After a 2-year break, Northern Roots returned to Bogbain Farm and made some promising baby steps towards restoring its and the venues festival reputation following a difficult couple of years and the bad publicity of the ill-fated Brew At The Bog.

While much of the flak thrown festival boss Bruce McGregor’s way was unfair, and this is not the place to analyse the fall-out and recriminations, it was still a brave decision to go ahead with a festival on the site this year and it’s a gamble that paid off, just.

With a scaled-back site and some alterations to the layout of previous events it was a more comfortable experience with the outside stage, bar and food areas not being quite so exposed to the elements.

The late June date offered a better chance of good weather and while the sun made an appearance at times, when the cloud cover came in and the wind blew across the site, the wiser heads with a warm jacket on-hand were best placed to catch more of the outside action, while others sought some comfort in the indoor Bothy or Uisge stages, maybe with a dram or gin from the bar to brace themselves for another venture outside.

Musically, there was a wide range on offer with everything from folk to heavy rock with hip-hop, indie and jazz all thrown in the mix and while this did offer something for everyone it maybe didn’t quite offer enough of any one style to attract a bigger crowd.

The festival was disappointingly lacking in gig-goers for much of the Friday and Saturday and the mix of acts may have been partly responsible. With the return of the Northern Roots name, the folk and traditional loving crowd may have wondered about the more indie/rock acts on the bill and vice-versa and while not overly expensive for a ticket it may have been too optimistic to take the risk of a diverse line-up with only one widely known headliner and hope to attract interest, and cash, from across the spectrum – especially while trying to re-establish itself.

While part of the attraction of a festival is the variety of acts and styles that can be on offer, many of those playing at the weekend were in Inverness a little over 2 weeks prior to Northern Roots for XPO North and could be seen for free. Whether this actually put people off attending is mainly guesswork on my part but it had been mentioned to me as a possible reason on more than one occasion.

That said, there were highlights on all stages and from all genres on offer with the Bothy hosting well received (mainly) stripped back sets from, amongst others, Dr.Wook, Stephanie Cheape, Rachel Sermanni and the stunningly impressive voice of Tamzene while Bloodlines, Indigo Velvet, and Declan Welsh helped keep my favourite area, Uisge rocking.

The stone barn, with it’s high roof and long narrow confines is one of my favourite venues in Inverness with the right band and PA and the atmosphere was excellent in there for most of the weekend, none more so than during BooHooHoo’s cover of Phil Collins and Phil Bailey’s 80s hit ‘Easy Lover’. As unexpected as it was brilliant it was, for me, the most memorable moment of the weekend.

Overall, Northern Roots was an enjoyable little festival and while not everything worked out the way organisers probably hoped it would, there was enough on offer that with a bit of thought and tweaking to the ideas and concept bodes well for future years.