Sailor Jerry have built up a reputation for hosting whacky, off-the-cuff events, from free haircuts, food, drink and other goodies, to cheaply-ticketed concerts, and, of course, a lot of nicely spiced rum. After a run of promotional activities around Scotland over the past few months, in which time the #FollowTheFlash competition saw a fair few entries, the prize – a free trip to a castle party in a secret location – was upon us, and we took it upon ourselves to see what such an intriguing premise is like in the flesh.
Upon arriving to George Square for pick-up, we were thrown onto one of a few shuttle coaches that had been arranged to take us to and from the venue (we were still in the dark). The coach felt like a takeback to younger days, like a school trip for good-egg students that’d done exceptionally well in their exams or something, as one of the Jerry crew tried to get the seemingly already half-tanked bus-full of people rallied up, telling us all about the event’s proceedings, and playing some shite trap tunes through an iPhone via the coach’s mic. Generously, everyone in attendance were given four drinks tokens and a food voucher, meaning that the majority of the night’s purchases were already taken care of, and certainly seemed to get the busload feeling pumped for what was to come.
Upon arrival into Ayrshire, it wasn’t long until we had arrived on the grounds of Rowallan Castle Estate and dropped off right at the entrance to the building. A giant Sailor Jerry hula figure statue stood aloft, and behind that were a couple of food stalls, a bar, a small stage (for bands to later shred upon), an erected skater’s halfpipe (for even more shredding), and a modified walk-in container where temporary tattoos and t-shirt printing was available. The grounds available - as we weren’t allowed to leave the castle venue to explore the wider location of the Estate for obvious reasons (very drunk people, darkness, open wilderness, getting lost or hurt, buses leaving at a dedicated time, yadda yadda) - were quite small, and generally things to do could be exhausted fairly quickly, yet, as a free event, it’s hard to complain too much considering the efforts gone to for the occasion.
With the majority of the action taking place outside of the castle, we headed inside to check out the facilities on offer there – finding a small library room filled with a screen, cinema style seats and a popcorn machine, where you could sit and watch the Sailor Jerry documentary, and a bar room kitted out with sofas, neon lights and tattoo memorabilia. There was another room being guarded by a couple of bouncers where a later DJ set would take place after the live bands had finished, but unfortunately for us exploring types, no more of the castle was open to the public, and probably for the best too with the amount of rum flowing from bottle to cup.
One slightly niggling issue that seemed an obvious mistake on arrival, and consisted to persist throughout the entire night, was having only five portaloos. For an event with over 200 people predicted to attend, it seemed a bit strange to have such a small allocation of toilets, and the queues throughout the night seemed to signify that.
Heading back outside and cashing in on our food vouchers to get a generous couple of pittas, we stood by the halfpipe to watch the guest BMX riders and skaters do their thing for half an hour, while a funny Geordie bloke laid down some commentary. For the rest of the night, the skaters would perform in between the bands, and provided some cool entertainment, if not making us a bit jealous of their ability.
After the first wave of skate-trickery had finished, attention turned to the stage, where Glasgow based garage-punk group The Vanities were geared up and ready to go. The four-piece had an energetic sound, with an indie-meets-punk vibe that’s pleasantly complimented by the warming glow of the sun beaming down over the crowd. Their light, melodic tracks seemed the perfect fit for this summery, festival-esque style show, and the gentle bobbing motion of the crowd – who are timidly sliding down rum for the time being – would suggest they were a solid selection for the party’s line-up.
After another round of drinks, and another wave of jumps, pops and kickflips over on the halfpipe, another Glasgow based group – LUCIA – were pumping through some jams. Having risen through the ranks of the Scottish city to now be quite the real deal, the four-piece appeared to have a fair few fans, some of which are lucky to be in attendance tonight. Their vocalist Lucia Fairfull proceeded to glide through cleans as smooth as caramel, while the pounding, grunge backing provides a deliciously sweet combination of indie-rock. There was a nostalgic, old school punk vibe to their sound on tracks like "Cheap Talk" and the fittingly-titled "Summertime", while their hooks were more than worthy of dancing along too.
So far, the bill had exercised some of Glasgow’s best up-and-comers, but after a short interval and, you guessed it, another dose of rum and ginger, focus switched to London’s middle-finger-raisers in Dream Wife. The three-piece have made a bit of a name for themselves of late, and rightly so. Their 2018 self-titled debut album was an insane exploration of feminist-punk, the likes of which many have been crying out for for years, passionately tackling concepts of gender, objectification and other such issues of inequality, and saying a big old defiant "fuck it all". Expectedly then, their live performance was every bit as intense and captivating as said record, and with a concentrated crowd of solely competition winners, it felt like a true punk show. Rakel Mjöll’s stabbing, spoken vocals often burst into shouty bursts, like the emphatic "Hey Heartbreaker", while guitarist Alice Go screeched disjointed, rough melodies and Bella Podpadec provided relentless, driving bass riffs. There were some quite powerful, memorable moments from the set, like on "Somebody" as the crowd chant back the powerful, gender-defying mantra “I am not my body / I am somebody”, right up until the closer of "F.U.U", where Mjöll screamed "I spy with my little eye bad bitches" and the rummed-up gathering duly responds by going quite mad. If this was just a standard show Dream Wife, then by god, keep your watchful eyes on these lot for they're heading straight to the top.
As the live music ended, the temperature cooled with the setting sun, and most punters had headed inside for a live DJ set comprised of a pretty wide variety of tracks. After an hour of dancing, the largely drunken crowd are encouraged towards the buses and sent back to the cities which they came – with the Dundee lot in for a longer trip than most. As free events go, it’s hard to find much fault with the night – free food, drink and transport, great bands, a beautiful Ayrshire location. There’s a reason Sailor Jerry are known for being that cool rum company, and it’s nights like these that show why.
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