YOU know it’s been a good year for entertainment when whipping your top moments down to 10 is more painful than a scene from 50 Shades Of Grey.
There’s just more and more going on – nothing more so than with music. Just as everyone started worrying we’d seen the last of RockNess, they made their fans’ Christmas by announcing quietly on Christmas Eve via Facebook confirmed dates for June 7 and 9.
With 2012’s new season-breaker festival Brew At The Bog confirmed again for May, and Runrig’s 40th anniversary Muir of Ord Showground weekend Party On The Moor (August 9 and 10), the area’s still offering many, many chances to hear great live music alive and kicking.
Having said that, Summer In The City – with its four reasonably well-attended Northern Meeting Park concerts featuring JLS, Status Quo, Runrig and Jools Holland Big Band – won’t be repeated this coming summer. Promoter CK Events’ Les Kidger revealed staging the events has been made too difficult by the cost of Highland venues, the logistics and cost of the artists themselves.
But local and up and coming acts have never had it so good with plenty of good places to play – Thurso’s Newmarket has become a regular North tour fixture this year. And the autumn saw city pub The Eagle launch its own series of live events for local bands.
Events like the now regular summer and winter showcase gigs at the Ironworks are vibrant nights where – as we did a few nights ago – you could hear everything from full-on metal guitar heaven to solo acoustic singer songwriters, punk to hip hop with a comedy edge, electro to country-tinged rock. (See full review and more pictures elsewhere at whats-on/music online).
TOP GIGS OF 2012
• Winter Showcase gigs '11
(including The Whisky River Band, Megan
Blyth and Homework among the 16) (Ironworks, January)
• Thin Lizzy (Ironworks, January)
• Band Of Skulls (Ironworks, February)
• The Waterboys (Eden Court, Apri)
• Twin Atlantic (Ironworks, April)
• Miles Kane (Ironworks, April)
• Primal Scream (Ironworks, June)
• Stanley Odd (Ironworks, September)
• Duncan Chisholm (Eden Court, Oct)
• The Proclaimers (Eden Court, Nov)
• Glasvegas (Ironworks, Dec)
• Church Street Hip Hop (Mad Hatters, Dec)
• Ironworks Unplugged (Willie & Tabs MacAskill and Willie Campbell (Ironworks, Dec)
• Scottish Ensemble Candlelight Concert (St Andrew’s Cathedral, Dec)
• Favourite international artist: Aussie Frank Yamma (Eden Court, July).
The good news is there's already a feast of music jostling for attention in 2013, including The Courteeners (Ironworks, Feb 28), Loudon Wainwright III (Eden Court, May 12), Edwyn Collins (Strathpeffer Pavilion, April 17), the Fence Collective (Eden Court, Mar 19) tribute The Springsteen Sessions (Ironworks, Jan 26), Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti takes beautifui Silver Violin album live on tour (Eden Court, March 26), Dominic Kirwan & The Nashville Songwriters (Eden Court, Feb 28), plus 10th anniversary Belladrum (Aug 2 and 3) and Ullapoolfest Loopallu (Sept 20 and 21).
With multiple stages and bands at festivals, the time’s probably come to give them their own category.
But for sheer sunny unadulterated summery pleasure, last year’s Belladrum took the prize for my favourite music festival of 2012.
And despite many girning they didn’t like the RockNess line-up, for me Chic and Biffy Clyro (new double album Opposites out January 28), among many more made it a bill of talent worth savouring – though it deserved better weather and more punters.
Unseasonably chilly weather greeted Bogbain’s roll call of fresh talents in May, but you couldn’t fault the warm reception from punters and organisers. The venue later went on to win best unusual venue and at the Scottish Trad Awards best venue and 2013 should see the return of Northern Roots Festival in June too.
For those who missed Brew At The Bog last year, the good news is it’s back on May 4 with many returns including Fatherson (one of my top acts of the day), Welsh singer Jonathon Powell plus worthy additions like locals The Whisky River Band (who helped bring in Hogmanay there!), James Mackenzie, Donad Macdonald & the Islands and Homework.
As usual goNorth turned out an eclectic bunch of acts including ultimate punks Norwegian's Honningbarna and one-off names such as quirky keynote speaker Mark Jones.
And Loopallu in Ullapool hosted the return of pop kings Scouting For Girls, returning on September 20 and 21.
Comedy continues to have the last laugh with ever-increasing visits from the biggest, best and newest talents – such as Chris Ramsey fresh from his TV profile from comedy series Hebburn.
But the biggest news for 2012 comedy fans was Edinburgh’s Gilded Balloon coming up with new comedy festival Happyness at Eden Court in May with Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran, Ardal O’Hanlon and Fred Macaulay – as well as showcases featuring new talents like Rob Beckett who gave a great showing on ITV’s I’m A Celeb aftershow.
The comedy festival – back this May too – adds to Eden Court’s suite of arts festivals.
Inverness Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary and the theatre bagged the glamorous North premiere of Disney Pixar hit Brave. It was just one part of a film jigsaw – including Bond five-star thriller Skyfall (pretty thrilling to hear "A9" from 007’s lips) as the Aston Martin allegedly drove up to Glencoe) and footage in The Dark Knight Rises – set to bring millions to the area in 2012.
There’s a reboot for next year’s Inverness Book Festival with new director, Robert Davidson of Dingwall-based Sandstone Press, promising big things. This year’s majored on crime thriller action with guests including local writer Shona MacLean, David Hewson – who wrote the book version of The Killing – and Peter May.
Peter’s Blackhouse trilogy set on Lewis is completed with the publication today (Thursday) of The Chessmen with a Scottish book tour from Peter including North and South Uist, Harris, Ness and Stornoway in Lewis before finishing on Burns Night at Waterstone’s Inverness (Jan 25)! Check Peter’s Facebook page for full details. (A review of The Chessmen will be available tomorrow on the newspaper websites through Whats-on/books).