the bands continued through the night.

A few sore Sunday heads although, the rain had stopped and the Island had a misty glow. A few games of 'Bananas' (like scrabble) accompanied breakfast in the cafe before we were all heading up the hill to watch a young chap by the name of Olly Coates who played some divine music on his cello. Prehistoric Friends had a more traditional straight ahead band approach and were excellent. In some ways they had a Leisure Society layer to their songs and were really entertaining. This band should go a long way!

Rachel Dadd was her usual vibrant self and had added assistance from Rozi Plain and husband Ichi (who had played a massively entertaining set in the marquee earlier in the afternoon).

Gabe McVarish and Griogair Labhruaidh went down a storm with some traditional Scottish music in the Ceilidh Hall before festival closers Meursault, turned up the amps so that they could be heard over on the mainland and played an impressively sonic set.

But festival closer's they were not, having missed the ferry, rm Hubbert arrived too late for his afternoon slot but on Eigg, everyone plays, so 'Hubby' got to close the festival stages and, he did so with magnificent style.

"In a good place now" (in his life) he told us, this acoustic guitarist played his instrument as great as ever and with a razor sharp wit, regaled the growing crowd with stories between songs that had us in fits of laughter. Troon, local beverages, tattoos, ex-wife, pet dog oh and God. Banter with the entire tent, his set will be an everlasting memory.

So the party continued throughout the night and as we started packing up the tent at 6am on Monday morning, people were still returning to their tents from the night before. the sheep continued to tuck into the grass, undisturbed.

So a magnificent event, hats off to all the organisers, islanders (who made everyone welcome), bands and fellow festival goers who made it such a memorable weekend. Do we really have to wait two years to do it all again?


Photos HERE